Shouldn’t You Consider Writing that Book?

One book trumps 800 articles.”

(Steve Slaunwhite, award-winning marketing coach and author)

Everyone wants to write a book. Very few do. The statistics stand as: 80 percent wannabes; 1 percent doers, says Jenkins Group, a Michigan-based publishing services firm. Writing a book can be a daunting task, in time at the very least. Upwards of 725 hours for a non-fiction book in a recent study by Brennan Information Group, a Los Angeles research company. That’s three months of eight-hour days. And the writing, cautions seasoned commercial freelancer and self-publishing author of The Well-Fed Writer series, Peter Bowerman, is the “easy part.”

So, Should You Consider Writing a Book?

Our blog title suggests how our participants will answer – a resounding, unanimous “Yes.”

The primary reason is that a book can be one of your most effective calling cards. It establishes your credibility as almost nothing else can. Certainly not as quickly. Historically, notes Nicola Furlong, a Vancouver Island novelist, interactive storyteller and chocoholic, we’ve conferred great credence to anyone who has had a book published.

Consider the expression, “You wrote the book.” It’s the essence of saying, you are the expert, and clients want to do business with a perceived expert. “Everyone prefers to work with an expert; it reduces the risk for them,” explains Steve Slaunwhite, an award-winning marketing coach and author. “‘You wrote the book,’ they reason, so you must be good at what you do. And when you hold up a book, “you stand out from the 99 percent of writers who didn’t.” As a result, there’s “huge street cred” to writing a book, adds Ed Gandia, co-author of the award-winning book, The Wealthy Freelancer, and founding partner of International Freelancers Academy.

“Now wait,” you may say, “I have no need to bolster my credibility or affirm my expertise. I’ve already amassed an impressive portfolio of other materials — articles, white papers, newsletters, etc.” Sounds perfectly reasonable. Except the credibility we assign a book is not really reasonable, and rises to something emotional. Steve says there is a sense of “sacredness” surrounding it. Right or wrong. He offers this cautionary tale of two writers.

Writer one, with 15 years experience and 800 articles, is considered the expert in his field. But he has no book. Enter writer two. Two years into the same freelance arena, he writes a book that becomes popular in the industry. Almost overnight, he eclipses writer one and becomes THE name on that topic. The morale Steve offers: “A book gives you an unfair advantage – one book trumps 800 articles.”

That unfair advantage can play out like this, according to Steve. A VP of Marketing contacts you on a potential training contract, and asks for a quote. As soon as you’re off the phone, you put a copy of your book in an overnight FedEx with a nice note saying, ‘Great talking to you.’ The book comes across her desk the next morning; you can bet your chances to win that contract have gone right up. That’s even if she never actually reads the book, adds Patricia Anderson who specializes in developing individualized publishing strategies for book authors. “It still sets you apart.”

That proved the case for Nicola. She used her book, Self-Publish Your E-Book in Minutes, in a pitch to a local Victoria college. “It gave me legitimacy as a tangible expression of my expertise, allowed my prospect to ‘sample my wares’. Not just my e-publishing expertise but my ability as a writer.” It really was the closer to a deal that includes instructor pay plus consulting income from 20 percent of those who sign up for her e-pubbing course that has now run full every term for several years.

Workshop opportunities also came to Doreen Pendgracs, award-winning writer, author and public speaker, based on her book, Before You Say Yes… A Guide to the Pleasures & Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards. For many of our other participants, consulting and coaching gigs were their book-writing rewards. And Steve was able to package the content of his book, The Everything Guide to Writing Copy, together with other materials to create a home study program. That program, over a period of about four years, earned him an extra $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

But one book can also spin off more books as for Peter and his Well-Fed series, now up to four books and several “toolkit” companion publications that generate a tidy income stream for their author. “Less than a year from releasing The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less, I was making a full-time living from the book.”

There is a downside. This book writing business is not all rosy; a book can be a major commitment. Remember, the up to 725 hours noted above. That may be a bit high, say some of our participants. If your book requires little research — that is, if you’re writing about your area of expertise, something you know a lot about already — you can cut those hours down a lot. Steve carves out a minimum of two hours per day. “On that schedule, I can finish in three to four months.” So perhaps, the time tally is more like 180 to 240 hours. Nonetheless, this is not an enterprise that one embarks upon lightly.

Peter, for example, laments today’s “instant” publishing options that allow one to “get into print with a mouse click.” This, he says, has given people the idea that making money from a book is an easy process. A client story from Nicola illustrates the folly of this misguided belief. She explains that this fellow was totally uninterested in doing even the basic things, like editing, to enhance the quality of his words. Just get them up on the net, he insisted, and fame and fortune here I come. Predictably, that didn’t happen for him.

And it doesn’t for most self-published writers, according to a U.K. 2012 survey. Well, at least the fortune part (no data available on fame!): half of survey respondents earned less than $500 total per book.

So, How Can One Capture Book Writing Benefits But Keep the Bad Stuff to a Minimum?

Book Writing Rule Number One from Ed: you must (and he really means “must,” folks) have a clear goal, a why-am-I-doing-this-book? reason. “Even if you think you’re a very efficient writer, this book is going to soak up hours and hours which you could use towards something else.” So you better know why and where you’re going with it.

Our participants boil it down to two possible reasons. The first, as a labour of love with no expectations for sales or spinoffs. This is not a goal to be scoffed at out of hand; it has validity says Patricia. If this is something you really want to do, she believes it’s always worth the risks (in time and, within reason, in money). “By writing a book, you meet a personal and professional challenge that, in itself, is an achievement and a source of satisfaction.” Nicola echoes this: “Many people just want their book to have a chance to see the light of day.”

