Transform Your Freelance Marketing: 5 Things You’re Probably Getting Wrong

Carol Tice

Transform your Freelance MarketingEvery week, I meet writers who are taking their first plunge into freelance marketing. Maybe they’ve grown tired of applying for UpWork gigs they don’t get, scanning Craigslist ads for hours, or of getting $10 a post from a content mill.

To me, this is an exciting moment, when writers realize they’re in business — and running a business means you do proactive marketing. Passively trolling online ads that are each going to get 1,000 responses isn’t your ticket to high earnings.

This is all good, but often, when you first start active marketing, it can be discouraging. Early results may not be stellar. There’s a decent bit to know to win at pitching your writing services.

While some writers make phone calls or do in-person networking, the majority send marketing or pitch emails. For publications, we send queries.

And most of these pitches don’t get results. Why? Here are my top five probable reasons freelance marketing is ineffective, based on my experience reviewing hundreds of pitch letters over the years:

1. You’ve never gotten feedback

Every once in a while, I get a comment from a writer that truly makes me sad. Here is one of them, from a writer who sent 300 letters out, reporting his results:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.36.53 PM

When you send out that much marketing and don’t hear a peep, you’re doing something wrong. You need feedback to improve, stat.

The forum where we review queries and letters of introduction is one of the busiest — and I’d say most valuable — member perks we offer in Freelance Writers Den. And we rarely see a pitch where your first draft is ready to be sent out.

What’s going wrong? Common problems include:

  • It’s not concise — and businesses can write rambling, flabby prose without you.
  • The writing isn’t compelling — remember, your pitch letter is a writing audition.
  • No solution — it doesn’t propose exactly what you could do to help.
  • Lacks a story idea, for pitches to publications.

Try to imagine how busy the editor is that you’re reaching out to, and how many queries they get. Or that exhausted marketing manager.

Your pitch needs to sparkle, stand out from the 100 or so others they’re getting this week, and show clearly that you are the solution to their problem. Most pitches I see, the writer needs to put in a bit more elbow grease to make it effective.

2. You send few pitches

Maybe you have the opposite problem as our writer in point #1. Maybe your pitches are just fine, but you only send a few of them out. I see a lot of comments like this:

“I sent out 10 emails to prospects last month, and only got one response! I’m feeling very discouraged.”

The reality is, 100 pitches in a month is a much better goal. It’s a numbers game here, and you really need to send out a lot of marketing to jumpstart your business.

When you’ve sent 10 pitches, you don’t really have enough data to figure out whether you’re on the right track or not. Put a lot more lines in the water, and up your odds of catching fish!

3. You target the wrong prospects

If you’ve been banging your head against the marketing wall, it may be because you’re not picking good targets.

Instead, you’re pitching mom-and-pop business, or  companies in industries that don’t do a lot of marketing.

For instance, I knew a writer with agriculture experience who’d spent years pitching blogging and copywriting services to nurseries and growers. Guess what? She got zero results, because they don’t do that kind of marketing. They do print ads, and the rest is word of mouth.

Take a look at what the companies you’re pitching are doing for marketing now. If they’re not creating a lot of written materials, they’re probably not a good prospect.

In general, most new copywriters pitch businesses that are too small. Freelance writing is a career where truly, bigger is better when it comes to prospects. If you’re shooting blanks on pitches, it’s time to learn how to qualify prospects.

4. It’s dull as dishwater

As someone who’s reviewed hundreds of pitch letters at this point, I can tell you most of them are a snore. They’re dry and boring.

The writing has no snap. In other words, we don’t get a good sense of your personality.

One of the things prospects want to know is who you are and what your writing style is like. Is it the flavor they’re looking for? If you write everything like a dry business letter from the ’80s, your prospects will never find out.

5. You don’t know copywriting

Let’s face it — all pitch letters are basically copywriting. Most of the time, these days, they’re email copywriting.

If you can learn how to write a compelling short email, you can not only promote your writing services more effectively and get more gigs — you can get well-paid to write marketing emails for clients, too.

