How to Take the Next Step in Your Freelance Career

How to Take the Next Step in Your Freelance Career

When someone I don’t know emails me out of the blue and hands me a guest post, I’m usually a little skeptical. (There’s truth in the experts’ advice of building relationships and trust first.) But when I took a look at Justin’s post – and the quality of his writing – I fired back a reply. “Win.”

You see, there’s a whole world out there beyond our screens, and we often forget about it. Justin’s post will remind you of the potential that’s right outside your door. More clients, more exposure, more credibility… go for it. Here’s how:

If you’ve been involved with freelance writing, blogging, copywriting or marketing for more than, say, a day and a half, you’ve probably heard plenty about how speaking before an audience can boost your reputation, which helps you become a thought leader and an expert in your field of choice.

And it’s true!  Public speaking can do wonders for your expert status in the minds of current and future clients, readers, fellow writers and the public.  Combine it with writing a book and you’ve got an incredible one-two punch that can propel you into the upper echelon of experts in short order.

And as a freelancer, public speaking can easily be the most important thing you can do to bring your career to the next level.

If you’re like me, though, you didn’t get into freelancing or blogging for the fame.  You weren’t looking to travel around the country speaking in front of thousands or charging $20,000 for a 30-minute keynote address.

Not that you’d mind that last one, right?  I mean come on!

That doesn’t change the fact that adding public speaking to your repertoire can mean huge benefits for you and your business.

So how do you translate the power of public speaking into value for your freelancing business without going whole hog and becoming a professional speaker?

You keep it simple.  For example…

Schedule Some Local Speaking Engagements

Grab the phone or jump online and look up the local Rotary Club, business networking organization, SBA outpost, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, the YMCA and YWCA, community college.  All these places probably have ongoing needs for professionals to come in and speak about various topics to their ready-made audiences.

Would your business benefit from some local exposure like that?  From the chance to meet local business leaders face-to-face, trade business cards and show off your stuff?  Could you snag some sweet portfolio pieces by working with local non-profits that work with these organizations?

By setting yourself up onstage instead of in the audience, you go to the event for free, you look like the expert for the day, and you get the full benefit of this tailor-made networking opportunity.

Of course, there’s not a lot (or any) upfront profit from speaking at these kinds of events.  What if there was a way to get the same benefits plus turn a profit for your time as well?

There is.

Create and Hold a Seminar

For a fairly reasonable rate, you can rent a hotel conference room and throw some ads in the local papers or on business websites and bring together an audience of targeted leads to hear you speak for a significant ticket price that more than pays you back for the expense of running the seminar and the time it takes you to speak.

Plus, you’re the expert for the day. You’re pressing-the-flesh with professionals who now have a vested interest in paying close attention to what you say, and you have several hours with a captive audience to work your marketing magic.

But what if your work is primarily online?  Do you need to miss out on this great concept?

Absolutely not.

Organize a Webinar

With the technology available today, you can run a webinar from virtually anywhere as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection.  If you have a list already built, it could be as easy as firing off a few e-mails to let people know the details, then showing up when you said you would.

If you don’t have your list built yet, there are several options available, including renting a qualified list of prospects who may be interested in what you have to say, advertising in a complimentary e-zine, arranging a joint venture opportunity with a fellow online freelancer with a list of their own…

The options are virtually endless.

But Hold On a Second…

Don’t get too far ahead of yourself just yet.  This is exciting stuff, but there’s one vitally important point to consider before you start scheduling your seminar.

It’s so vital, I’m going to ask you to bring your eyes just a bit closer to the screen for this, so you’re sure not to miss anything.

Are you ready?

No one cares what you have to say unless YOU do.

Does that make sense?

If you’re going to put yourself behind a lectern in front of a group of people, and you hope to gain some sort of benefit from the endeavor, such as a new client, increased sales, a boost for your reputation…

You’d darn well better be passionate about what you have to say.

You need to take the time to turn all those experiences, facts and statistics rolling around your head into a format the audience is going to care about – and you’re going to need to present it in a way that they’re going to be able to sit through.

But if you can do that – if you can reach down deep inside and pull up the core of what makes you jump out of bed every morning to greet the brand new day of this incredible freelance life and turn it into a speech that knocks an audience’s socks off – you’ve got a goldmine just waiting to be exploited.

