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There are a lot of freelancers out there. In 2021, one million Australians were freelancing (from the Australian Bureau of Statistics) while in 2022, the United Kingdom had 2 million freelancers (Micro Biz Mag) and the US had a whopping 70 million (Demand Sage). Obviously ‘freelancer’ is a broad term and writers make up only a percentage but that’s still a lot of people writing for a living. So, you need to stand out for what you do – and be remembered for it – if you are going to build a profitable, sustainable business. That’s where marketing for freelancers comes in.
What is marketing for freelancers?
There are as many definitions of marketing as there are freelancers.
For simplicity and relevance, Hubspot nails it: “Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service.”
Marketing for freelance writers has four main aims:
- Get known.
- Make connections.
- Convince people to engage/commission you.
- Nurture relationships.
So, it’s marketing when you send Letters of Introduction (LOIs) to potential clients or pitch stories to editors.
Connecting with people on LinkedIn is also marketing – you’re getting known and making connections, and LinkedIn can be a great way to find high paying clients.
It’s marketing too, when you comment on people’s posts in a genuine and helpful way, and when you post on your own socials. It’s all about people getting to know you.
Finally, don’t forget about nurturing ongoing relationships. As Lindy explains in this article, it can make makes freelancing easier and more profitable,
But if it still feels a bit awkward, there is one mindset switch that make marketing for freelancers easier.
The secret to marketing yourself that makes it better for you, and for your potential clients
There’s a belief that marketing is about telling people how good you are.
“Ugh”, say many writers, “I’m not good at self-promotion.”
But they’ve got it wrong. Marketing is not about self-promotion.
It’s not about you at all.
Marketing for freelancers is all about this: the people you hope will commission and publish your work.
It’s about a problem they have (yes, that’s an overused concept but bear with me – it’s also useful).
Their problem is that there’s space to be filled and it’s on their shoulders to fill it.
I became very familiar with the ‘space to fill’ problem when I was producing for Australia’s Today Show. The executive producer warned me early on: “Morning TV is a ravenous beast that needs feeding every day. It takes lots of content to keep it happy and it’s your job to find it.”
He was right – and in today’s digital world, it’s even more pronounced.
Content marketing is growing.
Businesses have now joined traditional media in the publishing game – using content marketing, such as blog posts, white papers and email newsletters, to increase their sales and enhance their reputation.
Through 2022, the importance of content to B2B marketing continued to grow, according to a global survey by the Content Marketing Institute and nearly half the marketers surveyed were expecting an increase in their content marketing budget in 2023, as well as new content producers to be hired or contracted.
That’s great news for you, as a freelance writer – but only if those marketing managers know about you and what you could do for them.
Traditional media is changing, not dying.
While businesses want more freelance writers, so do many newsrooms and magazines who have been cutting their workforce to reduce costs but still need stories written.
And just like businesses, they are outsourcing work to freelancers who can show they are up to the job, according to this Forbes article.
That’s why, even if you’re starting out, you need to show that you are up to the job.
Marketing for freelancers 101
Freelance writers often turn to social media as the place to get themselves known, and it is certainly a good avenue for outreach.
But to depend on social media, for writers in particular, can be a risk.
As we’re seeing with Twitter (one of the prime social media platforms for writers), the changes brought by new owner Elon Musk has many freelancers worried that it will cease to be an effective place for them.
However, there is one platform that will always be there for you: your own website.
Having a place that’s under your control, unlike social media, means there is always somewhere people can find you online. Your social media profiles and posts can point people to your website to learn more about you – no matter what is happening in the Twitterverse or anywhere else.
And while it can be challenging to write your own website copy, it can be done in a way that shows your expertise and your personality in your own way.
Get started, or inspired to make changes, by checking out other writers’ websites. It’s a good way to get clear on how you want your professional persona to come across (and equally, what you don’t want as part of your online identity).
Get inspired by these great writer websites
There are plenty of websites where writers demonstrate who they are and what they do with clarity, confidence and a flavour of their personality.
The ones below were chosen as examples across different sectors as well as different approaches.
Some are playful and others more restrained, but all promote their strengths – which is what your website needs to do.
Ben Goldfarb, Environmental Journalist & Author
Isabelle Drury, Sustainability Writer
Caroline Gibson, Content & Copy Writer
Rebecca Douglas, Writer & Editor
Louise Wedgewood, Health Writer
And of course, Lindy’s own freelance writer website, cited by many as one of their favourite writer platforms.
One more reason why you should be marketing yourself
It’s the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet and it’s all about you.
You are the hidden audience for your own work and the one who needs to believe in yourself most of all.
According to business coach Dan Sullivan, our greatest duty as business owners is to protect our own confidence.
That doesn’t come from doing affirmations, keeping a gratitude journal or other self-motivation activities (although they can help – I use and advocate for many of the positive thinking techniques).
