Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #1: The Essential First Step

Carol Tice

Quick: What’s the difference between a freelance-writing hobby and a freelance-writing business?Learn the essential first step to a freelance writing career.


It’s just that simple. Writers who actively market their business find more and better clients, and end up making more money.

Businesses do marketing. Hobbyists do whatever they feel like doing, or whatever falls in their lap.

We talk a lot on this blog about marketing. But I felt the information was scattered about.

So I’m getting organized.

This post kicks off an 18-week series of posts on savvy marketing strategies for freelance writers. I’m going to offer my best marketing tips and talk about what’s working right now, in our crazy-making, fast-changing new-media world.

Today, we begin with the most important step. Without doing this step first, the rest of your marketing is likely to fail.

Believe in your product

The first step to marketing your writing is pretty simple.  Ya gotta believe ya got something to sell.

Something special.

When you’re a writer, what you’re selling is you.

You have to believe in you, or you won’t market your business with any real energy.

Fear will hold you back. I’ve asked about your fears before, so I know many writers are dogged by them. Here’s some of what you’ve told me:

You’re afraid people will figure out you’re a fraud.

You’re afraid you’re not good enough.

You’re afraid because you didn’t go to journalism school.

You’re afraid you don’t have enough clips to be taken seriously.

You’re afraid you’ll screw up and ruin your chances of being a paid writer.

You’re afraid of being laughed at.

Lots of writers want to skip this step, of beating back their fears and building self-esteem. They want to try to fake a positive attitude about what they’re putting out there.

But then, you won’t be prepared to face all the “no”s and take the rejection and just keep right on rolling. Which is what successful freelance writers do.

Become an unstoppable force

Here’s the attitude you want to approach your marketing with: You’re not going to let anything stand between you and your freelance-writing career dreams.

If your positive-feelings tank is a little low, how can you fill it up? Here are a few techniques I recommend:

  1. Make a gratitude list.
  2. Make a list of all your strengths as a writer and as a person.
  3. Flip through your portfolio and look at what you’ve written in the past.
  4. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “Damn, I’m good!
  5. Learn more about the business and craft of writing.
  6. Avoid negative, toxic people and spend time with people who think you’re great. Kids are good for this.
  7. If you need to, talk to a therapist. Release old demons. Learn to love yourself and appreciate your uniqueness.

To sum up, get your head on straight. Because people are attracted to people who feel good about themselves.

Prospects can smell that desperate, insecure attitude on you a mile away. So lose it. Then, you’re ready to market your business and get great clients.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the easiest type of marketing you’ll ever do — and it’s a method that gets great results, too.

Why will it work for you? Because you know you’re awesome.

Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…

Join my freelance writer community


  1. Leela

    Just the reality check I need as I take baby steps in the world of professional writing. So far it’s only been ‘word-of-mouth’ that has garnered assignments, but like you rightly pointed out, that approach will keep me tied to the hobbyists post when I am actually writing for a living.
    Love your clear, ‘directionfull’ guidance Carol!
    Thank you!

  2. Trevor Speer

    I can relate to some of the comments that have talked about the pressures to conform to a standard of modesty contradicting the need to self promote for the sake of business. It is hard for me to be confident because I have a perceived “know-it-all” stigma, but when I let my guard down and get lost in a passionate speech I end up making the connections that make life meaningful!

    If you feel embarrassed about being perceived as a show off then consider these five tactics for ensuring that you are being modest:

    1. Pick your battles-you don’t need to correct and clarify everything.
    2. Be to the point- Inability to express yourself succinctly leads people to wrongly think you love the sound of your own voice.
    3.. Eliminate “you should” from your vocab (unless your a mom, they are the exception).
    4. Even if you think you really do know it all, always have the mindset that someone is better than you until proven otherwise. A mentor once told me “if you see a guy in the lobby with a broom assume he is the CEO”.
    5. Be supportive and interested in other people’s work- make them talk so much that they feel like the show off!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Trevor —

      Welcome to the blog!

      I’m always telling people your #5 when people tell me they don’t like talking about themselves. I say, “So don’t!” Ask people at networking events what THEY do, have 2 sentences prepared about what you do, and you’re done.

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