So what are you waiting for?  Go to it!

Or did I forget something important?  Let me know in the comments, because I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Justin P Lambert is a freelance writer and a public speaking expert who blogs daily at Words That Begin With You.  He’s right.

Nervous about being on stage? Want to hold a seminar but aren't sure you can actually make it through?

Check out In the Spotlight, Janet Esposito's book on overcoming your fear of public speaking and performing. S'worth it!

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. These are all great networking opportunities to position yourself as an expert, find new leads and create awarness for your copywriting business in the online and offline community.

  2. Dude, this could NOT have come at a better time. Not only is this a “Win” but it’s something I did briefly then forgot about. I spoke at Barnard about 6 months ago on how to use social media to get a job and it went swimmingly. Problem was, college career counselors don’t like to think they don’t know something and out of the 50 schools I contacted to do a free workshop, only Barnard got back to me.

    Then I tried I contacted the owner of every group related to job hunting and none of them responded. Maybe it was the setup of my email, maybe it was the concept of Meetup as a whole, maybe there just aren’t enough relevant groups. Regardless, it didn’t work. This was 6 months ago and just the other day I was talking to another social media person over coffee. We both specialize in helping authors use new media and at the end of our two-hour conversation we thought, “Damn. That was some good info! People should pay us to just sit, have coffee and listen.”

    So we’re doing it! I don’t know the first thing about renting a space or advertising this event, but we both know enough people in publishing and are awesome enough at social media that we’ll probably do okay.

    Phew! Sorry for the book of a comment, but you are so spot on in this you just kicked my ass into gear. Thanks :-p

    • I’m humbled and honored to have kicked your ass. And seriously, I’d love to hear how your seminar works out for you. It sounds like an awesome idea.

    • Love your comments.

      I’d say stick with very local businesses, face to face. Contact the business groups in your area, maybe Rotary Club groups or Chamber of Commerce groups. There’s a good chance that something like Meetup won’t work… remember your target audience.

      If you’re trying to talk social media to someone on the web… no juice. If you’re trying to talk social media to someone who never uses the web… don’t find them on the web 🙂

      And get back to me next time you want to pitch someone. As mentioned on Twitter, I’ll check out that letter for you 🙂

    • I’d also love to hear how it goes. Public speaking always drives me into a knot of nerves. Even though not many schools got back to you the first time, I’m glad it went well for you.

      Keep us updated!

  3. Nice post Justin. The last point you made, about having passion, is so very true. It’s really no fun listening to somebody speak without passion, it’s practically a sleeping aid!

  4. Thanks for this post, Justin. I have led a few seminars on using social media, but I was about ready to give that up because it seemed way more time-intensive than profitable. Any ideas on what a “significant ticket price” would be that’s also attractive to a small business owner?

    • As with any marketing question, I have to start by saying “test it.” But small business owners who understand the value of continuing education have been known to spend up to $1000 a seat at marketing seminars because they know they’re going to walk away with the know-how to more than make that back.
      That’s not to say you want to charge that much, but don’t be scared to look at your *reasonable* expected audience (figuring 1%-5% of your invites will decide to buy a ticket) and your expenses, and set the price where you need it to be. If you have a small venue, light on the equipment rental, and otherwise keep your costs down, $97 a seat may be perfect.
      But keep testing. If you can do the same thing for $497 a seat and everyone’s still happy, why the heck not?

      • Justin’s right about business owners understanding value. That’s what it’s all about. The amount anybody is willing to pay is directly related to what value provide, AND how well you articulate that value to the buyer.
        Thanks again for the post Justin!

    • I’ll toss in my two cents here.

      Figure out what you want to earn that would make you feel like you’ve been compensated at a rate that might not be great, but that is your minimum.

      Then figure out the rate you’d ideally like to earn.

      Start small with your minimum and limit seats. Bites? Up your rates for the next. No bites? Up your rates for the next. Why?

      Because higher price tags often convey value. So that lets you split test that variation.

      Just a couple of people come? Laugh, tell them the others are really missing out, and say, “Hey, let’s go do this over lunch at this great place I know.” Make friends, make it personal.

