Anyone Can Compete On Price

I get twitchy whenever I hear someone suggest that they should drop their prices to land more clients. Part of that is due to the reality that make creative professionals have a hard time remembering the value of their own work. If you don’t put a value on how you spend your time, how are you ever going to convince someone else to give you money in return for those hours?

But there’s an underlying issue that may be a little harder to resolve: competing on price is bad for business.

There are a few industries in which there is no alternative to competing on price. But the truth is that anyone can compete on price. New entrants to the market can find just as many ways to cut costs as people who have been in business for years — and may have the added advantage of not knowing about certain expenses when setting their prices. Someone who can afford to take a loss, at least in the short term, always has the advantage over those competitors who can’t afford to do so.

That’s dangerous: cutting what you offer to the bone just to get your prices down can put you in a dangerous place, particularly if you’re selling your own creativity in one way or another. There are alternatives, however, to competing on cost: adding value, branding your work, and other strategies can keep you competitive without forcing you to constantly be selling just to keep your head above water.

Pitching Influencers Won’t Get You Where You Need to Go

The real problem with focusing on promoting your products to influencers is that there’s a natural cycle to how everyone adopts new products. Just getting a blogger to write about a product once isn’t going to get most of their audience to start using something new.

It takes multiple mentions, along with some hearty endorsements, to get someone to use a product in such a way that they’ll continue to be a fan for the long haul — or to get a blogger to the point where she’ll casually mention products without really thinking about the matter.

I just wrote an article for one of my clients about how small business owners can better document their internal processes and workflows. I mention three specific tools. One is the industry standard — something that everyone uses. I’ve used it in the past, but didn’t like certain features. I still consider that tool a good option for people with different needs than my own. The second is the tool I actually use myself, which numerous friends mentioned to me as the central mechanism for running their businesses. I can even tell you who most of those people are and who should ultimately get the referral credit. The last tool is one that an acquaintance worked on for a while: he did pitch me a story on it, but he and I also have a lasting business relationship that makes me take a closer look at anything he works on.

Getting influencers on board for a given product isn’t enough: to use influencer marketing in a truly successful manner, people have to love what you do. It may be a question of loving what you’ve done over the course of your career, or just providing the exact perfect product for a niche, but that adoration needs to be present.

Choosing the Big Questions for Enhanced Freelance’s Videos

What makes a question a ‘frequently asked question’? Is there a certain number of times you have to hear it before you know it’s a standard question in your particular topic area?

Jen Stakes Roberts and I made a series of videos answering common questions as a promotional piece for We knew that we wanted to answer common questions that freelancers regularly face in a way we could easily link back to our site. But picking out the questions to answer was not the simple matter you might think.

We’ve chosen a very targeted audience: freelancers who have been in business for a while but have somewhat stalled in going forward. There are definitely common questions that we hear a lot, but not all really tied in with what we’re working on for the site. For instance, it’s not unusual for someone in the market we’re targeting to have some very important questions about tax laws — but that’s not a big focus for the site. Since we work with an international group of members, a video about taxes would have been hours long to cover anyone and I would live in fear of giving someone the wrong advice for their locale.

We also wanted interesting questions: it’s not always that easy to keep a viewer’s interest for the entire length of a video, at least online where there are so many other options. Interesting, at least in this context, means something that the audience wants to hear about. While sex and drugs seem to work for tabloids, things don’t have to be quite that exciting to still be interesting to a particular audience.

The questions we chose are ones that we’ve gotten in several different contexts. I have a bit of a leg up on this particular situation: I’ve done numerous agony aunt columns for freelancing sites, giving me a very clear picture of not only the types of questions that freelancers have, but what stages of a freelance career bring those questions into focus. If you don’t have a stock pile of questions sitting in a dusty corner, however, there are two starting points that I would suggest: Quora and LinkedIn Answers. Just read through the questions that appear regularly in the category you’re considering writing or talking about. You’ll get a quick snapshot of what people find confusing right away. It would be ideal to do more research, of course, but that isn’t always possible.

For our promotional piece, we chose five questions:

  1. How much time does a freelancer need to spend on social media?
  2. What should you do a client asks you why your rates are so much higher than an automated service or a freelancer based overseas?
  3. What should you do about protecting projects from people who might steal them?
  4. What should you do when you’ve got more work than you can handle?
  5. How can you find ways to keep earning more money as a freelancer?

