Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Post #3: 40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

PUBLISHER NOTE: If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know about the upcoming freelance writing seminar in October. Details.

Many have inquired about what will be discussed at the seminar. So, in order to answer your questions and to get you prepared for what to expect, I've started a series of posts entitled "40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career."

To start at the beginning, click here. And, welcome to the blog. Now, on to today’s post . . *********
In yesterday’s post, we discussed how to design effective marketing material, keeping your target market’s psychographics in mind. But, you may be thinking, “I don’t have a target market. So, how do I know what to keep in mind?”

Glad you asked! Today, we’ll turn our attention to figuring out how to target a market – a lucrative one.

NOTE: The following is excerpted from Part V of the e-course, Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less – Guaranteed!

TARGETING A NICHE: Why Targeting a Niche is Important to the Success of Your Freelance Career

I think this is important to every freelancer’s success, but particularly to new freelancers, because it allows you to focus: your attention, your message, your marketing and your time.

Like a martial artists who perform what to most are unimaginable feats, the power of focus harnesses all of your energy and can break down/go through almost any barrier in your way.

The Power of Focus: Focusing Your Attention

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you are first starting your freelance career because it’s easy to flit from one ad to the next, trying your hand at this, that and the other. And, while this can be great over time, RIGHT NOW you are trying to lay a foundation for a business. This takes focus.

Everything that you do in the beginning of your freelance writing career is critical. So, choose a niche and build a reputation in that sector first. THEN, later on, you can branch out if you want to.

The Power of Focus: Focusing Your Message

Talking to one group allows you to hone your message. You get to know their wants, needs, problems and desires (their psychographic makeup) much more intimately than if you served a broad sector. The more you know your target market, the better you can serve them. AND, the more money you make.

The Power of Focus: Focusing Your Time

In business, time is money. And, when what you make is directly related to what you produce, time is money in the bank.

Targeting a niche allows you to quickly gain credentials, produce samples, do research, find sources, etc. Eg, if you can produce a newsletter in two hours because you know the industry like the back of your hand, that means more hours for other projects.

Want to learn exactly what to do to earn $100, $150, $200/day or more as a freelance writer, editor and/or copy editor? Inkwell Editorial's upcoming Freelance Writing Seminar will tell you how. Details. It's a career anyone who can read and write can start -- with the right information.
If a new realtor hires me to do her newsletter (I work with a lot of realtors and mortgage brokers), I can produce ideas, samples, testimonials, etc., from a myriad of other projects I’ve worked on. This cuts down on research, brainstorming sessions and set-up time – time that can be put to better INCOME-PRODUCING use.

If nothing else sticks, remember this about niche marketing as a freelance writer: There are millions of them. Why not separate yourself from the pack by becoming a specialist (a niche writer)?

The more you specialize, the less competition you have. The less competition you have, the more valuable you become (the less replaceable you are). And, the more valuable you are, the less clients are likely to squabble about price because, after all, you’re a specialist, right?

A really insightful article which highlights several different professionals across a range of disciplines lays out how effective niche marketing can be.

The article, "Niche Marketing Strategies Can Contribute to Your Success” states:

Niching yourself makes sense--no matter which niches you choose . . . While breaking into a niche may be difficult, once you are established as the go-to expert for that particular group, you can rely on word of mouth supplemented by traditional but targeted marketing activities such as ads, client/prospect dinners, participation at key charitable events, focused networking, and PR tactics.
The full article can be found here.

Okay, you’ve convinced me that I need to “niche it,” but, how do I go about it? I’m glad you asked. It's actually relatively easy and can be done in three easy steps.

NOTE: The following is excerpted from the article, How to Develop a Niche with NO Experience & Make it Profitable for Years to Come. Reprinted with permission. ©2000-2050, Yuwanda Black.

1. Make a list of your experiences, likes, hobbies, etc. Why? Because the first step in developing a niche is to go with your strengths. Even if you have no professional experience in an area, if you like it, chances are you will work to become proficient in it.

For example, in my professional life, I've been a real estate agent, a loan officer, a credit counselor, a recruiter and a legal copy editor (among a few other things -- but we'll just stop here). Remember, this is just professionally.

My hobbies are running, real estate investing, reading historical romances, sewing, interior decorating and designing ethnic pottery, among a barrage of other things (I have a very active mind and a hint of ADD!).

Now that you have this list, what do you do with it?

2. Target lucrative markets: Not every interest you have will make a viable niche market. This may be because they are not willing to pay for your services, don't need your services and/or there aren't enough of their type to market to.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT POINT! With your list in hand, choose markets where: a) your services are needed on a continual basis; b) your asking price can be met with relative ease; and c) there are sufficient numbers to market to.

