Freelance marketing might feel like a chore. But it’s kind of important. If you don’t do it, you don’t eat. The good news, you can learn to love freelance marketing like I did.
When I first got back into freelancing after years of being a staff writer, I didn’t have to do much freelance marketing.
I called many sources at companies I’d covered at writing for a local business journal, let them know I was freelancing, and it kind of rolled from there.
I called a couple local magazines, pitched them, and got assignments. I answered an ad and found myself writing Web content for a $1 billion corporation.
Looking back, it was a golden time. My career ran easy, like water flowing downhill.
But if you’ve ever sat back and done little to no freelance marketing, you know it’s not a sustainable way to stay fully booked.
It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way. And I don’t want you to end up in the same situation.
Here’s how I learned to love freelance marketing to move up and earn more:
The trouble with neglecting freelance marketing chores
It never occurred to me that I wasn’t always going to be fully booked. Landing assignments seemed almost effortless.
Then came an economic downturn that started to really take hold. My editors began getting laid off, publications changed, and companies stopped developing content.
I realized I needed to get out there and get serious about freelance marketing. I needed to make new connections and find new clients.
If you’re just starting out, or you’ve been flush with work and now those clients are gone, you know exactly what I’m talking about. What’s the solution?
If you want to grow, get hooked on marketing
At first I thought, “Ugh!” I’d never really sold anything to anyone. But over time, I kind of got hooked on the marketing side of my business. I discovered that in a weird way, it’s fun. No, I’m not kidding.
Now, I enjoy this side of my business, too — maybe not as much as I do writing, but marketing is no longer a dreaded chore for me.
You can learn to love marketing, too. Here are my tips:
1. Keep the online job-ad searching down
At first I wasted hours a day browsing the online job ads, before developing a system for scanning them fast. Now, if I’m looking over online ads, I only taking time to reply to the best prospects. Generally, online job ads are not a source of high-quality leads, so limit your time here, and free up more time for better marketing methods.
2. Learn more about marketing
If you don’t know a lot about marketing, learn. Take a class. Read a book. This is not mystical knowledge. The information you need is out there.
3. Develop a marketing plan
Don’t go in a million directions at once. Take a 3-6 month period, decide what you’re doing, and then consistently do it.
4. Meet live humans
Whether it’s in-person networking, cold-calling, or informally shmoozing up shopkeepers in your town, remember that computers won’t give you a writing gig — only people. If networking makes you nervous, you can learn how to do it.
5. Try different methods
I have done in-person networking at a half-dozen different organizations’ events, some cold-calling, sent queries, answered job ads, used LinkedIn features, promoted my writing on Twitter, built my presence in natural-search results for key words, and more. See what works for you.
6. Approach it like a scientist
Think of your marketing as an experiment. Track what you do and evaluate the results. This helps you take a little bit more dispassionate attitude toward putting yourself out there.
7. Think of it as a game
Instead of feeling all vulnerable and scared, try to detach yourself emotionally from the process. Instead, think of it as a game of Chutes and Ladders. You go here and there, rolling the dice, trying different moves. When you get a win, it’s like Yahtzee.
8. Be impervious to rejection
Learn not to take it personally when you don’t get a gig. Seriously. You want to drop that attitude. It’s just business. Have a businesslike approach to marketing.
This is the most important thing to know. Sending one query letter is not a marketing plan, it’s a waste of time. Know that you will likely have to go hard at it on marketing for at least several months before you start to see the results you want.
I had a revealing conversation with one writer online about a strategy I used that got me a great, $1-a-word new client. She said she’d tried that once and it hadn’t worked. I said, “Oh. I tried it 30-40 times, and it worked once.”
Moral: The persistent marketer gets the gig. So keep going, if you’re serious about writing for a living.
Do your freelance marketing chores
Personally, I marketed aggressively — like mad, really — for about 18 straight months, gradually rebuilding my customer base until I became fully booked. Now, I’m dropping clients and can pick and choose the ones I want again. It feels great, and I know marketing got me here.