You may have razor-sharp writing skills, a passion for words, and relentless determination—but if no one knows who you are, these traits won’t form a winning recipe for success.
In today ’s high-tech marketplace, raising online awareness is key to launching a thriving freelance writing career!
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to transition from print to web writing, check out these tips for building a strong—and profitable—online presence.
Register a unique domain
While it’s possible to set up a website for free, the caveat is that you have to “piggyback” on the provider’s domain. For instance, your URL would be www.[bizname].wordpress.com or www.[bizname].blogspot.com. For a few extra bucks, you can purchase your own unique domain, such as www.[bizname].com.
There are a few key benefits to owning a unique hosted domain:
- A more professional identity. A writer who has made the effort to purchase her own online space will be taken more seriously than one who has just thrown up a quickie free site.
- Access to countless themes. There are thousands of professionally designed templates available for hosted sites, at no extra charge. WordPress.org’s Free Theme Directory is a great place to start, but there are plenty of other sites offering template directories.
- Access to a built-in CMS. Most of the popular hosting plans offer content management functionality, making it easy to add and update copy, layouts, and other site elements on the fly.
Create a simple online portfolio
When potential clients come to your site, they want to see samples of your work without having to click through a maze of links. They should be able to find what they’re looking for within 10 seconds of landing on your page. Choose a few of your strongest pieces and use a clean, simple interface to present them. There are dozens of free or cheap portfolio tools you can use to showcase your work.
Get on the blogging bandwagon
From hairstylists to hardware stories, virtually every modern business has a blog—and it’s especially important for freelance writers to follow suit. After all, writing is your forte, so blogging is an easy, cost-effective way to market your services AND your skills. Still not convinced?
Here are a few reasons to add blogging to the top of your to-do list:
- You’ll get more leads. Companies that blog get considerably more visitors than static sites. The steady stream of fresh content and strategic use of keywords will increase your visibility and attract more clicks from potential clients.
- It’s free (or cheap). There are plenty of free blog platforms out there, including blogger.com, Tumblr.com, and WordPress.com. If you’re marketing on a budget, you can have a blog up and running in minutes without paying a penny. Plus, as an inbound marketing strategy, blogging is cost-effective with a high ROI. Inbound marketing costs up to 62 percent less than outbound marketing.
- It shows off your personality. Most clients don’t want to hire a faceless business—they want to engage with a real person. A blog allows you to share your writing style, professional philosophies, and opinions on industry developments. Readers will get to know you, not just your prices and services.
- Engage with clients. Use your blog to provide timely information, ask questions, and encourage clients to share feedback. Unlike your regular web pages, a blog is more like a conversation—a venue for two-way communication.
Get your content out there
As a new freelance writer, it’s a lot easier to get paying gigs when you have a portfolio of published content online—but are you supposed to publish content if you’ve yet to land your first client?
There are a number of reputable article directories—HubPages.com and EzineArticles.com are two of the biggest—where you can submit your own copyrighted articles to be published under your byline. Visitors can read your bio, view your photo, and click to access your business website or blog.
Because these sites are so massive in terms of pages and content, they hold a lot of weight in search engine rankings. When writing your articles, use keywords that are relevant to your expertise and target audience. For instance, if you specialize in writing sales letters, you can weave in variations of “sales letter copywriter.”
Do you write for a specific niche? Seek out sites that publish content in your specialized area. For instance, if you write fitness articles, you can submit to a site like http://www.fitnesshealtharticles.com.
When clients need freelance writers, social media is one of the most popular places to look.
If you’re already using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks, it should be fairly easy to set up business pages on these sites. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into the social media waters, this will take a bit more research and experimentation to get your pages just right.
For more information on this topic, check out my quick-start guide on how to set up your writer social profiles.
LinkedIn is a veritable treasure trove of potential gigs and clients. Create a professional profile that highlights your most marketable skills, samples, and experiences. Remember to create a keyword-rich bio to boost your page’s search engine ranking.
And while you may have assumed that Pinterest is just for crafting, décor, and recipes, the electronic bulletin board can actually serve as a great visual writing portfolio
Promote your profiles
Once you have a website, blog, and/or portfolio, boost their visibility by sharing them on your marketing collateral, business cards, resumes, and email signatures. When you comment on other blogs or forum posts, include your links. Not only will this show potential clients that you’re plugged into the tech scene and demonstrate confidence in your business brand, it will also increase the inbound links going back to your web presence and boost search engine visibility.
Build a community
Creating a strong online presence isn’t just about pushing out your own content—it also means cultivating relationships with like-minded people whose goals complement yours. Make a list of freelance writing blogs that interest you (or that see a large volume of traffic), and spend some time every week reading posts, commenting on them, and interacting with the writers and other commenters.
Social media is another prime opportunity to interact with the writing community. Follow other writers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and reply to their posts.
The key is to get your name out there as much as possible—ideally along with a link back to your website or blog.
The Importance of Strategy
It’s important to tie all of these content techniques together with an underlying strategy. Before you start writing, figure out what your message will be, what tone or style you want to use, and how you want people to perceive you. Whether it’s a tweet, a blog, or an article, every piece of content you put out there is a reflection of your personal brand—so use them thoughtfully and wisely.
Check out my other posts related to setting up your writer’s website.