I learned from the WELL-FED WRITER, Peter Bowman, that if your market yourself on a consistent basis, you will put yourself ahead of about 95% of your competitors.
About a year ago, I moved into my first property (a small condo just outside of Atlanta). I negotiated with the seller to have them give me money to fix a simple leaky faucet in the bathroom. I hired an older gentleman that actually bought the first condo ever built in my community. He found out I was a freelance copywriter, so he recommended I read this friend’s book. I paid him no mind as he seemed to be a very talkative person.
It just so happens his friend was Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer. Once I read the book and got a chance to meet Peter I realize my approach to getting clients was backwards. As a former salesman who started a commercial writing business, he was never concerned with the essence of being a “creative.” His only concern was to make money. His secret was prospecting! Now that is my focus when it comes to marketing my business.
Below is a quick guide to what I learned about prospecting, which for a creative/writer is a little different than a small business and corporate America.
Prospecting is Finding and Pre-Qualifying Appropriate Prospects
Prospecting for me is finding the best opportunities to get paid well for my skills. Since the services I offer are content marketing and business writing I search for people (prospects) who need writing work done and are willing to pay livable rates.
I had to systemize the process of prospecting for my business to become successful because it is time-consuming and a never-ending endeavor.
Developing a Basic Prospecting System
I had to systemize the process of prospecting for my business since I have to spend time working on projects but can’t stop marketing since I am a freelancer (The Purpose Paradox).
Build a List of Quantified Prospects
Use tools (details below) to find people who will need your services and compile all their information in a spreadsheet.
Personalize Your Approach Based on Your USP
Show the prospect you care by doing research and pinpointing what they may need help with.
Ensure the prospects that you are a legit business and interested in taking care of their needs.
Be Ready to Deliver the Best Work You Ever Did
Be prepared to do a good job if you want to win the prospect over so you can keep them as a regular client.
Always be prepared to follow-up.
Knowing 80 percent of people out there will not need my business, I decided to create formulaic ways of going about the process so valuable time doesn’t get wasted.
It starts with studying your market (Research, Research, Research)!
You find prospects that need your services by building a list of prospects by using tools (see below for a quick list).
Reach out to the prospects and then follow-up.
Pay the number’s game.
How to Build a List of Prospects
I developed a “search” criteria based on my prior experiences, my skills, and my interest/hobbies/passions to narrow down the markets I reach out to (this is my unique selling proposition).
The main component I look for is if the opportunity pays well.
Quality is better than quantity so I target high-quality prospects.
Tools to Find Prospects
The Writer’s Market
a Lot of Blogs Have “Best Paying List”
The Yellow Pages
I Network at Local Events
Local Business Directories
Who I Prospect
I reach out to publications that pay writers well for their work to keep a steady flow of income that is tied in with exposure.
I follow the submissions guidelines (which usually includes pitching your story idea).
I find the editor’s email and then send a query letter with at least 2 clips to pitch my story idea.
I find the editor-in-chief or top editor’s email and them send a letter of introduction with at least 2 clips and a limited breakdown of the idea(s) I have.
I also reach out to businesses to see if they work with freelance copywriters because they usually pay better for writing jobs, but the amount of exposure is much lower (very little social proof).
Small & Medium Businesses
Small Ad Agencies/ Marketing Agencies
Ways to Prospect (The cornerstone of any business).
I aim for at least 50 calls a week but will make up to 500 calls (to different businesses) depending on the niche.
When I call I ask to speak to Marketing Managers, Chief Copywriters, Media Contacts, Public Relations/ Communications Directors, or Creative Directors (Marketing or Ad Agency).
If it is a small business, I’ll ask for the owner or manager.
When I call I don’t do much selling, instead I get the email address so I can send a letter of introduction.
I network with entrepreneurs I met in social groups and do work for their businesses.
Networking with Other Creatives (Referrals):
I also network with other writers to see if they have any leftovers.
If they do, then I follow up with an email containing a letter of introduction along with 2 “leave-behinds.”
I also try to partner with 4 to 5 Local graphic designers (I got this from the Well-Fed Writer).
I reach out to web designers, illustrators, traffic specialists, marketers, videographers, and photographers.
I had to play it by ear at first to find out the most effective way to market my services, when to market my services, and how much marketing I needed to do.
60% of my time is spent looking for business and 40% actually doing it.
Right now I spend most of my time marketing and do gigs as they come.
The moral of the story is you never know where an opportunity will come from. Obviously, there is no telling where your chance will come from but to become financially self-sufficient you have to take calculated risks that separate starving artist from profitable creatives. It is definitely hard work and with a smart approach it’s manageable, so apply yourself and stand out from all the freelancers. Free yourself from being a slave to your employee and that barely livable paycheck.