I’ll admit that at least a couple of these are what I would consider personal soap box issues — I have strong feelings about the answers and data to back them up. That makes it a lot easier to write up a script and film a response that sounds natural. But that’s only a last-step filter for choosing what questions to use when you’ve already got several options. And, hopefully, you’re working on a topic that you’re pretty passionate about in general and have lots of opinions anyway. If you aren’t and you’re trying to establish yourself as at least enough of an expert to answer standard questions, you’re probably going to have some problems.

In Short:

If you want to find the big questions in your niche (for marketing efforts or otherwise), start by eliminating topics that you can’t easily answer in the format you’ve chosen. Look for interesting topics that can hold attention. Look at places that regularly post questions for a starting point.

And enjoy our first video:

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Working Without a Marketing Budget Isn’t the Same as Working Without a Net

“I can’t start a business without money! I may be able to bootstrap the company, but I still have to pay for advertising.”

I have heard variations on this theme for years. I even heard a version from a family member attempting to convince another family member to invest in her business when I was about ten. Maybe it was true fifteen years ago, although I don’t remember enough about the pre-web world to say.

But a marketing budget isn’t all that necessary these days. It’s rare that paying for marketing is the only way to get a product or service in front of the right customer. Odds are good that a single honest review on the right website will get you a lot more business these days.

A Short Case Study: reddit*

I had the pleasure of hearing Alexis Ohanian speak about entrepreneurship last month. Ohanian, who co-founded reddit, noted that the company’s entire marketing budget when starting up was $500. That was spent exclusively on stickers. He notes,

After we were acquired, Condé Nast funded an openbar meetup tour (Drankkit) for redditors and also prize money for a build-a-subreddit contest I ran early on to encourage folks to create & grow subreddits.

That’s been the extent of any marketing dollars we spent on growing reddit and they all came post-acquisition.

To give you an idea of the enormity of that statement, here are some figures.

  • In February 2011, the site received one billion page views.
  • I found conflicting reports of the number of active reddit users at this point (ranging from 8 million to 20 million), but that same announcement in February showed over 13.7 million unique visitors.
  • Condé Nast, the company that bought reddit in 2006, is also the publisher of The New Yorker, Vogue, Wired Magazine and a bunch of other big name publications. (For the record, earlier this year, reddit was split off from Condé Nast and now operates as a subsidiary of Condé Nast’s parent company, Advance Publications).

But What About Viral Videos and All the Rest?

There’s a certain sense that we’re living in an age of amazing marketing: Old Spice can create a series of amazing videos that become a part of our culture overnight. Social media, content marketing and all the rest make it possible for marketing materials to rival the winners of Pulitzers, Emmys and other creative awards.

I’m a fan.

But this age of amazing marketing also has opened up opportunities for new businesses to get by without spending any money. It seems counter-intuitive, I know, but hear me out. Marketing is no longer wholesale. If you can slide an absolutely fabulous product in front of one right person, you’ll get the right coverage on social media, through word of mouth or wherever else you need it. You just need to think retail — making that one perfect sale or, rather, connection.

The Old Spice videos were fairly retail, when you get down to it. Here, watch one:

I promise: this post did not start out as an excuse for me to go watch Isaiah Mustafa. But the fact that I enjoy watching these videos over and over again is interesting. I’m right in the group that Old Spice was reaching out to with these videos. I’m nerdy enough that I can navigate my way through a throng of response videos on YouTube. My sense of humor is just a tad quirky. I’m firmly in favor of Isaiah Mustafa walking around without his shirt on. I’m not an Old Spice user, but I encouraged my husband to try out Old Spice after seeing this series of ads.

I’m certainly not the only person who meets that criteria, or the video above wouldn’t have reached 37 million odd views on YouTube. But it’s still not everyone. My dad doesn’t fall into that description, despite being a potential Old Spice customer. My granddad certainly doesn’t, either. Old Spice went retail, in targeting younger consumers who meet a certain set of qualifications. They have other promotions to get their products in front of other demographics.

Don’t Worry About the Marketing Budget

If you have a trust fund or other giant pile of money that you’re just itching to spend, I’m all in favor of devoting some of it to marketing. That is, of course, assuming that you have something great to market.