The other goal is strategically to generate business. Which could include an expectation of book sales, as it has been for Peter. For him, The Well-Fed Writer was about seeing the potential to make money because he’d noticed a hole in the marketplace.

Other goals might include the following:

▪       Change the direction of your business

▪       Start a new freelance business from scratch

▪       Refresh an existing business

▪       Position towards higher-end prospects

▪       Add a new service offering

Book Writing Rule Number Two. Know your target audience. More specifically, advises Ed, have a crystal clear definition of who they are. He and his co-author, Steve, used this definition for The Wealthy Freelancer — creative freelance professionals who create things, write things or design things for companies for money.

Make sure you are selling to an established market. That’s Ed’s strong recommendation. “You don’t want to be first in anything.” Check out that someone is already catering to this audience. Look for blogs and websites dedicated to that specific group. Don’t be fooled when you find only one blog or one website. You’ve not struck the mother lode. On the contrary, that’s definitely a bad sign.

Book Writing Rule Number Three. Seek advice and help wherever you can; tap all your resources. Take a shortcut and invest, for example, a little reading time on the books of your colleagues. Four of our participants – Ed, Nicola, Peter, and Steve – have ‘written the book’ on many of the subjects in this blog post.

Doreen loves groups on LinkedIn and networking in general. While serving on a national board, she met a publisher who agreed to publish her book on volunteerism. That certainly sped up the normal process of having to pitch an agent or publisher, wait several months for a reply, receive a request for the full proposal and then wait several more months for an answer and the go-ahead to proceed with the project.

What Book Topic/Type Should You Choose?

Link your topic to the type of business you want… Ed offers an illustration. Let’s say you want to use your book to kick start a speaking sideline. Then create a book on one of the core topics you want to speak about.

… But that topic link can be surprisingly “loose”… When Steve set out to write his first book, Start and Run a Copywriting Business, he admits he did it for pure vanity. He laughs, “I had dreams of glory!” So his topic and title were about a subject he wasn’t actually doing. “I wasn’t working with other writers; I was doing corporate copywriting.” But he started to get a lot more of those corporate clients, and better paying ones at that. “They assumed I was an expert and a serious player because I’d written a book with copywriting in the title.” He believes that writing that book, off topic though it really was, has made his career as a copywriter. “It was such a huge credibility builder.”

… And you needn’t be mad for your topic eitherPeter is adamant on that. “The idea that you need to be wildly passionate about your book’s subject is, well, plain silly. Have you been wildly passionate about all the jobs you’ve had in your life? Why would you hold book writing to such a high standard? If you enjoy your subject matter, and can see the potential to create a steady income stream that can provide you with the time and space to do what really lights you up, wouldn’t that be enough?”

In contrast, create a tight tie between your book topic and your expertise. Don’t stray from that path. Counsels Patricia: “If your strength is in motivating employees, write about that and resist the urge to dispense Dr. Phil-style self-help.” Both Nicola and Peter believe that the expertise path is not about shouting, ‘I’m an expert’. It’s about being down a path that most others haven’t, and having learned a lot that would be of use to some other people. That is what is of real value to your readers.

Isn’t it really important to make your book different? You can’t, says Patricia. “Anyone who thinks his/her topic is entirely original has not done enough research on the market.” Fortunately, she adds that the best you can really do is to provide a fresh twist. And that, even more fortunately, insists Steve, is enough. “Your book doesn’t have to be different. What you do have to have is a difference.” It’s a big mistake that writers make, he contends, when they say, ‘Hey, does the world need another copywriting book?’ “Don’t let that stop you. Every year new cookbooks, for example, come on the market and some become best sellers.”

He points to his current book project as an example. It’s a prospecting book and there are lots of books on that topic. “So my book isn’t different.” But he’s writing, not to salespeople as the other books are, but to people like you and me. “I’m writing to self-employed professionals who don’t want to cold call; they want a gentler approach that gets results. That’s my difference.”

And from Peter, some specific actions to help you discover that “difference.” Read reviews for similar books on Amazon. Go to bookstores, search the Internet. Doing this helped Peter realize that most books on self-publishing focused on the process, not the profits, so that became the difference for The Well-Fed Self-Publisher. TWFSP, he says, “is a big case study on how I “turned one book into a full-time living” (the promise of his subtitle).

Are There Ways to Make the Actual Writing Work Better, Go Faster?

Having a systematic way of writing, says Steve, can cut the workload right down. A lesson he learned while writing a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Web-Based Business from a writer who’d written 15 of these guides. Once the chapters are outlined, this other writer advised, create a list of questions for each chapter that a reader would have about that chapter, typically 8 to 12 questions. Then answer those questions, tidying up at the end. Steve adapted by breaking his chapters into small sections; and then writing each individual section.

Patricia also offers a way to manage research if your book requires a great deal. Chunk it and don’t let yourself get bogged down. Begin by doing just enough general research to be able to lay down a chapter outline and your first chapter or an introduction. Then backtrack and do any additional research on an as-required, chapter-by-chapter basis. But she adds that the bottom line (sorry about the pun) is a matter of setting aside time and sticking to that. Translated, “Apply seat of pants to seat of chair!”

Publishing (And Producing) Your Book

Pricewaterhouse Cooper 2012 research projects that, by 2016, electronic self-published books will make up 50 percent of the U.S. market. So, is there any reason to go the traditional publisher route anymore, given the definite negatives of this option? You often give away a lot of control for too little in return. The traditional publishers expect their less “glamorous” authors to assume pretty much all of the marketing responsibilities, including the costs. And although they do offer full production, such as editing and design, you’ve virtually no say in how that’s done. Which Doreen unfortunately discovered can mean loss of sales on top of loss of control. Dundurn Press’s choice of an inappropriate cover for her Before You Say Yes volunteer board book, and placing the book in the business section where her audience wouldn’t look made for mediocre sales despite the fact that the book received very good reviews.

