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!
Many times the only thing keeping a freelancer from getting a project for which they are qualified is the proposal they’ve submitted.  You can have the skills and the expertise; it matters not a bit if your proposal is vague, sloppy or just completely off the mark.  The following are some of the most commonly made proposal mistakes.

Misspelled words or poor grammar

As a writer, I find it offensive to see other writers’ profiles or proposals that are full of misspellings or grammatical errors.  You’re selling your ability to write in your proposal, yet you don’t care enough to make sure it’s constructed according to the correct rules of grammar.  If this isn’t your strong suit or you are a freelancer in another area besides writing, there are some great English grammar guides that will help you construct your proposal properly.  My favorite as a writer is Merriam-Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style.  This guide is easy-to-read and understand and is available at any bookstore or on Amazon.

Undefined proposals

When submitting a proposal to a prospective client it is important for you to show that you fully comprehend the scope of the project.  Writing a proposal that is vague, generic and not tailored to the client’s specific needs is a surefire way to get a rejection.  While it is okay to keep a “proposal template” that states your qualifications, that template should never be submitted as-is to the client.  You need to ensure the client knows you understand the project and that you are able to concisely state in your proposal why you are the right contractor for the project.

“Pointless” proposals

Submitting a proposal for a project in which you have no experience or background is what I call a “pointless” proposal.  I write; I don’t design websites or write programming code.  Therefore, I’m going to submit proposals to clients who are looking for a writer.  I would never write a proposal for something that I’m completely ill-suited.  What happens if for some reason your complete lack of experience is overlooked by the client and you land the project?  You will end up looking foolish and the client will be unhappy at the least; at worst, you’ll get a reputation as being a contractor who bites off more than you can chew and you may find the offers are coming fewer and farther between.