Back by popular demand, I am kicking off the 4th Annual Winter Marketing Challenge with this massive post. Since last year’s challenge, I’ve heard from many writers who enjoyed the exercise and used the marketing tasks as part of their regular marketing plan to find new clients throughout the year. Since this is the fourth year of the challenge, there are now more tasks on the list than ever, which means even more ways to build your business.
And because it’s fun, I’m also giving away a prize! Every person who completes a marketing task from the list will get a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. You get one entry for each task you complete. So, the more marketing tasks you do, the more chances you have to win. And even more importantly, you will likely land new clients and increase your income at the same time. The deadline is Friday, Feb 8, 2019 at 9 p.m. ET.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You must be a member of the Freelance Content Marketing Writer group on Facebook to enter the contest. In past years, we have kept track of tasks in the comment section of the blog, but the Facebook group offers an opportunity for writers to really support and encourage one another. This year, the 4th Annual Winter Marketing Challenge will be launched in a special post in the Facebook group, and participants can log their tasks in the comments there.
There are more marketing tasks on the list this year than ever before. Here are the categories, for easy access:
Connecting with Clients/Following Up
1. Touch base with a past client. In my experience, this is one of the most effective ways to get work quickly since these editors know your work and already trust you. You get a point for every client you touch base with.
2. Ask current clients for more work. This is honestly the most effective strategy for getting new work quickly. Check out this post for ways to get more work from current clients. You get 1 entry for each time you do this because it is such an effective strategy.
3. Follow up with every LOI or pitch you sent out in 2018. You get a point for every 5 follow-ups. I cannot stress the importance of following up enough. I honestly think this is the biggest mistake writers make. If you are not following up, you are losing out on work. It is especially helpful to follow up with contacts who tell you that they will keep your information on file or that they don’t currently have work. I have gotten many new clients a year or more after my initial email, simply by staying in touch.
4. Find former clients that have taken new jobs. Make a list of people you have worked with that have moved to new jobs. This people will be more likely to hire you because they already know your work. Use LinkedIn to find where they are now working and send an LOI to see if their new company works with freelancers. Even if they are working in a position that doesn’t directly assign content, they may be able to put you in contact to the right person. You get 1 point for each LOI to former clients with new job.
5. Put a date on your calendar to follow up in 2-3 months with all LOIs you send this month. This way you can’t forget to follow up.
Think about Your Niches
6. Pitch a double-niche story to a client. This is the best way to gain a new niche. For about two years, I tried to makes sure as many of my stories as possible were double niche.
7. Apply to five job ads. Yes, I think that applying for jobs listed in ads is the least effective way to find work. But it is still possible to get gigs. Be sure to only apply to gigs that sound high paying and for those that you are highly qualified.
8. Look at your resume and identify a new niche. It doesn’t even have to be a professional job. One writer I know got a great gig from her experience guiding white water rafts in college.
9. Think about your hobbies and identify a new potential niche. Odds are that you are an expert about something other than what you’ve learned in a professional capacity.
10. Look through your clips and identify a new niche. I am positive that you have niches hiding in your clips that you don’t even realize would be great niches.
11. Take one of your broad niches and determine sub-specialties. You are much more likely to get high paying gigs when you market yourself as a neurology writer instead of a health writer. The more you define your niches, the fewer freelancers you will be competing with, the easier it is for you to identify new clients and the high your changes of landing the gig.
Update Your Letter of Introduction
12. Turn your longer LOI into a 5 (ish) sentence LOI. I heard from several writers that once they followed my advice in this post about writing a short LOI that they saw a higher response rate.
13. Create a Letter of Introduction Template for each niche. If you only have one LOI template, but multiple niches then you need an LOI for each niche. Customize the brands and your experience for each niche.
14. Have a fellow writer review your LOI and give you feedback.You also get another entry if you review their LOI as well. An LOI is pretty much the most important thing you write and an extra set of eyes can be invaluable.
Find Potential Content Marketing Agency Clients
15. Make a list of content marketing agencies specializing in your niche. I have been shocked to find that there is a content marketing agency for almost every niche – education tech, insurance, law, construction. Use Google to search for “[your niche] content marketing agency” and target the top results. Also use the terms advertising agency, marketing agency and PR agency while searching.
