#074: Ten Things to Avoid When Ramping Up Your Freelance Writing Business

There’s plenty of advice about what you should do when starting and growing a freelance writing business.

But not too many people are openly talking about things you should avoid at this critical early stage.

My guest this week is Diana Scheidman, a freelance writer and researcher specializing in the insurance and asset management industries.

Diana has developed a reputation for helping people who want to land well-paid freelance and consulting work quickly. And she recently wrote a book on the subject titled Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less.

In this episode, Diana shares 10 things new freelance business writers must avoid if they want to get their freelance business off the ground faster.

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 about yourself

Diana Schneidman worked as a freelance writer for over 20 years. During this period, she alternated between full time freelancing and regular employment while freelancing on the side. When each period of regular employment came to an end, she’d have to quickly ramp up her freelancing business.

What should we do when we need to ramp up our freelance business quickly?

Your primary task is to identify your best prospects and get in touch with them personally. This takes time, so you need to take other things off your plate so you can focus on this one task.

What should we NOT do?

1) Don’t blog.

We’ve all read that blogging is important. It’s a way to reach new people and build a community. Also, Google rewards new content. But there’s a downside. You have to find the time to come up with ideas and write. This is easy at first, but once you land paying work, it’s hard to keep up. So you stop blogging. Then, when new connections check out your online presence, they’ll see your inactive blog. It puts doubts in their mind.

clicktotweetIf you can’t commit to blogging for the long haul, it’s better not to start.

2) Don’t write a business plan

A lot of experts advise you to write a business plan before starting a new business. But how can you project accurately when you haven’t done any work yet? Unless you need a business plan to secure financing (which isn’t the case for most writers), don’t do it. It becomes another way to procrastinate.

3) Don’t conduct telephone market research

Some experts suggest that when starting a freelance business, you should approach companies you might want to work with and learn more about them. This takes a lot of time. If you’re going to go through the effort of contacting prospects, take the next logical next step of offering your services. Don’t save your pitch for later.

The perception is that you have to understand your customer to serve them. This is true, but when it comes to freelance writing, customer problems are almost always stress, lack of time and lack of resources.

4) Don’t research prospects at length

Researching prospects sounds like a good idea. But when you assess their problems, what you’re really doing is consulting. And you don’t want to do consulting work without linking it to a proposal.

Just because a prospect could clearly benefit from your expertise that doesn’t mean they’ll understand or appreciate your work. You’ll get better results going after prospects that already have good writing or marketing.

clicktotweetProspects that demonstrate high quality writing already understand the value of good content.

 

5) Don’t spend serious time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

If you already have social media accounts in place, use them to let your connections know you’re looking for freelance work. But people often spend time on social media to avoid the hard work of prospecting. For social media to pay off, you have to use it strategically, and that takes a lot of time, research and discipline.

6) Don’t obsess over your elevator pitch

It takes time to develop a good pitch. When you’re just starting out, you may not know how to describe what you’re offering. Don’t expect or try to get it right on day one.

7) Don’t attend networking meetings

Most networking efforts take months to pay off. You have to develop relationships over time and find the right groups. Once you have a few clients, and you can market at a more relaxed pace, then networking makes sense.

8) Don’t hire a telemarketer to make phone calls for you

When you make the call, you can answer questions. When you hire others to call for you, you’re wasting the prospects’ time. Demonstrate a high quality of service from the very beginning.

9) Don’t do public speaking

Public speaking can be a good way to get business, but it won’t happen quickly. Most clubs schedule speakers months in advance and few people in audience will need your services immediately. Also, it takes time to put together a high quality presentation.

10) Don’t publish information products

We sometimes hear that passive income information products are a great way to make money. But if you’re just starting out, it’s hard to figure out what kind of information product to create. Inevitably, it will take a lot of time, and it will detract from your prospecting and freelance work. It’s easier to make money through freelance writing assignments than through passive income.

Tell us about your book

Diana’s book is for people who’ve lost their job and need to kick off a freelance business quickly: Real Skills Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less.

Her book reduces the process of quickly launching a freelance business to three principles:

  1. Decide what service your going to offer. Preferably, choose something similar to what you were doing when employed.
  2. Contact the best prospects individually.
  3. Get real. The process will take 30 days, not 30 minutes.

 

 

 

  • Great podcast.

    I agree about the blog. When I started freelancing in 2008, I created a blog as a way to give potential clients writing samples. Now, I need to make sure I schedule time to write for my blog. I’m open to guest posts. But lately I’ve been receiving spammy type of guest blog requests. Perhaps I need to write a ‘guest blog guidelines’ page. 🙂

    • edgandia

      Hi Amandah — Thanks for your comment! Yes, I know what you mean. A commenting system like this one (Disqus) helps with the spam. So do plugins like Captcha and others.

      I do think there’s great value in having a blog. But I agree with Diana that it’s not something you should focus on when you’re starting out.

      Check out this post explaining the biggest reason to have a blog as a (established) freelancer:
      http://internationalfreelancersacademy.com/marketing-your-freelance-business-with-a-blog/

  • Steve Hutchings

    Hi Ed (and Diana),

    Great podcast – lots to digest here. This really made me think about a few things.

    Two questions. Point #1 – Is Diana referring to not blogging having a ‘copywriting’ related blog (as opposed to copywriting and (trying!) to have a money-making site on the site, like we’ve discussed in a previous podcast?

    Point #6 – The Elevator pitch – is she suggesting not to have a script when calling potential clients?

    • edgandia

      Hi Steve — Thanks for tuning in!

      Yes, she’s referring to a blog that shows your expertise as a copywriter — NOT about a blog for a side business or money-making website. That’s an entirely different thing.

      And on #6, she’s suggesting not to worry too much about having something for a networking function. However, I disagree somewhat with her on this. Because even though I know she’s referring to the age-old pitch you’d use in a networking event, you still need something you can communicate easily to people in your network who could hire or refer you to others.

      • Hi, Steve and Ed,

        I am addressing the challenge of getting paying assignments in 30 days when you don’t have a strong network, list or other assets to work with.

        I agree that if you are going to a networking event, you should be able to introduce yourself coherently and with poise. However, I see networkers who actually apologize that they don’t have their elevator speech ready. I see networkers who have written out their elevator speech and then have a memory lapse and flub it. Some potential networkers stay home because their elevator speech isn’t ready. Honest!

        So much has been written about the importance of elevator speeches that new (and even experienced) freelancers are intimidated. Sure, spend a little time in the car while on the way to the event thinking about how you are going to introduce yourself, but life goes on even if you don’t have the perfect speech.

        Start by keeping it simple. “I’m [insert name]. I am a freelance writer specializing in marketing copy and social media for the [insert name of industry] industry.”

        That will do the job until you have something “juicy.”

        -Diana

  • I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree with most of the tips here.I see nothing wrong with attending networking meetings and promoting yourself over the social networks, since it’s proven to be helpful. All of these tips could be in a way helpful for freelancers who already have an established client community and have a reputation, but for newbies, all of these advice can be really harmful.

    • edgandia

      I agree that all these ideas could be beneficial for freelancers at all levels. But I think Diana’s point is that when you’re just starting out AND you *must* ramp up as quickly as possible, you have to focus on strategies that have the biggest impact for the time, energy and cost required to carry them out.

      Also, she didn’t say to avoid social networks. She merely said not to spend serious time on them, hoping they’ll pay off.

  • I ended up feeling like I knew what not to do (from listening) but no really clear on what I should do! So I didn’t feel like oh now let me go do this…I’m actually thinking of listening to it again.
    http://www.vivwill.com