Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Sonya Carmichael Jones
If you're wondering about an alternative solution for revitalizing your writing business, consider branding. It's a popular concept that you're most likely familiar with, but probably think of as a marketing strategy used only for the true brick and mortars. If so, think again. At the most basic level, branding is what associates services and products with a particular image, service promise, and quality. It can also be what distinguishes your business from others. From the sole practitioner to large corporations branding is more than just a marketing strategy but also the way business is done. And as a writer who produces copy as a product, you can bet branding applies to you, too.
If you're interested in getting more writing opportunities, want to learn easy ways to enhance your business image, and would definitely like to make more money, then try the branding approach. Following are five simple starter tips that will give you a jump start.
Recognize your writing strengths
This simply means taking inventory of your best writing assets -- getting to know what you write well. Think about your individual writing talents. Do you have a keen sense for accuracy and a craving to uncover the minute details? Does research intrigue you? You could parlay these skills into grant writing. Use the Internet to locate writing projects with nonprofit organizations, new business start-ups, and special interest groups. Are you able to turn meticulous details into easy, even fun-to-read how-tos? Consider specializing in creating training materials or instruction booklets. Find these writing assignments by contacting training, communication, technical, human resource, and benefits departments in large corporations or labor unions.
If you're news-savvy and have a knack for interviewing, contact surrounding colleges, trade, business schools, and universities. More than likely they produce publications and could use your help with newsletters and catalogs. Inquire about opportunities to write alumni profiles, career, and educational pieces.
And if you're the next Roger Ebert-in-waiting, gear your market toward review writing. Query the arts or entertainment editor at your local newspaper to write movie, theater, video, and book reviews. Or go direct and contact theater and concert centers in your area. You can locate this information through your local Chamber of Commerce. By taking the time to assess your writing strengths (and don't forget about your writing passions) you'll be able to easily pinpoint markets that are a natural fit for you, and also increase your writing opportunities.
Identify your unique selling points
An easy way to do this is to think about two household products you've used in the past. Something made you decide to buy one over the other and continue to purchase it on a regular basis. Make a list of characteristics that are unique to your writing style by naming ten descriptive adjectives or phrases that best describe your writing skills. Are you a seasoned writer who can deliver clean, memorable, and clever copy? Are you a strategic thinker? Do you use an interactive voice? These unique features, commonly referred to as your "unique selling points", become essential selling features for marketing your writing services. They not only make you stand out from other writers, but describe the specific advantages of why a client should hire you. Refer to this list whenever you begin a writing project. You'll stay focused on your target market and have a much easier time speaking to your audience.
Create messages and materials that reflect the best you
Once you've determined where you'll get your writing projects, your next step is to create marketing pieces. Inspire your imagination by paying attention to catchy phrases and images that in TV commercials, billboards, magazines, and newspaper ads. Assemble materials to create a package that will showcase your best work. Whether you choose to design or purchase letterhead and business cards, make sure that all of your materials have the same look and feel. Your written messages should be clear and describe exactly what you do. Create an attention-grabbing tag line (a unique selling point that accompanies your signature) and include it wherever you sign your name. This includes your website, fax cover sheets, even your voice mail greeting.
Regardless of how much you already know about your writing topic, it is important that you get out and meet your audience. Attend functions that cater to your writing interest or market. Check for events in business journals or the business section of your newspaper. Next, prepare an elevator speech. Practice it and be ready to give an impressive introduction. Make your introduction memorable by stating something unique about your writing service, such as an added benefit, and then give your name. For example, instead of giving the typical, "My name is Frank Bishop, I am a copywriter", begin by stating your unique selling points up front. Saying, "HiTop Communications features hip design and sassy copy for the urban retail industry. I'm Frank" is more of an attention-getter than the customary introduction.
Don't leave home without plenty of business cards and brochures for the event's display tables. This is where vendors leave their product information and also a place where they can find yours. Another option is to create leave-behinds for face-to-face meetings with clients. These are booklets or file folders that you leave with your client after your meeting. It makes it easy for your clients to locate you when they have a writing project to assign. Check for bargains and ideas in the back-to-school sections at department stores, or stock up on deals from office and art supply stores. Include items like business cards, resume, reference letters, testimonials, and your best writing samples. Make sure they have a professional appearance and you'll create an impressive reminder.
Remember that small things matter, too. Be courteous and return messages. Avoid alienating customers (and potential customers) by making every effort to return calls and emails the same day. Acknowledging a call with a brief message is far better than ignoring one completely. When you can't provide a detailed answer give your clients a quick call to let them know that you'll be back in touch with more detailed information at a later date. Another option is to leave a voice mail greeting or automatic email responder that will let clients know when they can expect to hear from you.
Become the knowledge expert
When you approach your prospects, make sure you're aware of current trends and industry news. Know background data and identify other experts who can provide additional information. Boost your editor's confidence by making appropriate references to let them know you have other knowledgeable experts on your side. Include these references in your query letter and explain how you plan to fill in the gaps. When you prove that you are capable of satisfying your client's needs, he or she will automatically see the value in assigning you to a project. This makes you a valuable resource for future projects, too.
Go beyond your promise
Make it a habit to give more than what is expected. Turn in your assignments a day before the deadline. Automatically include a sidebar, puzzle, or fun fact along with the regular assigned content. Write a thank-you letter to your editor, client, and also to any experts. Another good practice is to be open to feedback. Ask your editor or clients how you can serve them better. If you invoice for your services, include useful promotional items that remind them of your special rate, quality, or other outstanding services that you provide. These extra considerations show how much you appreciate your client's business and will make it easier for your client to remember you when they have another project to assign.
Finally, as you make enhancements to your writing business remember the real key to branding success is to have your clients feel a connection with you through the products and services you deliver. It takes practice to get into the habit of doing something different. Set a timeline for when you expect to see improved results. Figure a way to determine if you're getting the best returns for your effort. If you don't get the results you want, then don't be afraid to try a different approach.
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Sonya Carmichael Jones is an independent business writer and consultant based in Seattle, WA. Her specialty is creating newsletters and other marketing collateral for women's organizations and other special interest groups. She is a frequent contributor to The King County Journal and has written for HomeBusiness Magazine. Her current writing endeavor is a how-to for women in the workplace. She enjoys mentoring new writers. Visit her web site at http://marketingbuddha.com/