In this episode of the All Freelance Writing Podcast I explain why it's important for freelance writers to build demand for their services rather than solely focusing on the query process, and I share a few tips on how you can begin to make query-free freelancing work for you by building a professional writer platform. Then I answer a reader question about resources for urban fantasy and mystery writers. And I close the show with an e-book recommendation and giveaway for bloggers and other web content writers.
Update: Princess Jones has been confirmed as the first guest co-host of the All Freelance Writing Podcast. You can listen to Princess and me discussing negative author reviews and how to deal with them without making an ass of yourself on episode 3, scheduled for Thursday, November 20, 2014.
In This Episode
Here's what you'll find covered in this episode:
- A brief introduction to query-free freelancing and importance of writer platforms for freelance writers (why it's important for freelance writers to build demand)
- Tips on starting to build a freelance writer platform of your own
- A reader question seeking resources to help urban fantasy and mystery writers
- A recommended e-book for bloggers, including a giveaway for one podcast listener or blog reader
The Importance of Building Demand for Your Freelance Writing Services
When you think of traditional ways of landing freelance writing gigs, you probably think about querying the publications and clients you want to work for. While this strategy has merit and can be essential if you focus exclusively on magazine writing, most freelance writers would benefit from what I call query-free freelancing. I've talked about this on the blog for many years, so if you're a long-time member of the community, you probably have a solid grasp on it already.
Query-free freelancing is all about building demand for your freelance writing services -- bringing clients to you instead of you constantly seeking out them. You can take a query-free freelancing approach for all of your marketing, or you can combine it with queries when you want to target specific prospects.
Focusing on building demand that drives clients to you puts you in a place of power as a business owner. When you're the one who's needed most, you have much more freedom to:
- set rates;
- control payment terms;
- be highly selective about projects you take on.
Think of it this way. Which of these positions would you rather be in?
- You going to prospects saying "I need work right now. Can you hire me?"
- Prospects coming to you saying "I need your skills right now. Can you help me?"
The latter is a great position to be in when you're running a business, whereas the former is much more like an employer / employee relationship.
As a specific example of how building demand can help you, think about chasing payments. This is one of the most common complaints I see from freelance writers -- they have to deal with slow-paying or deadbeat clients. There's a solution to this problem. You can demand up-front payment in full.
Now when you're just starting out, clients might balk at that suggestion (though I still suggest getting a minimum 50% deposit on every project you take on). But once you have steady demand for your services, much of that resistance goes away.
Why? Because you build more demand for your time than you can commit to clients. And once you're in a position where more clients are coming to you than you can take on, you're in a position to walk away from prospects who won't agree to the terms set in your business. If you've really built solid demand, those clients already know they want to work with you -- you, not your competitors -- by the time they've contacted you. And if it comes to playing by the same rules all of your other clients adhere to or having to find someone else, they'll often drop their objections.
There are benefits to building demand through query-free freelancing that go beyond control over your business decisions. For example:
- When you reach the point of having more demand than the time you can supply, you can build a waiting list (yes, clients will often wait for you if you're the one freelancer they want on their next project). Having a waiting list offers a great deal of security.
- Building demand involves building your visibility and authority in your specialty area. And several of the marketing tactics or tools you'll use to do that can also bring in direct income.
- With this kind of marketing strategy, your promotional efforts are almost always public in some way. That means rather than spending time writing query letters and following up on queries that are only seen by one prospect, everything you do to market yourself can instead expose you to many prospects all at once.
How to Build Demand for Your Services
Here are some of the things I talk about in the podcast episode that can help you start building demand for your freelance writing services to help bring new clients to you:
- Specialize. You can't stand out as an individual if you offer the exact same thing thousands (or even hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions) of other people also offer. You have to bring something different to the table. And specialized knowledge is the surest way to set yourself apart.
- Set up a strong web presence. There is no good excuse not to have a professional website.
- Include a blog on your website (targeting clients directly) or run a separate niche-specific blog. Blogs are easy-to-use tools that can help you build authority and a good reputation in your specialty area.
- Make sure your website ranks well in search engines. If you aren't in the first page of results for terms prospects use to find writers in your specialty area, you're missing out on highly-targeted leads.
- Publish. Write guides, e-books, or print books. Again, it's about building a reputation and visibility.
- Look for other ways to do the same -- any kind of "information product" can work, such as e-courses or webinars. Educational material can also bring in direct revenue, letting you profit from prospects whether they choose to hire you or not.
- Build a large, and well-targeted, professional network to capitalize on referrals.
You can find additional ideas in my post, 30 Ways to Build Your Writer Platform.
Here is the community member question I tackled in this episode, from Nicohle Christopherson:
"Do you know of any good blogs that teach how to write either urban fantasy, or mystery? Urban fantasy for example like Holly Black's 'a modern fairytale' series?"
Urban fantasy is not my area of expertise, but a few resources come to mind (only one actually being a blog -- sorry):
- Turn to genre-specific writer's organizations like the SFWA. Even if you're not in a position to join at this time, it never hurts to connect with authors working in similar areas. While their resources won't necessarily be specific to urban fantasy, I would imagine their writing tips would be a good place to start.
- Another place where you might connect with other urban fantasy writers is on the Absolute Write forums. They have an urban fantasy sub-forum where you should be able to ask questions or read through past conversations that might be of interest to you.
- One blog that comes to mind is through Chuck Wendig's TerribleMinds.com. I know he's talked about the issue before, and his blog is full of good information. So I suggest digging a bit into his archives with an on-site search or a Google site search. If you aren't sure how to do that, go to Google.com and enter this in the search box (minus the quotes): "urban fantasy site: terribleminds.com"
While urban fantasy isn't "my thing," I do follow several blogs related to mystery writing. Here are three I recommend:
- ElizabethSpannCraig.com -- The mystery writing tips category of this blog is pretty self-explanatory, and it's a great place to start. She also shares great writing-related tips in general, so this is a blog worth following whether or not you write mysteries.
- LeeLofland.com -- This blog has great information about police procedure. But be forewarned, it might be a bit much for some (such as a recent article on the autopsy process which included autopsy photos). Anything you've wanted to know about the police or working with them, you can probably find here (or I'm sure he'll cover it at some point) -- very thorough stuff.
- The Kill Zone -- This one has great information about maintaining suspense in your writing, which is vital for mystery writers, thriller writers, and others.