One of the most exciting aspects of the freelance life is discovering a great resource, and utilizing it in multiple ways. Chambers of Commerce offer resources on multiple fronts.
A Chamber of Commerce is an organization comprised of businesses and nonprofits that band together to further the members’ opportunities, and profit on local, state, regional, and national levels. Tourism boards are often connected to, and sometimes housed with, their local chambers of commerce.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce works on issues including agriculture and food safety, climate and environment, energy, financial regulation, free speech, federal contracting, taxes, transportation, and legislation. It’s not just about marketing members. It’s about the place of American business interests in the landscape of social and economic life, both here and abroad.
Regional, state, and local chambers participate in the national agenda, while focusing on the immediate needs of local businesses. Wendy Northcross, the CEO of Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce/CVB says, “Cape Cod has a strong entrepreneurial spirit boasting twice the national average of sole proprietors. The Cape Cod Chamber supports everything from building startups to centuries old companies with guidance, support, access to funding, and more!” Representative programs are found on http://www.whycapecod.org/work.html, which gives a sense of the range of support a Chamber offers.
But, how does that align with freelancers?
Membership Benefits and Value
Local chamber events allow you to naturally interact with local businesses. Rather than cold-calling a business, you get to know each other through meetings and networking events. You listen to their needs, and see how your skills fit. When you send a Letter of Intent (LOI) or a pitch, you are a familiar face with knowledge of the business. You bring more immediate value for money. In my experience, the first client fee you’ll earn covers the Chamber of Commerce membership cost.
The Chamber As A Source for New Clients – Making the Most of Membership
–Open Houses/Introductory Sessions. Most states have multiple chambers. The nearest is not necessarily the best. Take advantage of annual open houses, or attend one or two sessions open to non-members. Meet the people who run the chamber, especially the CEO, the Membership Manager, and the Marketing/Communications Director. They have the biggest role in how you work with, and within, chamber membership. An efficient, friendly chamber is a delight; a disorganized one is the opposite. At the events, be friendly, attentive, and exchange business cards. Listen more than you talk.
–Mailing lists. Sign up for chamber mailing lists. They inform about upcoming events, personnel shifts, networking events, open houses, gallery openings, and more. Some chambers post job opportunities in newsletters before they are widely posted elsewhere. Learn to understand the subtext of listings. When you see a good fit, send a pitch or LOI. Make sure it’s positive. “Your organic landscape company sounds wonderful. Please keep me in mind when you need help with updated brochures, social media, or other marketing materials. We met at Wednesday’s event” will get you a better response than, “Your website looks awful and is hard to navigate. If you hire me, I’ll fix it.”
–Chamber website as reference tool. Scroll through the listed members. This is a great starting point for your next set of LOIs.
–Work directly for the Chamber. The Chamber has its own staff. People move to other opportunities or locations. When a position opens in your chamber, it might be just what you want.
Need expert sources for articles, background research, etc.? Chamber members are a terrific source. Research the membership roster, or ask the Membership Manager to recommend the best person to answer questions. Membership Managers know their people, and are themselves an often underused resource. They have a terrific network you can tap.
Market Yourself to Members
Chamber members look to each other first as a resource. Attending events and networking is the best way to market yourself to your chamber colleagues. Follow up within two business days after the event with those you met and/or exchanged cards with. Remind them of the conversation, and add relevant information. Send LOIs to members you haven’t yet met, mentioning the chamber connection. Demonstrate superior follow-through to every interaction. I find a 50% return rate of new client projects to follow-up after chamber events, compared to a 25-33% return from other networking events.
Market Your Clients to Members
Attend chamber events as a representative of one of your freelance clients, connecting that client’s business to other chamber members. Talk about the client’s product or service, and engage listeners with the client’s story. Many events have each attendee speak about the organization they represent for two minutes. Keep your comments brief, use active language, humor, and smile. Use common sense to know when your spiel is appropriate about your client or about yourself.
The national chamber lobbies Congress to further the Chamber’s pro-business agenda. On their website, they have a “legislative scorecard” on bills where the Chamber has stated a position. This is a useful tool for all voters. Read the bill. What is the Chamber’s position? As a voter, what is your position? Contact your representatives to make sure they get the largest possible sampling from their constituents, not just business interests. The Chamber tracks bills and votes. They also have toolkits to respond to legislation and white papers on a variety of topics including “Union Rhetoric” — which is as important to union workers as it is to business. Sometimes, the Chamber’s legislative mission will align with individual voters, workers, and freelancers; other times it won’t. Staying informed is vital.
As with any tool, it is only useful if it is used. Explore, research, and make the most informed decision that works for your individual freelance strategy.
Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, and is an internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. Websites: fearlessink.com, devonellingtonwork.com. Blog: Ink in My Coffee
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
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Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
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So, You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter - How To Make Money Writing Without a Byline
Many freelance writers find it difficult to break into the publishing world. What they don't know, however, is that there's a faster and easier way to see their words in print. It's called ghostwriting, and it's an extremely lucrative, fun, and challenging career.
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Read more here: