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Sales Funnels and the Freelance Writer

sales funnelsSales funnels – is it just me or is there a lot of talk about sales funnels going around?

The term seems like it’s simple enough – you lead people down through your sales funnels to the sale.  And in a way, it can be that simple.

Let’s see how it might apply to your freelance writing business. First let’s look at a definition.

What, exactly, are sales funnels?

Simply put, sales funnels are the process or steps you take to find potential customers, educate them about what you do, offer your services, and close the deal. The advantage of creating this process is that once you’ve got it working, it’s repeatable without much trouble.

Most of the hype around these funnels is aimed at products, and we writers are in a perfect position to create information products for sale. But a sales funnel can also work on marketing your writing services, and that’s today’s focus. I’ll talk about using a sales funnel for an info product you create in another article.

Although there are lots of ways to build sales funnels, I like this five step process.

Step 1 – Locate potential customers

In my mind this is the biggie. Here’s an approach that has worked for me:

When I want to market my ghostwriting services, for example, I first decide who might want it and has the money to pay for it. Say, for instance, I want to find a sales person who has a wow of a story to tell. I’d start by googling something like ‘top sales people.’ I might find some lists of people there or not. I might find some forums where I could post, or some websites that might let me write an article and include a link to my new (see below) opt in page.

The people you’re looking for might be middle management in a particular industry, or retirees who want to tell their story. You get the idea, define who you want then go out and find nests of them.

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The Marketing Mindset for Freelance Writing

marketing mindsetDo you have a marketing mindset about your writing and your writing business? Or does the necessity of marketing make you shudder and want to go back to bed and eat cookies?

For a long time I felt exactly that way.

Marketing was a pain; it was boring; it felt more than slightly distasteful and I often just didn’t get it done.

Sometimes I appreciate advertising

Then one day I made a startling observation. I find some advertising helpful. Maybe because it tells me about a product or service I’d really like to have. Some ads have interesting stories to tell about topics that are new to me.

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side projectsSide projects – some would describe freelance writing as a side project, but I’ve been writing as a mostly full time freelance writer for multiple decades and I’m far from alone.

Many of you reading this are also full time writers and those who aren’t are working to get there.

Of course, full time is in the eye of the freelancer.

What is full time work?

We tend to think a 40 hour week is normal for a full time job. (It actually became law in the US in 1869) I’m not so sure, at least for writers. I find if I’m writing well, 3-4 hours is about all I can do if I’m to write again the next day. All the other business of writing, marketing, research, talking to potential clients, etc. etc. etc. can take a lot of time or not so much, totally depending on what’s up.

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small stuffSmall stuff. We’re advised not to sweat the small stuff and there’s a lot of wisdom in that, except, of course, when there isn’t.

Here’s what I mean:

Back in the day, when computers were only marginally better than typewriters, a man rushed into the computer store where I was working. He was irate, waving a copy of Writer’s Market open to a page which suggested the correct margins for manuscripts. Back then word processing software mostly didn’t give you many or any options about margins, and in this case, none of them were exactly what Writer’s Market suggested. I couldn’t convince him that what he needed to do was work on  his writing and not worry about manuscript margins because no editor was measuring margins on over the transom submissions. He was convinced the exact margins would increase his chances of getting published immeasurably.

This is exactly the sort of small stuff a freelance writer should ignore. The pages need to look good, be ragged right, double spaced and with no surprises. That’s it! It doesn’t really matter where the page numbers fall, or if your contact information is on the right or the left. Unless, of course, if you’re doing academic writing. Not that I know for sure, but I understand even the unimportant minutia is considered important.

It’s the small stuff of writing you need to sweat

Although that subhead can be misleading. There probably isn’t a rule of grammar, spelling, or writing structure that can’t be broken and the writing be better for the break. If you go against the grain it’s likely to work if you’ve got a solid reason to shatter or bend convention.

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leave your job to freelanceWant to leave your job job and freelance?

If even part of your job is writing it may be quite easy to get your employer to hire you as a freelance writer. It’s one of the very best ways to leave your job to freelance.

Here is an overview of the process, with advantages to both you and your about to be former boss when you leave your job to freelance.

The advantages to you are obvious, including:

  • You walk away with income flowing in – how much depends on what you negotiate
  • You’re already familiar with the kind of writing you’ll be doing from (probably) your home office – and what you need to do to keep them satisfied.
  • In theory you control your own client base and time as well as your income which as a freelancer isn’t limited
  • Chances are you’ll be able to get more writing done than ever before once you get in the swing of things – working in offices often means constant interruption.

