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SWOT Analysis Guide for Freelance Writers

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Before you can think about marketing your freelance writing business, you need to know where you currently stand among your competition. Are you dealing with over-saturation in your specialty area? Are you lacking skills other freelance writers have, that clients want? Do you have something going for you that justifies charging higher rates than others? A SWOT analysis can help you figure those things out, and more.

Let's explore what a SWOT analysis is and how it can help you come up with a better marketing strategy for your freelance writing services. I'll also share an example SWOT analysis as well as a free worksheet you can use to conduct one of your own.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a tool to help you identify your current position within your market. It includes:

  1. Strengths
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Opportunities
  4. Threats

Your strengths are the things that give you an edge over the competition.

Your weaknesses, on the other hand, are internal issues you need to overcome to become, or remain, competitive.

The opportunities are broader personal, industry, or even cultural elements that might open new doors for you in the future.

And, finally, threats are external challenges you'll face as a freelance writer within the particular market you choose to specialize in.

Get My Free SWOT Analysis Worksheet

If you want a simple printout you can use to map out your own evaluation, I've created a free SWOT analysis worksheet you can download and print. Here's a preview.

SWOT Analysis Worksheet for Freelance Writers - All Freelance Writing

Get Your SWOT Analysis Worksheet

Example SWOT Analysis for a Freelance Writer

Let's look at an example of what you might come up with if you were a US-based freelance writer fresh out of college with a business degree, and you wanted to write business-oriented online content. In this example, let's say you spent your summers working for an internet marketing firm in addition to earning your degree.

Using the example scenario above, your SWOT analysis might look something like this:

Strengths

  • Specialized degree
  • US-based (targeting US clients)
  • Internet marketing experience allowing you to offer value-added services like SEO and social media assistance
  • Strong understanding of marketing fundamentals to promote your own services

Weaknesses

  • Limited experience compared to your main competitors
  • Lack of visibility in the market
  • Extremely limited marketing budget

Opportunities

  • Rapid expansion in your specialty (more online business publications as well as constant new businesses launched needing web content)
  • A growing international market (with a demand for native English speakers to help overseas companies target US-based customers)

Threats

  • Growing competition alongside the growing demand
  • Low-priced competitors skew prospects' idea of value

When you conduct a SWOT analysis, none of these sections should remain blank. No matter how good you think you are, you do have weaknesses. No matter how new you are, you do have strengths. And every market will have both opportunities and strengths. If you can't think of any, try talking to existing clients or colleagues to see if they can shed some light on things you haven't considered.

Ultimately, conducting a analysis for your freelance writing career relies on your being, sometimes painfully, honest with yourself. If you overestimate your strengths or can't admit your own weaknesses for example, this tool won't help you. But try not to stress about it. After all, your SWOT analysis can be for your eyes only if you prefer.

14 thoughts on “SWOT Analysis Guide for Freelance Writers”

  1. Thanks for another great freebie, Jenn. I love the SWOT method: very helpful in nailing down what your marketing time needs to accomplish.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for another great resource Jenn. The SWOT analysis is a good tool for finding out how your business is tracking at a point in time, and then repeating the exercise in future to assess how and where your business has changed over time.

    Reply
  3. I’ve used and created SWOTs quite a bit for other types of businesses. I didn’t think it would do much for me.

    The filled in sample SWOT (just downloaded it to check it out), though, really helped me identify things that I didn’t think about in regards to myself in comparison to other writers, etc.

    This may not be the most appropriate place to ask a follow-up question, but I noticed that one of the weaknesses of the sample person was something along the lines of “not much of a budget for marketing”. What would someone spend money for marketing on (I just send letters of introduction; post info plus contact info on linkedin, which is free; or for areas in my niche area – pay for an online listing)

    Reply
  4. What if you don’t have any weaknesses? I just crossed that out and wrote down, “Favorite Animal.” Now my SWOT has cat written on it and I’m not sure how that helps my business.

    😀

    Reply
  5. @ Wolfster – One of the marketing methods many writers don’t think of is PPC (Pay-Per-Click) It’s highly effective for certain keywords but takes some experimentation and finesse to make it work in most cases. While you can get serious returns from PPC, you have to spend money to get exposure which might not be earned back for some time. PPC is tricky even for skilled marketers and can be expensive if you’re not on top of your campaign and spending all of the time. That is where a big marketing budget can pay off in a big way.

    Another budget buster can be taking time off from client projects (with pay) to create a marketable items such as a white paper or ebook. You lose profits while creating and then if you use it for marketing, you’ll need to set up a landing page or copy of some kind to promote it which can be expensive if you can’t do that yourself and then you can incur additional expenses if you pay affiliate commission on sales or leads to the book or (again) for PPC traffic for exposure to the book.

    Reply
    • I spent a few hundred dollars on PPC during my slow season last year. I got a couple of clients from it and they more than made up for the cost. I’ll probably roll that around again later this year.

      Other marketing costs could be advertising in reunion booklets or yearbooks (I target insurance agents remember :)), banner ads, business cards (design and printing), time off for networking events etc.

      Reply
  6. @Rebecca,

    Thank you for sharing that piece of information (PPC). I’ve received free coupons to try out google ads (I think they are pay per click), but never imagined that it would help me as a writer. I may have to give that a go before the next anticipated slow time. Sounds like a good thing to experiment with provided I put a cap on it and land a client or two.

    If anyone else has ideas that would cost $ for marketing and that pay off for writers, feel free to share.

    Reply
  7. Your competitors use the SWOT framework by observing at yourself. You can start to craft a strategy which will help you distinguish yourself from your competitors, so you will compete successfully in your market.

    Reply

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