Freelance writers: how to identify the best business-writing prospects really fast
Here is a sure-fire way to identify the best prospects for your freelance writing services: Look at their online presence and go after businesses that have posted the best and the most writing (relative to their size).
Note: This article is specific to freelance writers, but the basic premise is relevant to many other freelancers and consultants as well.
Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. But true.
The very best prospects already have lots of well-written content out there.
Now you may think that this indicates they have no need for a writer. They seem to be doing just fine.
However, these are the people who may be tired of doing it all themselves and want to trade in writing for more profitable tasks.
They may be stressed by the demands they place on themselves while they also accomplish other work.
They may be excellent writers but hate doing it.
They may have staff or freelance writers doing the work but they may need more paid assistance. Or they may be on the verge of staff turnover.
In other words, they may have tremendous need but it’s not obvious to the outside reader.
They are excellent prospects because they clearly recognize the importance of fresh content. And they are likely to pay better because they understand how much time and effort this work requires.
Yet another type of prospect posts good writing but not so much of it.
They may also be worth contacting if the sole problem is that they need more writing help.
They are worth a try though they are less likely to buy than businesses that already show evidence of doing a lot of writing.
It makes sense that the smaller businesses most likely to need writers are those where the owners don’t write and don’t have anyone who writes for them. Or those that have posted some content but it’s pathetic.
But in practice, these are the people who least value writing. The reason they have nothing up there is probably because they don’t want to waste their time producing content and they don’t value content enough to pay someone else to create it.
Identify the need—which is really easy to do when a business has a sparse website, no articles and no blog or just a little content with obvious spelling and grammatical flaws—and offer to meet their need.
For these companies with obvious errors, they don’t know enough to value good writing. They are not embarrassed as they should be so they assume everything is fine. Spell-check is so last millennium. Company personnel may care when someone points out the problem, but more likely they think these corrections are petty and old school.
To boil it down, they haven’t spent any money on writing to date and they aren’t likely to in the future.
What to say when you call and email?
The best approach is a positive one. Tell them you’ve looked at their website, blog, press releases (or whatever), and express that you are impressed. Then say you’d like to work with them. This makes them feel good about you.
If you are going after companies that already have good writing, complimenting them is easy to do.
For those companies that are writing deficient, the worst approach is to offer to point out their flaws, even if you are willing to do this for free, and then offer to fix these flaws for pay.
People don’t respond favorably to criticism out of the blue . . . even if they have pointed out the very same weaknesses at staff meetings.
Originally posted 2-14-11