A downturn can become an 'upturn': Strategies for success
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: January 20, 2009
|Some days all the news about the economy seems bad. Headlines warn Barnes & Noble may lose a major investor and media conglomerates are laying off workers in record numbers. But the truth is no matter how bad the times, some will thrive. It's all a matter of perspective and strategy.|
If you're new to freelancing, develop a strategy before you launch your business. When I became self-employed, I gauged the marketplace by sending out a simple letter of introduction. I selected 100 publications. I spent a couple days in the library studying the publications and taking pains to get the proper contact name. That's much easier to do now—almost every publication has a Web site with contact information. Many even list guidelines. In the wee hours of this new year, create a lead list. Start with the publisher you have the best chance with and arrange each by ranking them from hot to cold. The cold leads may seem like a long shot. But when you seal a deal with your dream magazine or Web site, you'll be glad you included a few pipe dreams. Be sure to double check the editor's preferred method of contact. If the Web site provides a submission form, use it. If the editor says e-mail is okay, use that. What's vital is using a contact method the editor wants you to use.
Be sure to tap into the potential in your local market. Trade and professional associations, ad agencies, small businesses—these are potential clients. In the early days, clients from that local base enabled me to maintain a steady income and to build an attractive, diverse portfolio. Make a list of targets in your local area and send them a letter of intro. Then follow up with a phone call. Writers learn to thrive on rejection, so if one says 'no,' contact another.
It's a good idea to attend social gatherings of professionals who rely on writers. Organizations of advertising and marketing professionals, editors and others often have an open door policy for meetings. I once sold a major account in an elevator. I'd met the director of a local trade association at an evening gathering, and by the time we left that elevator as we headed home, we had a meeting set up to work out project details.
One thing that hasn't changed in the marketplace is the value of information. If you are able to break news or if you're an expert in your field, you're almost home. Key to landing assignments is branding yourself, something we've talked about in previous columns. Make a list for yourself detailing why you're the best person to write about a particular subject or event. Refine your list and use it to pitch yourself. I often shine more light on a challenge when I put it on paper. By creating a pitch list about you, you are simply imitating what large corporations ask their salespeople to do—creating a presentation that stays uniform. You end up with talking points about you, the actual product. Over time, tweak as needed.
The greatest challenge to freelancers hasn't changed—making your own voice heard above the voices of others. The Internet offers remarkable potential in this regard. But you can't just build your Web site or blog and walk off. You still have to market and promote. Printing a simple business card with your e-mail, phone number and message is very useful. It's not necessary to list your street address or even your fax—save that space for your message. Your message should state the benefit you exchange for the money you'll be paid.
If you're a veteran freelancer, take advantage of the many opportunities technology places at your fingertips. Learn a new skill such as video editing or photo editing. Add public speaking to your product list and before you agree to do something free, politely ask if the event pays an honorarium. You'll be amazed at what you learn simply by asking questions.
Times appear to be tough for everyone right now, but there's always opportunity. You have to learn to recognize the opportunity and establish a strategy for obtaining it. It's as simple as drawing a straight line from point A to point B.
As writers, we often overlook the value of the pen applied to ourselves. By designing a strategy on paper, and by being open to learning and trying new things, you will get a foot in the client's door. A downturn for one is an opportunity for another.
|• Omar Tyree is a perfect example of someone who honed a strategy for success. Tyree is the author of Flyy Girl, The Last Street Novel and other 'urban fiction' works. On his Web site, he doesn't just describe himself as an author—he also uses the term 'entrepreneur.'|
|--Posted Jan. 20, 2009|
In our next Web Savvy, we explore the pitfalls and potential in social networking. Join us and read stories of success and dismay.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.