Even given her experience, Doreen believes it may be advantageous for an author to have at least one book published by a traditional publisher. “It may give that author authenticity in the eyes of the publishing world,” she explains. “Some people and even some professional associations consider self-published authors to be of a lesser status. Even today the Writers Union of Canada will not admit self-published authors, although they are looking at possibly extending the criteria to do so.” Patricia points to the main pro of conventional publishing: access to distribution channels, like bookstores, that a self-publisher cannot tap. And Ed recommends the traditional route if your book goal is towards high-end consulting and speaking.

For self-(or electronic) publishing, how do you sort out, and then decide among, all the options?

And options there are aplenty. That, though, is a topic worthy of more than a portion of this post. The main point here is do acquaint yourself with these and do practice due diligence, it’s a caveat emptor world. Otherwise, we’d like to offer in this post a list that we believe is a bit beyond the typical self-publishing questions which can be answered easily elsewhere.

There’s a technology component of self-published books, print and digital, that requires additional author time/cost considerations over books traditionally printed. You’ll need to convert your book file and you have to host any e-books somewhere so they can be sold. Consider tackling the learning curve on some of the technology, suggests Nicola. “Learning how to format and upload files for e-publishing is fairly straightforward.” The average person really can manage it and may be where you want to spend a little time, allowing you to save money for what should, according to Nicola and our other participants, be left to the professionals, like editing and cover design.

Do it yourself, yes, but don’t do it all by yourself. Take advantage of the free (or almost) resources offered by others who’ve been down this path before. Like several of our participants. And tap into your networks, as Doreen has done with her LinkedIn groups and professional associations. Then selectively seek out professionals to ensure the quality of your book. More on this below under cost.

Consider offering your readers the option of electronic AND print formats. There is still a lot of the buying public who wants a book they can hold. According to Pricewaterhouse Cooper research, e-books account for 20 percent of the market today. That leaves 80 percent of your readers who prefer print. Consider also this statistic: 40 percent of buyers opt for the more expensive print-on-demand (POD) paperback version of a title that’s available in both electronic and print formats.

The cost. Two key concepts here. What are you willing and able to do yourself? And more importantly, what should you not do yourself if you are serious about the quality of your book and about its sales? It’s a matter of using your expertise and that of others optimally to create the best product possible. Some points our participants offer:

Don’t let cost be your main consideration. That should be achieving your book’s goal. And the research and our participants affirm that, to achieve your book’s potential, you must spend money on making it look like it’s not a self-published document. A recent U.K. survey of self-published writers shows a clear link between earnings and the amount of help an author is willing to contract out. Self-publishers who received help with copy-editing and proofreading made 13 percent more than the average; help with their cover design increased earnings by an additional 34 percent.

At the very least, our participants stress, put some real money into hiring a professional editor and designer. Steve adds, “Don’t hire just a proofreader but someone with book editing experience who knows how to develop a book beyond the mechanics of typos and grammatical gaffes. And get someone who has designed book covers before.” Ed takes this idea even further, noting that it can be counterproductive to create a cheap book. “I frankly wouldn’t go through this book exercise at all if you’re not willing to spend the money.”

It can sometimes boil down, though, to your opportunity cost, notes Nicola. For example, on the technology side you may not have the couple of hundred dollars to pay someone like her but you may have several dozen hours to figure it out yourself. She continues with an idea to both keep your costs down and yet create a 95 percent exceptional product.

Gather material you’ve already produced that showcases your expertise. White papers or case studies work well here. Package these, along with an introduction and a sum-up, into a small book. “Take an expression of your expertise. Then, create a good, but quick and inexpensive, way to make that expertise tangible through the credibility offered by a book.” Ed sees this approach as a solid way to keep the quality up and the costs down. “The fact that it is a book, and it looks good, that’s the credibility builder.”

Then Market, Market, Market

Here again, the writer’s dilemma is too many options, which way to go. And again, our participants offer their best ideas.

Write a good book. That’s Peter’s “most powerful marketing strategy of them all” — create a best-in-class book that’s well produced. With all other marketing efforts, you can’t be sure of the outcome. But creating a superior product is the one part of the process over which you have total control. Create a crappy book, though, and you can be sure the outcome won’t be good.

Get in front of your audience, suggests Steve. Don’t think of all the options for marketing; think of going where your target readers go. Some examples: “Is there a blogger who’s very popular with your book’s audience? Try to be a guest blogger. Do they read a particular magazine? Contact the editor to get interviewed.”

This from Patricia, who explains that being a guest blogger on an established blog can, in some situations, be better use of your book promotion time than setting up your own blog.

Do only a few things but do a lot of those few things. Peter says he uses the same kind of “gatekeeper” techniques that Steve recommends. That way, he reduces his marketing efforts to “One Big Targeted Job”, rather than a “laundry list of energy- and focus-diffusing tasks.” And he focuses on “demand-building exercises” that drive his audience to his website and to where his books are on He points to the 120 plus reviews he has on Amazon, most of them five stars. He says he does something “laughably simple” to make that happen. “Every time someone emails me to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my book, I thank them and ask if they’d mind writing a review on Amazon.”

Start your marketing early. Before the book is published, is what Ed advises. That’s because you don’t want to “go for the ask” of a book review, guest blog or interview until you’ve established relationships. Start low key and add value first for your contact. For example, with a blogger, read the blog and contribute a series of comments, before you make direct contact. Even then, go slowly. Focus on helping them with their efforts. Email with an expansion of your blog post comments. Then, offer to write a guest post. If they have a product or book, promote to your friends and followers. Then “rinse and repeat.”

