Thursday, July 23, 2009

If You're Not Marketing, You're Just Scraping By.

I saw a couple of interesting posts on working for content mills at Words on the Page and The Avid Writer recently. The question: why do some writers work for content mills instead of marketing to private clients? The money is a lot worse (although I have to say, I'm surprised there are content mills paying as much as $20 per article nowadays. I'd think they'd all be paying $5 per article or worse). The answers were varied, but one of them got me thinking: you work with content mills, and you don't have to do any marketing.

I know a lot of writers have a raving fear of marketing. I relate to it. But most businessowners wouldn't. Could you imagine the owner of your local gym, grocery store or car repair shop saying they have a fear of marketing? How would these people make any money? If you can avoid marketing and survive, you're insanely lucky. Most businesspeople can't. Most businesspeople wouldn't be caught dead getting stuck in the equivalent of a content mill rut just because it gives them the stability to avoid marketing. The bottom line is, if you're not marketing, you're not thriving as you could be.

So why don't writers like to market? I've heard a few reasons given--and I've even given some of these myself. It takes too much time; it's too much of a hassle; it takes too much effort away from personal writing projects. But I think beyond all these excuses is a single reason: lack of confidence. The only way to build your confidence in the writing world is through self-education and experience. Here are a few reasons all writers (including content mill writers) shouldn't avoid marketing:

Marketing makes your job more stable. That content mill (or regular client) could fold at any time, leaving you out in the cold. In a way, freelancers are more stable than people with regular jobs, because they work with several employers--if one evaporates, there's always another one. But that's not true if you're relying on one or two regular clients to keep your head above water, especially in a recession. Marketing increases your client base and helps guarantee you'll stay busy.

Marketing gets you out of ruts. Chances are, that regular client paid you what you thought was a great wage when you were just starting out. But as you've improved your skills, it's pretty likely you're worth more now. Every new client is a new opportunity to give yourself a raise.

Marketing IS your job. I think it's funny that as freelancers, we're happy to market for everybody but ourselves. Marketing copy is our job. And doing it for ourselves gives us practical hands-on experience we can apply to client work. Try it: order a few cheap postcards on VistaPrint with good copy and a call to action, and mail them to businesses you have a solid track record working with. You'll probably get at least one taker.

Every time I've marketed--even when I've just emailed a few businesses in a few minutes to see who's looking for freelancers--I've gotten at least one response that's led to increased income. Marketing might be scary to some of us--writers can be natural introverts--but don't let marketing trepidation hold you back from living up to your potential.


Unknown said...

Oh my gawd, THANK YOU. What a great follow-up to Kim's post and what a complement to mine! And thanks for the link love, doll. :)

So true about marketing getting you out of a rut. It's your time to reinvent your career, to expand, to enjoy the fact that you can write pretty much what you damn well please once you find a buyer.

And I LOVE your last point. Yes, marketing IS your job and dammit, you have to. Otherwise, you're left with Craig's List ads and content mills. Oo. There's an exciting career.

Jennifer Williamson said...

You're welcome, Lori!

And another thing: MOST writers stick with online methods to get work. If you're the only writer sending postcard mailers and real brochures to prospective clients, chances are you'll stand out.

Anonymous said...

I just mentioned something like this on Avid Writer - I think a lot of people are afraid to market, so they "have no time."

Of course, if they marketed effectively and landed decent clients, they'd be working smarter, not harder and would have the time, because they wouldn't have to churn out the volume in order to scrape by.

If you can't be bothered to market, find another line of work.

Kimberly Ben said...

Well said, and thanks for mentioning my post.

Marketing IS the key to success for any business. I preach this endlessly on my blog. It was interesting to get the point of view of those preferring content mills to working with private clients.

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I think marketing is the first step of any business.It is a way to get the customers.

Steve said...

Marketing is not a way of life. It is a highly specialized skill set. Colleges teach classes in it and offer degrees in it. TO say that the typical small business person should "market" themself is to demand that they undertake a specialized area of activity for which they have no particular qualification. If somebody is that good at marketing, they should work in that profession rather than plumbing, auto repair, or whatever.

In addition, on a personal note, I have always found marketing and the marketing mentality offensive. I dislike being marketed to. Why, then, should I try to market to others? Marketing basically involves creating the illusion for the potential customer that you are better than the other people in your line of work. Unless you're somebody fairly exceptional, you're probably NOT appreciably better at your profession than the competition. If you really ARE the highly talented cream of the crop, you will stand out and gain a reputaion by that fact alone. There's no need to involve yourself in a "snow job" that is degrading of your own self-respect and demonstrates contempt for the discernment of your potential customers.


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