The disadvantages to you are worth thinking about

  • Uncertain pay days
  • Varied amounts of pay
  • No benefits if you have some
  • No pension or retirement plan if you have one where you work
  • The lack of structure may cause you some problems

Benefits to your soon-to-be former company

  • You’re a known quantity – which makes their life easier
  • If they use you as a freelancer they may not have to hire your replacement, saving them money
  • You’ll cost them less – no benefits, including health insurance, paid sick and vacation leave, etc. That is assuming you’ve got these
  • Also, no office space, or parking space. No computer equipment, unless they want you on site part of the time – which may  be a disadvantage for you

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Another Look at Mastermind Groups

Mastermind groupsI’ve written about Mastermind groups for writers before and they can be wonderful.

Now I want to introduce you to the group I’m currently in. It’s different because the makeup of the group is different. Instead of being aimed at writers, each of the five members has a different sort of business.

I’m, of course the writer and I also do whole life coaching. Carol is an interior designer who also practices Reiki. Frederic is a poet, a photographer and a healer. Claudia is a substantial editor for academics and book writers. And Cait, one of the founding members, is a safety engineer who is part owner of the Aspen Risk Management Group.

Mastermind groups vary widely

Mastermind groups come in a wide variety of purposes and formats. Although I found great value in meeting with other writers, I find even more meeting with a wider variety of folks. In  our case each of us is self-employed.

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reduce your rateOver in our forum someone told of a client who asked “Will you reduce your rate for steady work?” The question, of course, does this sort of request make sense for the writer?

Generally speaking I don’t think it makes sense to reduce your rate for the promise of steady work.

Writing is not like making widgets

The bulk discount is based on the idea that the maker takes less time and effort per item when they are making dozens or hundreds etc. of the item as opposed to making one. Everything a writer writes is original and ideally not like anything else she or anyone else has written.

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signs you really want to be a freelance writerYou love the idea of being a writer, but you’re not sure it’s really for you. Here are 5 signs you really want to be a freelance writer and will probably succeed.

You read

If you really want to be a freelance writer, you probably read a lot. There is some hook, some connection between reading and successful writing. Noteworthy – The Journal Blog lists 14 reasons why this is so. Any one of those reasons is good enough.

Jeff Goins has a different (yet much the same) take in his Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good article and provides a much more structured approach. Which will work, and in my opinion isn’t required. And he suggests that it isn’t necessary to finish reading what you start to read which I absolutely love because I’ve discovered that myself.

You research how to become a writer

Another one of the signs you really want to be a freelance writer is you spend some serious time researching how freelance writing works. Google up how to become a freelance writer but don’t go into overwhelm. Poke around. Find some advice that appeals to you and follow it for awhile and see how it works. Don’t be afraid to let go of something that isn’t working and beware of those who promise to make it easy. It isn’t.

You long to be in control of your life

If a daily commute and 40+ hours under florescent lights with little if any control over your destiny isn’t for you, freelance writing can be a way out. Please realize that I’ve been freelancing forever and am prejudiced against regular jobs. There is much to be said about the certainty of income and the predictability of a work week. And even with my attitude there are some jobs I might take – you know, the dream job.

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SEO Tips for Freelance Writers to Make You Stand Out

seo tipsIn today’s competitive environment, one cannot be just a writer, especially when writing content for websites.

Even though I have an SEO team that helps to optimize my content for Google and publishes it, I do try to proactively make everything I write SEO friendly.

Writing an awesome blog isn’t enough nowadays; your awesomeness won’t be discovered if the material doesn’t rank well on and people cannot discover it via organic search. Here are 5 useful tips that each aspiring freelance writer should use to improve their content from the SEO perspective.

  1. Start Your Blog Title With Your Primary Keyword

Seems logical but you will often see writers use words in the title that don’t directly correspond to the topic at hand. If you really want to optimize it put the main keywords in Google and hit search. You will quickly discover what other sites are using in terms of the title to rank for the topic you are writing. Use these results to craft your own title for the blog post.

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How I Became a Grant Writer

grant writingTemping Gave Me My Grant Writing Start

The temp agency sent me to assist a professional association director with correspondence. Across the way, two women—a dietitian and a psychologist, I later learned—were unpacking large suitcases full of printed materials into a little office with a couple of desks. They were hired to travel around the country and conduct workshops under a government contract. I helped them for the next two years, at the end of which the government said it was one of its most successful training contracts.

One day while my two bosses were on the road the executive director came to me and asked if I would look at a couple of forms. Apparently, one of their educators had applied for and received a grant but didn’t know how to fill out the paperwork to get the money to which the nonprofit was entitled. I took a stab at it, got a couple of checks back, and the rest is history.

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