16. Make a list of local content marketing agencies. Use Google and search for local agencies. I have found that agencies are more likely to hire local freelancers and that many smaller agencies have a few big clients.
17. Look at the Content Council member list for agencies. Many of the large agencies are on this list and I have earned close to $70K over the years from Content Council members. Since most of these are large agencies, be sure to pick one or two niches so the person you contact knows which editor to forward your email to.
18. Send out Letters of Introduction to Content Marketing Agencies. Use this post to help you find the right person to contact. Be sure to use a subject line that highlights the expertise the agency is likely to be most interested in. You get 1 point for every 5 LOIs you send to agencies.
19. Sign up or Update Your Profile on either Contently, Skyword or Newscred.(Bonus for doing all three). I have worked for all three, but don’t recommend writers count on this as a source of work since it can be hard to break in and work can be sporadic. But if you don’t have a profile, you definitely won’t get work. I personally have had much better experiences with Skyword and Newscred, but know writers who have found good projects on Contently. Note that your experience with each of these companies is very dependent on the specific client that you are working with.
Find Potential Direct Clients
20. Follow Jennifer’s 3 Step Method for Brainstorming Direct Clients. I highly recommend this exercise and promise that you will get client ideas you never would have thought of. Check out this post for details. Most of us think in terms in products when we think about potential clients but I have found better results by starting with the audience you already know. You get 1 point for each product of services that you brainstorm into a list of brands.
21. Use LinkedIn search to make a list of companies in your niche. I have had good luck using LinkedIn when looking for local companies as well.
22. Look for clients in magazine ads. Look at the advertisements of magazines in your industry to see which companies are advertising to travelers, computer programmers or retirees. Every single one of these are most likely potential clients for you.
23. Send out LOIs to the potential direct clients on your list. You get 1 point for every 5 LOIs you send.Be sure to find a specific email address and not use the general email. I find a combination of using LinkedIn to find the name of the best person to contact and then the free email finding tool Hunter is pretty successful.
24. Send out LOIs to 5 association or trade publications in your niche. Did you know that there is association for pretty much anything? I am positive that there are many associations in all of your niches. Most of these groups put out a monthly publication for their members and many use freelance writers who have experience in their field.
25. Google “Top NAME-OF-MY-NICHE companies” and find 5 new companies that you haven’t targeted. (You can earn another entry if you send out LOIs to each of them). Thanks Holly Browne for this tip in the 2016 challenge.
Evaluate and Update Your Social Media
26. Update your LinkedIn summary section. This is a great place to stand out from other writers. Be professional, but also let a little of your personality shine. Many clients have found me through my LinkedIn profile over the years. Check out this fantastic post on Carol Tice’s excellent blog on freelance LinkedIn profiles.
27. Update your niches on your LinkedIn profile. Make sure that you are including all of your niches on your LinkedIn profile. I include mine in both the summary and experience section.
28. Update your brands on your LinkedIn profille. When you list the brands you’ve worked for you your LinkedIn profile you communicate a lot of information to potential clients with a few words.
29. Review your former jobs listed on your LinkedIn profile. Many times your former jobs can add to the level of experience that you have in a specific niche. By listing these on LinkedIn, this increases your credibility.
30. Write a LinkedIn recommendation for a former editor that you would like to reconnect with.Everyone loves to get recommendations, especially unsolicited. This is a great way to reconnect without asking for work. You get one entry for each one.
31. Ask for a LinkedIn recommendation from a client. LinkedIn has a feature where you can request a recommendation. I have done this a number of times and highly recommend it. No one has ever refused and I have gotten some great recommendations this way.
32. Spend time evaluating your current social media strategy and take steps to improve your presence in 2018. Clients want writers who have a solid social media following in the industry and are willing to actively promote their work.
33. Follow up with potential client that viewed your LinkedIn profile. Almost every time I do this trick, I get a response. And have gotten several clients this way.
34. Update your twitter bio. Make sure it accurately reflects your current business and include a link to your website. Give yourself a point as well if your Twitter profile is already good to go.
35. Follow potential clients on Twitter. Many writers I know have connected with new clients on Twitter.
36. Make a plan to increase tweeting this year. If you are already very active on Twitter, give yourself a point as well.
