I recently was involved in a discussion on LinkedIn about cold calls and how they help your business. I had given an example of the wide variety of businesses that I had written for thanks to cold calls, one of those being a group of daycare centers. Someone asked the question "What kind of writing could a daycare center possibly need?" and my answer to that question was as follows (I actually cut and pasted my response so as not to misquote myself!)
"One of the main services I provide for the daycare sites is a blog. Parents love the blog. They can request issues they'd like to see written about and I post relevant data on child development issues and provide links to online resources that can help parents. It's another advertisement the daycare center can provide to their potential clients and they're more than happy to pay for that. There are always services you can provide by looking at what is NOT currently being offered and then offering to fill that void for a business."
I want to reiterate that thought: there are always services you can provide by looking at what is NOT currently being offered and then offering to fill that void for a business. That is the key to niche marketing. Here is a good assignment to get you started. Go to the website of a local business that you frequent and ask yourself these questions as you peruse:
1. What aspect of the content applies to me, the customer? If the website is full of content but none of it applies to you, the customer, then it isn't relevant content. As a customer, you want a website to answer certain questions for you; if the site isn't providing that service, there is a niche that can be filled. And who better to fill it than you, the customer who also is a writer?
2. Is there something important missing? If you think a blog would benefit the site, explain why. If the site would gain impact by having a calendar of events, let them know.
3. Is the content on point, yet poorly written and grammatically incorrect? This one is a bit of a sticky wicket. You want to point this out to a business owner, knowing full well that he or she may well be the author of the content; therefore, you don't want to insult their intelligence. A good way to begin your conversation would be to find out who writes their web content and then take it from there. If they say they write it themselves, you can always approach it with something like this: "As a small business owner your time is better spent on running your business; I can provide you with high quality, customer-centric web content that will free up your time" etc. The poorly written content need never be mentioned.
Finding the missing link is an imperative part of marketing yourself to a new business customer. Being able to prove you have something of merit to offer is the best way to sell your services to a new client. Give it a try; research a few local businesses, identify their content issues and then make the call. You may be making your first call to a new client!
Working as a freelance writer can be a lonely job. You spend hours of the day alone, just you and your keyboard. Sometimes it seems as though you are the only person on the face of the earth. I've been known to head to the mall and walk around just to be with other living, breathing human beings - and I HATE the mall!
But working solo doesn't have to be a way of life. There are many ways to network with other writers, and the more connected you are with them the bigger your freelancer support system will be. I have found that staying connected through social media has been most helpful.
When I joined LinkedIn, I immediately joined a number of freelance writer forums. There I have connected with some amazing individuals. We have shared tips, tricks of the trade, celebrated each others' ups and commiserated with the downs. As the town I live in does not have a large network of freelancers, or any writing groups for that matter, I find these exchanges and the camaraderie I get in these forum discussions to be vital to my well-being as a writer.
Being a freelancer is a career I have chosen and I've never been sorry. Learning to network and communicate with other writers has enhanced that career and has introduced me to opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. Reaching out to other writers was difficult for me initially; what if I was bothering them? Would they even want to talk to me? They seemed such a tight-knit group. But they welcomed me with open arms and now I do the same with new writers in the group. Do not be afraid to make these connections. You will be so grateful that you decided to join a very supportive family unit.
I have been writing my entire life. When I was a kid I wrote poems and short stories; one of my poems even won a local poetry contest. When I was in my teens and twenties I kept a journal chronicling the ups and downs of my life, problems with my family and friends and all my hopes and dreams. As a young adult, I continued to journal and sat down on several occasions to try and start a novel, which usually ended up with me writing an outline and first chapter and then getting distracted by life.
But through all that writing it never occurred to me that I could be a writer for a living. I never envisioned myself making any money for what I considered to be a hobby. Then one late November day I found myself laid off from a job that I loved, a victim of the downturn in the economy. As I sat at home in the first few weeks of my unemployment I boned up my resume, sent out hundreds of copies, had one less-than-stellar interview and grew really downhearted about my future prospects.
I was on the computer one day, checking job sites, when I saw an ad for a freelance writer on Craigslist. I sent in a very poorly constructed letter of interest (or LOI) and waited. I ended up landing the job after sending a couple of clips that I'd written for a friends' blog and having a great Skype interview with the client. While I no longer write for that client, that one communication led to a whole new career, one I never could have envisioned from the four walls of my small office in a mom-and-pop business.
Is my career perfect? Far from it. I am still fine-tuning my marketing skills (an entire area that I never considered important when I first started but now appreciate for it's importance) and I am still attempting to grow my client roster, though that is beginning to happen; I've gotten a handful of steady clients amid the one-off jobs. I continue to network through social media and conferences and I have been sending LOI's to several local businesses. Writing every day is something that I love doing. Getting paid to do so is just the icing on the cake.