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Freelance writers! Don’t give up!

Libby Marks

Write on Tyne | The less stress, more yes content and copywriter

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In an age of influencers with huge followings and content mills churning out endless information on copywriting and content marketing, it can be very disheartening to be a small player.

 It is easy to feel like we can’t:

  •  keep up
  • say anything new
  • add any value

 This can be extremely disheartening. And, as solo business owners, perhaps working on the kitchen table that we need to put food on later, the last thing we need is to feel discouraged. We need to feel energised, optimistic and ready to tackle the day.

 If you’re reading this, you probably clicked on it because you were feeling a little bit blue. Well, don’t.

 You’re doing something thousands of people wish they had the talent and the guts to do. You’re living the dream, even though it might not always feel like it.

 You’re bloody well doing it, you fabulous freelancer. So don’t give up.

 Here are my six tips to keep you motivated when you feel like you’re treading old ground by writing about writing.

1. Add your secret ingredient

Just because somebody said it before doesn’t mean you can’t say it better. As a freelance writer, your value is your voice, nobody else’s. So even if you cover a topic that people have covered before, you’ll be doing it in your own personal style.

 You think Colonel Sanders was the only beardy bloke selling fried chicken in Kentucky? No. But he added his secret ingredient and people couldn’t get enough of the taste. What’s your flavour? 

 Somewhere out there, your ideal client is searching for you, the person who is perfect for their business. If you don’t write that blog, they may never find you. So get writing. After all, it’s what you do.

2. Niche down (be a flamingo)

If you’re concerned that you’re just adding to the general noise on copywriting and content marketing, niche down. You have your specialist areas of expertise, so use them.

I specialise in Higher Education, Software as a Service and babycare. Yep, I’m a mixed bag of nuts. Instead of writing a blog on ‘top tips on content marketing’, I might write about content marketing specifically for customers in my niche, like:

  • top 10 content marketing tips to recruit high-calibre students
  • content strategy hacks for SaaS start-ups
  • bumptastic content ideas for expectant mums

I’m being specific and helpful to exactly the sort of customers I want to work with. That way I’m not just adding noise, I’m adding value. What does helpful content marketing information look like in your niche?

Flamingos are so specialist they thrive in crazy environments that no other bird can inhabit. And as a result, they’re one of the most recognisable species around. So get-set-go freelance flamingo. Get specialist and get seen.

3. Be happy to help

Good content marketers write, but great content marketers help.

Content marketing is all about being helpful and human – anticipating needs, answering questions, addressing issues.

When I worked as a marketer in Higher Education, my role was to help young people make an informed decision about their future.

It was an honour to be at the start of their adventure, engaging and encouraging them to make the right choice for them. (Check out my prospectuses here, I’m super proud of them).

Whether we’re writing about high ticket items like a university degree, helping a business sell birdbaths, or selling ourselves through effecting content marketing, we’re helping people. Go us!

So if you’re feeling disheartened because you feel like your content isn’t making an impact in terms of engagement or leads, remember that just helping one person makes your efforts worthwhile.

It may not pay in pennies and pounds, but do it often enough and the universe will deliver a karmic dividend before too long.

Be helpful wherever you can, wherever you go, and business is sure to follow.

Blog freely, share your expertise on LinkedIn, offer a free surgery for small businesses in your community. Tweet and retweet. Start building those connections and that karma.

5. Remember, not everyone likes Starbucks

Sometimes, coming up against the big content marketing influencers can feel like an independent coffee shop coming up against Starbucks.

You might feel like the writing equivalent of Johnny’s Java Hut but, remember, Johnny still sells coffee.

  • Some people like to buy from an independent business rather than a bigger brand
  • Maybe Johnny is competing effectively on price or product
  • Or maybe he just has the perfect position in the marketplace

Whatever his secret, there’s a lot that we can learn from Johnny. It’s time to think about yourself as a business and look at the 7Ps of marketing (here’s my cheat sheet if you don’t know what I mean).

Things like price, product and promotion. Are these optimised to meet your ideal client’s needs?

Content is a lot like coffee. Everyone needs it to give their business a boost, but they take it very different ways.

A short sharp espresso, a long lingering latte (even a can of Monster in the case of columnists like Piers Morgan or Katie Hopkins). Time to channel your inner barista and make sure you’re serving up what your client craves.

5. Don’t take it personally

As a writer, I suspect we were all quite sensitive souls. We want people to love what we write as much as we love writing it. It can feel like an arrow to the heart when our carefully crafted content doesn’t immediately get the likes shares and engagement we were hoping for.

I’ve been there. I’ve pressed send and sat waiting for people to recognise my genius. And waited. And waited. And made a cup of tea and come back to find… nothing. No red dot of validation. No endorphin hit for me. Just big sad puppy eyes and a Hobnob of shame.

But put down the biscuit! Successful businesses see each failed post, not as a personal comment on their skills as a writer, but as an opportunity to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Evaluation and incremental improvement is a key step in any marketing strategy. If you haven’t failed, how can you build up to success?

If your post isn’t working, sit back and think about how you could improve it.

I’m 99.9% sure it won’t be the writing. Think about:

  • the time you posted it on social media
  • the photo you used
  • if your title use a tried-and-tested format to attract readers
  • if you’re sharing in the right networks
  • how can you reach more people, through guest blogs, for example

Each of your posts is an opportunity to learn what works, what doesn’t and improve it for next time.

Sorry guys, there’s no quick fix. But once you’ve found the recipe for success, you can start cooking up a storm.

6. Keep going

Fellow freelancers, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and undervalued. But don’t forget that all of those highly successful influencers and bloggers have been exactly where you are.

You’ve heard their success stories. Hell, you’ve downloaded their ebook and subscribed to their newsletters. You’ve read all about how they:

  • started a multi-million-pound business with just £50 investment
  • turned their first £250k quarter
  • won Google top spots for every single thing they’ve ever written or even thought about writing

 You want to know their big secret? The step that every single successful business on earth has taken?

 They’ve carried on. They’ve faced those:

  • midnight sweat moments (maybe I should get a proper job)
  • insomniac swirling doubts (will I make ends meet this month?)
  • dry mouth meeting new client moments (they’re going to realise I’m a fraud)

 And they’ve carried on regardless. Because the only guaranteed way for a freelance to fail is to quit. Being your own boss is the hardest and most wonderful thing you’ll ever do. It’s tough and brilliant, just like you!

 So I’m here to say ‘go for it freelance writer, blog to your heart’s content’. Write about copy and content, even though the big guys seem to have it covered. Because you DO have something to say and you have the skills to sell it.

Grab a coffee, flex those fingers and get blogging. You’ve got this!

Comments

22nd December 2019

Jay

Thanks so much. Very helpful!

7th January 2020

rachel

Great post, Libby! Very uplifting and had me chuckling along at points. x

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