This article is a part of a five post series for Demand Media Studios writers and others interested in leaving content mills and other low paying freelance writing jobs behind.
Our last post looked at reasons freelance writers should stop spending too much time trolling job boards looking for new gigs. It just isn't an efficient use of your time when most of the best gigs are never publicly advertised. I also gave you several other marketing strategies you could pursue to land high paying freelance writing jobs. One of those suggestions was to build your writer platform so clients can find you instead of it always working the other way around.
Today I'd like to further explore writer platforms and why you should have one.
What is a Writer Platform?
Think of a writer platform as all of the things that give you visibility in your specialty area. It's everything contributing to your built-in audience -- the people who want what you're selling.
For example, this website is a big part of my platform for The Query-Free Freelancer -- a book I expect to release in the New Year. Even before the book is available, I have a significant audience with an interest in what that product has to offer.
You can do the same, building a writer platform around your services. Your platform would reach an audience of members of your target market.
For example, if you write search engine optimized (SEO) Web content your platform might be designed to help you reach an audience of SEO professionals (from freelance SEO pros to larger Internet marketing firms needing writers to serve their own clients' needs).
Here's another example: If you're interested in public relations (PR) writing, like press releases, you would target people in need of those services -- from PR firms to independent businesses looking for freelance help.
Benefits of Building Your Writer Platform
Why would you want to spend time building a writer platform? Here are a few good reasons:
- You aren't at the mercy of what's being advertised on any given day.
- You don't thrust yourself into a large pool of writers (who often compete with a race to the bottom on pricing) applying for a single gig. In other words, there's less competition for each freelance writing job.
- Clients come directly to you instead of you pitching them and waiting around on a response.
- Prospects who come to you as a result of your strong platform rarely bicker over professional rates.
- When you build a solid writer platform you can have regular offers coming in from prospects. Chances are good you'll eventually have more inquiries than available time. That gives you the ultimate freedom of being able to pick and choose the best or most interesting projects and turn down the rest (or offer referrals to colleagues, which is good networking and can lead to more incoming referrals from them later).
- Many of the things you'll do to build your writer platform will actually make money for you directly. That's in addition to any freelance projects you land. In other words, you can essentially get paid to market your own services. That can help you grow your income in a general sense, but it can also help to fill in gaps between gigs until you build regular demand. I'll give you some specific examples of this below.
If you're the kind of writer who hates pitching, your writer platform is incredibly valuable. It does the heavy lifting for you -- attracting prospects and convincing them to get in touch with you.
What Might a Writer Platform Include?
In my last post I gave you a few examples of what might be included when building your writer platform.
For example, you would have a professional website that helps you build search engine visibility. You could have a niche or industry blog that showcases your expert knowledge in your specialty area (for example, if you want to write music reviews for others, you might have your own music review blog as well). Your platform also includes community and social media profiles.
These things help people find you, they show them that you're qualified for the work you want to do, and they give people a reason to want to approach you and hire you instead of the competition.
Your writer platform isn't just about what you do online. Here are some other things your writer platform might include:
- A book you've published
- Seminars and speeches
- Courses you teach (or possibly a guest lecture)
If you want more examples of the smaller things you can do to build a solid writer platform, please check out this post from our archives:
You don't have to include all of these things. Trying to do so would take too much time. Focus on the things you're comfortable with and good at (or willing to work hard to get better at). Some of these tactics are one-time efforts. Many require ongoing work if you want to maximize your visibility and audience reach, and therefore increase inquiries from prospects over time.
Making Money With Your Writer Platform
I mentioned previously that one of the benefits of having a writer platform is that it can bring in direct income in addition to (or in between) freelance writing jobs. Here are a few examples of how that works:
- Books and E-books -- You can make money through book sales.
- Blogs -- You can bring in blog income through traditional ads, affiliate promotions, or by promoting product sales (like your books).
- Seminars / Speeches -- You're paid to participate in the event.
- Courses / E-courses -- You can charge a fee for attendance or participation.
- Original Research -- When you conduct original research it makes you an authoritative source in your specialty area. You can earn directly from this by charging a fee for full research or survey reports.
A writer platform won't make you an instant success. An effective platform takes time to build. But it doesn't have to take as long as some writers assume. For example, it only took me three months before I had enough incoming gigs (without me pitching anyone for them) to regularly fill my schedule. Since that happened several years ago, I've never experienced the stereotypical feast / famine cycle of freelancing. That only happens if you allow it to or get caught up in the waiting game -- waiting for proposal acceptance and then payments.
It might take extra effort on your part early on, especially if you can't cut back on your billable hours to focus on marketing for something better. This is one of the rare situations where I'm going to tell you to suck it up and get it done, even if you have to work overtime. You need to lay a foundation you can build upon. If you can't (or won't) devote existing working hours to doing so, you need to set aside more time.
I know it sucks. I'm a bit fan of the work smarter, not harder philosophy. It's why I make more working only four days per week, seven hours per day than I ever did when 60+ hour weeks were my norm. And if you want to get to that point, you can. But to speed up that process and make your platform work for you, you're going to have to work your ass off to build your visibility and authority status early on.
While query-free freelancing is my preferred marketing strategy, you don't have to focus on it exclusively. In the beginning while you build your writer platform, I highly suggest that you continue to directly pitch prospects you'd like to work with. Eventually your platform will attract new clients and you can move away from direct pitching if you prefer. But if you need gigs to tide you over in the meantime, never hesitate to come right out and ask for them. That's especially true if you have confidence issues. Nothing will help you overcome those concerns better than having your first pitch accepted.
Are you ready to build a writer platform in your specialty area? What tactics do you think will work best to reach your target market? If you already have a strong platform, you can share your experiences in the comments below, telling newer writers how long it took you to build regular incoming demand and whether or not you still use direct pitching in addition to the work your platform elements bring in for you.
Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.
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