Tag Archives: Writers

Building a Successful Business: Tips to Help Other Businesses

The third part of our Building a Successful Business series offers tips to help other businesses. While I’ve focused on helping fellow writers, these tips can be used by any marketer who’s drumming up new business. If you’re hungry for new clients and want to develop relationships with prospects, you’ll enjoy these suggestions.

The Problem

A writer asks, “Other writers talk about having their own clients to write for, and I want to get inside that part of the industry. Problem is, I’m not sure where to start. Where do I find clients?”

My Solution

Here are some of my simple secrets for helping businesses:

1) Twitter

  • I watch what my followers are talking about.
  • I also do searches on particular terms I’m interested in to pull from outside the pool I swim in.
  • I watch what the folks I follow are talking about.

2) LinkedIn

  • I look at where my contacts have worked, who they’ve worked with, see what they are currently doing, and who their connections are. I work hard to connect on a local and regional level as opposed to national/worldwide. It’s easier for me that way.

3) Read the local weeklies

  • I see what’s happening, where it’s happening, when it’s happening. Local events, people coming to town, people doing special things.
  • I carefully monitor who advertises – they have some sort of marketing budget and understand the value of marketing/advertising.
  • I look for those who pull 1/2 and full page ads. They are very conscious of marketing and eager to find new business/customers.
  • I scan for who has a website. ‘Nuff said.

4) Talk to people

  • I can’t stress how important this is. I don’t care if it’s the cashier at HEB (these folks know everything because they see everyone), the guy down the street, or the people at my barn. Without conversations, nothing happens. When you listen, you will find all kinds of groovy information to work with.

So you’ve gleaned information about the people you want to work with. You know who’s in need of new customers and who has an advertising budget. You know who has a website. You know the events going on around your community and the businesses that are involved.

The next step is so easy, but few writers take it. ACTION!

  1. Contact the businesses that are sponsoring a local charity event. Congratulate them for the sponsorships and introduce yourself.
  2. Hand out a few business cards when you see your stylist, local grocer, realtor, etc. Tell people what you do.
  3. Telephone businesses that advertise in your local weekly (or daily) and introduce yourself.
  4. Send a letter of introduction when you connect with new people on LinkedIn. Ask for introductions to their connections, too.
  5. Re-tweet news that’s relevant to your Twitter followers. Let the person who tweeted know you’re interested in their news. Ask for an interview. Give them free exposure.

These are a few things that I do to help.

Notice that I said I do these things to help businesses, not close a sale. You gotta start warm and work your way up. I cannot stress how important it is to qualify a lead before pouncing on it.

Have questions? Need more help? Would you like a private consultation with Laura to discuss your marketing needs? Contact me and let’s get the ball rolling in the right direction. I’m here to get your business on track!

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

This is the second part of Big Grey Horse Media’s Building a Successful Business series.  Today, we zoom in on the dilemma some writers have: content mills vs. private clients. Check out our Marketing Guide for Writers if you need help marketing your business and snagging the gigs.

One of my favorite forums had a lively discussion that turned into a small debate about content mills vs. private clients. It’s the same old argument, with writers on both sides, and each declaring why they work for the mills. Or not.

It was a highly agreeable discussion that was quite friendly, but it boiled down to a few specifics I find questionable.

Specifically, the idea that content mill writers hold is that marketing isn’t worth the time spent. Or it’s too much time spent on an unpaid activity, and they want money now. So why market when you can write a $3-$25 article? This logic makes sense, but my take is different.

What happens when you have to pay taxes?

Remember that those $3-$25 articles get chopped in half – fast. You’re not working for an employer, you’re a subcontractor/freelancer. You’ve got absolutely no benefits except that you are working from home (a big benefit, for sure, but that’s not a safe model to build a business upon).

What happens when the work runs out?

Content mills are businesses. There are no guarantees. This business model is not out to protect writers. The mills are a business like any other and the profits that are made line the pockets of the business’ owners.

More importantly, when the work is gone, you better have more content mills on the schedule or you’re screwed. You’d think freelance writers would operate from this premise and work regularly with several mills. While a few smart writers do spread their work out, the majority DO NOT.

Myth

Private Clients are hard to find and the time spent marketing to find private clients is unpaid.Why would I want to spend hours looking for work in a highly competitive market when I can crank out five $3 articles at XYZ content mill? My hourly rate is then secured at $15 an hour, which ain’t too bad.

The Truth

I’ve found that content mill work also has the unpaid time or downtime, too.

  • Time spent looking for articles in a queue.
  • Time spent refreshing a screen when there is nothing and you’re hoping something will appear.
  • Time spent finding those content mills.
  • Time spent filling out applications and turning in samples/clips.
  • Time spent on administrative tasks (which we ALL do, no matter who the client is or how they roll).
  • Time spent posting in forums, Facebook pages, etc. that the mills offer as their “writer water cooler”.
  • Time spent dealing with edits, rejections, appeals.

