So far, we have covered preparation for life as a freelance writer and how to find work. Just as important to your future success, however, is helping people find you and learn more about you – otherwise known as promoting yourself.
How to Survive Life as a Freelance Writer—Part 3
It doesn’t matter how great your writing skills are, if you don’t have a presence, either in print or online, you are less likely to be awarded projects than someone who does. Potential clients want to find out about the person to whom they are entrusting a valuable aspect of their business. If you were being considered for a job as an employee, you would expect to be interviewed. Your self-promotion works in pretty much the same way.
Where do you start?
If, by some stretch of the imagination, you do not have a social media presence, then this is the first step. Set up profiles on platforms that are likely to be read by your potential audience. This may take a little research, but as a rule of thumb, older audiences tend to be found on Facebook and LinkedIn, younger ones on Instagram, and a broad spectrum of audiences are found on Twitter (other platforms are available).
If you have a personal page on a platform like Facebook, then set up a business page, as well. Depending on your focus, you could also look at setting up a group page. LinkedIn also has different page types for personal and business, but as a freelancer, you may only require a personal page on this platform. While sites such as Instagram and Pinterest do have massive audiences, they are more focused on visuals, than on the written word, so while they may form part of your presence, you may not want to make them the focus of it.
Cleaning Up Your Act
If you already have an online presence, then the first thing you need to do is spend some time looking at your feeds and ask yourself: do I want a potential client to see that? If the answer is not a resounding yes, then delete it, or ensure that your privacy settings mean that only you can see it. But, remember, the way liking and sharing works on some sites, means that privacy settings are not foolproof, so if in doubt, delete is the best option.
Check your spelling and grammar on your feeds as well. Of course, you are not going to go through every single post you have ever written, but you should check key posts, especially those that talk about your writing, or focus on topics that are close to your heart. If you want to write for a medical company, for example, and previous posts about medical issues or advances have misspelled medical or technical terms, or are hard to understand, this reflects poorly on your ability as a writer.
Show your skills.
Most social media platforms are short form, with Twitter being an extreme example of this. While this is great for sharing information, getting across ideas, and connecting with people, they do not necessarily showcase your writing abilities to their best. Of course, if you have a website or blog (we come onto that in a minute), you can link out to posts you create there. However, another way to showcase your talents is through long form social media sites, such as Vocal. Not only can you share what you write with Vocal’s audience, but through sharing to other platforms, you—and hopefully your readers—can greatly widen your potential audience.
Do you need a website?
If you were looking at starting any other business that requires an online presence, the answer to this would be a resounding yes. Websites are essential to search engine optimisation. But websites are only good for business if they are well-written, easy to navigate, and kept up to date. Doing all three can become time consuming, expensive, or even both. If you try to cut corners with your website, or don’t consider the needs of mobile users, then search engines, and especially Google, will penalise you.
I’ll be really honest here. I have a website—it is out there. I used a free template and spent ages setting up the basics, including landing pages and menus. Then I started work and never had (or made) time to go back to it, so it is confined to the depths of the lower pages of any search results—you are more likely to find my university alumni records than you are my website.
Basically, it is up to you when it comes to websites. I know plenty of successful freelance writers and novelists who do very well for themselves just by promoting themselves through social media and email newsletters. Other people swear by their website and source most of their clients through that medium.
The key to success when it comes to promoting yourself is to take care of the channels you do choose to use. Update them regularly and try to post at the same time every day, or the same day each week. I realize the irony of this as I write, as this post is over a week behind my normal schedule and my other platforms all need some work, but no one is perfect.
In next week’s post, we look at managing your workload.