Powerful Marketing Model for Freelance Copywriters

by : Chris Marlow

As a copywriter and copywriter's coach, it's my responsibility to offer powerful, on-target advice to my "mentees." For them as well as myself…and for you…I keep a keen watch on the world of freelance copywriting to pick up on changes and trends.I spent last month musing over numerous clues, statements, conversations, experiences, and purchased research pertaining to the business side of copywriting.

My conclusion? The world of copywriter marketing is changing rapidly …thanks to the Web.

I built my site in 1998. Back then there were few copywriters on the Internet. For a long time, when you keyed "copywriter" into Yahoo, my site would come in at the top along with Bob Bly's and Ivan Levison's. I'm sure there were others, but these are the sites I remember.

With so few copywriters on the Web, I enjoyed a virtual cornucopia of new clients for about four years, until copywriter newcomers started pushing my site down and down and down…until even I didn't look for my site any more.

Like everyone else, I had to start driving business to my site, and as time wore on, it proved a marketing model that worked very well.

But I believe a radical shift is now taking place…

...one that implores you to forget thinking about your WEB SITE as the centerpoint of your marketing and make your FREE EZINE the centerpoint instead!

Why is this?

Because the ezine is emerging as one of marketing's most powerful…and inexpensive…and superfast… marketing tools ever.

Note that free ezines have been around for a long time. Note also that there are hundreds of thousands of them! And note that YOU are subscribed to at least one :)

In the early days of the Internet virtually everyone looked upon this new medium…the Web…as one would look upon an extra-terrestrial. It LOOKS powerful, but where does that power come from?

Companies started pasting their employees' bios on the Web until pirating ran rampant. Then they moved toward wimpy "online brochures." Now enough testing has taken place and enough time has passed to offer clear direction on what works, what doesn't, and what wins.

And guess what wins?

You guessed it…the ezine!

Knowing this, I've gone from suggesting that my coaching students create a highly-targeted, content-rich ezine (or blog), to requiring it.

My own experience with an ezine (thanks to my Freelancer's Business Bulletin subscribers), proves the power of keeping in touch with a group of like-minded people. Because I work hard to bring useful content to my readers, my list grows steadily and my unsubscribe rate is low.

That said, here's what you must know about marketing your freelance business in 2006 and beyond:

Today's business-building writer should select one primary marketing method and strengthen it with other marketing methods that suit their temperament, location, goals, and target market.

I used to believe that one should pick two or three favorite marketing methods and do them exceedingly well.

Now I believe that new copywriters who are entering the business at ground zero, with no name recognition in their marketplace, should
use as many marketing tools as they can.

I still recommend direct mail as an essential marketing method because it's the only way to handpick your target audience…to know that the people you're reaching are of sufficient quality to deserve your time.

Your direct mailings and everything else you do…
participation in discussion boards, article publication, face-to-face networking, cold calls, public speaking, and so on…should drive sign-ups to your ezine.

And it's from your EZINE that you do your most effective…and least expensive…selling. Over time, as your ezine readership grows, you can abandon your time-consuming direct mailings altogether.

More evidence that the ezine is becoming the world's most powerful marketing tool…

While on vacation in Oregon I brought along some overdue reading. One piece was Part 2 of Clayton Makepeace's interview with the legendary Gary Bencivenga. They're discussing mailing formats, particularly that of the magalog.

Clayton says, "Everyone's looking for the next big format breakthrough…"

And Gary replies, "I really think it's here already. I think it's an e-zine. I'm finding that with the clients I'm a partner with, I almost don't want to do direct mail anymore.

"It's too tough to send a 24-page magalog to a prospect who doesn't know you. I don't think that direct mail will ever be dead, but rising paper costs, rising printing, and rising skepticism argue against people responding to cold mailings that are trying to sell them something right on the spot.

"I think these factors argue instead for an elongated courtship of an e-zine that is of great value, where the selling process starts more subtly, a lot more softly. Perhaps in the future, the most profitable use of much direct mail will be to drive people into an e-zine relationship."

Gary Bencivenga's take on the ezine only strengthens my long-held position that a free ezine should be an essential part of any copywriter's marketing toolkit.

