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Author: David Kirby

David Kirby is an entertainment writer and screenwriter.

GUEST POST: How to Market Yourself as a Writer and Build an Audience

Author MarketingSucceeding as an author on the internet is predicated on the ability to adequately market yourself and your work. You may write the best eBook on the market, yet lacking the ability to craft an equally compelling “pitch” will seriously hamper the likelihood of anyone reading or purchasing said eBook. All works must be compelling in both presentation (headline, cover, etc) and content (article, video, etc).

The quality of your presentation will determine whether someone picks up your book or clicks on your link. Terrible content with great presentation will attract curiosity but will not create or retain fans. Great content with terrible presentation (see: marketing) will struggle in obscurity but could still build a small loyal following.

In order to connect your work with potential readers and consumers, focus on three primary goals:

  1. Make a great impression
  2. Promote engagement
  3. Demonstrate long-term value

If you are an online publisher who writes articles or columns, your first impression to readers comes via an attractive headline. Great headlines attract views. Compelling content engages readers. Together, these components demonstrate value and results in social shares.

Attract an Audience

You only have a split second to make an impression. According to Copyblogger, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”

If you’re writing online, that great impression can be crafting a bold headline worth clicking on but don’t devolve into click-bait. This spammy practice damages your credibility and irritates readers when the content of the article is quite different than advertised. For novelists, making an impression can mean paying extra for truly eye-catching cover art or spending additional time perfecting the title or back cover synopsis.

It’s all about effective communication. Are you demonstrating that you’re worth time and effort? The same principle holds true when contacting potential partners or outreaching media outlets to gain coverage. Don’t waste the only chance you have to make a great first impression.

How many times have you received a spammy email asking for money or favors? Probably more times than you can count. For journalists, this spam problem is often multiplied by SEOs and well-meaning regular people who just don’t know how to communicate with them.

The key to increasing your email open rates lies in doing two things very well: writing great subject lines and establishing immediate relevance. Tell your audience (or email recipient) who are are, exactly what you want, and why you’re an expert.

What sounds more authoritative in an email?

Introducing the latest Afghanistan tell-all

from Medal of Honor recipient,

& Navy SEAL Bob Jones:

‘FURIOUS DESERT FURY’

Or…

“hey guys. I really like playing Call of Dooty

so I writed this book because its my pashion

and very cool. Plz read and friend me

on xbawks @ superwritersduty2005”

Promote Engagement

Engagement is all about encouraging an active conversation surrounding your content. The bottom line is that you need to create great content that people want to talk about and share. This can take many forms. Most successful websites possess some combination of:

  • Comments
  • Social media profiles
  • Customer surveys
  • Feedback pages

Not only do these create opportunities for readers to share opinions and commentary, but they also help your site’s search engine rankings by encouraging others to link to your pages. Increased engagement is the natural result of entertaining conversations surrounding worthwhile content.

Demonstrate Value

Your initial “pitch” via art or headline offered just enough value to gain an audience. Now you must demonstrate long-term value in order to keep their attention while avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump — the phenomenon of creating a smash-hit and then following it up with lesser quality work. Cementing your value means that you should continue to produce content of equally great quality.

It’s understandable why following success can be intimidating: there’s more pressure, and it can feel like you have less creative freedom. Stick to your guns and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Think about new ways you can demonstrate or market your expertise, and you can offer that knowledge as a way to diversify your cash flow. If your specialty is in written content, perhaps consider branching out into video or other visual ways of communicating. People are willing to spend their time (and money) with individuals they can trust to help resolve their problems.

People follow you for a reason. Appeal to that audience within your niche. Troy Lambert has built his content brand on teaching other writers how to live up to their fullest potential through expanding their skill-set. Regularly offering advice, tutorials, and anecdotes can provide readers with valuable resources to resolve their own problems within the industry.

Ultimately, you’re building upon why they came to you in the first place. You attracted an audience for a reason, and by engaging them in your content and community, it will demonstrate why you’re a continued resource for quality content. Your lasting value is in the quality content and engaging message that you share with others.

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GUEST POST: Becoming a Freelance Writing Consultant

Freelance Writing ConsultantIt is estimated that 34% of the U.S. workforce is made up of freelancers. Many freelancers have found ways to go from gig to full-time work, while others stay part-time while juggling other responsibilities. What typically differentiates a freelance writing consultant from early career freelancers is that these consultants typically already have experience in their field. The consultant will then use that knowledge for the benefit of their clients.

The current freelance economy is thriving, and is made up of 53 million U.S. workers. Becoming a freelance writing consultant is a great option for those seeking to supplement their existing income and expand their writing experiences. This can include doing typical freelance work, ie, “I assign you a project and you complete it,” but can also involve offering career advice and professional guidance.

The simplified process is as follows:

  • Market your best skills
  • Successfully complete projects
  • Build momentum through positive feedback
  • Consistently hone your skills

Say for example that you’re a editor by day for a book publisher and you’ve been doing this for several years. To someone who is just starting out writing and editing, your professional expertise can be valuable…and lucrative. Whatever skills you possess or unique talents you have on your side, you can advertise these in order to gain clients.

If you’re pursuing freelancing on the side of a full-time job, it can be difficult to maintain motivation unless you break any cycles of procrastination. Being a self-starter is a required trait to be successful as a freelance writing consultant. In addition to building up your reputation, succeeding as a freelancer will help you build the confidence you need to persist even when times are lean.

