Very few small, locally owned businesses – such as family-owned restaurants, local museums, and medical practices – have someone on staff to produce the kind of high-quality marketing and promotional materials that companies need to succeed.
Writers who are skilled storytellers, and can show readers in words why a subject is worthy of their attention, can provide a valuable service, and make good money by writing marketing collateral for small local businesses. This can include things like annual reports, blogs, brochures, business plans, press releases, web content, and, my favorite, advertorials and “success stories.”
I’ve put my own skills and instincts to good use in developing the business plan, website and other materials I need to attract investors for Downtown Joe, a coffeehouse/lounge I want to open here in Norwich, Connecticut.
The news judgment I draw on as a reporter in pitching articles to editors comes from the same instincts that give me a marketing savvy I’m now applying to my business plan. This is why part of my research and due diligence in developing the business plan has been doing what a reporter does naturally: talk to people, ask questions about previous coffeehouses and what people liked and didn’t.
I’ve got several advertorials ready to roll out in the local newspapers. Each one is just a few short paragraphs on such subjects as “How coffee is roasted” or “Where tea comes from.” Advertorials like these help to establish a new business as being experts in their field (the specialty coffee industry, in my case), and educate my potential customers about my products.
But not many business owners are also professional writers. You can help them tell their story and win friends on Facebook and customers at their doors.
You can offer individual pieces, such as a new brochure. You might guest- or even ghost-write a regular blog for them. Or, you might work with a web designer to create a new website, something I’m doing right now for our area AIDS service organization.
You’ll need a couple marketing pieces of your own to get you started. First of all, if you don’t already have a website, get one. You also need a business card that includes the URL of your website. These are tax-deductible expenses, of course.
Think carefully and comprehensively about your own “brand.” It’s a trendy word, but a vital concept for anyone interested in success – including freelance writers.
You are marketing a service, an intangible item (your expertise as a writer – one who can make a good case in clear, catchy language), to your prospective customers (small businesses, in our case). It’s important to know that everything you show them, including how you dress and conduct yourself, represents your brand. This is doubly true for your own marketing materials. Present a brand that suggests quality and skill, and you will get business.
You should also have a capabilities sheet (or, better yet, a brochure) of your own. Detail what you do, how what you do benefits your clients, and name some of the clients you have already assisted. On my own business card, I sum up my services like this: “Marketing media to show the world why your work matters.”
I have designed my own marketing materials, mainly in Apple’s Pages program. I’ve used VistaPrint, a very reasonably priced online printing service that ships business cards, postcards, and brochures to me.
Armed with your business card and brochure, all referring to your website, the foundation of your personal marketing campaign, the next step is where you put your people skills to good use: Go out and talk to business owners. Ask them about how they market their business. Tell them how you can assist them.
Don’t quote prices to them, quote price ranges. Be willing to negotiate rates, and be willing to accept a rate that may be lower than your “usual” if there are other compensations – such as a contract for ongoing work, or the chance to access a larger market for yourself as an outcome of the project.
Finally, be confident that while the businesses that can use your services in their marketing may have something you want (work and income), you have something they need if they are going to make money and succeed.
Entrepreneurs succeed by identifying what people need and creating businesses that seek to meet it. The need of small, locally owned businesses to market themselves can be the marketing-savvy freelance writer’s golden opportunity.
John-Manuel Andriote is the author of four nonfiction books and many newspaper and magazine articles. He has recently completed a revised edition of his award-winning history of the AIDS epidemic for a new paperback edition. As a freelance writer and editor, Andriote has written advertorials, annual reports, brochures and web content for local, national and global organizations.