Most online writers love their profession because they are passionate about writing and the creative freedom it offers. Writing online provides the potential of making a living by doing what you love anywhere in the world, as well as being able to work for yourself. It’s easy to see how an online writing business can be gratifying… most of the time. Unfortunately, it can quite easily become frustrating.
One of the biggest challenges of expanding your online writing business is realizing that not only are you the writer, but you are also your business’ marketer, project manager, liaison, and, well, you get the picture. This can make it challenging to secure clients who will agree to your higher rates or land long-term contracts. These types of complications might make you wonder if you shouldn’t call it a day and learn programming or web design instead.
Many writers jump on the opportunistic business of freelance writing without studying the market first. They are overly confident of finding clients and, without an advocator, can be too idealistic. Writing is just like any other industry, which means that many clients will go far to reduce the industry-standard rates and get ahead of the game. Unfortunately, the reality is that few writers and potential clients understand how critical the writing industry is, as well as the power a writer holds in terms of marketing and sales. This is why deciding to set up an online writing business can be hit-or-miss.
If any of this sounds familiar, then know you’re not alone. But before you get frustrated and want to throw in the towel, it’s essential to take a step back and do your research.
If you’re sitting there wondering just why your online writing business isn’t growing and why your dream job is rapidly turning into a nightmare, let me hit you with four things you might be doing wrong. Hopefully, these may just put things into perspective for you.
1. You Aren’t Properly Marketing Your Online Writing Business
Even as a freelancer, your business is a business after all. And every business needs a marketing strategy. A lot of new freelance writers don’t set up a marketing plan because they don’t consider their work a viable business. But this is wrong. By developing a marketing strategy, you’ll be honing in on the market you want to write to and the types of clients you want to work with. Many freelancers make this crucial mistake, which can cause problems for them later on.
Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. On the ground level marketing is a unique combination of tactics to generate business. According to Entrepreneur magazine, “Every marketing strategy has a collection of ingredients.” It’s that simple. Each marketing strategy needs to fit the unique needs of your business.
When setting up your marketing strategy, you’ll need to identify how it will work for your online writing business. Ask yourself questions like:
- What market or niche is your online writing business trying to market to?
- What exactly do your services entail?
- How do you expect to pick up leads – are you going to cold call or email them?
- Are you going to use paid advertising, a marketing specialist or go solo?
- What objectives do you have behind your campaign?
Set your answers up as a list of tactics or guidelines that you’ll use when generating leads. It’s ideal to do this before you start to offer services, and it is never too late to start.
2. You’ve Made Careless Errors in Your Pitch/Website/Social Media
This might not sound fair, but as a writer you can’t make any spelling mistakes when interacting with potential clients. This means that you must proof your pitch, website, social media accounts, adverts, you name it. Clients might understand that you’re human and that you make mistakes, but any public errors can make a potential client doubt your skillset. Even one typo could be perceived as if you’re not being thorough enough and this could reflect poorly on your online writing business.
If you hold your writing to a high standard, then you can expect potential leads to do so as well. Which is why you need to be careful. According to Grammar Girl, “The best way to avoid typos is to have someone else read your work.” Especially in the writing business, you should have at least one “proofreader” standing by your side like a faithful bodyguard.
On top of that, you’re going to want to learn to spot errors in other writers’ works. By doing so, you can point out errors to potential clients and land a job along the way.
If you are naturally an excellent proofreader, then start to develop pitches that respectfully bring attention to critical writing errors in work related to potential clients. It’s also perfectly fine to rely on software to support your proofing. Online and writing client plug-ins have been created to catch grammatical, vocabulary, syntactical and language-based errors. They can even provide plagiarism reports for more academic or government-based documents.
Grammarly, for example, is an excellent resource for blog and social media writers. Its free version offers suggestions for spell-checking, correct usage of punctuation, grammar, missing articles, repetitive words, weak adjectives, word suggestions and more. You can budget for $14.99 a month and receive many of the benefits that Grammarly premium offers, such as recommendations to correct sentence structure, enhancements to your vocabulary, and plagiarism detection.
Another proofing software is WhiteSmoke. WhiteSmoke is more affordable compared to Grammarly, and it offers very similar features. It also has templates for resumes, cover letters, and other types of documents.
If you write in multiple languages, then you might enjoy Linguee, a wonderful website-slash-app that allows you to translate in over 20+ languages. Linguee is perfect for those who regularly write or proofread in more than one language, and it is considered a more accurate translation guide than Google Translate.
There are plenty of ways to avoid simple writing errors. Using a tool such as Grammarly or WhiteSmoke will reassure clients that you are thorough and not afraid to use tools to improve your services.
3. You’re Not Coming Off as Confident in Interviews
Every business owner or recruiter you encounter is going to be trained to choose among some of the industry’s best candidates. They’ll be looking to hire those who transmit a persona of confidence. Your experience and writing examples will be measured against how you perceive your work as well.
Not knowing anything about the hiring company, lying about previous employment and asking about promotions and vacations are three things that are absolutely disastrous interview mistakes, according to The Muse. Moreover, your resume will look less appealing if all you managed to do for 30 minutes is nod and agree with the client.
The same goes for when your interview is being conducted online. Even when all interviewers have is your voice or text to go off on, alarm bells can go off in your potential client’s head as you speak to them.
Talking too much, badmouthing your past employers and connecting late after the agreed time with the client can lead to a few ticks on the client’s list of negatives, according to The Balance Careers. You’ll want to stay away from topics that might be off-putting. Pay attention to the initial details they offered and be prepared to answer unfamiliar questions.
Avoid these mistakes and stick to what you’re familiar with. In the end, the interviewer wants to know what type of value you can bring to the company. They want to hear how your work can boost their sales or enhance their reach throughout the market. So let them know!
When in an interview, make sure that the client is also right for you. It can often feel as if the client holds all the power. However, an interview is a crucial time to understand the client’s professional relationships. You can see how the client works, how they communicate and treat their contractors and their expectations of the job. Don’t dive in with a client if they might draw you away from more lucrative options.
4. Your Online Writing Business Doesn’t Leave an Impression on Your Clients
Our final item on this list is one that might hit a bit too close to home if you’re guilty of it – you’re too forgettable, and clients aren’t impressed by you or your work.
This mistake is all too common. Unfortunately, many freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t want to go the extra mile when working for a client. They do the bare minimum and fail to see the client as a potential contact. Most clients want familiarity and a writer they can trust. Approach your interviews with this in mind.
When working for someone, remember that they’re human beings as well. Ask them how they’re doing and stay up to date with their company’s goals. You can also ask if there is more that you can do to support their business. They will be happy to hear that you care about them as a person and as a company. Feel free to make suggestions; the client no doubt hopes you have some creative ideas. Don’t be afraid to tell a small joke or weekend plans.
Build a relationship, and good things will come. Inc.com recommends to “Give as much as you expect to get,” and I personally love that suggestion (and wholeheartedly endorse it).
You’ll have to develop skills outside of writing in order to take your online writing business to the next level. Bring in a personality that is as organized as it is professional. Soon, you’ll realize that the best clients will be looking for you. Never be afraid to give an extra 10, 20 or 50 percent if it means impressing your clients. And make sure your websites, emails and social media are error-free. At the same time, know the boundaries of your business and have open conversations when things aren’t lining up.