Getting Started With Marketing.

October 14, 2008

I build confidence when I practice a variety of shots – hitting it high or low, working the ball. A lot of golfers go to the range and just hit full shots. That doesn’t build on-course confidence, because you won’t always hit full shots out there. My confidence is built on knowing I can effectively work the ball in any circumstance. ~ Joanne Carner

Although I may just be getting started in the business, if there’s one tidbit of advice I’ve heard across the board from fellow freelancers, it’s to market like a squirrel on speed.  I’ve had two questions:

  1. How do I market when I’m just starting out and don’t have many clips to show?
  2. Yeah, but what if I’m swimming in a sea of work – which I dream of while sitting in my bunny-tail pajamas sipping cocoa every night – what then?  No need to market, right?  Why should I if the clients are all running to me like a cup of coffee on Monday morning?

In response to question two I was told: You better market no matter how many clients you have!  Remember after the feast comes the famine, and unless you enjoy being in a slump, you do not want to neglect the marketing aspect of freelancing even when you’re up to your neck in work.  Good advice, I must say.  One must always set aside a small chunk of each day or a good portion of time once or twice a week to focus on the marketing aspect of the business to maintain steady work and cashflow.

When it comes to the first question, here is what I have learned to develop my own client base:

  1. Get a website.  Every writer in this technological age should have one.  So many freelancers have told me this is the prime way they have landed clients without really putting forth any effort.  It’s ideal to have clear contact information, details on rates and services provided, an online portfolio of your best sample clips (provided you have some), and also a little blurb about who you are so clients can recognize you’re human too…not just some static robot that pumps out a trillion words a second.  Having a face and personality to someone they are going to hire is surprisingly important.  And if you don’t have any clips to put on your online portfolio, why not start building it with fictional samples?  Even if you don’t have work published, create a sales brochure for a nonexistent company or write a few articles on topics you’re interested in to show potential clients that you’re capable.  Nowadays, many companies or internet services offer freebie website space.  Website builders will even allow you to design your own simple layout so money isn’t an issue.  I have a friend working on my website now.  She’s a freelance graphic designer, also trying to get samples for her portfolio, so she’s helping me out by designing a website for me and I’m helping her out in turn by giving her a sample she can use in her portfolio.  Win-win!
  2. Start a blog.  It doesn’t have to be about writing.  Mine is, but it can be about any topic you’re interested in.  Just make sure you have a ‘niche’ or focus, because this is more likely to develop an audience that follows your posts.  Sometimes having a specialization can also help you land writing gigs that require ‘experts’ in a certain field.  Blogs are great for driving traffic to your website and letting people get to know a more personal side of you.  Potential clients may even offer you blogging projects or pay you to guest post on their own blogs.
  3. Cold call and email.  This was pretty scary to me when I first heard it.  But guess what?  Cold call and email got me my first lucrative gig.  I didn’t query with a specific idea in mind, but you definitely should do this if you’re trying to break into a magazine.  I didn’t even send a cover letter or resume.  I simply contacted a local newspaper about getting an internship in order to develop my portfolio.  The response?  I was asked if I would like to try taking on a few paid assignments.  Now I’ve got my first reporting jobs and I can’t say how happy I am that I overcame my fear to try this kind of approach.  Just think of it this way…the worst thing that can happen is the person says no.  Call or email to introduce yourself, your writing interests, specify if you have particular talents or expert areas, then ask if they have any freelance writing opportunities.  Simple!
  4. Query letters.  Great for pitching ideas to magazines.  These take practice to develop, but there are a lot of great books out there that will help you with the specifics.  I personally recommend Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock.  This book not only shows you how to map out a successful query letter, but it also proves that sometimes breaking a few rules will set you apart from the crowd!
  5. Online job forums and bidding sites.  I have never used a bidding site, nor do I think I ever will so long as other options are available to me.  They’re usually low-paying gigs that won’t get you very far and you’re competing with a massive group to land the assignment in the first place.  However, it’s a great idea to check out online job sites for freelancers.  I regularly check Craigslist, but there are others out there such as Sunoasis Jobs, Online Writing Jobs, ProBlogger Job Board, etc.  In fact, I found my second writing job through Craigslist.  It isn’t the highest paying, but it isn’t the lowest either.  And it will also offer me some extended work rather than a one-time assignment.  So look for something that suits your qualifications and interests, apply, and see what happens!


  1. I’m awful at marketing. Besides creating a blog, I do nothing to market myself. I guess I don’t really have a product. Just me. Well, my writing anyway. If someone wants to buy that, I hope they let me know, because I really hate marketing.

  2. Nice article. I would recommend marketing whether you have a product or if it’s just “you”.

    With the right marketing you can put it all on autopilot and not have to cold call ever again.

    Good luck.


  3. I don’t blame you. A lot of writers would rather devote time to their craft than marketing, but unfortunately if you take writing on as a serious business, marketing is an important element of success. Writing itself can be a hobby, but full-time freelance writing is a business and has to be treated that way in order to make any advancements.

  4. When you’re first starting out, there’s nothing wrong with writing pro bono. Those freebie jobs will get you some starter clips to build on!

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