      Win, no matter what.

  5. Another place to get an easy speaking engagement is at a local university.

    Call the Department in your area of expertise. Some professors might let you talk to their classes, but a better bet is to ask about being a speaker for one of the student professional organizations. Most universities have an “Office of Student Affairs.” Ask to speak to the president of the student organization.

    I suggest you have two or three presentation so they can choose one. This will give you great practice and you’ll be touching the future.

    • Awesome suggestion, Mary. I like the thought of “touching the future” too. Not only do we have the (perhaps dubious) opportunity to mold young minds, but if we’re in it for the long haul, these are our clients-to-be also!

      Thanks again!

    • You reminded me of a time when I spoke to students that were considering other venues beyond higher education. I came in to tell them the value of learning administrative assistant skills – it’s a fantastic Plan B, and it stays with you for life. Plus, the opportunities only grow.

      Was a lot of fun. I’d forgotten about that. Thanks 🙂

      • My daughter-in-law is an administrative assistant whose boss is totally dependent on her. Now worries about job security, that’s for sure. He just gave her a free trip to Hawaii as thanks — presumably instead of a raise, but still.

        • Just in case everyone was wondering, I’ll take trips to Hawaii for Christmas in lieu of a copper map. (There’s always birthdays, after all.)

  6. Hi Justin,

    Great piece. Real important for small biz owners to show what they do. Liked your ideas for speaking venues. Will check out your blog.

    I take my “enthusiasm” on the road, too. You can even make money if you’ve got products ready to sell at the back of the room. I NEVER speak for free unless I’ve at least got a “life shop” (what I call them) coming up. That’s a lost marketing opportunity I see all the time.

    Raffle off something and you can get names for your newsletter if you’ve got one.

    Marian, I’d keep trying. You’ve got a great on-line stage presence. I’ve found that persistence can break the ice and/or you need many attempts to break through the barriers out there.

    Hey, even pull up a chair in a public garden! You never know who’s hoofing through on his or her way to work. Hand out cards …



  7. Justin,

    Nice work on the guest post!

    One thing that I would like to add as well, is to make sure that you “can it and clone it.”

    That is to say, whenever you are giving a public talk, of any kind, make sure that you borrow a ninja minion (maybe James will lend you one of hers) and have her film it.

    This is a great way to repurpose you offline content and clone it into something that you can sell online as a whole course of DVDs etc.

    You can also use the videos to boost your street cred on your home page by showing excerpts from your latest talk, allowing people to see your face, your speaking style, and that you are legit.

    Never do anything twice in your business that you don’t have to. Film that stuff. Edit it together, and you can sell it, move to Fiji, and lie on the beach while your ninja minions swing from the trees.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

    • Joshua,

      A killer tip that I wish I’d included in my post, so thanks for adding it for me! I’ve kicked myself already for failing to arrange recording on some talks I know I rocked out. Going forward, I’m making it a priority, and you’re right. Even if you just use snippets on YouTube and your own site and never try to sell it, it’s worth tons in street cred. Selling it, it’s a potential goldmine.
      Thanks much!

      p.s. I can’t get the picture of ninjas swinging through the Fijian trees outta my head! Thanks for that too!

    • To reply to this one in a more serious tone, the note to bring a video camera is extremely valuable. I know several people who do public speaking who rocked it out… and then wished they’d filmed it. Oops.

  8. Justin,

    Awesome tip! Some of us get so wrapped up in the “online” world we forget about the “offline” connections that can be made and how much credibility face to face interaction brings.

    In my “offline” business, about the only way to make a connection is to do some sort of public speaking. In fact, my team made a presentation just the other day. The client was so intrigued by the image we portrayed, they thought we were a national firm. After the presentation and some question answering we go to do some on the spot consulting, an offer to follow up on another product and an invitation into one of their other offices.

    Public speaking can give you a lot of reason to follow-up with potential clients as opposed to making cold calls. That’s what our goal was, and it more than paid off.

    • Jason,

      Sweet testimonial for the power of getting out there and showing the client what you’ve got. It is an awesome marketing tool to have in your toolbox, even if your online work is doing its job nicely.
      And your point about following up is critical! Public speaking can be a lot of work, especially if you’re setting up a seminar like I describe, so it would be really bogus to do all that work and then not follow through with the leads it generates.

