The Missing Link That Will Explode Your Writing Income

Carol Tice

The Missing Link That Will Explode Your Freelance Writing Income. Makealivingwriting.comHere’s an experiment I want freelance writers to try: Go into any independently owned retail shop in your town. Find the owner, and ask them, “What are you doing to market your business?”

Most likely, they will rattle off a long list of things — they place Yellow pages ads, buy Google Adwords, send out postcards or an email newsletter, put on events, have sales, go to networking events, use a Facebook fan page, and so on.

If they said, “I don’t really do anything to market my business. I just sit here on a stool behind the counter and hope customers come in,” you’d laugh, wouldn’t you? That would be ridiculous! Nobody expects their business to happen without marketing.

Or do they?

So often, when I talk to writers in my mentoring program, or just freelance writers I’m chatting on Twitter or on this blog with, and I ask them, “What are you doing to market your writing?” a typical answer is, “I’m not doing anything, really.”

And then writers wonder why they’re not earning as much as they’d like.

Here’s the missing link to ramp up your earnings: You need to market your business.

I don’t mean doing one thing a year, either. Good marketing plans are multi-faceted, consistent, and done on a regular basis. Personally, I use social media, my website, and in-person networking as my primary marketing methods right now. I promote the business of helping writers earn more — what I’m up to on this blog — through social media, including Facebook ads.

This is the reality of life as a freelance writer: Marketing is how you find good clients. Crappy clients you can get by answering job ads

When you do no marketing, there’s a missing link that’s keeping you from connecting with well-paid clients.

Marketing helps top-drawer clients discover you. I’m thinking here of optimizing your website for key words that help you get found.

Why do writers skip marketing?

Two reasons, I think:

1) Many writers are shy about blowing their own horn.

2) There’s a myth out there that freelance writing is a no-cost business, once you’ve got a computer and a ream of printer paper. It’s not expensive, but it does have costs, if you really want it to succeed.

I think that goes double for writers who’re trying to earn from a blog. The popular belief seems to be it should happen by magic. But in my experience, there’s plenty of work involved learning how to create a blog that will keep readers once you lure them to the site…with your marketing.

No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, unless you have an employer handing you a paycheck, there is no escaping the need to market your writing business.

Really, you’re not any different from that shopowner. If you want to move your writing business to the next level, you’ll need to invest — your time, your money, and your creativity — in a marketing effort.

What are you doing to market your writing business in 2011? Leave a comment and tell us your strategy.


  1. Susan Johnston

    Great point, Carol! You can’t just put up a website and expect clients to find you. In terms of marketing, I’ve found networking and referrals from other writers to be a great source of clients. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well my MediaBistro Freelance Marketplace profile has paid off. I keep it updated often so it shows up in search results, and I’ve already completed one decent-paying project for a client who found me via MediaBistro and another project is in the works.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s interesting to hear that the MediaBistro profile is paying off. There are so many offers like that it’s hard to know which ones are really useful. I know my LinkedIn profile has attracted many prospects.

  2. Carol Tice

    Apologies to anyone who was trying to get on here this morning — site was mysteriously down. Thankfully we’re back up again — and the RT contest to win a free ticket to tomorrow’s Webinar is heating up over on Twitter…go check it out!

  3. Jen L

    I wondered what happened to the site this morning!

    Carol, can you elaborate more on how you use LinkedIn to market your businses? Because I KNOW I’m not doing nearly enough with LinkedIn, and yet I’m not sure really what to do. I belong to a couple of discussion groups, and I try to participate regularly in those discussions. I try to keep my profile updated. But what else should I be doing?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jen —

      Thanks for coming on back…total nightmare fail, my subscribers got nothing.

      I wrote a piece on all the ways I use LinkedIn to prospect for clients over on WM a while back…enjoy!

  4. perry rose

    Both with copywriting and article writing (though I do more copywriting), I call them on the blower.

    I use to e-mail, but, boy, was that a real time-waster.

    I have a list of U.S. and Canadian magazine and book publishers’ addresses and phone numbers, and I just go down the list (doing U.S. first, of course).

    There are also a slew of websites right at our fingertips that its webmasters may need help with.

    I just go straight to the source.

    I give them my “about me” page, where it has my qualifications, my personality (gotta show ’em that!), free tips, samples, profile pictures, phone number…

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Perry. So many writers have a massive phobia about just picking up the phone and saying, “Hey, do you need a freelance writer?” Or, “I noticed your website doesn’t have any case studies — were you looking for help with that?” All they can do is say no.

  5. Sharyn Dimmick

    I am one of those marketing-aversive writers: what I am marketing is teaching writing practice, pioneered by Natalie Goldberg. So far I have given a free demonstration workshop (and offered to give more), mentioned my teaching in whatever social situations warranted talking about it, mentioned teaching on Facebook, on NaNoWriMo and on LinkedIn, I have worked on developing a website to promote my teaching, painting and CD sales (I am an artist in multiple disciplines), but haven’t been able to take the website live yet. I have alerted all of my writing friends that I am teaching and I have asked my writing teacher (Natalie) for direct referrals to local students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    That’s it so far, except that I am taking the blog webinar to learn more about effective blogging.