For those of us starting with a little less backing, coming up with a little cash for a marketing budget is not going to offer any sort of safety net. Rather, you need to build something fabulous. Write the best book possible. Design the best web app on the face of the plant. Whatever you want to sell, knock it all the way out of the park. When you know you’ve got a home run on your hands, start thinking in terms of specific connections you can reach out to or build.

For the best children’s books ever, start reaching out to big name mommy bloggers and book reviewers. Send them emails, follow them on Twitter and — preferably without being a suck up or pain in the posterior — build a standing connection with them. When you’re ready to start selling, then it’s just a question of asking to send such folks a review copy. If you’re shooting for a small business web app, a sports shoe, a non-profit fundraiser or anything else, the type of person you’re looking for changes, but the strategy does not. Think of the individuals who are going to be interested in what you’re offering and go from there.

*reddit is uncapitalized. I’ve got some great editors in the audience and I don’t want to give anyone a heart attack when you see how many times I’ve left this business name uncapitalized.

Image by Flickr user Freddie Brown

Ask Me Anything: Errors & Omissions Insurance and Looking for Work

Ashley Festa asks, how to begin looking for work as a freelancer.

Three words: marketing, marketing, marketing. Depending on the types of freelance projects you’re looking for, the shape of your marketing efforts can vary. There are plenty of options — in fact, there are at least 31 days worth of marketing projects you can tackle.

I’m a big believer that you have to have somewhere to send interested clients, like a website. Once that’s in place, the next step is discovering where your preferred types of gigs show up. I like blogging gigs more than anything else, so I take a look at job boards like ProBlogger‘s fairly regularly. I also have gotten to know the types of blogs that I like writing for pretty well, to the point where I’m comfortable sending the writers and editors emails.

No matter what kind of writing you want to do, though, don’t limit yourself to the job boards. The best writing jobs are never anywhere near a job board. It’s your connections who will bring you work, more often than not. Job boards should only be a starting point — a way to land some jobs as you build up the network you’ll need in the long run.

Susan Johnston asks,

I’d be interested in your take on errors & omissions insurance or media liability insurance. Necessary for freelance writers? Or necessary for certain types of writing? This came up with a client recently and I’d imagine this info would be useful to other writers, too. Thanks!

Most of my clients never ask about the insurance I cover. Typically, the ones who do are big companies, used to working with contractors who actually come on site to do work rather than freelance writers — and those clients ask about liability insurance. Freelance writers don’t really need liability insurance. It’s for situations where you or one of your employees injures yourself on a client’s property or otherwise does some damage. If you aren’t on their property, it’s not an issue.

Errors and omissions insurance can be a practical consideration for freelancers, though, even if our clients rarely ask about it. That’s because errors and omissions insurance specifically covers errors that we might make in completing a project for our clients. For example, if a copy writer puts together a tax advice site for a client, but includes material that leads to a reader irritating the IRS, the copy writer could be sued. Errors and omissions insurance takes care of the costs of resolving such a situation, including paying damages to that very displeased client.

If you have assets worth protecting — like a house and a thriving freelance writing business — getting the insurance is a good idea. The problem most writers will face is that it can be expensive to obtain. If you can’t afford it, don’t spend too much time stressing about it. Most freelancers don’t actually carry errors and omissions insurance. It’s more of a ‘nice to have’ sort of situation. If you can afford it, though, go for it.

Got a question about the business side of freelance writing? Send it my way and I’ll answer it here next week!

Ask Me Anything: Beyond Elance

Jennie asks,

My question is about the value of and other freelance hiring sites. I accepted a project from an Elance client which will be completed in January 2010. After I complete the project, I am not sure what I will do with my Elance account. Do you believe, as Robert Bly does, that Elance pays poorly overall? Is there a better, faster way to find potential clients? Or is the old-fashioned cold-calling route the way to go?

I think that Elance and other bid sites can be useful as starting points for freelance writers. They provide a simple way to start building up a portfolio of work as well as to find work quickly — which can be a key concern when you’re first starting out. However, in the long run, I think that moving away from such sites is the best option in the long run. Projects posted on Elance, do typically pay lower rates than those you find for yourself.