37. Start scheduling Twitter posts in advance. This is a huge time saver for me because I don’t get bogged down on Twitter throughout the week. Or get too busy with work and forget to tweet. I use Hootsuite, but I know that there are several other great tools out there. Give yourself a point as well if you are already scheduling tweets.
Update Your Website
38. Create a writer website. If you do not have a website, then this should be your priority. Read this post for the reason. I highly recommend hiring a designer instead of doing it yourself. I used Sumy Designs and have heard rave reviews from other writers as well.
39. Add new clips to your website. I am often so busy creating content, that my website is months out of date with new clips. And if you don’t have a website, get moving on creating a website.
40. Update the About Me Section of Your Website with new clients, experience and services. I am embarrassed to admit that I recently realized that mine was at least year out of date. Be sure to use this section to showcase your personality and writing style.
41. Add your brands to your website. I personally think that showcasing your brands is the best way to sell yourself on your website. With the graphics, you tell the potential client so much about you – your experience, your niche and that top brands trust you. I know some writers are not comfortable doing this, but in five years I have not gotten a single complaint. And many of the brands who are showcased on my website have seen my website. I even had a very large telecom client ask when I was going to update my site to include their brand.
42. Update your email signature. Your email signature is free advertising. Make sure that you are making the most use of this real estate. Some savvy writers even include a link in their email signature to their newest story in a high profile pub.
43. Test out your website SEO. Go to a computer where you haven’t already accessed your website and use search terms to try to find your website. Note what other websites are above you and where you rank for different keywords.
44. Update your website title to improve SEO. The title has highest weight so include the terms potential clients are likely to search for.
45. Ask clients to include a backlink to your website from your writer’s bio. This is a great way to increase your SEO. If any of your client’s have a bio posted for you on their website, ask them to include a link to your site in the bio.
Network with Potential Clients
46. Contact a local business, either agencies or businesses, to see if they use freelance writers.Even though it is totally easy to work with writers located anywhere, I have found that many clients really like working with local writers. Don’t neglect marketing in your own backyard. You get 1 point for each contact.
47. Follow up with a contact you have met in real-life in the past year.Go through your business cards, notes and LinkedIn connections and reach out to everyone you met at a conference, Meetup or networking event. You get 1 point for each contact.
48. Research local networking events in your niche, freelance writing or content marketing. Make plans to attend one. With a quick search, I found several Meetups and networking events where potential clients will be this winter and spring. I vow to get out of my warm house and meet them.
49. Register for an upcoming conference. It can be a writing conference, an industry conference or a content marketing client. I met the client that I am most excited about for 2018 at a conference and we “networked” by dancing and drinking Pink Ladies till 1 am at Content Marketing World – Hi Josie! If you are going to ASJA’s conference, apply for membership in early 2018 so that you can participate in Client Connections on Members Day, where you meet with top editors.
50. Join American Society of Business Press Editors (free). Post your contact information on their Freelancers list. (Thanks Heather Larson for this one from 2016.)
51. Go to the LinkedIn alumni search and find 3 people from college to connect with. Another writer shared this tip, and I thought it was brilliant since your college neighbor or former classmate could now very well be a marketing manager at a top company.
52. Connect with former co-workers (email, phone or LinkedIn). I realized last week that I have connections in the tech industry that are now spread over many different companies that could turn into potential clients. I think that many people overlook their past contacts.
53. Make a list of personal connections that work for companies likely to hire you. Think about neighbors, friends, people who attend your church, friends of friends, parents on your kid’s soccer team. One of my son’s friend’s parents owned an agency and hired me several years ago to write technology case studies. It was a turning point in my career because I got the tech clips that I needed to find new clients.
Network with Fellow Writers
54. Connect or reconnect with a fellow freelance writer. Freelance writers know which editors need writers and even have their email addresses. Many writers view other writers as competition instead of colleagues.
55. Help another writer.Find a writer who is starting out that could use some advice. Spend 15 minutes on the phone brainstorming market ideas, review their LOI or share an editor contact. I am positive that many other writers have helped you along the way. I strongly believe that as writers we are all in this together.