Sounds as though you’d need years to build up this “platform” of followers. Not so, says Ed. That’s because, contrary to what too many writers believe, you don’t need a massive following to have impact. For The Wealthy Freelancer book, he and his co-authors only had nine months before they signed their book contract. “It’s not the size of the following that matters. It’s how loyal they are.”

Be ready to create buzz. Give your book a big push out of the starting gate. To get your promotional messages to really spread, you have to be creative, notes Ed, as there is so much noise. Consider something like the “real launch” he and his colleagues put together for The Wealthy Freelancer. He recommends a focused period of time (say five days) within a week or so of the book being available, when anyone who buys the book receives something valuable as a bonus. Some ideas on this bonus: a tele-seminar, e-book, a software app, or a course you do over the phone. “We created a lot of buzz, tried to get some critical mass early on.” Or something like the one-day, online Freelancer’s Day conference. “It went viral very quickly,” continues Ed. “We had 12,000 people; it was an idea that captured people’s imagination.” Too grandiose for your budget? “Dial it down then,” is Ed’s solution. Just think out of that box.

Writing a book is a lot of work but Steve speaks for our participants when he says, “it’s never a wrong decision.” Even if it goes nowhere in terms of sales, publishing a book is undeniably self-gratifying. But the potential for business is also considerable. It gives you that special competitive edge and that puts you in line to be shown more of the money.


Patricia Anderson, PhD, a book author, editor, and literary consultant from Vancouver, Canada, works with an international clientele of emerging and mid-career book authors. Her business, Helping You Get Published, offers manuscript assessment, editing, book proposals, queries, market research, book trailers, press releases, and confidential consulting. Find out more at:

Specializing in moving aspiring commercial writers and self-publishers from overwhelm to mastery, Peter Bowerman is a 20-year veteran commercial freelancer, business coach and the self-publishing author of the multiple-award-winning Well-Fed Writer (on lucrative commercial freelancing; and Well-Fed Self-Publisher ( titles. Grab a free report at both sites above.

Nicola Furlong pens mystery novels, produces interactive children’s books for the iPad, podcasts about genre writing (The Novel Experience), blogs about and publishes e-books ( and produces promotional book trailers…when she’s not playing hockey, growing blue poppies or eating chocolate fudge.

Ed Gandia is a successful freelance copywriter, author, speaker and coach. His latest book, The Wealthy Freelancer, was named a Top 10 Small Biz Book by Small Business Trends. Ed is the man behind the International Freelancers Day online conference and co-founder of, where he publishes free monthly training.

Doreen Pendgracs has been a member of PWAC since 1997, was the Prairies/North RD from 1999-2003 and is now the national VP. She has been freelancing since 1993 and has written for numerous magazines and websites and co-authored two non-fiction books, one of which is a Canadian bestseller. In 2010, Doreen’s first solo title, “Before You Say Yes… A Guide to the Pleasure & Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards” was published by Dundurn Press. She is currently working on Chocolatour, a book about the best chocolate of the world.

Steve Slaunwhite, is an award-winning marketing coach and author. His books include The Everything Guide to Writing Copy and The Wealthy Freelancer. He is also the creator of the popular Practically Painless Prospecting program. For more information, visit


Breaking Into Corporate Writing

Rotten writing has been a billion-dollar plague on businesses for nearly three decades – it wastes time, is the number one complaint expressed by executives, loses customers, and eats small wormholes in corporate coffers every year. All hard facts courtesy of my [Carla Furlong’s] two-year research effort to craft the soon-to-be published (if the heavens are willing) Rotten Writing: The Strategic Solution to a Billion-Dollar Blind Spot.

And this is interesting to freelancers how? Because rotten writing’s antithesis, quality writing, is rare indeed. Eighty percent of executives consistently (since 1988) cite writing as one of the most vital components of business success – and here’s the clincher – the most neglected skill in the business world.

So, corporate markets, here we come. BREAKING INTO CORPORATE WRITING is the subject of our Show Me the Money post this time around.

First step: Think.

Our contributors strongly advise that you resist jumping into writing for businesses until you have done some initial thinking about just which chunks of the corporate market you are going to focus on. Tap into all that you are. Your past work. Your education. Your volunteer work. Your passions. Hobbies. Likes. Dislikes.

And focus you must. Not only is it what business demands – an expert (and they just won’t believe that anyone can be an expert in everything) – but it’s to your benefit on several levels.

▪       One, you’re no longer the desperately seeking supplicant; you’re the specialist who can solve their problems (key concept here, more on that below).

▪       Two, your research/development time is considerably reduced.

▪       Three is from Ed Gandia, co-author of the award-winning book, The Wealthy Freelancer, a founding partner of International Freelancers Academy, and a MagNet 2012 speaker. You’ll maximize your earnings and, at the same time, minimize your marketing time, and, most importantly, you’ll have more fun!

Observe, look for clues, search for patterns. Consider what others have said are your best skills. Here’s a key clue offered by Gordon Graham, veteran freelancer and upcoming MagNet speaker in Toronto: Of all that you’ve done, which areas/efforts were (still are) your favourites?

Paul Lima, freelance writer, business-writing trainer and author of ten books, points to patterns or “cluster” associations as a way to narrow your focus. Is there any grouping of your skills, education and experience that suggests specific writing services you can offer to particular sectors? For example, hone in on your skills; drill down until you can isolate these, such as the ability to research efficiently or to pull out of interviewees concrete examples and memorable quotes.

Second step: Match.

That’s finding the intersection of what you can offer with where the money is, says Ed. And that may take a little time, and a few wrong turns. From his life: “I wasn’t immediately attracted to software, I’m passionate about wine and I wanted to write for the wine industry.” But his coach pointed out, ‘Wineries and wine retailers don’t need a lot of writers, so that’s going to be a tough road.’