      Thanks for the spot-on comment!

    • Yesssss, nothing like proof that this works. I was so pleased to have Justin write about this opportunity, and here you are backing it all up.

      And awesome for you guys, eh! National Film Board, here we come! (Oh… wait, wrong country…)

  9. Just today I offered my services as a speaker to a local women’s only networking group. I let the yes word jump right out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop it(lizard brain). Now I have to prepare a talk and deliver it,simple! I am a little nervous even now, you wouldn’t think I used to read the radio news to the UK without a care in the world.
    Thanks for the confirmation that I really do need to do this.

    • Lucy,

      You absolutely DO need to do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple. Still, I’ve found in my own case that, as long as you’re well-prepared and you can manage to physically get yourself to the stage, your nerves only stick around another five seconds or so. You’re going to rock it, I’m sure!
      Thanks for the personal comment.

    • Frankly, that’s the BEST way to jam yourself into doing something that you’d normally hesistate on. Never let nerves get in the way of showing off what you can do.

      And a women-only venue is a great place, by the way. They’ll listen to what you have to say – more than you might think, actually.

      Go! 🙂

  10. Justin

    And there you go peering into my head and stealing ideas from me. Just kidding 🙂

    So I live in India and that too in an area with low Internet penetration. Most businesses are either starting out with static websites and have perhaps heard of Facebook or Twitter when scandals involving politicians or movie stars break out.We are still in Web 1.0 world out here.

    Since I am starting out as a copywriter and building up my portfolio I will achieve nothing with local clients if I concentrate my networking efforts online.Fortunately newspapers still rule the roost here and so I am concentrating on writing articles that appear with my byline.It’s a win win for both of us- I gain publicity and expert cred and they get solid content.

    I am sure the hold of local newspapers in the West are not like what they are in countries like India but if you are a regular contributor on a particular topic you become fairly well known among the readers of the newspaper and that translates into a significant client base.

    • Try a workshop, Bhaskar. Hold a small one day event with local people and show them the potential of good copy. Before and afters work nicely, or you could teach them a little on how to write, if you’d like.

      • James beat me to the punch, of course, but I was thinking the same thing: hold some classes teaching local businessmen and women to do the same thing you’re doing writing articles and building their expert status in their fields of choice. No matter how powerful the internet eventually becomes in your area, people will still respect your name in a print byline. It’s hardcoded into our DNA.

      • I like your before and after suggestion. In case they have any analytics solution installed beforehand (one can always hope)the positive change in stats after a copy makeover would also buttress my case far strongly than whatever I will say.

  11. Highly recommend. The biggest benefit to speaking to a group of people is that invariably you will learn as much (or more) than they do. My teaching career predated my artist biz, and back when many of us were cutting our teeth teaching at university we would invite each other to be guest speakers. My students LOVED having a “real life artist” come into the classroom, and it became one of the highlights of the semester. And as a speaker, it forces you to sharpen your message and method of communication. It’s a great experience, no matter what level you are at.

    • Yay, you came to comment!

      I’d actually be interested in reading more about some of your experiences. I bet you have a lot of knowledge you could share that would be valuable.

      Also, everyone go check out Chris does awesome work. (And Christmas is coming, if no one knows what to get me…)

      • thanks for the warm welcome! :} I’m actually a long-time reader (okay not THAT long, but I’ll sheepishly admit to “bookmarking” your post by leaving it open in my browser window for 2 weeks straight)

        I had a great speaking experience at a business-for-artists panel recently, literally months before my biz went full-time. Most places wouldn’t have let a “wanna be” in front of an audience, but they graciously invited me. I was surprised at how well received it was (not to mention shocked when people scribbled notes when I talked) — I think in some ways I was able to connect with the audience more than the professionals because I was closer to their level. They didn’t need hardcore details, they needed a vision and a direction. Sometimes people who have “arrived” forget what the beginning of the journey looked like.

        So, this is a pep talk for all of you who think you don’t know enough, aren’t experienced enough, etc.: when your experience differs from the person you’re speaking to, it has value. And enthusiasm is gold. You don’t have to look down from the end of the road to help others, you can grab their hand and take them with you.

