Marketing yourself. It’s one of the ongoing challenges for writers. And part of the challenge is figuring out which marketing strategies are best for your writing business.
Once you figure out what works for you and find your rhythm, it’s a game changer. But, if you haven’t hit that point, it can feel like a constant struggle.
One of the reasons marketing can be difficult is that you have so many options. That means you need to make choices, which can lead to feelings of uncertainty.
And then, once you decide how you’re going to market yourself, you have to figure out how to execute on your chosen strategies. Again… uncertainty.
Uncertainty often leads to procrastination. It’s hard to move forward when you’re feeling unsure.
You know that feeling…
You kick off a new month thinking this will be the month. You’ll start sending emails or launch your blog or get really active on LinkedIn. By the end of the month… you haven’t done nearly as much as you intended.
Uncertainty is the likely culprit for falling short. You weren’t sure what to say in your emails or how to set up your blog or who to connect with on LinkedIn. So, instead of making big leaps forward, you maybe took a couple of baby steps.
If this sounds all too familiar, this article is for you. As you read on, you’ll discover four different marketing strategies for your writing business, what you’ll need for each, how much time you should plan to commit to maintaining your chosen strategy, and how long you should keep at it before you decide if it’s working or not.
Strategy #1 – Blog Your Way to Clients.
The benefits: According to Spiralytics, 57% of marketers say they’ve landed business directly as a result of their blog.
Adding a blog to your professional-writing website gives you an opportunity to showcase your expertise, knowledge, and authority. If you specialize in certain services, you can write about different aspects of those services, you can talk about emerging trends in your area, and you can share success stories.
By publishing a blog on your site, you’ll help your audience come to know, like, and trust you, so they’ll be more likely to hire you when they have a need.
In addition to all that, publishing a blog will also help your potential clients find you online through search engine results and from social sharing.
What you need: Ideally, you want to add a blog to your existing professional-writing website, which any web developer can help you do. WordPress was originally built for blogging… so, if you have a WordPress site, adding blogging functionality is very straightforward. If you’re using a DIY website builder like Wix or Squarespace, they’ll also have a way to add a blog to your site.
In addition to having a place to publish, you need to write blog posts to publish… obviously.
The commitment: Seeing a good result from blogging doesn’t require you to publish every day or even every week. Plan to publish twice a month. Make sure your posts are well-written and helpful and that they’re relevant to the people who might hire you. Spend some time learning the basics of SEO, and optimize your posts for search. Keeping up with this commitment will take most writers somewhere between three and six hours for each post — so, six to 12 hours in a month, if you’re planning to publish two posts.
The payoff: Blogging is a slow-burn strategy. When you first launch your blog, you won’t have many readers, just because people won’t know what you’re up to yet. But, if you publish on a consistent schedule, do a good job with your writing, and share your posts to two or three social media channels, you’ll be able to watch your traffic grow steadily. And then, your inquiries should start growing, too. Plan to stick with this strategy for at least six months (and I would really recommend a year) before you decide if it’s working or not.
Combines well with: Blogging combines well with email marketing and with social media marketing.
Strategy #2 – Build Your List Sooner Rather Than Later.
The benefits: When it comes to return on investment, email is one of the best marketing strategies for your writing business. On average, businesses that invest in email marketing earn $38 for every dollar spent. (That’s according to the Direct Marketing Association.) When someone subscribes to your email list, it gives you a chance to communicate with them consistently. Instead of waiting for them to visit your site, you’ve been invited to contact them.
Email newsletters are a powerful marketing tool. According to Litmus, nearly four out of five marketers describe email as essential to their company success. And Content Marketing Institute reports that nearly one third of B2B companies describe email as the best way to nurture leads.
As a writer, your email newsletter gives you the opportunity to stay top of mind with your prospects. As long as you share useful, well-written, relevant information with them each week (or even just twice a month), you’ll be building trust and credibility. That means, when one of your subscribers has a need for a writer, there’s a good chance they’ll reach out to you.
What you need: To make this strategy work, you’ll need an email service provider, where you can manage and grow your list. AWeber and Mailchimp both have free options that can work well when you’re just getting started.
Once you’ve set up an account with an email service provider, the next step is to think about how you’ll grow your list. Again, both of the services above can provide you with support for setting up sign-up forms on your website, on landing pages, or even in your email signature.
Finally, you’ll need a plan for creating and sending content to your list. You might send out an informative message once a week, for example… and then, twice a month, remind your readers about any upcoming availability you have on your calendar.
The commitment: Much like blogging, running an email newsletter requires you to produce your content on a regular schedule. Depending on what you decide to include in your email newsletter, this could be something that takes an hour every week or several hours. You’ll also want to spend some time each month — an hour or two — reviewing your numbers to see what your readers respond to best.