So here’s Ed’s recommendation. Look for companies that need a lot of writing to explain what they do for their clients. The more complex, the more intangible the company’s offering, the more explanation is required. Professional services, software developers, and the biotechnology industry fall on the far end of the complexity continuum; clothing and automobiles are their polar opposites. Gordon adds an additional avenue: any company selling anything new, complex or costly is a good candidate for writing services. His list includes medical equipment, technical services, and consultants.

Then look at the four main types of writing products, as distinguished by U.S.-based marketing consultancy The Bloom Group:

▪       promotional (e.g., web copy)

▪       explanatory (e.g., client case studies)

▪       educational (e.g., white papers)

▪       developmental (e.g., books).

White papers, for example, require an ability to present a case with real-world evidence, gathered through strong research and interviewing. Our white paper expert, Gordon (with 150 white papers and counting) says he relies on his magazine roots. “Magazine writers have experience telling a coherent story that moves logically from one point to the next, enlivened with quotes from experts, meaningful statistics, and telling anecdotes. All that helps when writing for a corporate client.”

Run from companies who don’t already buy into good writing. “You are not in the business of convincing anyone of the value of quality content,” insists Ed. “If they don’t already ‘get it’ and are therefore willing to pay for it, then move on.”

Solve client problems. Remember, from the customer’s point of view (the viewpoint that’s linked to the pay point), it is not what you do, but what you can do for them. A corporate client is paying you to tell their customer’s story, or to explain their benefits to prospective clients. To prove that you can do it for them, do it for yourself, advises Gordon. Tell them a success story about how you helped a company land a big deal, win an award, or something equally impressive. Prove that you understand their business and their industry. Don’t just give them a list of writing services and leave them to figure out what you could do for them. That’s making them do more work.

And your corporate targets certainly don’t need more work. A recent Gallup poll noted that one in four view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Rescue them and ask yourself, recommends Gordon, ‘Who needs the kind of writing I want to do or can do?” Note the word, “needs.” Think of your writing as the solution to client “pinch points” or as the means for them to realize an untapped, even unrealized, opportunity.

His colleague, Steven Slaunwhite, an award-winning marketing coach and author, offers this analogy: Consider the difference between a plumber who offers you her business flyer, and the competitor with a free, useful leave-behind booklet entitled, “5 Ways to Lower Your Hot Water Heating Bill… Without Turning Down the Heat!” It’s really the difference between what I do from my point of view and what I can do for my prospect, from their viewpoint.

Paul puts it this way: “Say you send me a letter, ‘Hey, are you looking for a writer? Pick me. Pick me.’ You eliminate all the reasons why I would pick you. I will pick you because you are an experienced writer, who knows something about my sector.”

Don’t ask for too much too early; “No marriage proposals please on the first date!” quips Steve. He explains with an example. In an e-mail pitch, one of his freelance writing clients asked prospects for an appointment to view his portfolio and discuss the possibility of working with him. Back off, was Steve’s advice, prospects want to case you out first, to “court you”. So, first, offer them a helpful report and give them a taste of what you can do for them.

Prove you can solve those problems, even before you actually do. Offer work samples that show how your writing benefited a client similar to your prospect. In effect, offer your prospects a free test drive. That drops the risk factor way down. A major consideration from their end – subcontracting can be fraught with pitfalls. A big one – reliability. Amazingly, an American Writers & Artists survey revealed that 75% of copywriters miss their deadlines. But your proof pieces show you can complete a project. Especially the journalistic work that most of us have done. Published articles prove you can meet a deadline.

Materials that showcase your expertise offer another way for a corporate prospect to feel comfortable, to trust that you can help them. Remember Steve’s plumber and that hot water cost reduction giveaway. Luigi Benetton– copywriter, journalist and trainer in information technology — for example, offers well over a half dozen “project writing tips” giveaways on his website.

A “buzz piece” may be just the ticket here. A summary from our Wealthy Freelancer authors Steve and Ed: A buzz piece is a special, free report, that’s short (between 5 and 10 pages), and showcases your expertise but primarily offers readers valuable information. Examples of strong topics and titles (both buzz musts): “A White Paper on White Papers”; “The 19 New Rules of Social Media Copywriting” or “Writing Rules to Break for Great Website Copy.”

And what if you can’t prove, for example, that you can create a customer case story that sells, because you’ve never done a customer case story before? Don’t write spec case papers just so you have proof that you can. Instead, employ an indirect route, advises Paul. Pull out those skills gleaned from your walk down introspection lane, and consider how they can be applied to an untried piece of writing. Next, pick apart good customer case stories. Note that you can see a format, a skill set. That they start with a client need or problem, then solution and results, etc. Now play matchmaker – marry your skill base with the skills you’ve determined go into creating a case study. “What you’re looking for are transferable skills,” Paul says.

Paul’s book, Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing, offers an example of a junior mining prospect that’s experiencing a growth spurt. The pitch letter here may read something like this: ‘As you enter a new phase from explorer to gold producer, you’ll need written documents like annual reports and media releases on your African projects. I can help and here’s why. My credentials as a geologist mean I understand how a business like yours works. My writing skills allow me to take your raw data and produce cohesive, clear writing for stakeholders. And as a freelancer and former journalist, I can offer fast turnaround time and can meet all your deadlines.’

Simplify access to your proof pieces. Create links on your website. Yes, your website, that all but forgotten online tool, which Luigi calls, “your calling card.”

