Roving Report: Reach Your Web Writing Tipping Point

Ah, the feast-or-famine cycle. As a freelance writer for the past 13 years, Heather Robson is quite familiar with it.

One day you’re overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to finish, the next you’re wondering how to spend your time.

Fortunately, the writer’s life doesn’t need to fall into do-or-die cycles. “You should never be stressed by too much, or panicked by too little work or income,” Heather assured us during a recent webinar. (You can review the webinar in its entirety HERE.)

The trick to a successful freelance career is to market consistently so you don’t have those ups and downs.

Once you find the tipping point for your business, customers will come to you and your workload will even out.

What is the Tipping Point?

Author Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase “the tipping point” in his book of the same name. Gladwell studied trends to find out what made some things wildly successful while others just fizzled.

Inspired by the book, Heather started looking at the same things and adapting them to her freelance writing business.

What’s the tipping point for a writer? Heather explained:

“You want to build up enough momentum so that suddenly everything seems to be going your way. With web writing, you know it’s happened when people start to contact you with projects.”

Three Factors in Creating Successful Trends…and How They Apply to Your Successful Freelance Career

To find your tipping point, you want to become a trend with staying power inside of your own niche industry.

Since Heather focuses on case studies and white papers for medical device companies, she wants those companies to know her name and associate her with those types of projects.

The three factors that make a trend successful are:

  1. Connectivity
  2. Stickiness
  3. Context

Fortunately, with a little research and preparation, you can control all three.

Create Connectivity

To create a trend, you first need to connect with the right people. Three types of people make the most difference:

  1. Connectors
  2. Mavens
  3. Salespeople


Certain people serve as connection hubs. They know lots of people, and they have regular contact with their many acquaintances.

Within your industry, identify the Connectors. Get to know them, stay in touch with them, and update them regularly on what you’re doing.

Connectors love to help others, and they’re happy to pass along information that will benefit their friends.


Mavens tend to be early adopters and they’re good at recognizing trends sooner than the rest of us.

Nick Usborne is a good example of a Maven. So is Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.

Once you identify a Maven in your industry, get on his radar and start building a relationship. Pay attention to what he writes, because he’s always at the forefront.


In your own business, you are the Salesman. You’re going to be selling your message and your service.

Identify other Salesmen who can help you get the word out.

Make the Connections

Social media is a big boon in making connections. Heather has had her best results with Twitter and LinkedIn.

Blogs are also a good connection point. Once you identify Connectors or Mavens, follow their blogs and interact with comments and email.

Whatever media or platforms you use, create a system and stick to it.

Keep in mind that the goal of your contacts with these people is to build relationships. Point out items you think will interest them, and say thank you when they publish something that’s meaningful for you.

Once you’ve built a relationship, it’s okay to ask for small favors occasionally.

Make it Stick

After you’ve created the right connections, find ways to make your message stick.

Stickiness is a factor of:

  • Resonance
  • Memorability
  • Entertainment
  • Experience
  • Delivery
  • Replication

The kids’ TV program Sesame Street demonstrates the stickiness factors over and over. Their scenes are clever and entertaining, and easy for the kids to memorize. That makes their messages stick.

Learn how to craft messages that will resonate with your audience, phrased in a memorable way. Add some sort of entertainment factor that ties into your audience’s experience and you’ve got a sticky message.

Your delivery method affects stickiness as well. You want your message to be easily shareable on social media.

Another trick to making something sticky is to convey value while disrupting your audience’s cognitive patterns. When you jolt them (gently) out of their comfortable ways of thinking, they become more receptive to what you’re saying.

You can also increase stickiness by watching for trending words and phrases, then incorporating them into your marketing message. (Think about how many times you’ve heard the phrase “fiscal cliff” over the past month.)


The third factor in a successful trend is context.

Learn when and where to reach your audience most effectively. This requires testing, not guesswork. If you’re active on Twitter, know when your audience is reading and retweeting, and schedule your messages for those times.

Do the same for your blog and other social media. Don’t assume that the best time on Twitter is also the best time on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Find Your Tipping Point

Everyone’s tipping point is different. Determine what it is for you by asking yourself what you need to reach your tipping point.

  • How many clients?
  • How many projects?
  • How much work?
  • How much income?
  • How do people find you?

When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be positioned to set up the process for reaching your tipping point.

Start now — don’t try to be perfect before you go after paying work.

Recognize that you’ll make mistakes — we all do — but you have the skills you need to get paid now. Plan to continue learning and improving as you work with clients.

You only need to know about 10-15% more than your client does to complete a project successfully.

Start Marketing

Before you begin marketing your services, do some research to identify your ideal client.

Then create a list of 20-50 businesses that fit your ideal client profile. If you need help creating your list, check out Rebecca Matter’s advice on how to research and find clients.

Then start marketing. There are lots of ways to do it, and not all marketing involves contacting the prospect directly. Your marketing can start with social media and blogging, for example.

Take action every day and every week, and plan on at least one big action each month.

Tweeting, commenting on prominent blogs in your industry, and updating LinkedIn are daily tasks.

Weekly action could be contacting five people on your list.

For your big monthly action, create something new — a podcast, a special report, a webinar, or a press release, for example.

Schedule time every day for marketing — even half an hour will move you ahead. Then stick to your schedule. If you lapse, as we all do from time to time, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take a deep breath and start again.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new things or new combinations of marketing. Try new mediums.

Then track your results. You want to find a formula that works for you.

Another web writer might do very well with cold calls, but if you’d rather have a root canal, that’s not a method you’re likely to succeed with.

Heather suggested you should look for two things in each marketing method you try — the response from prospects, and your own reaction. When you find a method that generates a positive audience response and that you enjoy, keep doing it.

When you’re experimenting with different marketing methods, be thoughtful and choose sensible time frames. Don’t jump into a dozen new things at once, try them one at a time. Make sure you give them enough time to work.

How do you know what’s working? Establish some criteria in advance.

After you find a method that works for you, add a new method to the mix while you continue with the one that works.

Follow Through

Web writers often miss opportunities because they don’t follow up and follow through. Heather described three types of following:

  1. Follow through on what you promise
  2. Follow up on what you deliver
  3. Follow along on with what is changing

When you follow up properly with Connectors, Mavens, and Ideal Clients, you’ll have more work with less effort.

You should always be at some point in this marketing cycle:

  • Preparation, which leads to
  • Research, which leads to
  • Action, which leads to
  • Review, which leads to
  • Follow through, which leads to
  • Preparation …

When you keep this cycle going, you avoid that scourge of web writing: feast-or-famine syndrome.

About Susanna Perkins

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One Response to “Roving Report: Reach Your Web Writing Tipping Point”

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  1. Alan Steacy says:

    Susanna…wow, you really packed a ton of great advice into this article. What a super blueprint to success as a freelancer. I will be referring back to this often! Thanks you.

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