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Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #12: The Quick Way to Hit a Ton of Prospects

Carol Tice

Marketing for freelance writers: reach a lot of prospects quickly. Makealivingwriting.com

Does it take you all day to write one prospecting email? Does writing a query letter to a magazine take you a week?

If doing written marketing triggers your perfection-itis gene and slows your marketing effort to crawl, know that there is a faster way.

You could contact scores of prospective clients, cut to the chase, and find out if they might use a freelance writer like you — all in a single day.

This marketing method I’m about to tell you about scares the heck out of a lot of writers. But I rarely meet a writer who’s devoted any serious time to it who hasn’t gotten at least one good client.

Strap yourself in, writers. Today, we talk cold calling.

Yes — cold calling involves having to introduce yourself to total strangers dozens of times a day, and explain that you’re a freelance writer.

But here’s the magic:

When you develop your own lead list of quality prospects and then proactively call the companies you’d love to write for, you are swimming in the right pool — the one with good-paying clients. As opposed to responding to Craigslist ads that 1 million other writers are reading, too.

Effective cold calling relies on just a few basic points:

  1. Develop a great list
  2. Find the appropriate contact
  3. Write a simple script
  4. Have a strong call to action

1. How to develop your list

I went over resources for developing a prospect call list a few weeks back in this series, so you can review on that link if necessary. Remember to look at how big prospects are — bigger is better. Bigger means bigger marketing budgets, and a better shot at ongoing writing assignments for you. Whatever size clients you’ve got now, start targeting the next rung up the ladder.

Once you’ve committed to building a list, keep your eyes peeled anytime you’re reading your daily paper’s business section, watching TV news, or scanning local magazines. Everything you read is a potential source for finding great businesses you might pitch.

My tip is to concentrate on a particular industry or two in developing your list, and on your city or region for starters. Otherwise, you’re likely to be overwhelmed thinking about all the possible clients you could call. Try those, and if nothing pans out, then move on to another industry or region.

2. How to find contacts

Once you have your list, you need to identify the right person at that company to talk to — depending on the situation, usually a publications editor, online/social media manager, or marketing manager. How can you get these names?

  • Try a Google search on “marketing manager + Company Name” or something similar
  • Search on LinkedIn using similar parameters
  • Call up the company and simply ask for the appropriate contact: “Who is the marketing manager who would hire freelancers?”
  • Ask your network if anyone has worked with the company and knows a contact

3. A sample script

The thrill of cold calling is you’re not spending hours researching each prospect. Once you’ve identified your people, you want to go right ahead and call. Peter Bowerman goes into tons more detail on this in his Well-Fed Writer book, but to sum up, say something along the lines of:

  1. Hello — I’m an experienced freelance writer specializing in [your niche here].
  2. I really like what your company is doing, and I’m wondering if you ever work with freelance writers.

That’s about it! If you happen to have noticed something interesting about their current marketing effort, you can mention it inbetween lines 1 and 2 there.

If they say, “Actually, we do use freelance writers,” that’s your chance to chat them up and find out what sort of needs they have. What projects might be coming up? If you have relevant experience, talk it up.

4. Call to action

If the prospect expresses at least some mild interest, you need to end your call with an action item they should do next — something that will keep this budding relationship alive.

My pal Linda Formichelli likes to close with, “May I send you my clips?” This is a low-commitment, non-scary question that prospects can easily say “yes” to without committing to much.

The bonus benefit

The more you say to people, “I’m a freelance writer,” the more you will get your head around the idea that you really are. It’s a bit mystical, but the more you say that out loud, the more you will believe it, and the more you will take your freelancing seriously.

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

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