Toronto freelance journalist and copywriter Marjo Johne agrees that your website is your best selling tool. She has strong feelings, though, about the effectiveness of the typical copywriter’s website. It often doesn’t do the job it should, selling something that corporate clients want in a style that shows what clients are going to get. “Often,” Marjo continues, “the copy on the website shows no clear indication of what these people can do for me as a corporate client. The writing doesn’t mirror the writing services that are being offered. The copy is simply not all that well written.”

Good writing, she continues, should be clean writing. It’s cutting through the clutter, it’s addressing their pain points, it’s clear value – all things we know our corporate clients are looking for.” And it should only contain what’s relevant, from the reader’s point of view. So ditch that personal information on your About Page about the fact that you learned at an early age you wanted to be a writer. “To a client,” insists Marjo, “it’s like, So what? How does that solve my problem?”

Third step: Get on with it

Be on your guard for the insidious paralysis by analysis syndrome. “Too many writers want everything to be perfect out of the gate,” Ed sympathizes but counsels moving forward sooner than later. “Start doing because that’s how you’re going to find your answers.”

And the reality is that there are just so many directions one could take, so many options, and just not anywhere near enough time. It’s blogs and pods and posts, oh my! Welcome to “marketing overwhelm,” says Luigi. A state of near-panic that can paralyze freelancers or, maybe worse, make them grab for the first marketing channel that comes along.

It’s really a matter of being on top on what you’re doing, not just going ahead and doing it. If you’re spending time blogging, you can’t spend that time on e-mail prospecting. That’s “opportunity cost”, an economic concept and a law of physics that not even we freelance writers can mess with: there are 24 hours in a day, no more.

In their co-authored book The Wealthy Freelancer, Steve and Ed offer a tool to help you choose the best of your available alternatives, their “Marketing Effectiveness Matrix”. Their advice: start with what is effective AND efficient. And that’s the ways of contacting prospective clients directly.

And, trust them, it’s really not about pressing flesh at endless cocktail parties, and trying to foist business cards onto every Thomasine, Desmond and Hardeep. Those tactics, say our authored pair, fall into the matrix quadrant dubbed “Wasteful.”

Ed offers a much more palatable and more effective alternative: a technique he calls ‘warm email prospecting.’ It involves sending out customized, personalized, short emails to a carefully picked list of prospects. He shares an example: “Hi Prospect. I notice that you are about to launch this product line, that’s fantastic. I know your industry; I used to work for ABC Company. I’m writing because I’m now on my own, I write materials for the software industry, and based on this product line you’re about to launch, I may be able to help take some of this work off your shoulders. Here’s a link to some relevant writing samples. Let me know if it would be worth connecting.”

But wait a minute, Ed. What if I’m trying to break into a new (for me) type of corporate writing so I have no samples, and my other work is a decade old? “Don’t worry about it,” is Ed’s reply. “People (in the corporate world) don’t really care that much, they’re looking for evidence of your writing skills. Besides, if they do grouse about aging samples, that’s a red flag. Because if they don’t see my skills beyond the age (of the material), there are going to be other problems.” Move on!

Paul calls his similar strategy going first for the low-hanging fruit. Consider his advice for a writer with past experience in financial marketing for publicly traded companies. She has lots of experience in annual report writing but wants to get away from the lengthy, and hellish, rewrite process that type of writing entails. She longs for the relative simplicity of customer case studies and white papers.

But that’s not your easiest pickings, Paul tells her. And not where your best shot at the money is. Define the scope of the job for yourself. Offer to write just pieces of the annual report, the more journalistic (aka case study, white paper) style articles, e.g. The President’s Letter, Our Year in Review, Our New Product Initiatives. And charge accordingly. A 750-word case study should be less time-consuming than a 750-word President’s Letter because of those rewrites. Quote higher, then, on the President’s Letter. And also look for companies, like PR firms and management consultants, who produce annual reports for other companies. Approach them using Ed’s warm email approach.

Many of our contributors dislike the over-emphasis today on social media. They don’t say, Don’t blog, don’t tweet. They’re just reminding you of your opportunity cost, and the effectiveness of the direct approach. Gordon is a strong proponent of the use of the phone. “I still think the old-fashioned telephone is fantastic. It’s fast, you don’t have to tweet or blog for six months; you just need to call up and say to their marketing people, ‘I’ve done annual reports for Companies A, B and F, all in your sector, one I enjoy writing about. I’d like to help you out with your next annual report.’ The worst thing they can say is, ‘We already have a writer, but we’ll keep you in mind.’ Presto, in five minutes you’ve made a worthwhile direct contact.”

Don’t do work that doesn’t lead to pay. Hey, like is that a cliché or what? No, the truth is, say our contributors, solo professionals like writers can easily get caught in this trap, cliché or not. Paul points to one writer who thought he should first ensure that a company contracts out their web content material before making a pitch letter. Seems reasonable. No, says Paul, “Boy, is that a lot of work when instead you could just write the pitch and fire it off. If they don’t contract out, they don’t hire you.”

Rotten business writing is rampant. And the corporate writing opportunity for good writers like you has gone well past knocking at your door, it’s pounding away. Just open it and get a look at where some of the real money is.

Luigi Benetton is a copywriter, journalist and trainer who focuses on serving the information technology industry. For more information, including free special reports, check out his website

Ed Gandia is a successful freelance copywriter, author, speaker and coach. His latest book, The Wealthy Freelancer, was named a Top 10 Small Biz Book by Small Business Trends. Ed is the man behind the International Freelancers Day online conference and co-founder of, where he publishes free monthly training.

Award-winning writer Gordon Graham has been a freelancer for 25 years, and written close to 1,000 magazine articles for everyone from accountants to woodworkers. He currently specializes in B2B white papers and customer stories for clients such as Google, Intuit, and Oracle. Gordon is a past president of PWAC.

