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You might never expect it but alongside skills like UX design and mobile application development, journalism is one of the top skills companies most need in 2019, according to a LinkedIn survey of senior leaders. “Once a dwindling skill, journalism isn’t just for journalists anymore as marketing and content teams alike vie for people who can tell compelling stories,” the social media platform noted.
That has created opportunities for freelance writers. But many don’t know how to make the most of the work that’s available so they can build a writing business that supports them and their families.
Enter Ed Gandia. As a corporate software salesman, Gandia discovered his talent for writing when he needed high-quality marketing materials for his wares. He’d soon created them himself and found that his sales started to increase. He began freelance copywriting on the side in 2004. He felt confident enough to leave his corporate career in 2006 and to go full-time as a writer.
As his freelance business grew, he began coaching other business writers and copywriters and today brings in revenue in the high six figures between his own writing practice and his coaching business High-Income Business Writing. Gandia, based in Atlanta, relies on seven independent contractors to help keep the wheels turning. He is also the host of the High-Income Business Writing Podcast and author of the book High-Income Business Writing.
We recently spoke about how those with writing talent can capitalize on it in a well-paying freelance business. Here are Gandia’s tips.
Cultivate the right mindset. If you’re getting into freelancing for the first time, it’s important to stop thinking the way you did while on payroll. “As an employee, you’re used to the work landing on your desk,” says Gandia. “Here, you have to go after the work.”
Figure out how to position yourself. Before you go after paying clients, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you do?
- For whom?
- Who is the target audience?
- What makes you different?
“The world doesn’t need another freelance writer,” says Gandia. “The world needs writers who are specific about those four things.”
As you think about how to position yourself, keep your focus on doing writing that brings value to others. “It’s being practical,” says Gandia. Few writers earn six figures writing about their passion for gardening.
Gandia advises leaning into your area of professional expertise, whether that’s engineering or nursing. “The perspective you have is valuable,” says Gandia. “You’ve been on the other side. You know the terminology, the lingo.”
Once you’re clear on what you want to offer, there will be many opportunities to put your skills to work for you that you can find through your network. “You could write bylined articles for executives, ghostwrite books for consultants, write white papers,” says Gandia.
Score some quick wins. Many people hate to sell but it’s a necessary part of any solo business. “Do some simple prospecting that feels doable and can be repeatable,” advises Gandel.
He suggests talking with people in your network about the work they do and the challenges they are facing. Let’s say you do content marketing. Gandia recommends asking open-ended questions, such as “Tell me about what you guys are doing from a content marketing standpoint. Where do you have a need or challenge?” If they’re looking for solutions, ask about their time frame and the budget they have available to address their challenge.
Many writers are afraid of talking about money too soon. Get over it, advises Gandia. “Most writers don’t bring it up and find out much later that they wasted a lot of time,” he says. You’re better off finding out that someone can’t afford you early.
Charge for the time you spend planning. If you’re going to be handling the management of a project, as well as the execution, break your charges into two parts, one for planning it and the other for doing the actual writing, advises Gandia.
For instance, you might offer clients a five-page plan for the project as part A and the actual writing as part B. Even better, create a master template that you can tailor to each client. “It doesn’t take long to put it together,” he says. And it’ll save you from doing unpaid work.
Prioritize your own professional development. “To succeed in this business, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Gandia. “The moment you start feeling comfortable, it’s time to start getting uncomfortable. You have to keep getting better every year.” This doesn’t mean getting another degree. You can do it by taking on a stretch project or signing up for a class to learn new skills.
Keep looking for growth opportunities. If you find you love working for a client in a big organization, there may be other potential clients he or she can introduce you to in different departments.
Gandia advises saying something to the effect of: “I know there are other marketing directors in your sister companies. I’d love to do more with your organization. Would you mind introducing me to one or two of your peers? Rest assured I would not take away time from your projects.”
It all comes back to starting conversations and listening carefully to people’s answers, says Gandia. The good news for introverts? “I don’t think you have to have a bubbly personality to do this well,” he says.
May 30, 2019 at 09:56PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs