I’ve generally focused on the short fiction and novel writing when I give out tips and offer advice. Today I wanted to do something a little different. I have a guest article written by Becky Smothermon for you instead. She is a long time friend and has been an inspiration to keep me writing. Our writing paths go in separate ways, but we have worked to inspire one another to keep moving forward and being productive. She mentioned a really smart trick to getting small writing jobs and is gracious enough to share it with all of you. Understand that this sort of work may not always offer a byline, but it pays well enough and is steady work that keeps you writing. I could say more, but instead I will let her own words speak for themselves. As I know not everyone who reads my blog is a writer, I would like to also encourage anyone who might have use of her services to check out her website.
Find Small Business Clients Through the Chamber of Commerce
I wrote a newsletter article for a local company recently. During my initial interview, I met the president of the local chamber of commerce, who is also part of the interviewing company’s PR team. She asked if she could give my information to chamber members, and I agreed. One business owner contacted me a month later. I responded with interest only to hear nothing back. A month later, I tried to touch base with him again, but I didn’t hear back that time either. Clearly, he wasn’t the client for me and I wasn’t the writer for him. Thankfully, he isn’t the only small business owner in town.
I have an affinity for small business. I worked for several small businesses within the same industry before I began my freelance writing career. I learned about the unique challenges facing small business owners, and I also learned to love small business for its unique contributions to the community. I hear a lot of established writers advise against working with small businesses. They’ll tell you there is no money to be made with these clients. I completely disagree. You probably won’t make six figures a year working exclusively for small business, but including them doesn’t mean doom for your own bottom line.
Limitations of Online Marketing For Small Business Owners
Limited Time: This is the biggest reason most small business owners either don’t create a website, don’t maintain a website, don’t create or maintain a blog, or don’t use social media to promote their business. They spend all of their time physically running the business. They are networking face to face. They’re dealing with employees, physical product and real world marketing strategies. They may know that having a website or blog will help them build their business, but online marketing is one strategy they simply can’t work into their schedule. You would be surprised at how many business owners are stressed out about their lack of online marketing. Usually, they look for a PR firm, discover they can’t afford the services and put their online presence on the back burner. Most small business owners don’t even know that there are freelance writers to help them.
Limited Funding: Small businesses aren’t going to pay $100 and up for a blog post. Chances are that they are putting at least 80% of their income back into other areas of the business like payroll, inventory, physical location expenses and more. Their marketing budget is spent on more mainstream marketing efforts. Understand the financial limitations before you start contacting small business owners. I have a goal to become active in my community, and I know these small business owners can help me achieve that. So writing for less money actually benefits me beyond the paycheck.
5 Steps For Finding Clients
Your local Chamber of Commerce is an excellent place to find new clients. You don’t even have to attend a face-to-face networking event, or join the chamber yourself to find them. The only thing you need is an internet connection, time and patience.
The first thing I did when I looked at the list of members was look for other writers. I wanted to see if I had any competition for the job. I found one other writer, but her Facebook page and website were out of date. When I looked at how many local businesses had placeholder websites and dead blogs, I realized that she probably wasn’t using her membership to network with potential clients. Once I had investigated the competition, I started looking for potential clients.
Step 1: Visit your local chamber of commerce website
Step 2: Locate the member directory
Step 3: Find businesses that match your interests. If they have a website, visit the website and make note of blogs that haven’t been maintained.
Step 4: Note any businesses that have a website with no content at all. I found several of my local businesses had websites that still said, “Coming Soon!”
Step 5: Send an email to the business owner offering your services.
** Note: You can also call the client, but I do all initial contact via email.
Finding Potential Long Term Clients
I made a list of clients that I felt would probably pay me once and then not need my services again. Most of my list included businesses that had never put any content on their site. There’s nothing on their site, and so I have no idea whether a blog is of interest. I’ll pitch the idea of a blog if they are interested in using my services to build their initial website, but until that happens; they are on my one off list.
Businesses that have a blog that hasn’t been maintained are more likely to provide steady work. They clearly started with the intention of using their blog as part of their marketing strategy. It’s likely that they were trying to maintain the blog themselves, but didn’t have the time to post regularly. Once they fell behind on their blogging schedule, it was easier to let it go than to try to start again. If you’re looking for only clients who can provide you a monthly, steady income, these are the ones to target first.
I haven’t tackled businesses that have no website at all. There is certainly a market there, but I have chosen to focus my attention on small businesses that clearly show an interest in having an online presence. I did keep the list of these businesses for future reference. I noted their website address, email address and the name of the business owner. If you choose to market yourself to these businesses, you can usually get an email address from the Chamber of Commerce website. If it isn’t listed, you can always look up the business phone number and address. Call the owner, or visit the business in person to offer your services.
Chamber of Commerce Membership
The Chamber of Commerce is a great place to network and socialize with business owners. As a writer, you own a business, and you qualify to become a member. This opens up live networking opportunities that allow you to grow your business relationships, give something back to the community, and find new clients. Most events are for chamber members only, though sometimes they have a night when guests can attend for free. If you’re comfortable with attending these, I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. Assuming that you are professional, helpful and interactive, business owners will begin to trust you and be more inclined to hire you.
Beckie is a freelance writer located between the bustling cities of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. She specializes in writing web content for businesses with a focus on meeting the content needs of small business owners.