There are several ways to go about offering your services. You can use freelance marketplaces like Upwork, network through LinkedIn, build your own website, or do some combination of these three. Whichever method you use, the important thing is to present yourself professionally and demonstrate your skill set. This isn’t a passive process however. Networking is necessary if you want potential clients to discover you. As you successfully complete projects and help your clients achieve their goals, positive word-of-mouth will help you build momentum.

A challenging yet rewarding aspect of owning your own consultancy is the administrative upkeep necessary. Running your own business means you must take care of your own taxes, invoices, and the rest of the paper trail. Fortunately there are many helpful resources that will teach you how to do this and even offer sample templates that you can adapt for your own purposes. Before tax season rolls around you’ll want to have all your financials in order. Keep meticulous physical or digital records, and ideally back-up those files. Though if the worst happens and the digital dog eats your homework, you can often still recover that data from failed storage devices and hard-drives. Be thorough and document everything, or back-up your files on cloud-based programs like Google Docs or Spreadsheets.

Thriving as a freelance writing consultant is hard work, yet the freedom and experience you can gain is often worth it. You don’t need to be a world-renowned expert to share your abilities and make a difference in the lives of your clients. Put your best foot forward, always keep improving your skills, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing yourself as a professional writer. Like Hemingway said, “let them think you were born that way.”

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GUEST POST: Treat Your Writing Career Like A Small Business

david-kirby-quote

Aspiring writers are a dime a dozen. As a writer myself I meet many like-minded individuals with dreams of pursuing a career writing full-time. Instead of treating it like a career, they instead view it as a far-off event that may or may not ever arrive. People like this aren’t convinced that they can make it happen, and might be living a self-fulfilling prophecy of literary underachievement. Today is the day to change that.

Fake It Till You Make It

If you want to become an Olympic sprinter then you need to run practically every day. It takes copious amounts of time, blood, sweat, and self belief. Writing is the same way. Don’t just aspire to become a successful writer – write consistently and fake it till you make it. There’s nothing wrong with being casually committed to the craft like most writers, but if you ever plan on living off your writing…being like most writers isn’t good enough. A better mindset to have is to treat your career like a small business

Once more with feeling: Treat your writing career like a small business. You’re the face of your company and your own best advocate. Do yourself a favor and take the steps that will enable you to succeed. That means consistency, documentation, and professionalism.

You Deserve To Be Paid

Try to recognize that your words are your product and worth payment in exchange for others reading them. A sort of culture has developed where people taking writing for granted. We consume news, editorials, reviews, and all manner of written content online constantly and for free. Somewhere along the line the public decided that since they consume it for free, it wasn’t worth anything. There are too many online publications that refuse to give their regular contributors a dollar, choosing instead to repeat the tired refrain of ‘publicity’ when there’s very little of that too.

Over time I’ve come to see that our writing only has as much value as we place on it. From the first moment you plant yourself in front of the keyboard you should keep the frame of mind that your writing is worthwhile and worth being compensated for. If your goal is to get publicity, then by all means accept it as payment. Otherwise remember that free content has its purposes but alone doesn’t put bread on your table. Getting paid does.

Get Help From Your Friends

It’s important to surround yourself with allies who are actively pursuing similar goals. Small business conferences and writing seminars are both great environments to cultivate your fighting spirit. You’ll need it for the road ahead – the name ‘small business’ already tells you what you can expect. It’s small and it will take time to grow. Seek out mentors that can help you gain a foothold in your niche. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes as long as you keep trying. Successful friends and teachers are guide posts that light your way. You won’t be able to duplicate their success immediately and that’s OK. I know quitting your day job tomorrow to pursue a life of pure bliss writing reviews of Bonanza re-runs sounds great, but that’s a long ways off. You have to earn it first. Writing as a business is not and has never been a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. This is a multifaceted process that requires your full effort. Don’t forget that you have friends that can help you on your journey.

Master Many Skills

Recognize that as a jack or jane-of-all-trades, your business is never just writing. You’re responsible for writing, sure, but you’re also responsible for promoting yourself and managing the small yet important financial details. You have to factor in the accounting side of running a small business or working as a 1099 freelancer. Navigating tax laws as a small business owner can be tricky, especially when taking into consideration tax credits and deductions. Small businesses often have narrow margins and you must take care to save money at every opportunity possible. Along the way perhaps you’ll also design your own logo or even design your office space. Having friends to help is good but you must also develop your own skills.

Believe In Yourself First

I think it all begins with a fundamental mindset shift from freelancer to business owner. Viewing yourself as a freelancer only can feel too much like being an employee or a tumbleweed that rolls from town to town in search of work. Instead, think of and treat yourself as a sole proprietor that sells quality goods (your words) and services (your expertise) to customers, no matter how big or small. It’s all part of how you market your work and it begins with empowering yourself. You’re the baddest in the west and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

You’re not the drifting gunfighter that roams from saloon to saloon in search of work. Give yourself more credit, because in many ways you’re the saloon itself. Gunfighters, wranglers, and farmers from all across the state come to your establishment in search of opportunities and a good drink. You’re a jack or jane-of-all-trades: tough, skilled, and with friends to boot. Seize your writing career today by treating it like the business it’s always been. 

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