You don’t need to make an immediate leap away from Elance, though. My suggestion would be to transition to finding work from other sources. A good starting point is to start looking for projects on other job boards and among the listings that sites like and publish on a regular basis. You can also start marketing yourself: by building up your reputation as you reduce the amount of work your find on Elance, you can find higher paying clients without having to worry about having enough work at any given time. There are plenty of ways to market yourself (start with the 31 posts listed here) and cold-calling is only one element of it.

The downside to leaving Elance is that marketing yourself as a writer is not immediate. It takes longer to find those better paying clients than it does to submit a bid on Elance. You get the benefit of more money, but it requires an investment of time on your part. As much as I’d personally rather not work on a bid basis, it can make a lot of sense for a freelance writer who is only able to work a few hours every so often.

J.C. Hutchins: Getting A Novel Past Rejection and Into Print

These days, getting a book published isn’t just a matter of getting an editor to take a look at your work. It takes a lot of ingenuity and a willingness to pursue a project on your own. J.C. Hutchins did just that. His book, 7th Son: Descent, was rejected by publishers. J.C. bought a microphone, recorded an audiobook and shared it as a free serialized podcast. His podcast attracted tens of thousands of listeners, which, in turn, attracted the attention of St. Martin’s Press.

St. Martin’s Press released 7th Son: Descent on October 27th. The novel was recently option by Warner Bros. On its release day, it hit 188 overall at To put it mildly, it’s a success.

In order to get behind the scenes on how J.C. was able to turn publishers’ rejections into success, he agreed to answer a couple of questions for us.

How did your first attempt to get published go? Did you get any responses? How many queries did you send out?

It was a disaster — and I have only myself to blame. I wanted to tell an epic story about high-tech conspiracies, human cloning and a villain so cruel he’d make Cobra Commander wet the bed . . . and I did just that. I spent three years writing and editing 7th Son, and when I came up for air in 2005, I was the proud papa of a 1,200-page manuscript. Most thrillers never clock past the 400-page mark. I hadn’t written a book. I’d written a phone book.

I’d doomed my story. I pitched around 60 agents, and was universally rejected. During ’05, I was listening to podcasts, and discovered novelists who were releasing their unpublished manuscripts as self-produced, free serialized audiobooks. I smelled an emerging trend, and reckoned that since I couldn’t sell 7th Son, I’d share it.

I rebranded my epic story as a trilogy, and chopped my monstrous manuscript into thirds — act one became 7th Son: Descent, act two became “book two,” etc. I began recording and releasing the first novel in early 2006.

What was the learning curve like as you started offering your book as a podcast? How did you learn how to record your audiobook and promote it online?

I studied the space before I ever recorded a word. I did online research on recommended equipment (microphones and mixers, mostly), listened closely to other podcast novels to spot best practices (and things to avoid), and watched how others promoted their work.

My greatest learning curve came in the recording process. I discovered that I was — and remain — a terrible narrator. My performances are great in the final product, but I constantly flub lines. My audio requires lots of meticulous editing.

I’m not a born promoter; it’s a learned skill. I was timid to promote at first … but once I realized the success of the podcast hinged solely on my personal commitment to evangelize it, I got learning, fast. It’s been a blast, experimenting with promotions over the past four years.

How did you attract listeners? How did your audience lead to a deal with St. Martin’s Press and eventually a movie option?

Back in 2006, I quickly saw the flaws in most podcast promotion of the time (popularity content-style voting on a few websites, shilling for reviews in iTunes, etc.), and realized the fastest way for me as a “new kid” to score credibility was to cross-promote with influential podcasters. I’d invite them on my show for a quick two-minute cameo in which they read a “previously on 7th Son” segment and could promote whatever they wished. These folks then mentioned their 7th Son appearances on their shows, which drove listeners to my site.

My most successful promotional campaigns have been variants on this cross-promotion model. No one spends a dime, and everyone comes away a winner.

Most of the folks who came to the 7th Son podcast enjoyed it, appreciated the entertainment value (and the fact that I was giving it away), and wanted to help spread the word. I created an online street team called “The 7th Son Ministry of Propaganda,” and crafted evangelistic missions for my listeners. I also solicited fan-created artwork, music, poetry — whatever fans wanted to create, they could, and I’d post it on my site (and thank them in my podcasts). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building a vocal, emotionally-invested audience.