Also, you might want to consider competition; as in, how much/little do you have? While there is always room for one more company to offer a product/service, my thought process is why fish in a crowded pond.

Go after a market that not many others are targeting. Sometimes this market will reveal itself in your list of professional experiences and/or hobbies. Other times, you may have to work harder to find it. Just make sure that however you choose your market, you keep in mind the points mentioned above.

Now that you know who you want to market to, how do you get those all important first few jobs which lead to samples, references, etc.? Simple.

3. Do low-cost/no-cost work: Always try to get paid for any work you do. You can target local charities; do work for friends with businesses; contact start-up companies, etc. Your mission starting out is to get those first 4 or 5 jobs under your belt.

If you're not having any luck landing paid work, try this: target a company and do the work without asking them (eg, rewrite their badly worded brochure you received in the mail; rework their ineffective web copy; design their logo; etc.).

Then, contact them with their original and your NEW, improved version. Not many businesses will turn down improved work they don't have to pay for. Just like that, a legitimate credit!

Even if a company refuses, you can still use it in your portfolio. Just change the name of the company to something that obviously reflects that it's a fictitious company with the caveat that the name has been changed, but the revisions made were to original copy.

Now, you're on your way!

Following is a sample list to get your juices flowing. I’ve filled it in with some of my hobbies, jobs and interests. This gives you an idea of how/where to start. It could take a few weeks for you to come up with a complete list, so keep it handy and add to it as things strike you.

TIP: Get specific in each category. Eg, instead of listing “ethic crafts,” list sewing ethnic quilts, painting ethnic masks, weaving ethnic baskets, etc.

Finding Your Niche: An Example List

Hobbies: Here you will list all hobbies you have/used to have – go back for as long as you can remember. Just write, don’t edit at this point.

My list goes something like this under this category: Running, Ethnic Crafts (eg, sewing ethnic quilts), Landscaping (mulching, cutting grass, planting flower beds, etc.).

Professional Jobs: Here you will list all jobs you’ve had since you started working (part-time, full-time, temp, volunteering jobs, etc.)

My list goes something like this under this category: Waitress; Recruiter (editorial, publishing, media, communications); Loan Officer; Real Estate Agent; Online Retail Business Owner

Interests: Have interests that you’ve never turned into hobbies? Eg, I’ve always wanted to learn about X? Write all of these down.

My list looks something like this under this category: Learning Italian, Mountain Climbing, Extreme Sports Adventurer (eg, Triathlon); Motorcycle Riding; Forensic Psychology

List-making tip: Make a chronological list, eg, with your jobs. List the first job you had on up to the current position you hold. Don't leave anything out -- no matter how much you hated it or how brief you had it/it held your interest.

This list is as much about fleshing out your interests as it is about getting together a cohesive starting point from which to cull your niche.

Once you get your list together, pare it down using the information in Step 2 in the article above. Specifically, pare it down, choosing markets where: a) your services are needed on a continual basis; b) your asking price can be met with relative ease; and c) there are sufficient numbers to market to.

If you keep the above in mind, you will be well on your way to creating a profitable niche for which to market.

TOMORROW'S POST: In Post #4 tomorrow, we will discuss how to let go of the starving writer’s mindset. We’ll discuss how to go about pricing your services to earn a decent wage – from day one!

What do you think of this post/ #40 Days" series"? If you have questions, comments or observations, send them in. Email them to info [at] InkwellEditorial.com.

Editorially yours,
Yuwanda (who is this person?)
Upcoming Features in Inkwell Editorial’s Newsletter

September 12: Gordon Graham. We ring in the “editorial season” by interviewing Gordon Graham, aka “that white paper guy.” Gordon writes and edits white papers and case studies. He charges $90/hour just to edit a white paper and a minimum of $4,000 to produce a white paper from scratch.

Now, do you see why I had to interview him?! Most freelancers don’t even dream of making this type of money. I can’t wait for this interview.

Missed the latest issue of Inkwell Editorial's freelance writing newsletter? The 8/15 issue featured an interview with B2B freelance writer, Meryl K. Evans. Want to break into this very lucrative market? Meryl's interview sheds some detailed light on how. Sign up to receive your copy to read what Meryl had to say.

Gain clients, web traffic and brand awareness. How? Let us interview you for our popular newsletter? Full details. Read the first issue here.

NOTE: As editorial is cyclical and slow during the summer, in July and August, the newsletter will be published once. In September, we go back to our twice-monthly publishing schedule. Subscribe today so you don't miss anything!
Copyright Notice: May be reprinted with the following, in full: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com: THE business portal for and about the editorial and creative industries. First-hand freelance success stories, e-courses, job postings, resume tips, advice on the business of freelancing, and more! Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on to InkwellEditorial.com.
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