For most of us, learning the fundamentals of good copy is enjoyable. Sitting down to write is pure bliss. But, telling others we’re excellent at what we do and that they should pay us for our skills is about as fun as scrubbing tile grout.
Yet, it’s necessary if you want to be a working web writer and live The Writer’s Life.
So, what do you do? Where’s the happy medium that brings you success without personal agony?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There are literally dozens of routes to self-promotion, beyond the ones everybody usually talks about.
And, here’s another secret: To get my own start as a freelance web writer, I didn’t use a single traditional self-promotional tool. Yet, I still got started. Now, I’m in my third full year of web-writing and I’m on track to land six-figures. I’m going to share how I did it — hopefully, one of these options will work for you.
First, Don’t Worry About The Well-Known Paths
Above all, know that there’s no wrong way to promote yourself, as long as you get your name out in front of the right prospect. Some of the better-known self-promotion tactics are:
- Sending out your own direct-mail self-promoting letter
- Driving traffic to your website
- Networking at social functions
- Asking for referrals
- Visiting an office and introducing yourself directly
Maybe though, you don’t feel comfortable with any of these. I certainly wasn’t when I first started. I once tried cold-calling and got my own name wrong (seriously). Face-to-face functions were a challenge because I had trouble articulating what it was I actually did. Building a website and attracting traffic was too daunting to consider.
Here’s the cool thing, though. Nowadays, I’m comfortable doing all those things. You’ll get there, too.
But, if you’re still in the early stages of your career and you’d rather not have anything to do with any of those methods, THAT’S OKAY. There are plenty of other things you can do for the time being.
You may be more comfortable with the indirect, subtle approach. I was. Here are four things I did to get started:
#1: Visit Job Boards Designed For Web Writers
The best thing about these job boards is that people who post there already know what you do and that they want your services. In most cases, they offer appropriate pay. This saves you from having to explain the true value of a web writer. It usually saves you from having to justify high fees.
Plus, even if you land a one-time project through a job board, you still end up with a legitimate sample you can build your portfolio on.
A word of caution: there are loads of freelancer job sites out there designed for writers, but not necessarily for web writers who know the fundamentals of writing web copy. These sites have a lot of job listings, but there’s also a ton of competition and typically very low pay.
I recommend sticking with the two job boards listed above. The quality of job posts is higher, the pay is better, and you’re not competing against thousands of other writers willing to work for the lowest bid.
DirectResponseJobs.com is how I landed two of my first jobs, both of which turned into ongoing, two-year relationships. More recently, I connected with a job from that site that coupled me with one of the most well-known, old school direct-response copywriters of our time.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of this method. Just make sure you’re consistent. Check the listings every day, and apply quickly when you see something you like. I’ll explain how to apply in the next tip.
#2: Create An Electronic Portfolio
When you come across a job you’d like to apply for, or even when you get a lead on a contact, you need to have something impressive to send them.
Somebody once told me that most of the email applications sent out in response to a job post for web writers are just that — an email. Though an email can definitely demonstrate your web-writing skills, it won’t make you stand out against any other web writer applying for the job.
My solution was to create an e-portfolio. It was a lot cheaper and easier than sending a self-promoting letter through the mail. I opted for a simple, 7-page PDF booklet and sent it as an email-attachment. (Note: I used Microsoft Publisher, but Word works just as well.)
Here’s how to put one together:
On the first page, write a blurb about yourself and your web-writing experience. Include your picture and set it up so it can be personalized to your recipient. This means leaving a space at the top to list the name of the company you’re applying to and making it so you can tailor the greeting.
Next, add one or two paragraphs where you can easily change the wording to relate to the type of business you’re applying to.
On the remaining pages, show samples of your work. If you don’t yet have real samples, write something on spec as an example of what you can do for the client.
Then, turn it into a PDF document. This is an important step because you never know what version of a program someone is running, or whether they even have the program you built your portfolio on. You don’t want to risk your portfolio being reformatted when opened — this could make it look sloppy or hard to read. If you don’t have a PDF converter, there are plenty of free ones available for download. “Cute PDF Writer” is one I’ve had a lot of success with.
When you send your application to the job post contact, simply write a short email that tells the person you’ve attached your portfolio. Be quick and concise since the point is to get them to look at the portfolio.
#3: Show Up At Web Writing And Copywriting Events
My very first project came from a spec assignment through AWAI’s Bootcamp Job Fair. Some of my highest-paying clients and longest-standing projects were the result of attending live events.
But … I’ve already confessed I wasn’t initially comfortable with the face-to-face, hard-sell of my services. So, how did it happen?
Basically, I took advantage of the same concept mentioned above regarding job boards. By going to events where marketers know what good copy is and how much it’s worth, you get to avoid entirely the awkward pitch of your skills.
At these events, you don’t have to sell the concept of good web writing. You do have to sell yourself, but that’s a lot easier when you’re already pre-qualified due to your presence.
Marketers will want to know about your interests and your experience. If you don’t have much web-writing experience, talk about your life experience. Sometimes that’s enough. In fact, I recently connected with a new project promoting mommy products, just on account of the fact that I’m pregnant!
Regardless of your mark so far in the web-writing world, you bring an entirely fresh story with unique experiences to the table. That could be the turning point for a job. Give yourself permission to be yourself instead of feeling pressured to pose as an old-hand web writer before you’re ready.
#4: Hold Fast To The Unshakeable Belief You’ll Succeed
Look, I’m not trying to be hokey here. But, this is something even the most successful six-figure web writers and copywriters will vouch for.
Whether you call it the Law of Attraction, goal-setting, visualization, or Spiritual Marketing, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, it works.
To be honest, ours is an unlikely career. It doesn’t jive with our world’s concept of working hard for your money and putting your nose to the grindstone. When you’re up and running, you have surprising control over your schedule. You have the ability to earn a sizeable income. You’ll enjoy what you do, to the point where others won’t believe you have a real job and won’t believe you earn real money (trust me, I’m there right now).
But to those of us on the inside, it’s true, it’s real, and it’s pretty dang awesome. You just have to hold on long enough. Move past your fears, past your doubts, and (most importantly), past the fears and doubts of those around you.
Create an image of the life you’d like to live. I do this every morning as I wait for my computer to turn on. I look at the mountains outside my office window and picture the things I want for my family and for myself. I think about what I need to get those things, which helps me zero in on the projects I want to attract.
Other web writers I know journal about their wishes, still others pray. Some share their hopes with a support group, some focus daily on a vision board (a bulletin board with pictures of what you most want in life). Doesn’t matter how you do it. What does matter is that you do it consistently and that you continue to do it through any rough patches that come up.
Move Forward Comfortably
One of the greatest quotes I’ve ever read is this, from William Feather: “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
In this business, that couldn’t be truer. Latch onto the method of moving forward that you’re most comfortable with, and then go. And remember, there’s a whole slew of us going through the same things you’re facing. Reach out to us through the forums at the Wealthy Web Writer, or connect with me on the Reality Blog.
Finally, good luck!