        • Wow. May I humbly recommend a guest post from Chris in the near future? And when James gets her Copper Map, I’ll take the trip to Hawaii as a finder’s fee for writing the post that generated that awesome comment!

          But seriously, thank you Chris because you’re right on the money with these points. Speaking before a crowd can truly be a force for good beyond what it can do for our careers. It improves us and those who listen to us, assuming we put the work in ahead of time.

          Thanks again! This is why I got into this whole blogging thing! 🙂

  12. Hoo boy, you are raising all my fear hackles right now. And I’m supposed to be a voice coach, lol. But public speaking, in front of actual people? Haven’t done that in 30+ years. However, webinars? That’s something I can manage, and have actually been thinking about doing. Thanks for the nudge!

  13. Wow, very interesting. To be honest, I’m a terrible public speaker. When I was still in school, I actually sometimes would opt for a failing test grade rather than stand up in front of the class to describe a project.

    I know I really have to get rid of my public speaking phobia. Out of the list, I’d probably do the webinar. It sounds like it might even be exciting, especially if I find someone to work with. All I really need is practice. Once I’m more experienced, I might even be able to give speeches off-line.

    Anyway, I have to come out of my hole sooner or later. I’d rather opt for sooner. However, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’ll go through the process slowly, as I learn along the way.

    Great article! Very captivating and inspiring.


    • Christina, I can totally sympathize — I used to be terrified. I actually put off teaching for years because I was scared to death to stand to stand & talk in front of students.

      Try this — do a round table discussion instead of a speech. You’d be surprised how different and informal things become when you are seated instead of standing. And if you add in a few points of dialogue — ask the audience a question or two (really, even pick out a person or two if no one volunteers)– you’ll break the “stage” barrier and shift from public speaking to talking with colleagues & friends.

    • Right along with Chris’ comment, Christina, I can also tell you that when a group of people shows up on time and is sitting in their seats waiting eagerly for you to start talking because they actually WANT TO BE THERE, it’s a huge motivator. Whether or not they’ve paid money for the seat, just the fact that they’ve carved out time specifically to hear what YOU have to say shows that they value it. And that makes it a heck of a lot easier to actually give them what they’re looking for.

      btw, thanks for the “captivating and inspiring” tag. I may just have to quote you on that some time in the future… 🙂

      • What a great idea! The round table method sounds like something I could do. I wouldn’t stand out as much whilst sitting down. That would probably be my next step after hosting a webinar.

        Of course, it might be several more months before I’m ready for a webinar. Thanks for your help!

  14. I’d say it’s all about passion that spells a huge difference between fail and win. If you’re not passionate about what you do, who will really care about it? I guess, everyone here wants to be a somebody in his/her chosen field and gain full financial freedom in doing so. This is why we have accidental billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook – and the likes. Passion is a freelancer’s only motivation in breathing life to a dream, especially when he/she is working without the support of a team.

    • Ajeva,

      That’s totally true. Without a passion for the work and the subject matter, a freelancer will quickly become an employee working for himself. And there’s a big difference there. Sometimes, though, passion still gets hindered by fear. We may need to push ourselves into difficult areas to let the passion shine!

      Thanks for the comment!


  15. This is great stuff!

    I used to be involved in network marketing and had to do presentations once a week for 2 years but I left it behind for internet marketing. Since I haven’t been in front of a room in about 2 years (not counting my Master’s Thesis defense) I think I’ll join my local Toastmasters after reading this.

    It’ll probably help with my YouTube videos too LoL

  16. Thanks very much, Marc! And you make a really good point about video requiring a lot of the same skills as being up in front of a group. Public speaking skills are sorely lacking on the majority of YouTube right now! 🙂

  17. This certainly helped me open up to the idea of having options to marketing. I am merely a college student with a dream and a dollar, but having ideas and guidance by meaningful articles such as this puts hope in my soul to push and focus on this dream. I would’ve never thought to become a speaker at a seminar to help promote my up and coming business. I thank you, and this page will definitely be bookmarked 🙂


  1. […] Justin Lambert sent me this follow-up post (you did read his first post, didn’t you?) on how to create a seminar in just ten easy steps, I was pretty darned pleased. […]

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