Gary supports the age-old premise and marketing tactic that in lead-gen, you must lead your prospect down the path with high quality information that is valuable.

Here's another prediction:

The Internet will create more competition for the freelance copywriter.

This sounds scary but it's not. Direct marketers such as AWAI are reaching a vast market of people who want to transition from what they're doing now to a career with greater flexibility, freedom, and financial promise.

On the surface, it may look like lots of new copywriters are flooding the market…and they are!

But most target the obvious markets…the ones we can readily see…such as alternative health and publishing.

And yes, you will see increased competition in the obvious markets as AWAI and other programs create more and more entry-level copywriters.

But this is a perfect example of tunnel vision. You see what's before you…not what actually exists.

And that's one of the things I do for my coachingstudents…I show them how to find lucrative hidden "pockets" in traditional copywriting niches.

But it doesn't stop there.

I also show my copywriters how to discover exciting markets that other copywriters are unaware of…and under certain conditions, I can even show them how to CREATE their own niche markets!

So while it may seem that the market is flooding with new copywriters, the truth is that the new copywriters will flood only the obvious markets. The world of business is full of markets…hidden and not.

The Internet Has Made Marketing Faster, Easier, and Cheaper for Service Providers Such as Copywriters.

I have long marveled over the low cost of maintaining a Web site. Creating a presence in other Web venues (such as discussion groups and blog postings) is virtually free. You can write articles for free and distribute them online for free or at low cost. My own positive experience is proof that the effort to "show up" all over the Web is worth it.

And in a recent conversation with a successful nonprofit copywriter, I learned that email marketing can work well IF you have a reliable source for names and their email addresses.

To avoid spamming, you'll need to find lists where prospects in a target market have "put their names and emails out there," and would not be surprised by a cold contact coming in this way. If you're in a niche market that has associations, this is the most likely place to find such a list.

Local Clients Can be a Good Source of Income for the Beginning Copywriter.

I used to advise against targeting local clients because they usually want you to come to the office for meetings and to "pick up the check." It's a bad use of your time, that's true, but if you have a connection with someone local who you think would hire you, it's money in the door, experience, and a sample for your portfolio.

And no, they don't have to be in your niche market. You do want a "connection," however weak. I once did fun work for Oregon specialty cataloger Norm Thompson. While they usually don't hire freelance, they used me because I lived in Lake Oswego, which was a stone's throw to their Wilsonville location.

If You Have the Stomach, Talent, and Opportunity for Public Speaking, Do It!

It's one of the most effective marketing tools you can use. And because relatively few copywriters like public speaking (including me), there's plenty of opportunity to get before groups that are eager to hear what you have to say.

Board members are always looking for their next speaker. Believe me, you will be welcomed! Just be sure to avoid groups that have little to offer, such as groups of other solopreneurs.

In My Opinion, Networking is Equal in Power to Doing Steady Direct Mail Mailings to Your Target Market.

And that means both online and off. This is where you definitely do want to stick to your target market, especially in any offline efforts. It's simply too time-consuming to hob-nob with groups that you don't have a strong connection with.

It bears repeating…

Make sure ALL your marketing activities send people to your free ezine.

This is the model everyone is using…first it was the small guys, then the mid-size companies caught on, then

I saw Agora's Internet marketing model…now even the big guys are putting the ezine at the center of their marketing!

Just be aware that it takes "multiple touches" before you can expect to see your relationships turn into business. Some say to plan a minimum of nine touches, and for some copywriting markets, you may find that it takes up to two years of continued contact to gain the trust of your prospect.

THIS is why I now advocate using as many marketing tools as you reasonably can when first starting out…touch as many people as possible, always driving to your list…then touch your own list with frequent mailings (at least once a month), while staying in front of your audience in as many ways as possible.

When I say "use as many marketing tools as you reasonably can," I don't mean use everything at your disposal. We're all human and we have time limits.

If you try to use every marketing tool at your disposal you'll dilute your efforts. Best to pick those that are right for you from your burgeoning "package" of possibilities.

This is one place a good coach can help you accelerate your success…by showing you how to create a customized marketing plan. Copywriters are akin to marketers…and smart marketers craft marketing plans that maximum their exposure both online and off.