As writers, we all long to earn the big bucks by penning the next best selling novel or Hollywood-bound screenplay. The reality of this scenario is that it is a reality for very few people. Often, it is years in the making. Not many writers see their first novel or screenplay gain the status of fame, fortune and six-figure royalty checks.
The truth is, while we’re working and writing and waiting for our well-deserved global recognition, we have to pay the bills. For that, I suggest you think local.
Let’s back up a step or two. Everything you read – everywhere – was written by someone. Not everyone loves writing (crazy, I know). In addition, many people do not believe they are good writers (because, most often, they are not).
These non-writer types are successful entrepreneurs and business owners, often at companies that do not employ any writers on staff. These places of business have marketing and promotion needs – sporadic or ongoing.
Marketing and promotion often involves words; words involve writing. Here’s where you come in. You can place yourself in a position to write for local businesses – and you can earn some nice change doing so.
Start by driving. Take a drive through the Yellow Pages as well as a drive down Main Street. Jot down notes of names and addresses. Play special attention to businesses that aren’t part of a large conglomerate with access to writers at the corporate level.
Join the local chamber of commerce as a freelance writer. Attend meetings and let people know who you are and what you do.
Establish an online presence (if you don’t already have one) through the social networking sites and your own website as a freelance copywriter.
From your work so far, compile a list of possible clients, along with their mailing addresses. Before ever suggesting they hire you, give them valuable writing advice – for free. (Note: you are providing information for free as a marketing tool. You do not write for free. If someone wants written product specific to their business, they will pay you.)
Provide 10 grammar tips, or ways that blogging benefits a business. You get the idea. Mail the helpful writing information along with your business card and a short letter explaining your services. Mention you are able to help create written items useful to most businesses including: brochures, newsletters, ad copy, press releases, website writing and blog entries. Also offer the opportunity to receive further free writing information by being a part of your email address list. Invite them to call or email you for information about your services or to be placed on your regular email list. Send this packet via regular postal mail. Your first mailing doesn’t need to be on a grand scale. Start with a manageable number. Even 10 is good.
Next comes the hard part: waiting. At this point, many marketing experts will tell you to complete follow-up calls or cold calls. You are a writer and not out for the hard sell, so I suggest skipping cold calls. Continue your regular writing – never, ever let the copywriting end of your work interfere with your “other” writing.
In the meantime, attend regular functions through your chamber of commerce. Bring plenty of your business cards. Collect email addresses of potential clients by offering to send them information on writing.
After a couple of months, put together another free piece of writing literature. Outline how a newsletter is beneficial to a business or why every business needs a good, quality brochure. (Your writing topics are limitless.) Send this freebie out. Use the email addresses you’ve collected. For others, use snail mail. Wait another few months. Repeat.
There is a method to your madness. You want to set yourself up as a writing expert. You aren’t doing the hard sell, but are providing local business owners with valuable writing information they can use to promote their business. Because business owners are busy, you don’t want your mailings to be too frequent. That creates the risk of becoming annoying rather than useful. You want your information to come into their inbox or mailbox just often enough to make them aware of your existence – about four to six times a year. When they do encounter a need for written communication, who will be the first writer they think of? Y-O-U.
How much to charge? Figure what you like (and need) to earn hourly and work it out from there. Rates will vary depending where you live, but $50 per hour is reasonable and probably on the low end. For me, writing a one-sided 8.5 x 11″ page (about 500 words) takes about two hours. Design and photography services (if you are so inclined) are over and above that.
Always provide an estimate and do your best to stick to it. People want to know up-front what your services will cost; don’t be afraid to tell them. The skills you have with words and putting them together are valuable. Using them to aid businesses with their copywriting needs is one more way to make your words work for you and your bank account balance.
Jill Pertler, columnist, author and playwright, has touched people’s hearts and funny bones with her well-loved column, Slices of Life, since 2002. It currently appears in over 125 newspapers in 20 states, as well as on Facebook at Slices of Life. (Go ahead, be a fan!) Her book The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication is available online through BookLocker.com, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit her website at: