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