Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Freelance Writers: How to Divide Your Marketing Budget for Maximum Profit

I've been a freelance writer since 1993, and owned two other businesses over the last decade. You might call me a small business junkie. I love business and reading and/or listening to discussions about marketing is one of my all-time favorite past times.

You can never learn too much about marketing when it comes to small business is my belief. In that vein, I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show on the radio one day. The show's focus on this day was on small business owners.

A small business owner called in with a really interesting question I think freelancers could learn from. He said that he had set his marketing budget for the year, and he wanted to know how to spend it for maximum effect. His query went something like this:

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"I have $12,000 to spend for fiscal year 2008. I want to know if I should spend $1,000/month for 12 months, or if I should spend more on special deals during a certain period, or if I should pump up our marketing during our busy season?"

Excellent question and one that many of us freelancers probably don't think about in too much detail The reason I thought it was such an excellent question is because editorial (especially freelance writing), is a seasonal industry, as outlined in the article, The Work Flow Cycle of the Editorial Industry, on InkwellEditorial.com.

From approximately mid-June through Labor Day and from Christmas through the end of January are usually pretty slow.

February through the end of May is usually very busy, as is September through mid-December. iven this, how would you divvy up a marketing budget?

NOTE: Even if you don't have a marketing budget to speak of, knowing when to increase your promotional efforts - whether it's writing and distributing free articles or giving away copies of an e-book - can mean a big increase in your income.

Step 1: Know the cycle of your industry. Don't spend money during slow times. Use free promotional methods. Eg, send them articles you've written for possible publishing, distribute a free newsletter, write and disperse press releases, etc.

Step 2: Strike when the iron is hot! As in, spend the bulk of your ad dollars during high season.

Step 3: Prepare in advance: Eg, knowing that things pick up in September, target your marketing venues 3-6 months in advance. Many outlets offer discounts for early placement and for bulk placement.

Hence, you get the best bang for your buck by being the early bird. You may be able to extend your ad run by 20, 30 or 40% by placing it early. Eg, instead of placing an ad for 12 weeks, you get 16 or 20 for the same price by being early.

Step 4: Track your advertising: Placing ads early also gives you enough time to put an ad tracking system in place.

What is tracking an ad? Eg, say you send out 500 postcards - 250 with one message and the other 250 with a slightly different message. You want to see which one pulls better, so you put a tracking code, eg, IW-A on one batch and IW-B on the second batch.

After a certain time, say 2 weeks, you go back and see which one responded to your call of action better.

Successful advertisers are constantly tweaking their message because even a half-percent increase in response can mean hundreds or thousands of extra dollars. The kicker: it can be as simple as a one or two word change that makes the difference. As you advertise and market more, you will get better and better at doing this.

In conclusion, knowing when to market is as important as knowing what to say in your advertising material. So, learn the cycle of your industry and use your ad dollars accordingly.

EXCERPT FROM TOMORROW'S POST: If you’ve lost your passion for writing, here’s why and how to get it back -- with a vengeance!

In my 5/10 post entitled “What to Do When You’re Tired of Writing,” I kvetched about being tired of writing. I recently got my writing groove back. I actually look forward to turning on my computer. So, I asked myself, “What happened? Why do I feel so differently now, when I was considering a career change just a few weeks ago?”

After examining the issue in detail, I discovered a few things that I think other freelance writers can learn from.
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