Marjo Johne is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for The Globe and Mail and a copywriter who has worked on various projects with such companies as Microsoft, IKEA Canada, Scotiabank, Mr. Sub, and SlimFast.

Paul Lima is the author of “Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing” and several other books on business writing and the business of writing. You can read more about Paul and his book online at

Steve Slaunwhite, is an award-winning marketing coach and author. His books include The Everything Guide to Writing Copy and The Wealthy Freelancer. He is also the creator of the popular Practically Painless Prospecting program. For more information, visit

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Get Rich in Your Niche…

… That’s what Bob Bly, the guy McGraw-Hill has dubbed “America’s top copywriter,” considers the first rule of successful freelance writing. And our contributors in today’s blog agree. “The worst thing a writer can do,” insists Luigi Benetton–copywriter, journalist and trainer in information technology–“is to say, ‘Well, I’ll write about anything’.” Specialists appeal strongly to clients. “You have to be known for something.”

In his book, Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing, Paul Lima echoes this thought. “If you say you are willing to write anything for anybody,” he quips, “then you will find yourself writing nothing for nobody.”

But what’s the real case for narrowing your focus? You’ll get “shown the money” more often. Business clients, in particular, feel more comfortable with someone who has experience in their industry. In fact, the B2Community website advises its 17,000 readers that working with someone experienced brings better results.

This holds true beyond the corporate market. A science editor at Wired magazine says she trusts pitches from specialists more than generalists, because she feels she can rely on their abilities.

Our digital age virtually requires specialization. The Internet floods us daily with knowledge–more bits of information now than there are stars in our universe, says computing company EMC. With a specialty, you can realistically claim to be on top of one area. No one really buys the idea that we can be experts at everything, insists veteran freelancer Gordon Graham who will be speaking at the upcoming MagNet conference in Toronto. Those who claim this come across as a little over-eager. With someone saying they write about one topic, say parenting, we can’t help but believe they must really know their business.

Specializing not only makes you more money, it’s an easier path. That’s been Gordon’s experience. “You do your basic research on a few projects and then after that the learning curve is much simpler.” When he writes in his specialty–white papers and case studies for software companies–these practically write themselves. Should he step outside that domain, he needs to do a heck of a lot of research. “I earn much less per hour, and if I do that too many times, much less per year.”

Okay, let’s assume the case has been made for the specialist route. But where to go from here? That’s the subject of our Show Me the Money blog this time around:

How does a writer find the right niche?”

First off, some introspection is in order, something Gordon believes most people have never done. His recommended first step? Identify the areas you’ve worked in and the types of documents you’ve written. Think about your whole life. Paul Lima offers four areas to look at: education, work experience, hobbies/interests, and passions. Include full-time, part-time, and volunteer work.

Yikes, this could soon slip into a navel-gazing sinkhole. Not so, our contributors insist, there are ways to make the process both effective and efficient. Look for clues, suggests Gordon. Like this key one: Of all that you’ve done, which areas/efforts were (still are) your favourites?

Start with your passion. That’s MagNet speaker Mariellen Ward’s word to the wise. Publisher of the “meaningful adventure travel blog,”, Mariellen has been inspired by her passion for travel in India. Her success has come from actually “mining’ her obsessions. In her world as travel blogger, her niches–India and meaningful travel–are unique. “I tend to be interested in spiritual and what I call meaningful adventure travel experiences.” That’s distinguished her, a distinction that has attracted travel readers seeking that something more.

Paul points to patterns or “cluster” associations as a way to narrow your focus. Is there any grouping of your skills, education and experience that suggests specific writing services you can offer to particular sectors? An example: You’ve worked on Company X’s product catalogue; took a design and print course at a community college; are familiar and interested in the printing industry. That’s your evidence. Your possible sector choice could then be printing; your document focus, product catalogues.

Still stuck for niche notions? Gordon recommends two ways of determining your specialization:

▪       Horizontally, by type of document. For example with periodicals it could be features or opinion pieces; for corporate, white papers or speeches.

▪       Vertically, by a sector of the economy, such as e-commerce or healthcare, or by interest area or hobby such as pottery or gardening.

And there are even more. Specialize by skills. For example, research ability, which a medical writer could use to synthesize online information about a particular disease for a pharmaceutical client. Or pick your specialty based on writing style. For example, the ability to simplify the technical or the complex, or to express information in the more engaging style of the storyteller.

Your childhood can hold clues as well, says Mariellen. When she went to India and began to write her India travel blog, she was writing about her childhood fantasies. “As a child, I was obsessed with the Arabian Nights, the ‘exotic Orient’.” And that six-month magic carpet ride in India changed her. It was only later (years later she admits) that she realized it wasn’t so much the destination of India that was her niche but the theme of change, of transformative travel.

Move from You to Them. Specifically to Their Problems.

Now, ask yourself, ‘Who needs the kind of writing I want to do or can do?” That’s Gordon’s Step Two. Note the word, “needs.” Think of your writing as the solution to client problems or the means for them to realize an untapped, even unrealized, opportunity. Consider this option. Almost every product sold comes with some type of instruction manual but the vast majority are incomprehensible to the customer, accounting for more than 50% of all returns. The skills of a freelance manual writer would be a welcome change for any of these product manufacturers.

Solution-oriented expertise can evolve from a knowledge base. A legal secretary for example who knows and loves lawsuits was able to carve out a niche around business bankruptcies. The value for his clients: Finding someone who understood their industry, one it seemed that appealed to few of his writing colleagues.

Ditto for a hobby. A gardening aficionado with a writer’s skill can create marketing materials for lawn care product manufacturers. A scrapbooker could offer to write customer stories for specialty paper manufacturers like Calgary-based Scrapbook, Eh Wholesale.