For me, working with higher paying clients is a dream come true. Content mill work can be easy because once you’re in, work is in a queue and “handed” to you, seemingly without struggle.

The problem with this model is the lack of personalization. It’s crowdsourcing. While that’s certainly one solid business model in our new way of working, it can bite many people in the arse if they’re not careful.

While the work is there, the light shines brightly upon everyone who’s working.

When the pickings are slim, well, mass panic and a huge exodus occurs.

I’m not slamming the mills or anyone who works with them. I’ve done it myself and from time to time, will pick up work to test the business model.

But it’s not worth it, for me, to do it long term or as my primary way of making money. Too unstable, the pay SUCKS, and everyone is treated the same.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a private client – or fill your list exclusively with private clients. You don’t have to travel to their locations, either. I’ve worked with clients from around the world and made it work.

I prefer the meetings and greetings and kissing babies and shaking hands simply because I’m my father’s daughter. He was a very successful entrepreneur and marketing/sales was his specialty. What he did to rise from a poor family to being worth millions by the time he was in his 40s are the same principles people talk about today.

Relationships. Taking care of your customers.

So when you’re looking for work, whether it’s a mill or something else, take care of your customer. The mill probably won’t have too many ways for you to be a shining star, but you can cut your teeth on the gig and learn. If you choose to work with this business model, there’s nothing wrong with that. It has excellent points and it has limitations. As long as you realize that crowdsourcing can run out, and as long as you have back up plans or more income to rely upon, then I say go for it.

I don’t have the luxury of relying upon anyone’s income but my own. While I have multiple income streams, I have to watch my money carefully and be aware because there’s no one else to look to if my money runs out.

Private clients rock because the opportunity exists to package a deal and make it work over the long run. And if you over-deliver and rock the gig, you get referrals.

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, folks. And you won’t get this from a mill.

When you get exclusive, private client work, it’s solely on YOUR terms. It’s YOUR work – the project isn’t going anywhere if you step away from the computer. You’ve set the parameters with your customer and as long as you deliver what you’ve promised in the time frame you’ve discussed, it’s your gig.

And please, please, please don’t take what the bottom-feeder, crab apple clients want as real work. Sure, it’s work, but it’s the most distasteful work around, and it’s abundant. This is not the pool that you want to cast your net into.

I want to show the bright side of stepping away from the mills – not because I think they are wrong or bad – because I fear some people get the wrong impression about private clients and how to work with them. It’s not the huge pain you think it might be, especially when all things are considered and the entire picture is in focus.

Dealing with private clients means you factor in the administrative, downtime, and marketing costs. It’s not like you throw away the time you are unable to bill.

You factor those costs into your overall pricing structure.

You can’t do that with a mill. The price is set and it’s up to you to make it work (taxes, admin time, downtime, vacations, holidays, savings, expenses, etc.).

If you have questions, need some guidance, or want to talk with me about a project, contact me. I’m here to help!

Building a Successful Business: A Marketing Guide for Writers

Do you want to build a successful business? If you’re a writer on the hunt for work, this marketing guide for writers is for you. Not a writer? The marketing principles I outline apply to anyone who is looking for new clients.

This is the first part of a series dedicated to people who want to grow their businesses.

How do new writers get a gig?

The question isn’t new. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the freelance writing world, you’ve heard this question. I, too, was once a writer looking for work and establishing Big Grey Horse Media. Five years down the road, I’ve got some answers for new freelance writers.

What I’m sharing isn’t a trade secret or coveted marketing and sales insider info. I’ve learned to get work by doing just that: looking for work. When you’re hustling a new business out of red ink and into profit, you will do just about anything to gain the gigs. So much of building a business is active work. You never learn (or accomplish) anything by sitting around and remaining passive.

If you want wealth, if you want success, you must be willing to make mistakes. If you want to build a successful business, read what successful business owners have written. (More on this as I review and recommend my fav business books in future posts.) Partner with a mentor who’s been there and done that. Listen to what the experts recommend.

A Writer’s Marketing Guide

Pitching is the soul of getting new business. If you want to improve your chances of closing the gig, however, you must target your market.

If you’re pitching publications (online or offline), find those that are part of your target market. In other words, publications you can easily write for or the ones you have experience with. If you are a fashion expert, are aware of trends, and up to date on the latest and greatest, pitch what you know to that particular segment of publications.

If you are versed in marketing/advertising/sales and know how to put an informative press release together, pitch companies that need your services.

What it all boils down to when you’re looking for work (gigs):

1) Find niches that you understand and know. It’s easier to start here than in areas you’re not familiar with. Although great writers are fantastic researchers and can write about topics they are not familiar with, this takes more research, potential interviews with experts, etc. Make it easy and keep it simple when you’re starting out. Take what you know and start there.

