Promoting Your Freelance Business via Direct Mail By Angie Papple Johnston

As freelance writers, most of us have to advertise our services. Spending $100 to make $125 isn’t worth the effort – but spending $100 to get a few long-term clients (and their referrals) is a really big deal. The key to effective marketing is to reach the right audience. If you don’t, you’re watching your hard-earned money circle the drain.

Direct Mail: Doing it Right

You’ve heard that direct mail is expensive, time-consuming and questionably successful…but you’ve probably heard that from people who have dumped big bucks into campaigns that were doomed from the start. If you do it right, you can run a successful direct mail campaign for under $100.

Direct Mail Materials

Order postcards from an inexpensive provider; you can find 100 quality cards online for as little as $20. Spend some time choosing or creating a professional design, and then add enticing verbiage that explains why the recipient can’t live without your services.

Something that isn’t common knowledge to people outside our line of work makes a great hook. For example, we know that medium-tail, location-based keywords are far more effective than catch-all terms (i.e., “sporting goods store in Honolulu” is better than “buy a football” at attracting the right customers) – but Joe Storeowner probably doesn’t even know what long-tail means.

Hook, then explain a little. But be quick about it – it’s a postcard, not an infomercial. It’s emblazoned with your logo, website address and contact info. so they can get in touch to learn more.

Know Where to Look

The first mistake people make is often the most fatal to their campaigns: they buy a mailing list stuffed with the names of uninterested people. When you purchase a mailing list, you have no way of knowing who’s got a writer, who doesn’t spend money on marketing and who really needs your help; that’s why you’ve got to develop your own.

Think of the nearest city where businesses must compete for customers. That goldmine is where you’ll start to build your own mailing list.Start a spreadsheet and add these titles: “Business Name;” “Contact Name;” “Address;” “Date Sent;” and “Response.” Google a specific business niche in your goldmine city (like Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney).

See the sponsored results along the top and on the right? Those are businesses that spend money on marketing; even better, they know they need to spend money to make money. To be fair, copy the web address into your browser rather than clicking it (each click costs the buyer money, and you don’t intend to hire them).

Are you a blogger? Find their blog. Do you crank out white papers like there’s no tomorrow? See if they offer any as email marketing incentives or as client handouts. Determine what they’re doing in your niche.

Can you do better than what they have? If the answer is “Yes,” populate your spreadsheet with their information. Your contact is the person who makes business decisions – generally, the owner or marketing manager can work directly with you. Remember to keep track of your responses, too, so you can see where your efforts are rewarded.

Release Your Postcards into the Wild

Hand-addressing a hundred postcards can be tiresome, so you may choose to print mailing labels. You may wish to send out 20 postcards a week for five weeks or go all out – that’s also up to you and your budget.

The USPS currently charges $0.32 to mail a postcard, but they don’t make a 32-cent stamp (instead, you need four stamps to get the right total, and that looks horrible). Take your postcards to the post office or a third-party postal store and ask them to use the postage meter to stamp each one.

All told, your direct mail campaign can cost you less than $100 – and the payoff can be well worth your initial investment, especially if you cultivate long-term relationships with the people who contact you.

Angie Papple Johnston is a freelance writer and former combat journalist for the U.S. Army. She currently specializes in providing web content to attorneys and high-end retail stores. Visit Angie online at