If you want to succeed as a freelance writer, you need to have a plan. It's a point frequently driven home here. But how do you get to that plan?

How do you know what strategies are most likely to work? How do you know what your target clients really want? How, exactly, are you supposed to know what to do?

Before you come up with a business plan or marketing plan for your freelance writing career, you should start with with some basic market research.

This means understanding things like:

  • Who your target market is (think in terms of demographics and psychographics);
  • What your target market needs and wants;
  • What influences your target market's buying decisions;
  • What outside influences might affect your market (demand changes for certain services for example);
  • Who your competitors are;
  • What your competitors are doing;
  • How you stack up against that competition.

It sounds like a lot. But market research doesn't have to be complicated. It's just about being aware of things that can have a direct influence on your business so you can make more educated decisions and better plans.

For this week's round-up, I'd like to share some posts and resources to help you research your target market and competition, and take action based on what you discover.

5 Market Research Resources from All Freelance Writing

First, here are five resources and posts from the All Freelance Writing archives to get you started in better understanding your target market and competitive environment:

1. Free Target Market Worksheet for Freelance Writers

This simple worksheet (which will be redesigned in coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that and other updates in the writers' resources collection) will help you map out your target market. Just fill in the bubbles, then piece it all together into a complete picture.

2. Free SWOT Analysis Worksheet for Freelance Writers

This worksheet will guide you through the process of taking what you learn in your market research and figuring out where you stand among the competition. SWOT stands for "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats." And the key to a successful SWOT analysis is being completely honest with yourself. You can't harness strengths or overcome weaknesses if you can't admit to yourself what those are.

3. 4 Tips for Better Understanding Your Target Market

This post shares four simple tips for gaining insight into your target clients and your key competitors. These are easy things any freelance writer can do -- no budget or special tools required.

4. This Target Market Mistake Could Cost You Money

In this post, I share a common mistake freelance writers make when targeting prospects -- waiting on the "perfect" client. Here I show you what you should try instead.

5. Your USP: Stand Out From the Freelance Writing Crowd

A part of any marketing plan involves having a unique selling proposition (or USP). You may have seen this mentioned on the target market planning worksheet linked above. Basically, this is about your position in the current market, among your current competition. Learn more about what a USP is and how to figure out yours in this post.

5 Additional Posts on Market Research for Freelance Writers

Here are five more resources to help you get a jump on your market research and understanding your competition.

1. How to Identify Your Target Market

by Sarah Saker for SucceedAsYourOwnBoss.com 

While this article isn't directly about freelance writing, it gives a good introduction to the types of research and data you'll use in your own market research.

2. 5 Scrappy Market Research Tips Any Freelance Writer Can Use

by Bethany Johnson for Skyword

In this post, Johnson shares some tools you can use to help you learn more about your target freelance writing clients and what they need from you.

3. Position Yourself for Freelance Success Through Market Research

by David Masters for CashboardApp.com 

In this post, Masters gives you an introduction to both competitive research and target customer research tactics.

4. How to Define Your Competitors and What to Look For

by Kristi Hines for CognitiveSEO.com

This post focuses on search engine ranking competition rather than broader freelance competition. But they're often one and the same. When your ideal clients search for a freelance writer in your specialty, you want them finding you first. That starts with understanding who your competition is, and this article can help.

5. How to Use Competitive Analysis to Build a Content Strategy

by Sid Bharath for ClearVoice.com 

As writers, content will likely play a big role in your marketing strategy. In this post, Bharath teaches you how to come up with a better content plan based on your competition.

Have questions about researching target markets and your competition as a freelance writer? Send in your questions, and I might answer them on the blog.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR.com, and KissMyBiz.com.

Jenn has 19 years experience writing for others, around 14 years experience in blogging, and over 11 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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