2) Find your target market. It’s a marriage of blending what you know and who is in that sector of business.

3) Write a query/LOI (letter of introduction)/pitch to your prospect. Introduce yourself and include a killer query about the subject and how you will approach the piece. Show how your background supports writing about the topic.

**If your LOI/pitch is to introduce yourself/your business in order to secure a gig, this will be in a warm email introduction, sales call, appointment, etc. You don’t have to respond to ads or calls for queries/writers…you can make your own gigs by approaching a warm market in need of your services.

4) Close the deal. Follow up on sales calls, appointments, email, etc. If you’ve put out feelers but have no bites, stay in touch with your contact. You won’t always get the nibble on the first go. Persistence and patience pay off in spades.

5) Keep the deal. Offer high value for your customers. Help your customers solve problems. Customers pay for your expertise. Partner with your clients and you will have plenty of work and a highly loyal client base. This step also plays into #3 and #4. If you want to close the deal, if you want to get the deal, you must know what your customer wants/needs and have the answer to their problems. Remember this when you are putting your pitches together and when you are closing the deals.

Writing is a hot field, it’s not going anywhere, and there are endless possibilities to help individuals and businesses achieve their goals and prosper. And when they prosper…so do you!

Refer to this marketing guide when you’re drumming up new business. If you have questions, want mentoring, or would like to request a marketing consultation, contact me. I’m here to help!

 

Content Mills Got You Down? Research, Query, Write!

With the recent changes made by Google hitting certain writing sites squarely over the head, I hear the drums beating and the people calling – how will I continue to make good money as a writer? While I’m not here to judge how you make money writing, I have a few tips that might help. I, too, have done articles for a few content houses. It’s never been a main source of my income, however, and I feel for those depending upon these avenues as their livelihood. If you’re freelancing, or want to hit bigger markets in print (or the web), consider how it works for me.

“Research, Query, Write!” first appeared as a response to Hope Clark’s newsletter. I wrote an op-ed piece and she loved it. Purchased and published the piece in FundsForWriters. I’ve tweaked the article a bit for today’s audience, but the wisdom holds true. Going back to 2009, when my business was taking off in a grand way, I vowed never to become dependent upon one client, and certainly not one publisher. It’s 2011, and I think you can pick up a few jewels as you mine through this piece. It works for nabbing clients, querying magazines and writing strong articles editors love.

When I scour the forums and work at home boards, I read countless posts about “Where can I write?” and “Who will hire me?” Say what?

Is the old fashioned way of writing dead? Or is the market wide open for those who would research, query and write?

Call me a mixture of modern and antiquated.

While I agree that writing for content houses can pay some bills, I am a firm believer in reaching as high as I can. Rather than sweat it out for a residual site or pump out thousands of words for lower pay, I prefer to take the road less traveled: research, query, write.

Thinking

Mornings and late evenings are my prime times for figuring it all out. I lay the plans for the following day before I close my eyes and in the morning, I take more time to digest where I’m headed. This quiet time is my magic, my source and the place I draw ideas from.

Researching

Once a story is conceived, I discover if it’s viable. I look for sources, gather background information, etc. From there, phone calls, email, and leg work. Less worthy stories die on the vine, while strong ones gather speed. When it feels juicy, I know it’s hot. By then, I’m mentally prepared to query.

Querying

This is the most frightening aspect of writing for newbies and clearly, the most often overlooked. Grab Writer’s Market at the local library (or better yet, subscribe and get your markets online) and make a list of publications you can write for. Google subjects you’re interested in. A strong query can open the door to writing for the publisher of your choice. Find local and regional publishers and query the editors. Next, put the query together. This is your time to shine, share and have fun! If you need help, enlist the aid of a seasoned writer. This process seems terrifying at the onset, but believe me, when an editor emails back, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

Writing

This is when I sit down. I know what’s expected, I’ve got the slant and the clock’s ticking. Sitting in the chair and writing, editing, fact checking, calling a source again, and editing, editing, editing can be mind-numbing! However, the end result is the crown jewel of what I do and most of all, I love weaving words. I’m extremely careful and my pieces take a lot of time to produce. If the writing’s not up to par, if it’s not what the editor wanted, if I missed something, I’m out of a check.

For those who long to be published, reach as high as you can. Dream big and do your homework. Continue honing your craft and never, ever give up.

These times seem uncertain, but the long and short of it is this: times change. That’s the nature of business. We’re all in it together — writers, clients and prospects. The written word isn’t going away, and with new technology, there are abundant opportunities for good writers. You may have to stretch a bit, but holding the bar higher is a great thing. Go for it, give it your best and let me know how it works for you!