#032: Earning a Six-Figure Income by Writing for Small Businesses

I’m not a fan of going after small local businesses for writing work. Most of them don’t understand the value of great copy and content. Or if they do, they can’t afford professional-level fees.

But I recently came across a writer who proved me wrong. Her name is Shawndra Russell, and she’s earning a six-figure income writing for small clients in her hometown of Savannah, GA.

Oh, and get this — she just started freelancing a couple of years ago!

In this episode she explains how she does it and how she keeps the work coming in.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us what you do for a living and what types of clients you serve.

Shawndra has several different income streams. She provides marketing content, such as social media, newsletters and blogs, for small and medium size local businesses. She also does freelance writing for local publications and magazines as well as some fiction writing.

Tell me more about how you got to where you are today.

Shawndra started her business about 2-3 years ago. She was writing for a local newspaper and came across a new business with no online presence. She offered her services at a low rate, and it escalated from there.

She leveraged her first client to get in front of other prospects. She was fortunate in that her first client was well connected.

Shawndra also did proactive email prospecting to land new clients.

How did you decide which businesses to target?

Shawndra would look for local businesses with blogs but no recent posts. She used this as an indicator that these businesses understood the value of content marketing but simply didn’t have the time or resources to do it.

She would also check social media accounts. Has the company uploaded a profile picture to Twitter or are they still displaying the default egg? Are they posting to Facebook ten times a day or nothing in the past three months? Are there things they could be doing better?

Sometimes she’d get their getlisted.org score, share it with them and discuss how they could improve it.

Shawndra would also focus her prospecting on businesses she particularly wanted to work with, such as companies in tourism and entertainment.

Is there a certain kind of project you usually start with?

Shawndra starts by giving clients the big picture with a proposal that shows everything she could do for them. The client can then pick and choose from her services. The proposal usually encompasses social media, content marketing and some PR.

Many small businesses want a one-stop shop. When they have the budget to do more, they can simply give her a call.

What types of assignments do you like best?

Shawndra really likes working with new businesses. They’re usually overwhelmed with all the things they need to do, and they have great growth potential. With new businesses, she doesn’t have to spend as much time fixing things. She likes helping to shape their online voice, who they are and what they stand for.

How do you position yourself so that your services are seen as an investment and not a cost?

Sometimes Shawndra will back up her proposals with outside studies that demonstrate the monetary value of her work.

But generally, she focuses on businesses that already see the value but don’t have the time to implement.

What advice would you give someone considering the small and midsize business market?

Start by thinking of yourself as a business. Networking is crucial.

Start with one business that you admire—maybe your favorite restaurant or store. Identify areas where they could improve.

Working with non-profits can also be helpful. They may not pay as well, but they often have great connections with business owners. And it’s a great way to build your credibility.

How do you stay up to date with changes in social media and content development news?

Shawndra loves Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert. She’s read both of his books. She also likes Jason Falls and Erik Deckers’ No B.S. Social Media.

Social Media Examiner is a great place to get case studies.

Shawndra also keeps an eye on the big guys. What’s Nike doing? What are the big companies doing? Changes with the big guys tend to trickle down to small businesses.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Shawndra’s website is shawndrarussell.com. Her Twitter handle is @ShawndraRussell.

Shawndra’s ebook is How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days.


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Thanks again for your support!

Till next time,

-Ed

  • Clara Mathews

    That sounds like the business model I am planning to do in 2014. I would love to know how she priced these projects.

    • edgandia

      Cool! Yes, I think she priced these well. She didn’t give away the farm. But I’ll ask her to stop by here and see if she can give you a better idea.

      • Claire Moore

        That would be great. I’m finding that I lose small and local businesses when it comes to the price. Ideas on negotiating would be helpful too.
        Thanks for the great info.

  • Good episode. I like Shawndra’s approach to prospecting familiar businesses. Also went and bought the Youtility book after listening.

    • edgandia

      Thanks for the feedback on the show, Bob!

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