    • Danielle McGaw

      Sharyn, have you actually worked with Natalie Goldberg? How exciting! I am a big fan of hers and I loved all of her books.

    • Carol Tice

      I think the lack of a website is a real missing link there — hopefully we can help you get that going later today at the webinar!

  6. Edward Seah

    My top methods right now are article submissions to Triond and sometimes Helium just to get something published. Then I promote them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I also send out links to targeted individuals. I have Facebook pages for my own site,Write-Brained, and my own independent travel website I have also submitted to search engines. Still, I somehow feel there is something I’m not doing right. I’m not attracting that much of a crowd yet.

    • Carol Tice

      Rather than article marketing sites…what about sending query letters directly to the markets you’d like to write for? Or calling on companies with weak websites?

      There’s a truism in marketing that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. When you’ve tried a couple strategies and they don’t seem to be paying off for you, it’s time to try a couple new ones.

  7. Danielle McGaw

    On the writing boards I go to I find that many new writers and even older writers that are stuck in the content mill rut forget this important point. If you want to be taken seriously you need to get out there and market yourself. You can’t just park yourself on the side of the road (or in the case, the Internet) and expect people to find you!

    I have found niche focused forums to be useful. Establish yourself as and expert writer in a specific topic and people will come to you. And you’ll get referrals, too. The key is that you actually need to be present and involved!

  8. Laurie Boris

    My plan this year is to market like mad. I’m building a mailing list, ramping up to a stronger presence on social media, and getting out and talking to people. Since I have a book coming out (tooting my own horn!) this summer, this could be a great opportunity to get the message out that I’m also a freelance writer.

  9. Nisha

    I was really shocked to see Perry here; another mentor of mine who was listed under the ‘Handle-With-Care’ category! Cool to read you on Carol’s Blog [I’ve been a reader here as well!]

  10. Perry

    Yeah, I’m shocked Carol lets me post here.

    Like a mother over a bratty ten-year-old, she’s a patient one. :-)~

    Ask family, friends, coworkers…for feedback on the look of your site and its content.

    When I started out, I even asked my mailman.

    When you think you are then ready, call travel agencies to ask if they would like to carry your articles, tips and whatnot in their sites.

    Do enough of them, then contact newspapers and travel magazines.

    Do a lot of keyword searches, such as:,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=eec7b1769f792670&pf=p&pdl=300

    I’m not a fan of Demand Media, because, well, they suck, but in this case, maybe this is up your alley to get your name out there more. Example…USA Today:

    There are also a lot of travel sites you can hit up:,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=eec7b1769f792670 sounds like a good one to contact. Their phone number is listed.

    After you are told, time after time, your site looks nice and your content is good, go after the big guys on the block.

    I don’t think they carry articles, but you could even call up Expedia to make a suggestion for a “Travel Tips” section, like USA Today has.

    In the beginning, focus on informative (NOT EMPTY!) quick travel tips instead of articles, for the obvious reason.

    Think outside the box!

    You should also create a profile (“about me”) page, that also has a couple of pictures of you that you should send to businesses you would like to write for.

    You can’t sit down in front of them in their office, but your profile page can.

  11. Di Mace

    Great post – and you’re right Carol, without marketing you can’t get great clients. I think another reason that writers skip marketing is because it requires consistent work – and at times can feel like ‘chinese water torture’ – drip, drip, drip – to get a result. That can be very tiring and draining for some. But keep at it, it will eventually pay off.
    My main activity this year is across my website, blog, email newsletters, networking and LinkedIn. Look at how your writing business is made up, where your strengths and focus are and work like crazy on those.
    Marketing isn’t mysterious, and it’s not difficult to understand the essentials, but it does take work to get results. You can’t just do one thing as you say and expect work to flow in. The plan needs to be integrated, across multiple platforms and all coordinated – aimed at your target and end goal.

    • Carol Tice

      I couldn’t agree more, Di.

      I think many writers can’t get their earnings going because they dabble in marketing — they try something once, then another thing once, and so on, not realizing it has to be a consistent effort over many months to expect a good result.

      In an earlier post, I discussed one of my marketing techniques — I look at full-time job ads and if I see a publication and I’m a great fit for, I ‘apply’ just to ask, “Hey, do you also use freelancers?” I had a reader comment, “Oh, I tried that once but it didn’t work.” I did it probably 30 or so times and found a good new client. That’s the kind of marketing commitment it takes to make it today.

      • Di Mace

        Ha ha…yes. Just last week I picked up a set of newsletters sent out quarterly across a variety of fields/industries that very same way! The publisher was based in another state and I sent and query asking did they have any clients based here (Sydney, Australia) that I could perhaps help them with by freelance work. And bingo. New client, well paid, regular and predictable. Just what we all love.

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