But when your confidence is having an off day and you’re channelling Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh (“The sky has finally fallen. Always knew it would”), you need evidence that, yes – you can do this.
Marketing is your evidence, especially a website that lays out your credentials and experience for all the world to see.
Once you start to shape how others see you, you will begin to believe it yourself.
Quick wins for marketing yourself as a freelance writer
Marketing doesn’t have to take over your life.
Start by reaching out to people on social media every few days, giving them an experience of you through comments and connections. There is great value in building relationships before you have something to offer.
Check your digital presence regularly, making sure website and social profiles show the best and most current you:
- Your name is easy to find. Sounds obvious but there are plenty of websites/social profiles that don’t have, or make it hard to find, the name of the person behind the business.
- There’s a photo of you. It helps foster connection when people can see you.
- Keep your awards and qualifications up to date. And be specific – ‘award winning writer’ doesn’t say much (Here’s one way to do it).
- Make sure it’s clear what your services are and how people can get in touch with you.
Finally, it can be useful to keep ‘professional you’ in a digital folder (perhaps labelled “Wins”) with:
- Educational qualifications and awards PLUS
- A list of other achievements including volunteer roles and courses you’ve done.Testimonials and nice things people have said that demonstrate what it’s like to work with you. Complimentary words and phrases can beef up your bio and About or Services page. Remember to ask permission and attribute the quote.
- A list of work/ writing that showcases your abilities, including writing that makes you proud whether or not it’s within your niche.
The folder is more for you than anyone else. It’s easy to forget wins – this is the place to be reminded of them (and credit to writer and marketer Sonia Simone for the idea).
Hopefully now, you’ll be more comfortable and confident about marketing yourself.
Marketing is about helping the people who need what you do so they can find and get to know you.
It’s not just about the work you can produce, but it’s also about giving them an idea of what it would be like to work or do business with you.
It’s not about making yourself look good.
But rather, it’s about what you can do for them, and when you keep that at the front of your mind, it makes it easier to know how to market yourself and excel at it.
About the writer
Sherene Strahan has 30+ years in journalism and content creation.
These days she is a freelance writer and content coach, showing women with a solo business or side hustle how to create content that feels good, looks good and does them good. She can be found mostly on Instagram and at her website, sherenestrahan.com.
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Awesome article Sherene and super timely as I start to build my website (and I guess..brand). Imposter syndrome is baying loudly – thing is I know I can write but can I do the business’y part of this? That’s the unknown but that’s the part that 100% has to happen. What I do know is you have to find the confidence or fake it ’til you make it. And then you’ve got to find a way for people to find you. I listened to a great poddy on my walk today (BBC Desert Island Discs Classic – Kylie Minogue 2015). Our Kylie shared how Michael Hutchence told her when you perform you have to put your “ego coat” on, and bedazzle even if you’re not feeling it. So from now on I’m going to be like Kylie, find my ego coat and BEDAZZLE!
Hi Lisa, thanks for your thumbs up – you’ve hit the nail on the head by naming confidence as ‘The Thing’.
Nobody just ‘has’ confidence with a new endeavour – we have to generate it.
My message is always – think of who benefits because you are in business. Instead of focusing on how YOU feel about your copy/content, focus on telling them what they need to know in order to choose you.
All the best for the biz side of things – ask questions, get support as needed, and draw energy from your friends/ support groups. You’ll be brilliant!
Thanks so much for this, Sherene! I don’t have a website, actually, and I’ve been thinking it was sort of optional, as I have a portfolio that showcases my work. But you’ve convinced me that I need one! My question du jour is whether I need to hire a website designer. That can be pretty costly, which is probably why I’ve been putting things off. What do you think? Can I get away with a DIY version?
Margaret (aka Peggy) Crane
Hi Margaret, Glad it was good timing for you. I’m a huge believer in having your own website because it’s the one piece of digital real estate you own outright. Everything else is built on rented land, even portfolio sites.
Re DIY sites, it’s never been easier to create one for yourself without sacrificing good looks or professionalism.
I’m considering going DIY for a new site this year – mine is 7 years old and has some coding idiosyncracies that make me tear my hair out!
I would look at a Squarespace site as I’m told they are relatively easy and they also look good. Here in Perth, we have a small biz support organisation (BOSS Centre) that runs free workshops and support sessions to help people build their own Squarespace website. There may be a similar org in your location?
This site has an easy to understand overview of building your own site: https://www.tooltester.com/en/how-to-set-up-my-own-website/
And here are some examples of DIY sites using Squarespace: https://www.applet.studio/blog/squarespace-inspiration-website-examples
I’m not advocating for Squarespace – just some ideas to get you started! Hope this helps and all the best,
Such a great piece, Sherene – my goal this year is to become much better at writing content for my portfolio site!