The success of the podcast eventually helped get me a literary agent in 2007 — I pitched more than 200 that time around. It also put me on the radar of St. Martin’s Press. An editor there approached me for a “for hire” supernatural thriller project, a gig I happily accepted. Once my foot was in the door, I pitched them on 7th Son, and they went for it.

With a book contract signed, my film agent then pitched studios. The film rights for the trilogy were optioned to Warner Bros. late last year.

What sort of marketing did you do for the launch of the actual book? How did you sell so many copies in your first week?

I took everything I learned from my four years of promotion, and used the very best ideas. I wanted to dazzle longtime fans and newcomers with killer content, so I wrote and podcasted original fiction — a prequel short story anthology set two weeks before the events seen in 7th Son: Descent. I enlisted the help of a musician friend, who — with my help — created songs “written and performed” by a folk musician in the book. This became a crowd-pleaser. I also recorded a brand-new version of the “print edition” of 7th Son: Descent, featuring the new scenes and plot twists seen in the print novel.

With content covered, I approached several influential websites and asked if they’d be interested in re-distributing this, and other, content. In exchange for access to their audiences, I’d promote their work with in-content advertising. Sites such as agreed, putting my work before audiences that had never before heard of 7th Son. This content began rolling out a few weeks before the novel’s bookstore debut.

On the day of publication, 20 websites — including those of BoingBoing, Chris Brogan, Grammar Girl, C.C. Chapman, and others — released a 10-chapter PDF excerpt of the book. These sites also received in-PDF adverts for their participation. That PDF has been online for about a month, and has been downloaded more than 30,000 times. Again: no money was spent by anyone, yet everyone benefited from the multi-site distribution and cross-promotion.

Finally, I’m also doing gobs of dirt-under-the-fingernails outreach — pitching blogs, podcasters and mainstream media. In the past month, I’ve done more than 60 online interviews/guest posts … and if I have anything to say about it, this is just the beginning.

Why are you continuing to offer free fiction on your website? What’s your next step?

Free content serves several purposes:

  1. it keeps my current fans fat and happy, which is a priority
  2. the low barrier of entry ensures new fans can experience my work risk-free, see if it’s right for them, and support the work by purchasing a copy of the novel
  3. the fiction can be freely redistributed by fans, which increases the size of my community
  4. it’s fun.

What’s next? More free audio fiction in early 2010. By the summer, I aim to be writing two new novels, and sending some movie treatments to my film agent. I still gotta put food on my table.

What advice can you offer to writers trying to find a home for their manuscripts? Any resources you can point writers to?

While I’ve found success with the Free loss leader model, I always suggest that writers submit their manuscripts to agents the traditional way first. If you snag representation, you’ll save yourself a great amount of energy and effort creating — for instance — a podcast audiobook. (Every 30 minutes of final audio often represents around 6-8 hours of behind-the-scenes effort.) If the gatekeepers turn up their noses, screw ’em. Embrace the DIY route. Create your own success. Don’t let anyone tell you your work doesn’t have value. With the Free model, the market (aka listeners) decide.

The best one-stop resource I’ve found is It has a robust listing of agents representing all genres. It’s also free to use.

What do you see as the future of how books will come to market? Will publishing houses still pick and choose from slush piles? Can we expect more writers to succeed by building online platforms?

I don’t think we’ll see much change in the process during the next five years or so. Major publishers are very slow to change, and — while writers can grouse about it — the current system of finding an agent to pitch your work to publishers works well. It offers some quality control. Despite 7th Son’s podcast success, it took me acquiring an agent to get business done.

I don’t suggest writers submit unagented, unsolicited manuscripts to publishers’ slush piles. Few publishers accept them, and those who do can literally take years reviewing them. While that manuscript is in that single publisher’s hands, it cannot be presented to any other publisher. You essentially forfeit any leverage or influence you have. Get an agent, cut a deal with a small independent publisher, or self-publish.

I absolutely believe we’ll see more online success stories like 7th Son’s in the years ahead. Creators who embrace this DIY approach are in for some seriously hard work, especially if they want to create the best-possible product, and promote it effectively. But those who do can build a thriving fan base, and their works’ successes can build a strong business case for publishers.

You can learn more about J.C. Hutchins at his website, where you can also read his work!

Marketing Is More Than Landing Clients For Freelance Writers

Marketing is more than landing clients. It’s more than who will ask you to work on a project — it affects who YOU can ask to work on a project.