56. Email a writer friend and let them know that you are looking for work. Now, this should only be done with someone you have a relationship with, not a stranger, but my writer friends and I do this all the time. Send a quick email letting them know that you are looking for more work and to let you know if they run across a lead that would work for you. This works well for both writers in your niche and other niches.
57. Send a writer friend a lead that is a fit for their niche. One, this is good karma. But it’s also good marketing. If you send out leads to writer friends that don’t work for you, then what do you think that they will do when they run across leads that work for you? Bingo! My best clients have come from writer referrals because they are already vetted (decent pay, nice people).
59. Talk to a potential client on the phone before taking work. I find that this is the best way to weed out PITA clients and to identify those that you will be the best fit.
60. Attend a local event with potential clients or writers. You get 1 point for each event.
61. Apply to join ASJA or use ASJA resources. If you are already a member, then you get one point for each ASJA resource you use to learn new skills or make more money this month – listen to a recorded, Virtual Pitch Slam, listen to a Shop Talk, read a back issue of the magazine, plan to join a SIG.
Make More Money
62. Create a marketing plan of daily and weekly marketing activities. Check out Holly’s post about what she did and her results. Now create your own and stick to it. A daily habit of marketing is crucial to earning a high income.
63. Drop your lowest paying client. I know, I know. It’s hard. But I have found the only way to get a better client is to first drop the low payer.
64. Drop your biggest PITA client. I find I lose money on these clients both in time and stress. Note that I recommend only dropping both your lowest paying and biggest PITA client at the same time if it won’t leave too big of a whole in your income.
65. Determine what percent of your income each client represents. I try to have no single client represent more than 20 to 25 percent of my income. The goal is that the proportion should be an amount that you can lose without too much stress. I try to keep it an amount that I can either make up quickly by finding another client or make up by being more frugal.
66. Quote a rate that is higher than you feel comfortable. Always ask for more money. Even $50. It adds up and you will get the higher rate more times than not. The worst feeling is when a client says yes too quickly or even tells you (this actually happened to me recently) that their budget was higher than your quote. Since this is so hard to do, I am going to give you one entry for each time you do this. Remember, you can also lower your rate during negotiation, but you cannot raise it.
67. Determine your average hourly rate in 2017 and make a target for 2018. Don’t just guess. Sit down and do the the math.
68. Turn down a client that is low paying. Yes, I am giving you points for turning down work. But honestly, you cannot earn a high income if you do not turn down the low payers.
69. Ask another writer their thoughts on a rate estimate. I almost always check with another writer before quoting a project. And they almost always tell me to quote higher. I made an extra $2K on a single project last year simply because another writer told me to quote higher. I did and the client responded in 3 minutes to accept, which means I could have gone even higher.
Increase Your Productivity
70. Do your taxes. Yes, this technically won’t get you more work. But by the time the work is rolling in, you won’t have to take time out from paying work to complete this necessary evil.
71. Find one new productivity enhancing tool and integrate it into your business. There are so many cool apps and tools that can save you time, which translates into more money. But when you are swamped with paying work, it’s hard to make the time to get up and running. Check out this Fast Company articleand my list of tools I use if you need ideas for the best tools for freelancers.
72. Apply one of my tactics for increasing your writing speed. The key to being a high income writer is to write fast. Most all of the writers I know that regularly break six figures are fast writers. I personally think that you should aim to be able to write a 400 word blog post with no interviews in no more than two hours (closer to one hour is better) and a 700 word article with one or two interviews in three to four hours at the absolute most.
73. Ask a current or new client to revise a contract to be more freelance friendly. This is best done when signing a new client, but if you have a long time client it is possible to get a new contract as well.
74. Outsource a task. It might be about hiring a proofreader, working with a Virtual Assistant or using a transcriptionist. While outsourcing technically costs you money, if you can free up your time so that you earn a higher hourly rate even minus the costs, then outsourcing gives you either more time or more money. Your choice.
75. Figure out how much you need to earn each week and each month to meet your 2018 income goal. I have found that this is the best way to stay on track with my goals and know where I am throughout the year.
76. Look at how you run the administrative side of your business (invoicing, tracking expenses, tracking payments) and make a change to increase efficiency. Last year I added Freshbooks for invoicing and my goal this year is to start using it to track expenses.
And if you have any tasks to add, please share them below and I will update the list!
This content was originally published here.