Free Online Marketing for Freelance Writers

In the movie Field of Dreams, a voice tells Kevin Costner, “If you build it, he will come.”

Many freelance writers start out with the same philosophy. We think that if we have good writing skills and put together a decent website, clients will find their way to us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There are thousands of freelance writers on the Internet, so rather than waiting for clients to stumble across our sites, we have to use online marketing strategies to go out and find them.

Luckily, there are many free opportunities for effective online marketing.

Make Yourself Known

Your first step to building a profitable business is to make your presence known, both to potential clients and to others in the freelance writing field.

  1. Put up a web site with information about your business and services. Be sure to make good use of keywords, or the words that potential customers will type into search engines to find your site. Obvious keywords for writers include terms like “freelance writer,” “freelance editor,” and terms that refer to any specialty you may have such as “health writer” or “freelance copywriter.”
  2. Join professional networks. Websites like LinkedIn and Freelancers Union are available at no cost and offer many opportunities for you to get to know other writing professionals and exchange job leads. You can also network by finding the blogs of other writers and leaving constructive comments–not spam–along with a link back to your own website or blog.
  3. Write a few articles for Ezine. Although normally freelance writers should beware of sites that offer “publicity” in lieu of pay, Ezine is one of the few non-paying sites that really does offer credible exposure to up-and-coming authors. Writing for Ezine is especially effective if you have one or more areas of expertise, such as health writing or travel writing. Submit a few articles on your topics of expertise, along with a link back to your website, and watch your traffic grow.
  4. Advertise your services in the online classifieds such as Craigslist. Most advertisements are free, so if there’s an area of your business you’d like to beef up, such as editing or ghostwriting, this is a good place to offer your services.
  5. Advertise locally. Pitch articles to local online magazines and newspapers. The pay may not be much, but you will get noticed as a local writer. Another way to build your reputation locally is to email bookstores and libraries in your area and offer to write articles for their websites on topics of interest for writers.

Once you’ve built a base of clients and network contacts, your next step is to keep them informed about and interested in your work.

  1. Maintain a blog. Most web hosting sites offer free blogging capability. If yours doesn’t, get a free account at a site like WordPress or Blogger. Use your blog to talk about topics related to your writing business, to offer free advice and promotions, and to include links to your writing website and to sites where your work appears. Remember to update your blog frequently and to keep the tone friendly but professional.
  2. Use social media. Facebook allows you to create a unique business page at no charge. Invite your friends to “Like” your business page, and use it to spread the word whenever you offer a new promotion or publish a new article. Likewise, Twitter allows you to stay in touch with other writers and promote your own work. (Note: Facebook also offers some paid advertising options that can help build traffic to your business site.)
  3. Offer a bi-weekly or monthly electronic newsletter to customers who opt in. Offer business tips in your newsletter as well as news about your business and special promotions to readers. For instance, if you have a new book coming out, you might offer it at a discounted rate to newsletter subscribers.
  4. Use press releases judiciously. If you have real news–if you’ve won a contest, signed a deal with a major publisher or had one of your columns picked up by a newspaper or magazine, send out a press release to let your local media know.

Writers have a reputation for being shy and introverted. Many of us have trouble with the concept of marketing. We’d just as soon do the writing and let the marketing take care of itself.

Unfortunately, if you don’t do some online marketing and take steps to call attention to your work, you probably won’t get noticed even if you have the talent of William Shakespeare.

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