Studying copywriting is one of the single, best things you can do to become a better freelance marketer, get better clients, and grow your writing income. I don’t know about you, but every marketing email I get from a company, I’m studying it, to see what they do. Every blog newsletter I subscribe to is a chance to study subject lines and see what works.

You’ve taken the plunge into freelance marketing — now, take the time to do marketing right. If you’re not getting results, make the tweaks you need, and get some good gigs. You can learn more about how to send pitches, and write your way to better clients.

Does your freelance marketing need help? Leave a comment and tell us what you’ve tried, and how it’s panning out. LEARN MORE about the Freelance Writers Den

 

 

31 Comments

  1. David

    Hi,

    A month or so ago I paid to join to a freelance writing organization that promised a lot, and as far as I can tell, only delivered advertisements for more expensive items. I’ve been researching this site and it appears to be genuinely helpful.

    Like pretty much everybody else here, I would like to do some freelance writing. My “professional” writing experience is limited to a few company newsletters. You have quite a few ebooks online. Is there one that you could recommend for just getting started?

    Thanks.

    • Carol Tice

      Actually yes, David — the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success. You might also check out Start Here.

      I think I know just the organization you mean, David — that’s why there is almost no upsell in my Freelance Writers Den community. I used to get their emails, and got sick of daily requests to pay $10,000 for something. Sheesh!

  2. Timothy Gagnon

    Very timely post!

    Im starting to get back into pitching and this article was a big help. One thing I noticed is that some niches just dont have enough cash to afford writing serviced. I pitched a bunch of websites in a specific niche only to receive a few responses, all mentioning they cant afford my rates (and I only asked for $50 for 1000 words).

    So I decided that niche is just not worth the trouble. There are companies out there that would be more than happy to pay premium rates for content. Im polishing my Linked profile now and trying to find clients on there. Thanks for the awesome post.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve been getting $300-$500 for blog posts…so I totally agree. You’ve got to get out of the world where they’re just trying to stuff SEO keywords and don’t care about content quality, and find companies that sell something expensive and sophisticated.

    • Firth McQuilliam

      Hello again, Ms. Carol Tice. I’m that guy who made you cry some weeks back with his remarks about making a hunnert izzy dollahs or sometink from a single large piece for an ArticleBunny client. ^_^

      Since then, my experience with ArticleBunny has been deeply mixed and severely limited. I think this particular content broker doesn’t attract many projects with which to begin, and the majority of the clients seem very demanding. Frankly, writing for clients at ArticleBunny has proven if anything to be more troublesome than writing for clients at Textbroker. Two ArticleBunny clients outright rejected my work in the space of a single week even after heroic attempts to please them with repeated rewrites. ArticleBunny still paid for the work, but it’s not a good feeling to suspect that I might have failed to write well. I want all of my clients to be happy with their results. -_-

      Oddly enough, that’s exactly the number of clients who have outright rejected my work at Textbroker over four years and hundreds of completed pieces. Both of those clients were clearly black-hatters who were trying to rip me off, and in both cases, Textbroker overruled the client rejections. My official rejection record at Textbroker remains at zero. Furthermore, more than a few clients at Textbroker and at least two clients at ArticleBunny seem to *really* like my style of writing. When I find myself harboring dark thoughts about being a poseur who couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper bag, I remember those clients.

      This brings up a point toward which I’ve been wandering. How can I know if my admittedly quirky writing style will work for the “big-league” markets? Maybe it’s somehow too weird. I don’t want to embarrass myself. Does your Freelance Writers Den address this potential problem? Is it possible to get intelligent feedback on articles?

      I’m at something of a crossroads here. After having finally embarked on a long-planned campaign to produce dozens or hundreds of articles for Constant Content, one of which has sold already, it’s probably high time to sit back and think long and hard on the wisdom of continuing with content brokers. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and focusing that useful characteristic on much better-paying markets would appear to be a no-brainer. Yet there’s this perhaps justified fear that my meager talents still fall short of fitness for Reader’s Digest and other major markets.

      What to do? That’s the question. I shall think on it. In the meantime, I’m reading your free e-book, “Escape the Content Mills: 6 Writers’ True Stories of Breaking Out & Earning More.” It’s interesting stuff so far! ^_^

    • Carol Tice

      Firth, we DO have an article-feedback forum where you can get input from the community in the Den.

