I’m Just Chillin’—Query-Free Writer Style

I feel it necessary to let you know that I actually wrote this post on 5/2, well before Matt Willard published his post on query-free writing. Now, I'm not saying that he broke into my home, slipped into my desk chair, turned on my computer and went into my Work folder to see what I had written so he could steal ideas. No, I'm not saying it at all. I'm intimating it with the hopes that you will come to that conclusion on your own and run with it.

A few weeks ago Jenn did a post about being contacted by NPR to do a story. While the gig didn’t pan out, it is the perfect example of the possibilities opened up by striving to become a query-free writer. Now, unlike Jenn I am not completely query-free. My marketing plan outlines many different things that I must do in order to keep the money flowing into my relatively new freelance writing business. I still apply to gigs posted on Craigslist and Journalism Jobs, I still send cold emails, I still query publications (okay, just one… but I got accepted so as long as I never query another I can always say I have a 100% acceptance rate!), and I ask for referrals.

But there is a big spot in my marketing plan for raising my visibility so that I can transition into being an almost completely query-free writer. This year—the first anniversary of being a full time freelancer—I’ve stepped up my game and as a result have been contacted by quite a few awesome potential clients during the past few weeks including a financial planner who hosts a radio talk show, a popular online trading company, and a newsletter with an exclusive agreement with a large insurance company. Why? Because the query-free method works.

So what have I done to effectuate this change? Here are just a few of my secrets (oh, and between you and me—these are not secrets. This is old, rehashed information that you have probably read in a million different places written by a million different successful bloggers. If you haven’t done these things yet, then the joke’s on you, because they work)

  1. Specialize. Blah, blah, blah, blah. I know you’ve heard it before—but that’s because it works. As a generalist writer, you will have more difficulty setting yourself apart from the flock and identifying your client. Yes, you can still choose to take on different projects---but I bet you dollars to donuts you won't actually need to.
  2. Raise your visibility. If people don’t know you exist, they are not going to find you. I know,crazy—right? But true. So create your portfolio, use some keywords, join forums and groups on LinkedIn where your target client is and interact. You can also do some article marketing for yourself for a change.
  3. Twitter yourself wonderful. One of the things that I did that I think was important was that I removed all my writer friends from the Twitter account where potential clients were and created a new account just for writer friends (writer friends, add me @YoFinanceWriter). Now on the account where I network with potential clients, I can talk just about finance and insurance all day.
  4. Get testimonials. I love LinkedIn, and it has been super helpful in bringing in some of the query-free income I get. For me, the best thing I’ve done is gotten industry-specific CLIENT recommendations on my LinkedIn profile. Not recommendations of other writers (although I do have a couple) or recommendations from people I’ve partnered with, but recommendations of editors and companies that have given me cheddar in exchange for written words. To me this is vital. No one cares about what your friends think about you or how much your life coach enjoys coaching you—they care that you did a good job for another person in their industry. So good, in fact, that the person was willing to go down in history writing something nice about you.

So there you have it---again. Sorry there isn't anything new here, but these methods work. It may not happen overnight (although I can give you some examples in which it pretty much has) but it really doesn't take long so try it---you might be surprised at what you get. And be sure to share your tips on becoming query-free below.

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Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

11 thoughts on “I’m Just Chillin’—Query-Free Writer Style”

  1. Your chair is not nearly as comfortable as mine.

    Anyway, all this has convinced me even more to renew my efforts on a variety of fronts. Still, I think pitching’s going to play a big part for a while. No problem – my courage could use the boost.

    Reply
  2. The hardest thing I’ve struggled with is specializing. I already do so many things I can’t decide on an area to specialize in – I teach and have multiple certifications, so I could do education. I am a serious DIYer so I could play that route as well. I have a business degree and run a (successful) small business, so I could go there as well. I’m also a parent and reasonably successful at that as well so maybe I’ll go there more exclusively.

    Until I have time to gather some horcruxes to split my professional personality, I just target particular kinds of writing rather than a particular industry. Specialization is definitely an area that tickles my brain from time to time though…

    Reply
    • There’s nothing wrong with specializing in types of writing rather than getting too narrow in niches. The trick is making sure there’s a primary target market you’re working to reach, as opposed to a lot of different people with very different goals and motivations for hiring you. If you really like a couple of niches, there’s no harm in pushing separate branding — just don’t overextend yourself.

      Reply
  3. I love LinkedIn, too. It has been my best source for gigs. Because of the Answers feature and the Groups, you have the perfect opportunity to build relationships and demonstrate your knowledge on topics.

    I loved Jenn’s whole series on Query-Free Freelancing. I’m getting there and this helps noodge me (a technical writing term) 🙂 in stepping up my activity.

    Matt-nice of you to keep Yo’s chair warm!

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

    Reply
  4. Now I know you’ve been here Matt because this chair is DAMNED uncomfortable! You would only know that if you’d sat in it yourself.

    I agree with Jenn Rebecca. I’m actually working on two more portfolios with 2 different specialties. It’s not really about narrowing your work so much as targeting your reach and making a really strong case. But then, I’m not sure you really need to–it would be interesting to see if it reduced the time you spent writing though.

    It works Cathy–can’t say how quickly because it is sometimes about right place, right time–but it works.

    Reply
  5. Twittering your specialty separately? That’s genius. Unfortunately, I have changed my Twitter handle entirely too much and I don’t want two Twitter accounts.

    So, instead I’ve opted to “purge” @TimeMgmtWriter of the writerly stuff and focus on target clientele and tweeting within my specialty. I’ll drop my the @AFWwriters account when I need to network with writers.

    LinkedIn-a huge love of mine that I’ve totally abandoned as of late. I’m about to revamp that profile up, including getting some recommendations within my industry.

    Thanks for the tips, Yo. I’m pulling out your ebook now to get to work!

    Reply
  6. @Yo

    Thanks for sharing the specific steps that you did. I’ve used linkedin to get projects, and a couple great projects came to me through linkedin.

    What is article marketting by chance? i plugged it into the search term for this blog and did not come up with any detailed description or samples.

    Reply
    • Article marketing is something you probably do a lot for clients when you ghostwrite. Basically, you write about a topic that promotes the client’s business indirectly and place the article on sites like Ezine where it will get syndicated by other sites. The client’s name then shows up everywhere online, the bio links to his or her business site, and the need for their product or service is heavily promoted in the article.

      Reply

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