Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #21: Avoid Overwhelm and Hit Your Target

Carol Tice

Freelance writer marketing requires action. Makealivingwriting.comToday, I want to talk about one of the biggest problems afflicting freelance writers.

I’ve imparted a boatload of marketing ideas in the course of this marketing-basics series.

But there may still be a problem.

Have you started implementing these marketing strategies yet?

Maybe only a little? Maybe…not so much?

Mm-hmm. I thought so.

To be a successful freelance marketer, you’ll need to take a few important final steps. These will get you over the hump and started doing your marketing.

1. Write a one-month marketing plan

When you think about everything you’d like to get done in your freelance writing business this year, it could make your head explode.

So I don’t advocate looking at that long of a timeframe. At least not at first.

For now, decide which of these marketing strategies appeal to you most, and are the best fit for the types of markets you plan to target.

Take a look in the mirror and think about what form of marketing sounds intriguing to you. Maybe even sounds fun. That’s what you should try first.

Choose perhaps two or three methods you will use. Maybe you’ll do in-person networking and send query letters. Or you’ll work on your writer website, find local designers to partner with, and reach out to past editors on LinkedIn.

Whatever feels doable to you and easiest.

Then, write down your realistic goals of what you can get accomplished in marketing in the next 30 days.

Your marketing plan might be three sentences, or it might be pages long. Totally depends on how you like to do these things.

That’s all.

2. Create accountability

Now that we have a plan, the question is — what will make you actually do it?

In my experience, the biggest problem freelance writers face is that there is no boss standing over us saying, “OK Carol, make sure those five query letters get out by the end of the week, or else.”

So we don’t do it.

The answer here is to find a way to create accountability. To find someone who could stand in for that boss and make you feel like, “Hey, this is expected of me. People will be disappointed if I don’t get it done.”

In other words, someone who will help you develop a sense of massive guilt if you are not marketing your writing business.

Three great ways to do this:

  • Join Freelance Writers Den. We have a forum in there called Share Your Goals. Nothing like telling over 400 writers you’re going to do something to compel you to get off your duff.
  • Find a writer buddy. We’ve got a writer buddy match-up service in the Den, too. But you could also partner up with a writer-friend you already know. Make a date to check in at least once a week and discuss your progress. Just knowing those phone calls are coming will often be enough to make you prioritize your marketing tasks.
  • Enlist family members. If you have a supportive sibling or spouse, you might make them your accountability partner. Check in regularly just as you would with a writer buddy.

3. Analyze and change

At the end of month one, take a look at what you got done.

What felt easy? What was agony?

It will be a little early to look at actual results. Allow several months before you do that.

For now, just get a sense of whether you are getting marketing done, and how you feel about different types of marketing.

As you write your next month’s marketing plan, maybe adjust a bit to go in the direction that feels right in your gut.

Once you’re 3-6 months into marketing, it’s time to look back and reflect.

Did you get new clients? If so, were they great payers and the types of writing you really want? Which marketing efforts brought you the most clients? The best clients?

I recommend you at least analyze your marketing success annually. Doing his has saved me a boatload of time on marketing initiatives that weren’t getting me quality clients.

4. Learn more

If you go a few months and you’re not getting any results with your marketing, there may be things you could do to improve your marketing pitch.

You might learn more about how to come up with marketable story ideas, or how to write a stronger query letter or letter of introduction.

You might work on your in-person networking pitch.

But whatever you do, don’t beat your head against the wall. If something’s not working, either figure out why and get better at how you’re doing marketing, or try another method.

5. Keep marketing

It can be slow going at first.

Make a promise to yourself that you won’t get discouraged.

Remember that the single best, most empowering, and potentially career-changing thing you can do to take your writing career to the next level is to simply put one foot in front of the other, and keep marketing your business.

If this series helped you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Need more marketing help? Here’s the place where I answer your questions…


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  1. Philip Mboya

    Hi Carol,

    I have to admit, i only found your blog a couple of days ago and i am already starting to like it. The information in this post is so true. I actually came up with my own marketing campaign which i have been carrying out for the past two weeks (tip one) however, its tip five which i think should be really emphasized.

    It’s important for writers to know that they should never give up even when they don’t receive responses from their queries/marketing efforts. To use my own example, i have sent out close to 200 writer apps these past two weeks which have resulted in only 1 client.

    I should get discouraged however, at least i will be getting $xxxx per month from this firm. Truth be told, it is discouraging when you are all psyched up in the morning itching to check your mail for positive feedback and you get nothing! It takes a lot of courage to keep going, however what i have learnt, you never know, maybe the next application could land you the gig. So just keep on trying, however, it also important to learn from your failures to improve on your marketing campaign.

    Sorry did not mean to make this comment very long, but i just had to share. Thanks again!

  2. Glori S.

    Wow. I always leave Make a Living Writing with something useful. Being a fairly new freelancer myself, I didn’t really realize how important marketing is until a month or two ago. Amazingly, I think it’s something I’ll enjoy doing.
    A short-term marketing plan at first does sound the most doable.
    I like what you said about creating accountability. A stand-in boss will definitely help me get going, although I feel I’m determined enough.
    Thanks Carol!

  3. Anita

    This is so relevant at the moment. I just started listing my June goals.

  4. J. Delancy

    Thanks Carol. My marketing efforts wander about like a blind ant. Constantly on to the next shiny thing. Think I’ll take some advice and focus.

    • Carol Tice

      I think that’s a really common problem. But when I analyzed my marketing, it was when I was just doing two or three marketing things consistently — for me, usually in-person networking, queries, and inbound marketing juice through LinekdIn and my writer website — that I got a steady stream of great client leads.

  5. Carrie Schmeck

    #5 is the absolute truth. One foot in front of the other. The snowball won’t get rolling unless we keep inching it along. Thanks Carol!

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