The 7 Freelance Virtues

lighthouse-iconThe most successful freelance creatives I know aren’t the coolest cats on the block, the snappiest dressers, or the ones who attract the most social media hits. They’re people who make a point of doing business in an exemplary way even when it might seem like they don’t have to. This is good news for all of us, because it means true success comes primarily from the inside out, not the other way around. It’s the product of basic, fundamental principles that any business owner can develop and master.

Read more on the Creative Freelancer Blog.

  Is great content enough?

symbols_splayedLast month’s newsletter, “What makes perfect customers call,” caused quite a stir among my readers.

Within minutes, several people had sent me some variation of the same question: “Is it enough to publish content each month, or is there more you have to do to get calls like this?”

The not-so-simple answer is “it depends.”

While regular content marketing will rarely be the only factor involved when you make a new client conversion, it reinforces everything else you do to promote your business. A good marketing machine has many components, including face-to-face networking, referrals from existing clients, public speaking gigs, and other channels depending on who you’re trying to connect with.

Sometimes your machine will bring you a pre-sold prospect like the one who called me last month. More often, new contacts aren’t ready to act the first time you meet them. This is where your content strategy comes into play. Stay in touch with these folks regularly through your mailing list and you’ll benefit in several ways:

  1. People you’ve met will receive a regular reminder that you’re out there, which encourages them to act sooner or to prefer you to another provider when they’re ready to buy.
  2. Like the prospect in last month’s story, some of your readers will already feel a sense of connection with you when you’re first introduced. At a recent conference for example, many of the people I met were more relaxed and friendly because they had read my articles.
  3. Prospects who are turned off by your style won’t call you, saving both of you a lot of hassle.

How you craft your content also plays a big part in your success. It’s not enough to post 2,000 words on the Internet each month if you’re simply writing fluff. Here are four extra tips to add to last month’s list to help you get the most from your content:

  1. Your content must be relevant. If what you write has value to your readers, they’ll keep reading. It’s that simple.
  2. Post your content where it will be seen. In addition to this newsletter, I write for several sites that regularly attract the interest of my ideal clients. Much as I love the folks on my house list, the reality is that my business is still getting known. As a result, the majority of my new business currently comes from other sites with more-established reputations. In addition to attracting more eyeballs, you can build credibility by writing for sites or publications that appeal to your best prospects.
  3. Make it easy for prospects to sign up. Whenever you meet someone you want to stay in touch with, ask them if they’d like to be added to your newsletter list. Make it as easy as possible by offering to sign them up yourself, and do it promptly. This small effort on your part will increase your signup rate, and it’s worth doing to get new prospects into your system so that you can stay connected automatically in the future.
  4. Offer an incentive. One way to beat the “good grief, not another newsletter!” response is to give your subscribers something of value right away. Whether it’s a digital download, a free 30-minute consultation, or some other offer, make sure there’s some obvious benefit for your subscribers so that it’s not just about you.

Thanks for reading Currents in 2013—watch for some exciting new changes in 2014! In the meantime, here’s wishing each and every one of you a truly meaningful holiday, no matter what you celebrate.



  “I feel like I already know you.”

phone_cordThe voice on the phone gave me all the proof I’ll ever need that content marketing really works:

“I know we’ve never met,” she said, “but I’ve been reading your online articles for a while and I feel like I already know you.”

What followed was easily one of the most relaxed and effortless conversations I’ve ever had with a new client. Before we hung up she said “send me a contract.”

In short, a perfect client had practically fallen into my lap merely because I made a commitment a while back to write a free article once a month. No cold calling. No elevator speech. No sales pitch. And I didn’t spend anything but a bit of time writing.

Ultimately, all I had to do was close the sale…because 95 percent of my marketing work had been done for me. She was already familiar with my samples, my writing style, and my offbeat sense of humor. A colleague she trusted had recommended me. And she matched one of my “preferred client” profiles so closely that I could have written it simply by using the cut-and-paste command to copy her life story.

The call validated five key truths that apply to any content marketing strategy:

  1. Content marketing takes time to get results. Don’t start a newsletter, blog, or podcast and expect the phone to start ringing overnight. Soft-selling vehicles like these build trust slowly, wearing away resistance like water eroding stone. Think of the content you publish today as opening the door to the work you’ll do in six months to a year.
  2. Be yourself. If the personality you put out there isn’t authentic, the people who eventually respond will be attracted to a “you” that isn’t you. This is especially true for freelancers who try to play the “pseudofirm” game or any organization trying to sell an image it doesn’t really embrace.
  3. Write for your ideal customer. My mother reads this newsletter faithfully (love ya mom!), but I don’t write it for her. I have three carefully-researched customer profiles that I’ve developed by interviewing my best clients and other people I’d like to work for. The topics I cover in my free columns are selected to address their needs and interests. Some of my readers don’t match these profiles, but they have friends and colleagues who do and I’ve received some valuable referrals as a result. (Want to develop customer profiles for your own business? One of the best resources out there is Mark O’Brien’s book A Website That Works. While you’re at it, read the whole book.)
  4. Publish on schedule. No matter how great your material is, you’ll be forgotten if you disappear before your perfect buyer is ready. Show up in their inbox at least once a month, preferably at about the same time.
  5. It’s totally worth the effort. You may have to stand firm against the impatience of your boss, your colleagues, your spouse, and even yourself. But if you’re doing it right, all of these objections will be silenced when true believers who’ve already done your selling for you start calling.



  10 Great moments in freelancing

living_the_dreamOne of the things I love most about freelancing is the variety. Even in the age of caller ID, you never know what will come your way when you pick up the phone, and there are always exciting new things to learn.

In celebration of 11 years in business (a milestone I hit late last month) here are ten of my favorite highlights from “living the freelance dream” so far:

10. Having a veteran copywriter tell me the rate she thought I was qualified to charge (a lot more than I had guessed) a month before I left my corporate job.

9. Writing a package that hit Inside Direct Mail’s “top 5” list.

8. Having a conference call interrupted by a sandstorm (the client was in Saudi Arabia).

7. Being self-employed long enough to qualify for a home loan.

6. Landing my first book-length ghostwriting gig.

5. Flying to Walt Disney World on the client’s dime to cover the 30th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion.

4. Getting referral business from my copywriting hero.

3. Interviewing undersea explorers who found a lost pirate ship.

2. Not having to ask anyone’s permission to disappear for four days to celebrate my wife’s milestone birthday.

And of course, #1 is still:

1. Telling clients I don’t work on weekends.



  Cold Calling Bingo Card

Cold-Calling-Bingo-ThumbJust for fun, this whimsical Bingo card was created as a resource for readers of the Creative Freelancer Blog (alas, no longer being published) and freelancers everywhere. Use it on your own or challenge another freelancer to see who can get a row first. Better yet, see who can cover a full card! Just don’t get so involved in the game that you’re disappointed when the person you’re calling is actually interested in hiring you. Click the image at right to download the PDF version.