For today’s writer tip, I’m going to focus on what to do if you’re in a desperate spot and need income NOW. Trust me, I’ve been there. It sucks, but it’s life in these United States these past many years, so instead of wallowing in it, we’re going to buckle up and do something about it. Here’s how.
One: Clean Up Your LinkedIn Profile
If you need money to pay your rent yesterday, it may feel like setting up a LinkedIn profile is a waste of desperately needed time. Just think of this as your job application for a wealth of new PAID writing opportunities, and get it done. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on it at first. Just get these things done:
- Upload a decent head shot. It doesn’t have to be professionally done, but it does have to look like you’re a professional. Put on a nice blouse or button-down shirt, do your hair, and get a good, clear, head and shoulders shot with a clean background. Smile. Stick it on there.
- Link to any material you’ve written that’s been published online. This goes in the “Publications” section.
- Write yourself a headline. “Copywriter” is perfectly fine, or “Freelance Copywriter.” You can spiff it up later, but for now we’re focused on getting you ready to make your first few bucks as a freelancer.
- Write yourself a summary. This is the hardest part, and also important. Look at a couple of profiles you like as a model. Focus on your work as a writer and how you can benefit and/or have benefitted the companies you write for. For more help on this, download my brand new, totally free Get Started Guide.
- Update the experience section. Fill in the gaps to show a continuous story from graduation to now. You can lump “Service Work” jobs under one heading, and “Self-employed” jobs under one heading to keep it clean. Make sure to highlight anything you’re especially proud of. Nobody actually reads this section, but it has to look like you tried.
Okay, now that that’s done, time to dive in and start the engine.
Two: Contact Marketing Agencies in Your Area
Agencies are not the only or even the best source of writing work, but they are a fast and reliable source. This has been true for all 16 years I’ve been at this, and it’s only become more true in the past couple years. Agencies need content.
Use LinkedIn’s search capability for this. While the interface changes constantly, the basic approach is to use the search bar, and then use the filter to limit results to your local area.
Use the “connect” feature to connect with individuals at as many agencies as you can. When you send the “connect” request, be sure to include a personalized message. Many people won’t accept a connection request without context. Here’s some sample text you can personalize:
I see that we’re both in the marketing industry in [local area]. I’m launching a marketing copywriting business and would love to connect. I look forward to getting to know you.
Three: Schedule a Call
Not everyone you request a connection with will connect, but some of them will. And when they do, you’ll get a notification. Within a day or two, follow up via LinkedIn messaging, and request a call to see if there are any opportunities for you to serve them.
Real Talk: This approach is not necessarily the best possible practice. I generally advocate a slower, relationship-based approach to developing sales leads. However, if fast cash is the priority, you may not have time for that. This approach will be more grueling and less enjoyable, and may yield lower long-term results, but it will give you a quick boost that can get you started so you have the cash to survive while you develop your longer-term strategy.
Back to the fast-track plan. When you request the call, here’s some text you can use:
Thanks for accepting my connection request! If you’re interested, I would love to see if there are opportunities for me to help your agency with writing services. Do you have time to jump on a call or grab a coffee in the next week or two? Here are some times that are convenient for me (list a few times). I look forward to getting to know you!
I will warn you. Some folks won’t like the fast-track approach, but very few will actually be rude to you. More likely, those who aren’t interested will ignore you (that’s what I would do). However, some of those you contact are going to be in immediate need of writers, and they are going to want to talk to you.
Four: Listen to Them
Most marketing agencies have lots of experience working with writers, and lots of frustrations. Some key frustrations:
- The writing is just not that great and they have to fix it up afterward
- The writers don’t understand their audience and they have to fix their work afterward
- They need more content than their in-house writers can keep up with
- The clients are creating their own content but it’s not good
- The clients are creating their own content but it’s not frequent enough
Any one of these is a problem you can solve. The key to knocking their socks off in the call, however, has nothing to do with proving you can solve the problem. The key is simply to listen closely and understand the problem. Aim to talk no more than 30% of the time and listen the rest. This is hard, but also easy. Take the pressure off yourself and let them guide you.
While you’re listening, you’ll hear one or more of the above frustrations. When they ask you to talk, then you can share how you’ll solve that problem for them.
They are also going to want to know how much you charge. For lots more info on pricing, check out the Quick Start guide. In short, if what you’re in this for RIGHT NOW is quick cash, then quote them something easy to swallow and let them know it’s introductory pricing. This is not a good long-term strategy (as you’ll see in the guide), but it can grease your wheels to get you moving.
Five: Play the Numbers Game
For this approach to work, you are going to have to contact a lot of agencies. In my early days, I made 300 cold calls a week (or a day… I forget now. It was a lot. It was exhausting). You probably don’t have to do that many to start hitting good opportunities, but you will have to do a lot more than you think. Get used to “no” because every “no” is one step closer to “yes.”
Six: Insist on 50% Up Front
This is good practice throughout your writing career, and especially important when you need cash flow quick. Don’t even hesitate when they ask about your terms. 50% up front is STANDARD. You are not asking for special dispensation. This is basic business practice, and they shouldn’t balk at it. Make sure that 50% is in your hands before you even begin. If they want the work expedited, they can expedite the payment. That simple.
A note on UpWorks and etc. I know a lot of folks make good money on UpWorks and related sites. I also know the competition there is fierce, and that a lot of people give up in despair. Try it if you like, but keep in mind that people like to do business with people. When you go directly to agencies via LinkedIn, you save the client the trouble of finding someone through an impersonal clearinghouse, and you demonstrate that you’re a go-getter, and not just idly waiting for work to fall in your lap. You’ll build relationships that may last many years. And you’ll skip the whole thing where you have to pay a commission in order to get paid.
That’s it, loves. Go out there and make some money. Download the Quick Start Guide, too. Seriously, it’s free, and it contains strategies for developing longer term profitability, as well as links to templates and other good stuff to get you off the ground.
Real Talk: You’re going to be hearing a lot more from me here on the Command Copywriter blog. The plan is to offer short, actionable tips, advice, and inspiration several times a week. You can get these goodies delivered directly to your email inbox by subscribing at right, or stay tuned via Facebook.