Marketing is a fascinating field. There’s so much to learn. So many emerging practices and technologies to keep up with. And yet, for freelancer writers, it too often feels like a chore.
Perhaps that’s because no writer is in the business of marketing him or herself full time . In FreelanceLand there’s no marketing department to offshore the heavy lifting too — much as there isn’t an accounting team to tot up our expenses or pull together our monthly client invoices.
All the burden falls on us, all of the time. And when we’re feeling worn-out from a busy week of doing what we actually get paid to do (in my case writing) it’s marketing that often gets the chop.
Why We Need To Market All The Time
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received about freelance writing — advice which I can corroborate from my own experience — is that the most important time to be pressing the pedal on marketing is when you’re at your busiest with client work.
This is a situation which few outside of the freelancing world can understand. Whenever I get busy on LinkedIn, I usually draw a couple of “work must be quiet!” remarks from friends.
Typically, the opposite is the case. More likely (although, who do I kid, not always) I’ve been so busy with client work recently that I haven’t found time to promote myself and develop pipeline.
For a freelance writer, this is like the Titanic heading for the iceberg — possibly the most perilous situation to be in of all from a strategic standpoint. And it’s a warning sign that can easily go unheeded in the business of day to day writing.
Most freelance writers are familiar with the feast and famine cycle; many are permanently stuck in it. Taking on too much work and not having time to market oneself is a leading cause of it. One day you’re juggling 8 clients and the next you’re working on your taxes. The cruel reality is that the time you need to market the most is when you have the least time to dedicate to it.
There are other common obstacles to marketing and self-promotion which also merit mentioning:
- Being physically sick
- Being mentally sick
- Having an innate aversion to self-promotion (I check this box in spades)
The Value of A Daily Routine
Because it’s often not clear when we’re headed into the iceberg land of massive busy-ness — or when a cold or a “I can’t do this anymore” moment is about to strike — setting a daily marketing routine helps keep things on track.
I call this a marketing ‘Keep Fit List’ because — like gym circuits — there’s something less daunting about a routine once it’s formalized into predictable and consistent steps.
I also strongly advise using marketing automation whenever possible. This wonderful technology allows you to send out email campaigns or social posts when you’re buried deep in V3 of that white-paper-that-will-never-get-approved (with a side helping of client-side internal politics). Tools I use include Mailchimp (email marketing) and Buffer (social post scheduling).
I recommend dividing your activities into inbound and outbound marketing and setting some time aside each week for both.
Inbound marketing focuses on activities that aim to bring clients to us (example: blogging, podcasting). Outbound marketing focuses on more ‘classic’ activities such as cold email pitching.
Some writers don’t bother with outbound or vice-versa. Personally, I think that during this economy we have to leverage all means possible to keep our sales pipelines full.
Where to put this calendar? There are plenty of tools for planning editorial calendars and everything else needed to keep a busy marketing campaign ticking. But personally I think that something like a dedicated Google Calendar is more than enough.
My Weekly Marketing Fitness List
🌞 Monday — Admin:
Monday is a perfect day for taking care of administrative bits and pieces. If you use Buffer to schedule posts on your social media channels, then this is a great time to make sure that you have enough post content to last you through to the weekend. Also: I find it a lot easier to focus on tasks in blocks. Planning your social posts ‘in bulk’ allows you to do precisely this.
🌞 Tuesday — Writing:
Once the week’s underway, you can turn to more labor-intensive activities such as writing a blog post. Your writing site has a blog, right? Whether you post on Medium or on your website, blogging deserves prominence in your content marketing strategy. An editorial calendar is useful to plan out what you have to say.
🌞 Wednesday — Planning and Strategy:
Take a break for a day to focus on strategic concerns like the ‘p’ word (planning). Go back to your editorial calendar. Ideate new ideas for posts if there are gaps in the schedule. Do keyword research. Spy on your competitors. Think about whatever else you can do to get a heads up in this competitive market.
🌞 Thursday — Spin-Out and AV Content :
As writers, we tend to have an innate sense of favoritism towards the written word. For us, it’s comparatively easy to create written content in the form of social media posts and blogs. However, neglecting audio (podcasts) and video would be a mistake. If maintaining separate content calendars is too much work (for most freelancers, I reckon it is), you can integrate podcast episodes and video blogs into your one overarching content plan.
🌞 Friday — Offsite Promotion and Guest Blogging:
Posting on other websites is a great way to bring yourself to new audiences — often those far larger than you could reach through your own managed channels. In exchange for being able to post on someone else’s website, you’ll need to forego the ability to promote yourself (for the most part). Finding guest post and contributed content opportunities is hard and slow work — it’s the stuff that PR agencies spend a lot of their time doing. But the results can pay off. Once you have a few posting opportunities secured, you can integrate this (offsite) content into your editorial calendar.
Marketing Is Slow, Hard Work
Whatever your feelings about self-promotion (hint: mine aren’t rosy), marketing has to be a way of life for many freelancers.
In fact, even freelance writers that secure all their leads through referrals would be well-advised to do even a little marketing. You never know when things might dry up, and putting down digital breadcrumbs is a strategically smart move.
If you dread putting down your head to market, then set out a weekly schedule. Itemizing what items you take care of on each day of the week is a great way to make the task less daunting and to ensure that you stay on track.