When I started freelance copywriting in 2016, I had zero clients.
I had zero professional writing experience.
I had zero sales experience.
Needless to say, I was a little nervous. (That’s an understatement. I was terrified.) I wasn’t sleeping well in those days, and I was constantly jittery because I was living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes. With nightmares every night and a constant feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere in life, something had to change.
I had to learn how to do professional writing. I had to learn how to sell professional writing. And I had to straighten out the undisciplined mess of my life and make myself into something respectable.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s not because I’m trying to show off what I’ve done since then. It’s not because I love talking about myself. It’s not even because I’ve got a perverse love of sharing things I’m ashamed of.
I’m telling you this because if I can build a successful freelance writing business, you can too. It takes time and dedication. It takes patience, planning, and a lot of hard work. But if you really want to, you can live your freelance dreams.
If you make it happen, it won’t be a dream anymore.
Anyways, to business: I’m here to tell you about how to promote a freelance writing business on social media. What I had to learn with months of trial and error, I’m going to tell you right now. I’ve developed these strategies over the course of the last year and a half, and I’m still developing them even now.
With these methods, I’ve managed to build up a steady stream of traffic to my website. Some of the visitors to my site have chosen to contact me to hire my services. And some of those clients have become long-term partners.
It all starts with successfully driving traffic to your site. And today I’m going to tell you how to use social media to do that.
Put Together Your Customer Persona
What’s a customer persona, you ask?
It’s pretty simple, but it’s one of the most important concepts in marketing and copywriting, so you’re going to want to understand it perfectly. You’re a writer though, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to catch on.
A customer persona is a detailed description of your ideal reader. You want to get to know this person in detail before you ever put your marketing plan together. You want to be able to know this person so well you could predict their thoughts.
Who is your ideal reader? What’s brought her to your website? What’s she worrying about right now, and what does she need to hear from you?
It’s important to know this stuff. Because you’re not writing for just anyone. You’re writing for one person. You’re writing for the one reader who will light up as soon as she reads what you’ve written. The person who’s heart will go pitter-patter just as soon as she sees your words.
Remember: you have to write as if you were talking to someone right across the table from you. That’s why you want to go to the effort to imagine this person in as much detail as you possibly can.
You need to be writing for someone you know well, in other words. This person is your friend. You need to be able to express a real and warm affection. We all feel a little oppressed by the roles we have to play in our jobs, in our lives, and in the world as a whole. We’re all longing for a connection that’s deeper and more real.
So take the time to get to know the kind of person you’re meant to work with. Take the time to learn what this person is afraid of. What this person wants. What this person dreams about at night.
Know their business needs. But above all, know their human needs. That’s how you learn how you can truly serve the people you’re meant to serve.
Marketing Your Website/Content—Draw Clients Passively
Now that you know who you’re reaching out to, you need to go on social media and find ways to reach them. I’ve gone in-depth about my methods on this in an earlier post, but I’ll give the short version here. This is the funnel I use to attract visitors to my site.
- Spread a wide net on Twitter
- With Twitter, I try to get my content to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
- One of the ways I do that is through posting links to my site, but also by sharing links to sites with great content.
- I retweet content from people who retweet my content. That way we extend each other’s reach and multiply our effectiveness. (When freelancers work together, we can make things easier for all of us.)
- Every once in a while I share a link inviting interested Twitter followers to follow a link to my LinkedIn account.
- Funnel the Twitter audience to LinkedIn
- I accept the invitations from people who add me from Twitter, and I make an effort to get to know them.
- I post links to my site, but I also share content I’ve found in other places. I make sure it’s the kind of thing that appeals to the people I’ve gotten to know in my customer persona.
- It’s important to keep active in the LinkedIn community. I join groups, comment on posts, and share things I find valuable. Especially when I want to get to know someone better (we’ll talk about this later) I find little ways to help them. Everyone is going to like it when you “Like” or share a post for them, or even add a thoughtful comment with some clear thoughts and observations. It’s the things like that that set you out of the herd.
- Produce quality content
- You’re going to need to put some content up somewhere. That could mean starting a website. It could mean doing long-form LinkedIn posts. It could mean starting an account on Medium. But you need some way of building up an audience and somewhere to direct them where they can take a look at your work.
