One guarantee in freelancing – you’ll be pitching your capabilities over and over again. If you serve a well-defined niche, it’s easy to put together new queries and bids. But what if your work spans multiple fields? Whether you do it to expand your income stream or to keep your writing life interesting, diversifying has advantages – but it can also make winning new business more challenging.
If you’ve been casting yourself as a “writer of all trades” – and not realizing your placement or earnings goals – here’s a process that will enable you to “mix and match” your way to more compelling, customized pitches, without burning hours on every opportunity.
Step 1: Summarize Your History
Dig out and update that old resume, client registry or publication history if you have one. If not, simply jot down what you’ve done and when, creating a career history that starts with your most recent experience and goes back about 10 years. Include pertinent education, training and certifications at the bottom.
Step 2: Identify Achievements
Next, list the most significant accomplishments for each stage of your career from Step One. For a freelancer for Acme Technologies, the result might look like this:
- Landed tech startup’s first $1M contract with 50-page technical proposal
- Wrote CEO’s speech featured at TED Conference 2012
See how real-world achievements help this writer communicate exactly what he delivers? When a prospective new client imagines millions of dollars of business flowing in, the freelancer’s fee looks like a bargain!
Give yourself similar appeal by quantifying your impact. Think numbers. For example, how many people downloaded your e-book? Or how much product did your last direct mailer sell?
Also consider third-party validation. Your credibility grows by association with any respected organization – like the TED Conference in my example above – that publishes your work, gives you an award, invites you to speak or otherwise recognizes you.
Step 3: Create Specialist Histories
No one is expert in everything – from proposal writing to space engineering to political fundraising – so go through your list and identify the unifying threads in your career. For example, you might be an advertising copywriter by day who pens animal magazine articles, funny pet essays and occasional electronics reviews in your free time. Each of these are distinct areas of expertise – both topically (pets, electronics, advertising) and by type (ads, articles, humor, reviews).
Package your background by starting individual documents, each titled with a single specialty area in which you expect to seek work (e.g., humorist or pet ad copywriter) Now copy/paste relevant experience from your full career history to create the specialist versions.
Step 4: Highlight Your Greatest Hits
Choose approximately three of your most impressive achievements on each specialist career history. Also consider making omnibus statements. Perhaps on your “pet magazine writer” page you can say you’ve been published in “dozens of prominent consumer magazines.”
Step 5: Underscore Your Value
Review each specialist document to figure out the unique value you provide for your readers, clients and/or employers. What do your achievements mean to them? Craft a statement to communicate that value and put it at the top of the page. For a freelance magazine writer, the result might look like this:
Lifestyle and fitness writer/blogger John Doe navigates complex scientific research to develop easy-to-follow tips for improving health and well-being.
With this statement, John underscores his ability to supply readers with research-backed tips for better living. That’s of real value to the editor of a fitness magazine and he positions himself as an expert worth working with. Do the same for all of your specialty pages. Don’t be surprised if this step takes effort and soul-searching.
Step 6: Mix and Match
Finally, it’s time to mix and match. Nearly every effective career document follows the same pattern:
- Lead with a value statement to let the audience (editor, potential client or hiring manager) know what you do and, most importantly, what you can do for them.
- Position yourself as an expert by mentioning the “greatest hits” we identified in Step 4, using either specific accomplishments or omnibus statements.
- Follow with a reverse chronology of your relevant experience, going back through your career history and incorporating more achievements throughout to show you’re a top performer. The level of detail will vary based on the type and length of the document.
- Mention education, training or certifications when required (as in a resume) or if they set you apart from the competition.
Here are three of the most common and useful documents you can put together. With each, I’ve included links to online examples from different fields. Simply follow their format using the “ingredients” enumerated above.
+ Resume (http://jobsearch.about.com/library/samples/blresumeaccomplish.htm)
A resume the interview suit of the career world. You’ll use this formal presentation when responding to job postings, whether for full-time, part-time, contract or telecommuting opportunities. Most applicants fail to describe their value and achievements anywhere in their resume, but my recipe puts both up front.
+ A professional bio (http://frankhecker.com/bio/ or transforms the best points of your resume into a narrative, usually three to six paragraphs in length. This document can be incorporated in large project bids, provided in lieu of a resume in certain cases and sent to organizations for a speaker’s introduction. With your newfound focus, you’ll insert paragraph transitions to tell an interesting story that’s perfect for the audience.
+ A short bio (see my “career writer” specialist bio below – a similar version helped me sell this article!) is the written equivalent of your elevator speech and may be the most widely used career document for freelancers. It will close your query and cover letters, accompany your byline on articles, sell you in prospecting emails and much more. Unlike most writers who talk only about themselves, you’ll incorporate customer-focused benefits (your value statement) to truly engage your audience.
By doing a bit of advance work, your pitch will be transformed from that of a bland “all purpose” writer to a specialist with proven success in your target market. To make life easier, take the next step and select several examples from your portfolio to match each specialty and put them in a file with the accompanying career documents. Next time you have that “a ha!” query idea, you’ll be that much closer to hitting “send” – and to making the sale.
A Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Amy Lorenzo has helped hundreds of executives and creative professionals land their dream jobs. Her methods draw on innovations in the personal branding field, her experience leading and staffing corporate writing departments, and her own success as a “solopreneur.” She provides creative services tailored to small and micro businesses via Amy Lorenzo Ink (www.amylorenzo.com). More DIY writing and marketing advice, along with musings on the written word, can be found on her Inklings blog at www.amylorenzo.com/inklings.