Today, I had a milestone in my writing career: I’ve been writing for some decently well-known websites for quite a while, including one which occasionally provides content to the New York Times. One of the best known newspapers chose to pick up one of my articles and run it on their website.

As proud as I may be of this situation, the fact is that the entire situation came about because of the time I’ve poured into marketing myself.

The article in question is an interview — the subject is very well-known in certain circles. I didn’t actually seek out this particular interview, though. Because I’ve networked with people in the field — it’s a niche I routinely cover — one of my contacts actually sought me out to set up this interview. He works with the interview subject and knew that she would be in my area, just before they had a relaunch of their site and offered to set up an interview.

My marketing directly translated into an interview that went all the way to the New York Times website. Marketing goes far beyond simply adding to the list of clients you write for — it can add to the list of people you write about.

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.’

Day 31: Make Marketing A Habit

To be truly effective, marketing can’t be something that you do just once in a while — especially for a freelancer. Instead, marketing must be a habit, something that you make time for every day. It can be tough for freelance writers, because that means extra work beyond the writing that is actually paying the bills and it can be difficult to focus on marketing if you’ve already got a full client list.

Just the same, freelancers must market. The typical explanation is that you never know when one of your clients will cut a project and that you have to keep hustling to line up new work. It goes beyond that, though: even if your plate is always full, you can want more. What about better paying clients? If you’ve been writing for a while, it’s important to keep marketing so that you can land new clients who are willing to pay higher rates — after all, most of your existing clientele is going to expect you to keep working at the same price you’ve always worked at.

Set Aside Marketing Time

Many part-time freelancers make a point of setting a certain amount of time aside for writing. Whether you’re full-time or part-time, it’s important to do the same for marketing. Even if you can only manage working on your marketing efforts for 15 minutes a day — well, that’s 15 minutes of marketing you weren’t doing before. That sort of time frame may require some very careful choices on just which marketing tactics you’re going to devote yourself to.

As you practice your marketing skills, you’ll be better able to handle the process — you’ll be able to expand your efforts, and build on your existing reputation. Ideally, you may be able to expand the amount of time you spend on marketing, as well. There is no set amount of time you should be spending on marketing your freelance writing, but I don’t think an hour a day is out of line. That sound like a lot of time, but think about what you may be using that time for: writing query letters, blogging, even going to events. Those sorts of activities pay off when you spend some time on them.

The longer you make a point of marketing, the more of a habit it will become. Marketing yourself and your writing is a great habit to have — and it will come in handy no matter what the future of your freelancing career looks like. Whether you want to write articles from here to forever or you want to build up passive income strams, you’ll need to be able to marketi yourself to meet your goals.

Bringing In Outside Help

One of the reasons that freelance writing is such a flexible business option is that we’re each pretty much responsible for every part of operating our businesses. The number of freelance writers who bring in some outside help — whether we’re talking about tasks like marketing or bookkeeping — is pretty low. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an option.

If you’ve got a pretty full plate as far as work goes, it may make sense to hand off at least a little of your work to someone else. I don’t recommend it as an option for a freelancer first starting out: such help is going to cost a little money and it’s harder to make sure your help is handling a project the way you want if you haven’t done such projects yourself. In other situations, however, a virtual assistant or some other help can make sense. Depending on the virtual assistant you talk to you, you can outsource a wide variety of your work. Personally, I prefer to outsource tasks I don’t enjoy (like bookkeeping) so that I have more time for tasks I do enjoy (like marketing). But even within the larger area of marketing, you can get a lot of help. There are virtual assistants who will update your website, hunt down editors’ email addresses or design your business card. It’s just a question of what you need help with.

Revisit Your Marketing Plans

As you continue your freelance writing career, make a point of revisiting your marketing plans regularly. Your focus may shift — you may want to explore a new niche or target new clients. Those shifts can require some corresponding changes in your marketing efforts: you want to make sure that you are where your ideal clients are at all times.

You don’t need to completely change your marketing plan on a weekly or monthly basis, of course, but checking in once a month or so to make sure that you’re still progressing towards your goals can help you to decide that you’re still on track. If you feel that you aren’t meeting your goals, or you’ve slowed in your progress, then it may be time to revise your marketing plans.

How do you schedule your marketing tasks with the rest of your work?