- Now, I mention creating quality content—that means writing the kind of thing your ideal customer would like to see. And as much as it pains me to say it, that means you can’t use this place to express yourself freely. You’re here to share valuable knowledge about how to do something. Believe me: I know how that pains you. (It sure pains me!) But the content you put on your site isn’t about you. It’s about your reader.
This is only the briefest outline of the kind of thing you’re going to need to get together to have a viable website, but it should give you an idea of the process.
When I was building my freelance writing business, one of the constant things I had to contend with was a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by all the things I had to do.
So if you’re feeling that way reading the outline I’ve put up there: don’t worry about it. What you’re seeing here is a refined process that I’ve built up over time. You can start slowly. When I was just starting out, I was just as overwhelmed as you are now.
Direct Outreach—Find Clients Proactively
But let’s say you don’t have a ton of time to wait around for clients to come along organically. You’ve got to rustle up some new business fast.
Don’t worry about it. There are ways of doing that. So now I’m going to tell you how to get clients through direct outreach while you’re building your system for attracting clients passively.
First off: you need to get your list together.
What list is that? It’s the list of your prospects. These are the people you’re going to directly reach out to. You’ll want to know their business, their name, a good email address, and all of that. (There’s a lot that goes into that process, and I’ll tell you about it in a few weeks.) But beyond all those technical details, you’re going to want to know a little about the people you’re talking to as human beings.
It all comes back to what we were talking about with the customer persona. You want to make sure the people on your list match that customer persona pretty well. You could talk to everybody on God’s green earth without finding someone who matches your persona precisely, but you want to make sure you’re reaching out to the people you’d like to work with.
Now that you’ve got your list together, you need to put together the message you’re going to send them. It should be interesting, useful, and speak to their needs. Remember: the goal here isn’t to shoot them an email and immediately turn that into a sale. It’s to start a conversation.
Just a little side note here: sales becomes immensely easier if you don’t think of it as selling. It’s a mistake to frame the situation as, “I’ve got to make these sales, because if I don’t make these sales I won’t be able to eat, and if I can’t eat I’ll die, and if I die it’ll hurt a lot and people will probably make fun of me at my funeral…” When you’re selling, you’re trying to start a relationship. It’s a business relationship, sure, but on its most basic level it’s a relationship between two human beings.
So when you write your email, you don’t want to hide your intentions, but you also don’t want to overemphasize them. You come off as manipulative if you hide your intentions, but you come off as desperate if you push the sale too quickly.
The point is this: your prospects are smart and busy. If they’re interested in what you’ve got to offer, they’ll reach out to you. If not, they won’t. You have to let go of the outcome.
So you write up those emails and send them out. I’ll write a full blog post about this in a few weeks, but when you’re sending your emails you want to make sure you personalize them. Do you like getting obvious cookie-cutter copy/paste emails? Neither do your prospects.
Take the five minutes necessary to get to know a little about your prospects as people. Let that shine through in your emails. You’re reaching out to real human beings. Act like it.
Remember: You Can Do This
I realize you might be reading this and thinking, “Oh my God, how can I possibly do this?”
And it’s no wonder! This is a lot of information to process all at once, and it’s not easy to do all at once. But you can build up your systems day by day and eventually come up with something that works.
You don’t even have to quit your job to start out. You can start out small, only taking one or two clients at a time till you figure out how to freelance on a full-time basis.
Even though it can look overwhelming at the beginning, it’s not nearly as tough as it looks.
At the moment, you’re probably feeling some serious fear of the unknown. I bet you felt the same way before you learned how to ride a bike. Think about it: riding a bike is a complicated balancing act, and you probably had many accidents in the course of figuring it out. You probably had to have training wheels while you were learning.
But now you know how to ride a bike easily. You don’t even have to think about it. You just hop on the bike and you’re on your way, with the wind in your hair and your legs pumping up and down in time.
It’s just the same with freelancing. Start small. Build a small system that works, then expand it once you’ve done that. It’s not a dream. It’s something you can have if you commit to it.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.
And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d rather do it that way.
Good luck, and good copywriting!