As writers, we notice copy. We notice it everywhere. Sometimes, we notice it because it appeals to and inspires us. But most of the time, as professionals with a great appreciation for the effective written word, we notice it because it’s mediocre, or just plain bad.
However, in these moments when you find yourself rewriting poorly worded copy in your head, how often do you consider the opportunity that it might represent for you?
Asking yourself that question can alter the course of your writing career, turning the random freelance writing gig into an ongoing source of reliable revenue. This question will lead you to the conclusion that, more often than not, poorly executed messaging is often the result of an under-resourced business that is unaware of how easy and affordable it can be to secure good content support.
If you’ve ever worked for a small or medium business, or a non-profit, you’re well aware of the challenges faced by underfunded entities. Their organizational goals require effective communications, but their budgets sometimes barely cover operations. These business and organizations are usually cognizant of the fact that their communications and marketing efforts are suffering but they lack the internal resources or outsourcing dollars to support the need. What they may not realize is that, just because they cannot support a full-brown marketing campaign, they can likely still budget for quality content – and in today’s world – quality content cannot be neglected or ignored. Well-worded press material, an informative website, and persuasive marketing collateral are forms of content that are essential to the livelihood of any business or organization.
For the savvy freelancer, trusting in this principle can be a lucrative reality. Research and analyze the public-facing communications of small businesses in your community and you will quickly find that many struggle to provide quality and impactful content. Start an ongoing list of potential content clients and you will discover that the need is extensive and considerable. You will find your talents are very much in demand all around you.
If you are already building that client list in your head, then you may very well be in an ideal position to solicit writing services with a similar approach in your own community. But before you start selling off your services, here are a few items worth considering to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
Set your rates by industry-specific standards.
If you typically take assignments within the publishing world, you are probably accustomed to per word, per article, or hourly rate standards. However, when you’re dealing with different clients in a variety of businesses, consider the typical outsourcing fees common to the industry of each one. A local retailer, for example, may have different expectations and demands than a technology company. A non-profit organization may be on a more conservative budget than a large commercial business.
Anticipate your clients’ subsequent service needs.
Unlike with pure editorial assignments, creating PR and marketing content almost always requires your client to seek additional outsourcing services after your role is complete, or before the full project is complete. Online content needs to be digitally produced by a web designer. Marketing collateral need to be properly laid out by a graphics team and then sent to a printer. Advertising copy needs to be added to creative and shopped out by a media buyer. Not only does your knowledge of the entire process help your client understand the project scope, but it will also highlight the value of your professional insight. And, probably the most valuable aspect of supporting a project to completion is the fact that many service providers in these industries maintain referral incentive programs, so the recommendation to clients of your preferred vendors may increase your overall compensation from that project as well.
Consider time commitments when assessing fees.
Many freelance writers work primarily in editorial with a handful of editors. Those editors may each have their own style, but they all fundamentally maintain the same process, and everyone knows the drill. That’s not the case when you are working with a variety of different businesses. Not only does the industry itself often dictate the amount of time and energy your services will require, but each individual client will as well. It is important to understand the significance of their investment in you in the grand scheme of things, and to be aware of and manage their expectations as it applies to the impact your support can have on their business. If you don’t account for this in the beginning, you may discover that the client relations commitment requires more work than the assignment itself.
Be prepared to chase down your compensation.
If you are used to the systemized invoicing and fulfillment structure of the publishing world, you will need to become comfortable functioning as your own accounts receivable department. You will no longer be dealing with the well-oiled machine of a freelance-supported employer. In fact, the reason that many small, independent clients will retain your services in the first place is because they know little more about running a business than the aspects of the industry within which they function. Promoting their business, coordinating with vendors, organizing sales campaigns – these are all essentials aspects of any consumer-facing business that, unfortunately, many business owners do not fully comprehend. So, when dealing with these types of small businesses, you may need to resort to firm collection methods to ensure the checks are coming in on a timely basis.
Carli Brinkman is a South Florida based writer and public relations professional with more than 15 years of communications experience in everything from travel to technology. Her written work has appeared in various publications, including Quest, Relocating, IndyKids, Salon Today, and various destination travel guides, to name just a few.