Dreams of becoming a freelance writer plague many people – and the illustrious prize always seems out of elusive reach. Dean Rieck decided to come on over and tell you the secrets you’re missing to making it as a freelancer – enjoy!
The world is full of dreaming writers who have heard golden stories of the great beyond (working full time as a well-paid freelance copywriter) but who have yet to make the mysterious transformation from mere mortal to freelance god.
Many of my fellow immortals would keep you in the dark, struggling to find the secret. But I, in my infinite mercy, shall now reveal to you the 7 keys for breaking the bonds of this earth and ascending in glory to the pantheon of six-figure writers who …
Okay, even I can’t continue with that silly metaphor.
The fact is that there’s very little difference between you and those “godlike” writers you admire and envy. Going from struggling writer to successful freelancer isn’t effortless, but it’s not as complicated or mysterious as you might think.
I can boil it down to 7 general ideas:
Clients can’t hire you if they can’t “see” you. You have to be visible. And you can become visible by getting involved in your professional community, attending trade association meetings, entering industry contests and award shows, writing articles, giving speeches, publishing an informative blog, generating news about your business, and staying in touch with former clients.
You don’t have to be visible to everyone, just the people most likely to hire you. Remember what Woody Allen once said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
It’s not enough to be a copywriter. There are zillions of copywriters these days, and they all claim they’re the best. You can’t tell one from the other. So, who are you?
To stand out, you have to find and fill a niche. That means specializing by industry (such as high-tech or health care), medium (such as websites or social media), or an area of expertise (such as education or publishing).
For example, I write all sorts of things for my clients, but I’m a direct marketing specialist. If it’s not direct marketing, I don’t write it. And even more specifically, I’m known as the “direct mail guy.” When prospects are doing direct mail, will they call a copywriter who does everything or the direct mail guy? Do I really have to answer that? Look at the photo on my home page.
Remember, you’re selling something invisible. No one knows exactly what they’re buying from you until you finish, so potential clients come to you with many doubts. Can you do the work? Will you deliver on time? Do you know what you’re talking about?
You can’t totally eliminate those doubts, but you can establish some credibility by writing how-to articles, sharing client testimonials, revealing details about your writing process, offering a free consultation, publishing a book, and showing samples of your work.
I recommend that you read Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. This book helped me understand selling a service from my clients’ point of view.
If you want to be a freelance god, you really do have to be good at what you do. Some claim that absolutely anyone can become a successful freelance copywriter, even those without writing skills or special expertise. That’s bunk.
At the very least, you must be an above-average writer with some selling skills and a firm grasp of your specialty. You should become an authority in your field, deliver outstanding service with every project, and stay up-to-date in your chosen specialty. If you’re not superior in some way, why would anyone seek your services or pay you more than average?
Can prospects reach you? With all the ways to connect, you’d be surprised how hard many people are to reach today. And if people can’t reach you, and reach you easily, they’ll move on to another freelancer.
You have many options: landline, cellular phone, texting, fax line (yeah, many people still fax), email, website contact form, Twitter direct message, LinkedIn message, Skype, and lots more.
The key is to respond promptly. If you’re one of those people who return messages 3 days later, you won’t build much of a freelance business. Today, people want answers 5 minutes ago. Yes, you have to manage your time and you can’t email all day, but don’t get so efficient that you become unreachable and aloof.
This is a tough one, especially if you’re in demand and routinely have a busy schedule. Clients like the idea that you have many clients because it assures them that you’re trustworthy. After all, how could all those clients be wrong? But when it comes time for their project, they want you to be ready to go today.
You should schedule and juggle your clients wisely without making a big deal of it. You can also consider working longer hours or weekends, shifting hours to accommodate clients in different time zones, or farming out overflow work to fellow freelancers to keep yourself available to major clients.
Earlier, I said you must be superior. But surprisingly you don’t have to actually be the best, even if that might help. What people really want is “acceptability”. That means they want you to meet certain qualifications without necessarily exceeding them. They want your fees, skills, service, knowledge, etc. to meet their needs and expectations.
The way prospects make decisions is that they get a feel for you, decide they’re willing to hire you, then try to justify that decision. They’ll actually look for a problem to test their decision. As long as they don’t find any reason not to hire you, they probably will. They want to be comfortable working with you, but they don’t have to be in awe of you.
I’ll admit that there are a lot of details involved in becoming a freelance god, so many that I’m writing a book about it but they all boil down to these 7 simple ideas:
- You must be visible.
- You must create an identity.
- You must establish credibility.
- You must offer superiority.
- You must be accessible.
- You must be available.
- You must be acceptable.
I might also throw in persistence. Doing these 7 things takes time. Not months, but years. Only if you stick with it can you hope to become a freelance god.
The great and powerful Dean has spoken!
(Cue sound of rolling thunder.)
Dean Rieck is a long-standing member of the Pantheon of Freelance Gods. His pen emits bolts of lightning and mountains rumble when he speaks. But mostly he just writes stuff for clients and provides copywriting tips at Pro Copy Tips.