Friday, August 31, 2007

POST #6: 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 . . .

Researching for Dollars

In yesterday’s post, we talked about how to get PR for your business. We also explained the difference between PR and advertising. So, if you haven’t read this post, please go back and do so because you will better utilize the information we’re going to go over today.

As I said in Post #3 when we went over niche marketing, once you decide on a niche, it’s time to learn everything you can about them. This is the only way you're going to be able to decide the who, what, where, when, why and how’s of marketing to them -- effectively.

To illustrate this point, following is a personal example.

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.

Case Study: How One Freelance Writer’s “New Career” Took Her Right Back to Her Old One – More Profitably

I was a loan officer for a hot minute a couple of years ago (I was going through a career crisis and tried something different). I’ll discuss this – how to tell if this is a career for you – in a future post.

The mortgage brokers I processed loans through had been in business for 13+ years. They were having trouble drumming up business though. At the current time, they were running an expensive radio ad campaign and it wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped it would be.

When I hard all of this, my immediate thought was, “Why are you trying to drum up new business when you have 13+ years of old clients you can market to?”

While old clients consistently called them and also sent referrals to them, they weren’t actively keeping in touch with their old clients. So, I gave them two ideas to implement to drum up business – almost immediately: i) start a monthly e-newsletter; ii) mail a monthly postcard.

I explained to them the old marketing idiom that 80% of their business comes from 20% of their clients. They told me that they knew this intrinsically, but “didn’t have time to follow up.”

How to Make Clients Realize They Need You

When I heard this I asked them, “Who would you loan $50 to if they asked – a stranger, or a friend you’ve given a loan to before and who has paid you back?”

Of course, they both said the friend. I told them, this is exactly the same scenario. Old clients know, trust and respect you. There’s no need to convince them. It’s an easy sale.

Simply staying in contact with them will garner you many referrals (new clients) and repeat business. I told them, "The best thing about referrals – you don’t have to do nearly as much selling to them because the person who referred them is usually someone they know. And, that’s all most need. If it's good enough for my friend, it's good enough for me."

I think this is when they realized how I could help them – it was their “light bulb” moment, so to speak.

Marketing Tip to Remember: I remember reading a survey a few years ago that when consumers comparison shop, most only compare one or two vendors for the product/service they are considering buying. Please get the distinction here – this is when they bother to compare at all.

So, I explained to the brokers that if you are able to become “top of mind” for clients when they are looking for mortgage services, you have an excellent chance of them using you.

So, why did I tell you all of this? What does this have to do with research? Well, I learned a ton.

1) Many mortgage brokers are mom and pop shops consisting of less than 5 full-time employees, excluding loan officers

2) Many don’t have the time/money/knowledge/etc. to mount advertising campaigns

3) Most have the money to do low-cost, long-term marketing

4) Many rely on word-of-mouth advertising

5) Most don’t have their databases organized into a functional system

6) Many would love, love, love to have someone “handle their marketing”

7) Most process between 5-15 loans/month – depending on how many loan officers they have

8) Most have problems hiring dependable, productive loan officers

9) Turnover is extremely high in the industry

10) The loan processor is the “nerve center” of the office – he/she usually acts as the processor, admin asst, receptionist, girl Friday, etc.

There are so many ways to use this type of info it’s scary. Eg, design a campaign to hire productive staff, create a training manual for new loan officers, send out a monthly newsletter to stay in touch with existing clients, create a referral incentive marketing campaign, etc.

The whole reason you want to know details about a niche is so you can touch upon their “sore spots/weaknesses” when you contact them. This way, they feel like you understand them and can solve their problem.

Remember, prospects don’t’ respond to ads, they respond to your ability to help them solve a problem. To know the problem, you have to know the niche.

Unbeknownst to me, my “new career” had brought me right back to my old one – but with a twist. I discovered that I really loved marketing, advising, teaching and dispensing information. About a year later is when the idea for freelance writing seminars was born. It melded all of what I love to do in one box.

How to Research Your Niche and Make Every Marketing Campaign a Success

After all of this you may be thinking, “It was easy for you to find out information about this niche – you worked in the field. How does that help me?” Following are three things you can do to research any niche.

3 Ways to Research a Niche Market & Make More Money – FREE

1. Go to the Source: After picking the brain of my brokers, I started to ask questions of other mortgage brokers. Many times at networking events, I told mortgage brokers that I was a freelance writer targeting their sector and wanted to find out as much as I could about what they needed.

This served two purposes: i) it made them aware of my services; and ii) it let them know that I was truly interested in helping them to increase their business. It also started them to thinking about new ways of marketing.

One thing you’ll find – especially with small business owners – is that they love to talk about their business. Usually, with minimal prompting, you can get them to talking. Soak up as much as you can from these conversations, for it’ll help you immensely in your marketing efforts.

2. Professional Organizations: As I mentioned in the previous point, I network a lot. Every niche is usually represented by some professional organization.

Find these organizations and join their lists – where possible. Sign up to receive their newsletters, read their websites, go to their networking events, etc. This way, you’ll stay abreast of the changes in their industry and will stay in the loop as to what’s important to them.

3. Tap Industry Affiliates: What I mean by this is, talk to people who do business with your niche market. In the case of mortgage brokers, they do business with real estate agents, appraisers, title companies, landscaping services, etc.

Ask these professionals questions about the niche you’re targeting. A side benefit of this is, you introduce yourself to another market you may be able to target.

One of the reasons being a loan officer interested me is that years ago in New York City, I was a real estate agent. So, I had some inside knowledge of what loan officers were and what they did. So, my niche is really the real estate industry – although I target primarily real estate agents and mortgage brokers within this sector.

Just by doing these three things, you will find out a wealth of information about your target market. Use this info to help you formulate marketing campaigns that help them solve everyday problems.

In the case of the two mortgage brokers I worked with, they had a database of over 11,000 clients. BUT, the information was in old file folders and stored on old computer disks.

Segment Your Database for Maximum Sales

I advised them to hire someone to come in and i) get all the contacts into a searchable database; and ii) sort the info so that they could more easily market to it (eg, separate contacts by purchases and refi’s). This would help them to market more effectively. How?

For example, if you had a database of all the clients who had refinanced through you, then you could send them postcards reminding them that the terms of their ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) was about to expire so they should call you for a FREE consultation on how to get into a fixed rate mortgage.

I told them, just imagine that if you only did 2-3 of those a month at an average refi cost of $4,000. That’s $8,000-$12,000/month – and it only cost you a postcard.

I hope I’ve illustrated how knowing your marketing can make selling to them (sharing your services with them) so much easier. Remember, you are not marketing your freelance services, you are selling solutions to problems. This requires knowledge of the sector.

Every time you sit down to write a marketing piece, keep this in mind.

So, what’s on tap for Monday (I know it’s a holiday, but I will be posting anyway)?

MONDAY'S POST: In Post #7 on Monday, we’ll discuss some technical aspects of marketing, eg, drip campaigns (you’re gonna love this cuz it means more money for you), how to retain customers once you get them, etc.

What do you think? If you have questions, comments or observations about this post, send them in. Email them to info [at]

Happy Labor Day!
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'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!
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