Marketing Your Business
What has been your most effective marketing strategy?
I built my business primarily by networking. I’m fortunate to live in an area with seven thriving Chambers of Commerce to choose from, plus other organizations. I belong to one Chamber, one entrepreneur’s networking group, and a paid leads group organization. Membership dues and event fees are my single largest expense, and they are worth every penny. I am also proactive in following up with people.
What other strategies do you use to market your business online?
I have a web site, of course, which allows me to show my work via an online portfolio. The site itself acts as a 24/7 brochure. This month (July 2004) I’m launching a monthly e-zine, Third Thursday Marketing Tips. · Offline? This spring I taught a seminar through my Chamber of Commerce that was very successful. It brought me new business and raised my profile in the business community. I am now actively pursuing other opportunities to teach the seminar to other groups.
What are the benefits of having your own website?
In my opinion, a web site is a fundamental marketing tool that every business should have. The practical benefits are many. Clients can see samples of my work on my portfolio page. They can learn about the process of working with me on my FAQ page. I also list my fees as a way to prequalify prospects. Many writers won’t do this, but I’ve found it saves me time creating proposals for prospects who don’t have a realistic idea of what it costs. People can sign up for my e-zine online. At some point, I will begin posting my own marketing articles on my site. There are many ways a business can use a web site, and I expect mine to grow along with my business.
Do you usually bid on projects? If so, what sites do you use to possibly solicit new projects?
I am not a fan of bid-for-work sites, because most writers, whose work is already traditionally undervalued, find they must bid ridiculously low prices in order to compete. I see writers on bid-for-work sites bidding $5 for work I typically charge hundreds of dollars for. The word is out there on Internet discussion boards that if you want cheap writers, go to the bid-for-work sites. Of course, the quality of work isn’t there, but buyers who are looking for cheap writing really don’t care about the quality. In fact, sadly, much of the $5-an-article work is simply copy-and-pasted from copyrighted material.
Some writers tell me they don’t bid low and do get work, but it didn’t work for me. In a three-month membership with Guru.com, I submitted dozens of carefully targeted proposals and never got a single job. In the offline world, when I submit a proposal to a prospect, I close two out of three sales. I’m not sorry I tried bid-for-work, because now I won’t be wondering if I’m missing out on the party. Marketing oneself is always an experiment, and finding out what doesn’t work is equally as important as what does work.
Advice to Other Entrepreneurs
What do you think are the keys to your success?
First, I love everything about my work – the writing, the freedom and control I have, and being part of the business community. That passion has been fundamental to my success. Second, I have mentors who prod me to take risks I wouldn’t take, and who act as sounding boards when I face challenges. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them. Third, I am continually learning, whether it be about the craft of writing, trends in marketing, or the elements of running a business.
What are the next steps from your business? What are your plans for the rest of 2004 and beyond?
In July 2004, I launched a monthly e-zine, Third Thursday Marketing Tips. I’m eager to see if this form of viral marketing works as well as the experts says it does. I’m also thinking about trying pay-per-click ads online; some writers have great success at finding clients this way.
This will be an exciting time for me. My youngest child starts first grade. This means that for the first time ever, I will have a solid 6 hours each day that I can devote, without interruption, to business. I expect my productivity to rise significantly as I will have more control over my schedule. This also means that when my workday is over, at about 3pm, it’s really over. I expect to be spending fewer evenings and weekends in my home office. I’ll also have more time to learn the craft of direct response copywriting, which is something I’ve only dabbled in.
To those who wish to start a similar type of business, what advice can you give them?
The field is wide open for freelance copywriters, especially with the continuing growth of the Internet. You only have to see how many badly written sites are on the web to see the opportunity. There are many excellent books out there that will inspire, motivate, and educate aspiring copywriters about the field. If this is a field that interests you, read everything you can get your hands on, and visit online discussion boards about the subject.
Any other success tips that you can share to our readers?
Get out and network like crazy. Ask for advice and help when you need it. Find friends who will encourage you. Try things. Don’t be afraid to fail; mistakes are just part of the journey. Don’t let other people define what your business should be – it’s yours, and you are the one who can shape it to fit your life and goals.
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