The majority of writers don’t make a lot of money from books. Many freelance writers also struggle to make ends meet; hence comes the stereotype of the “starving writer.” It’s a negative image for sure—and not one to be holding onto as you try to carve out a career—and a living—using your craft. That’s why I’ve asked Peter Bowerman, self-published author of four books, including, The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less, and professional coach for commercial freelancing and self-publishing ventures, to provide today’s guest post. If anyone knows how to make sure writers are “well-fed,” not starving, it’s Peter. NA
Earn $50-125+ an hour writing for businesses (and make time for your creative writing)!
- A tri-fold sales brochure (~9 hours): $1,200. A two-page sales flyer (~6 hours): $850.
- An eight-page corporate image brochure (~22 hours): $2,800.
- Three direct mail postcards for a college (~13 hours): $1,800.
- Editing of web site copy (~8 hours): $1,100.
- A 12-page marketing brochure for a global materials handling firm (~45 hours): $5,000.
- Crafting of short, two-line sales “blurbs” for supermarket displays (~47 hours): $5,600.
All are projects in my portfolio and all are examples of the lucrative—and surprisingly accessible—world of “commercial” writing. And let’s not forget the lifestyle: work at home, rise when you want, take off when you want, earn $50-$125+/hour, work in your sweats. Hey, we’re writers. It’s a lifestyle form-fitted to us, right?
For the past 20 years—and even more so recently—thanks to downsizing and outsourcing, companies everywhere are doing more with less. For many firms, that means turning to well-paid freelancers to write their marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail campaigns, case studies, web content, and much more.
Clients tell me all the time how hard it is to find smart, competent, reliable writers who “get it.” Might that be you? But it gets better…
Given the times, many companies that formerly hired tony ad agencies and design firms are ditching them in favor of more cost-effective freelancers (especially talented designer/writer teams), and discovering they often get better work at far less cost.
“How Good Do I Have to Be?”
Fact: no one’s going to pay you $50-$125+ an hour if you’re mediocre. But, plenty of fields such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, high-tech, and others, have ongoing needs for writing that’s simply clear, concise and coherent.
Start studying your junk mail, the newsletter inserts in your utility bills, the rack brochures at your bank. Could you write that? I’m guessing yes.
Learning to Love S&M (sales and marketing…)
Yes, above all else, this business is a sales and marketing venture. But, it’s not about being slick and pushy. That never works. It’s about matching your skills to a client’s needs. And I promise, the good clients will be happy you found them.
Get comfortable with some basic sales and marketing principles, and you’ll set yourself apart from most writers. AND be able to talk intelligently—and write for—just about any client. Principles like:
- Audience: Understanding who you’re writing to and trying to “reach,” and what language and issues will resonate with them
- Features/Benefits Equation: Focusing on what’s important to readers, NOT talking about your product, service or company. And…
- USP (Unique Selling Proposition): Figuring out what you/your client does better than the competition, and highlighting that in marketing materials
Plenty of Work
The sheer volume of potential work is mind-blowing:
- B2C (business-to-consumer): ads, direct mail, newsletters, brochures, web sites, and countless other project types
- B2B (business-to-business): all the writing created by businesses to market to other businesses – absolutely huge. And finally…
- Internal communications: everything a company creates to communicate with their employees: newsletters, web sites, training programs, policy manuals, benefits guides, and more. Much of it is outsourced.
Now, in addition to the huge volume of work within big firms, imagine the vast number of smaller firms (50-200+ employees) with many of the same needs. Yet, these smaller entities are less likely to have the in-house staff to execute them (often because they know external resources exist!), but they DO have the money to pay for it.
Landing the Work
Given how important writing is to their businesses, these companies expect to hear from writers, yet, many of my clients tell me they don’t. Reach them by cold calling, direct mail, networking groups, social media sites like LinkedIn and others, by tapping your contact base, or ideally, some combination of all the above. Leverage past industry experience and contacts, and get started by pursuing work in that arena.
While still working at another job, build a portfolio of samples: projects you’ve done in current/former jobs; pro bono work for charities and start-ups; or just create a portfolio of corporate-type samples from scratch. Perhaps you team up with a graphic designer also starting out, so you both end up with samples. Then load them up to a web site. Visit www.writeinc.biz, (then Portfolio) to get an idea of project types.
The Adult Conversation
Starting a commercial writing business is no “get-rich-quick” deal. Your mother was right: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Building a writing business is hard work, but know that, 1) there IS a need for good writing in business; 2) hiring freelancers over full-timers makes sound economic sense for most companies, and finally; 3) if you’re a good writer (not brilliant, just good), you can find your place in this field.
Many writers dream of making their writing mark in more literary avenues. Until then, why not get paid well to write and carve out more time to pursue your writing passions? The commercial writing market is big, growing and pays handsomely. As you read this, thousands of writers are landing countless, high-paying writing jobs. Why not you?
About the Author
Peter Bowerman is the self-published author of the three award-winning “Well-Fed Writer” titles on making $50-125 an hour in the lucrative “commercial” writing field (www.wellfedwriter.com; subscribe free to his ezine and blog). He’s self-published all his books, and chronicled his success (a full-time living since 2001) in the award-winning release, The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less (www.wellfedsp.com). A popular speaker on writing and publishing, he is a professional coach for commercial freelancing and self-publishing ventures.
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