The payoff: Building an email-subscriber base takes time. The fun part is watching it grow month over month. If all goes well, you’ll also be able to track the number of meaningful connections you’re developing. Plan to stick with your email-newsletter strategy for at least six months — and a year would be better. At the end of that time, look at how your subscribership has grown, and if you’re getting a consistent and growing number of leads from the people on your list.
Combines well with: Sending a regular newsletter goes well with having a blog. You can draw from your blog content and highlight it in your email issues.
Strategy #3 – Cast a Wide Net With Social Media.
The benefits: Social media can be a fun marketing strategy, because it gives you the chance to cast a very wide net. When you share your thoughts regularly on LinkedIn, Twitter, or another social-media platform, people who don’t know you can connect with you. They can comment. They can share. They can follow you or send you a message.
Regular posting to social media allows you to increase your reach, to get feedback from your audience, to showcase your authority, to join communities and more. It lets you get to know people. And, when you pursue those relationships in a genuine way, good things happen in the form of inquiries, referrals, and a bigger audience.
What you need: To do well on social media, you just need to set up a profile on your platform of choice. Put some thought and time into this. Do a little research to find out what works best on the platform you plan to use. Outside of your profile, having a plan for what you’ll share and how often is helpful. Knowing what kinds of things you’ll share and when gives you a better shot at being consistent.
The commitment: Social media works best when you commit to it as a daily habit. That doesn’t mean it needs to eat up a big portion of your day. But, you’ll see the biggest return on your investment of time if you show up and engage with your followers and with your community every day.
Plan to spend between 15 and 30 minutes each day sharing your thoughts, things you’ve published, or resources you’ve found to be useful; making connections with other writers and marketers and with influencers in your industry; making useful comments on posts that are relevant to your industry; and sending messages and nurturing your existing connections.
The payoff: Social media is the process of building relationships one thin thread at a time. And, that means it can take time to see any of those relationships turn into clients. But, even if you never receive an inquiry because of social media, chances are prospects you encounter will check you out on social media. Having an active presence within your community can lend you a lot of credibility.
Combines well with: Social media combines well with having a blog.
Strategy #4 – Get Proactive With Your Marketing Through Mail and Email.
The benefits: Whether you send post cards through the mail, handwritten notes, or a full letter, or you choose to use email instead of post, contacting a prospect directly can be very effective.
Outreach strategies like this are a numbers game. If you send 100 inquiries, you can usually expect to get one to five responses. They may not all lead to projects immediately, but suddenly you have a handful of people who you know may be interested in working with you. Then you can make it a point to reach out to them periodically to nurture that relationship.
The other big benefit of sending mailings is that, once you have a good message and offer and a good system for identifying potential clients, mailings are something you can “turn on” when you need new clients. You can more or less count on your system working as well this time as it did any of the previous times you deployed it. If it takes a hundred messages to land a new client, and you need a new client, you just send a hundred messages.
What you need: For mailings to work, you first need to build up a list of potential contacts. Focus on industries you’re interested in working with. Also, focus on companies that use whatever services you offer. If you write blog posts, make sure anyone you add to your contact list has a blog.
After that, you need a basic template for your introductory message. For the best result, make this something you can customize… and then take the time to customize it. Mailings work much better when they feel tailored to the recipient. If your contact feels like they’re just one of a hundred or more people receiving the same message, they’re likely to throw it in the trash without reading it.
To make mailings even more effective, develop a series of messages you can send to your contacts over the course of a month. One point of contact is easily forgotten. If you connect with a prospect five times over four weeks, you’ll be more memorable.
The commitment: Doing good research and customizing your mailings takes time. Building a list of 100 well-researched contacts will take somewhere between eight and 25 hours… maybe even more. Then you need to write your message templates, which will take one to three hours each. Customizing a mailing will take between five and 15 minutes… so, if you’re sending five mailings a day, plan for 30 minutes to an hour. So, plan 10 to 40 hours of up-front preparatory work. And then, 30 minutes to two hours a day for mailings.
The payoff: A good mailing system can yield fast results. It can also yield reliable results. And, it can set you up for an easier time marketing in the future. The more replies you get — prospects telling you they’re interested, but don’t have a need right now — the better quality your list becomes. You could land your first client within the next 30 days, if you send a series of messages to a well-screened list of 100 clients.
Combines well with: This is a good strategy to combine with your newsletter, but always ask permission before adding someone to your email list.
Marketing yourself doesn’t have to be a daunting task. If you know what you need and what to expect, you can set aside time each day or week to keep moving forward. Eventually, if you’re consistent with any one of these marketing strategies for your writing business, your efforts will pay off!