Ask Me Anything, Edition 8

Mary Beth asks,

How does one market oneself when one’s clips/portfolio is a mite bit sparse?

I’ve found that while most editors and clients have a preference for clips or a portfolio that show your work in the wild — articles that have been published, copy that’s actually in use and other completed projects — they’re most concerned with your writing ability. If you haven’t gotten a whole lot published yet, write some top-notch pieces and add them to your portfolio. You can add those to your portfolio as samples of your work and simply note that they haven’t been published anywhere.

I wouldn’t leave it at that though: with those sample pieces, you have some work that you may be able to get used. If you wrote sample articles, I’d suggest submitting them on spec to relevant publications. You may get a published clip out of it. Skip the massive content sites — I’m not going to get into whether or not those sites are useful, but most editors simply don’t consider them a good sign when looking at a writer’s clips.

Blogging can also be a way to demonstrate your writing ability, although different editors have different opinions about the value of a blog. If you write high-quality posts routinely, however, you can demonstrate your writing skill to anyone who visits your site. As far as this one goes, Mary Beth, I think you’re headed in the right direction.

Doug Waltz asks,

I am very specific in what I do. I review and interview people in the micro budget film industry. What would be a good way to market that kind of specialty?

While I’m not overly familiar with Doug’s niche, I do have a few suggestions of starting points:

  • Be active in the forums and discussion groups that cater to your niche, as well as with the websites and blogs that you might otherwise think of as your competition.
  • Pitch articles on the micro budget film industry to publications that might not normally cover them (like more general film publications). Your articles will have to be broader, but you’ll also reach a much wider audience.
  • Make a video or two of your own — if your audience includes folks interested in film, having a presence on video-sharing sites seems like a good way to both reach them and establish a wider expertise.

Paul Young asks,

I’m extremely good in my technical field, experienced, speak at conferences, BUT…I have no degree. This has been a stumbling block over and over again in trying to market myself to clients. Suggestions (other than go get a degree!)?

Getting a degree is not always a practical option, especially if you’re already running a business of your own. But you can establish your expertise in a number of other ways — which it seems like you’ve already done. I would suggest making a point of showcasing the experience you do have on your website and in your other marketing materials. Do you have an ‘About Me’ page that could focus on the benefits of your hands-on experience?

Don’t make a big deal over your lack of degree, though — focus on the positive. If most of your competition does have a certain degree, show how you stack up against them in the real world. After all, learning in the field can be more beneficial than learning in a classroom.

EconGrrl asks,

How do you recommend we keep our marketing genuine? I have several clients who hate to ’sell’ and I, myself, have a hard time asking for the sale. I look forward to your thoughts.

A lot of writers in particular seem to have this problem with marketing themselves: they feel uncomfortable selling, especially if they aren’t sure that they’re being genuine. One way to move past that is to focus on what you’re doing that will help a prospective client. I’m not talking about the selling points of your service, mind you — I’m suggesting focusing on how you actually help people. Has a past client told you that you’ve made a difference in their ability to run their business or anything similar? Your marketing will let you help your other clients do the same, as long as you focus on those benefits.

I call this the feel-good approach and, admittedly, it doesn’t work for everyone. But for those folks who feel like marketing is a little icky, a feel-good approach can bring marketing into perspective.

We had four entrants in the Market This giveaway, and the fourth entrant was selected by my random number generator. EconGrrl, I’ll be in touch to get your copy of the book sent out.

If you’re still interested in reading the book, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool is available for purchase on Amazon.

Got a question for me about freelance writing? Comment here or email me — I’d be happy to include it in next week’s ‘Ask Me Anything.’

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