      The main thing I’d say is that the type of writing you do for content mills generally bears no resemblance to what you would do for a major magazine or a bigger corporation. My sense is acceptance and rejection on these platforms seems to be highly random, so I don’t think you can conclude much from your experience there.

      This is why I created the Escape the Content Mills course that you’re reading the case studies from — it’s designed to help you make this transition.

      And you didn’t make me cry. Maybe WANT to cry, when I hear how little writers make…but I save my tears for my personal life. 😉

  3. Rob

    People often ask me what I did to get higher paying assignments. I’m usually stuck for an answer because they came to me. I started out on bidding sites but weaned myself off them after I got my first well-paying client. A friend got his first assignments on Craigslist and also stumbled across his first well-paying assignments while he was in LA. Before I started freelancing for a living, I had good luck pitching ideas to magazines, but never got enough assignments to make writing a full time job. Sometimes I think perseverance is the key. Those poorly paying assignments are a good apprenticeship and you can use your best articles in your pitches to prospective clients.

    • Katie Lewis

      Rob, I couldn’t agree more. I found it best to apprentice at lower-visibility (and lower-paying) gigs to cut my teeth. Then, once my skill and confidence developed, I could land the higher-paying work. But oh, how you need to be excited to persevere!

  4. Korina

    Hello,
    Thanks for the great advice!
    I would be more than happy to send 100 pitches but how you can find so many contacts each month?

    • Carol Tice

      Korina, there are MILLIONS of businesses in the US alone.

      If you don’t know how to locate lists of them and find their revenue to see if they’re big enough to be worth pitching, you might want to check out my How to Get Great Freelance Clients ebook — see the ‘ebooks’ tab on this blog.

    • Katherine Swarts

      I’m sure someone read “100 pitches a month” and thought “I don’t have time for 5 pitches a day, it takes me an hour to finish a good pitch/LOI/query.” I’ve personally tried–and succeeded with–the whole gamut from submitting the already-finished piece to dashing off 50 “what are your needs” notes in an hour; but how long, Carol, did it typically take you to cover 100 pitches at your busiest periods for that?

    • Carol Tice

      I never really had to do that many, Katherine — my forte is turning one ‘yes’ into a $2000-a-month client. 😉

      Also…it doesn’t really matter how long it takes someone else to do it. I don’t think comparisons like that are productive.

    • Katherine Swarts

      So far I’ve managed a per-month rate of $700 for a single client, with signs of the first $1,000+ client showing up any day now.

  5. Katherine Swarts

    Talk about short and compelling, I have gotten some good responses from Tweet-length pitches. One rule I follow is to lead with a sentence like “How often do you find yourself short on copywriters?”–not “About Me,” not a yes-or-no question, just emphasis on my interest in learning about THEIR concerns.

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, if I see one more pitch that starts, “I am X and I would love to write for you” I will croak!

      Writers need to realize that companies do NOT care what YOU would love to do. Solve their problems, and they will hire you.

      For a tweet, I like, ‘Are you the editor to pitch for X topic?’ Starts a conversation and usually can get a quick yes or ‘No, it’s X Name.’ And then you hit that contact with ‘X colleague of yours told me you’re the person to pitch for X.’ 😉

    • Firth McQuilliam

      “Hi! I’m Frankly Wannabee, and I would totally adore writing for your blog or whatever you have going! It would make my kitty and my goldfish sooo happy, too! I bet your company makes cool stuff or something, and if you let me work for you, I promise to Google your company to learn all about it! Honest for true and hope to die!”

      LMAO, Ms. Carol Tice — I just had to dash off that parody of a clueless writer who is too consumed by his own bubbly enthusiasm to bother with basic research before mashing his grinning ignorance into the faces of potential contacts. ^_^

    • Carol Tice

      I swear, I get emails that say, “I write about finance and home goods, can I post for your blog?” every day.

      Writers can’t imagine how much you can stand out if you’ve actually read the blog and are somewhere in the ballpark of what they need.

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