For Mariellen, it was her focus on understanding that her blog visitors were looking for meaning, an authentic voice to be their travel guide, that propelled her into the ranks of the recognized, and the well-paid. It was that concept that resonated with the Irish Tourism folks in Toronto when they recently accepted Mariellen’s proposal to research her roots in their country. Because it was different, special. “They said, ‘It is so unusual for someone to come in and say I want to do something deeply meaningful and personal’.”

Be creative in your thinking. You may favour charity work but charities aren’t likely able to pay well. You may, though, be able to pivot this passion into writing grants directed at an industry group where you have valid credentials. Say you’ve worked in the oil & gas industry or you have a science degree or you’ve done some teaching. Consider approaching the ExxonMobil Foundation for a piece of their $125 million campaign to help raise awareness about the state of math and science achievement in the U.S. – The Let’s Solve This campaign.

Find high-paying possibilities and marry these to what you like, counsels Gordon. Take the case of his path to a focus on white papers and client stories (case studies). As a former vice-president of marketing, Gordon wrote and commissioned all of the most common types of documents. Over time, he found he liked the more journalistic, fact-based ones. And he had discovered these were the ones that got his company more traction.

Gordon’s story holds another clue. Write a lot and what you like will most likely bubble to the surface. As it did for Luigi who says his niche, technology, found him. Seems perhaps a bit unlikely, but think of it this way: You’ve already done a lot of writing, or if not, a lot of different jobs, and if you give yourself permission to do so, says Mariellen, you know in your gut what you enjoy writing about. Let the marketplace point you to the best-paying gigs.

Luigi’s story goes like this. In his pre-freelance life, he had a job as a technical writer for a software firm. “I’ve always enjoyed fooling around with technology. I took a good look at what I wanted to do, and said; hey I’m good at it, why not?” And he found a lot of companies are experimenting with mobile technology. Mercedes, for example, publishes both iPhone and iPad applications for its salespeople. So Luigi wants to write for mobile application developers so they can better market to and serve companies like Mercedes.

Organizing your niche thoughts is an important step.

To get the most out of your clue-ferreting activities, it is best to jot them down in an organized fashion. Paul offers a worksheet style: you list each of your niche clusters of evidence (appropriate bits from your education/experience etc.), noting the sectors that would value these, and then, the documents you will write to deliver that sector value. Sounds like work, which it is, but Paul’s approach has a number of pluses. Not only do you begin to realize your best niche(s), at the same time, you learn how to craft a credibility pitch that showcases, for a prospect, the evidence proving why you’re the expert who can help them.

A niche is not a prison, nor need it be your one-and-only.

Specialization doesn’t mean only one niche, and you’re never wedded to a niche. In fact, it’s not wise to be too narrow and have your specialty drop off the radar (remember the disaster?). Plus, a unique niche is not essential. Sounds counterintuitive, yet it is doable. Mariellen points to a fellow freelancer in the already well-populated niche of the single/solo travel blogger who’s differentiating herself by taking a very professional approach to the topic.

Gordon echoes this advice. You don’t need a niche that no other writer occupies. Take client stories/case studies. A recent statistic says 90% of companies are now using them. That attracts a lot of wannabe case study writers so how are you going to rise above this hungry horde?

That’s not nearly as hard as you might think, insists Gordon. He relies on his magazine roots. “I don’t do anything more than write a good-quality magazine story, with an actual lead and conclusion, lots of quotes, and maybe a metaphor to unify the story.” Yet even these basic elements, he insists, puts him far ahead of most people who are touting their case study talents.

Experts and nichers need proof. That’s really the binding tie between what you love and what you can get paid well to do. The proof offered by writing samples is perhaps the most important; they offer the concrete proof, as Luigi says, “that I know what I am writing about.”

But what if you’re shy a decent crop of samples to solidify your niche expertise? Write for trade magazines or for web sites aimed at your niche community is Gordon’s recommendation. Trade magazine editors are constantly looking for good writers. If you’ve got the knowledge base, and you position yourself as someone who’d like to write in this area, knows a certain amount about it (insert here your evidence a la Paul’s list), Gordon’s experience is that 50 percent of the time they’re going to give you a try. And they don’t expect freebies. You won’t be paid at the marquee client rate, as for Chatelaine or Canadian Business, but you won’t have to do two or three rewrites, either.

Another way is to volunteer (yes, this time do give it away) to write for a charity or an association, their newsletter for example. Preferably one that has some links to the sectors you’d like to target. Never write for free for a corporate or mainstream periodical client. On this Gordon is adamant. But it is perfectly acceptable not to charge the nonprofit sector.

Still unsure of which niche has a reasonable market for you to tap into?

Look for clients who have already bought into the value of quality content and are willing to pay for it. Gordon offers smaller companies as his illustration of this. According to the Content Marketing Institute, they spend over 60 percent more on content than larger companies. And they don’t nickel and dime you to death in rewrite hell. “When I write a white paper for Google, they have 15 people reviewing it. When I write for a medium-sized company, it’s usually the president and vice president.”

Marketers everywhere have begun to embrace the social web, many are now using written content as the vehicle to carry their messages to prospects and customers. The tourism industry is Mariellen’s example here. “They are finally waking up to the reality that 90 percent or more of travellers do their travel research online and are starting to partner with travel bloggers.”

And do some research. We don’t mean the basic Google word search ,which is a time drain. Luigi has some great shortcut suggestions. For example, using the “fantastic” LinkedIn database, he is searching out marketing managers in his niche of mobile application developers and checking in with mobile app groups to catch the latest industry buzz.

Rely on your network is Mariellen’s research tip. Her Twitter friends, for example, helped her realize her real niche, transformational travel, and create the tagline for her blog. And she’s right on top of what’s going on among travel bloggers, and that’s confirmed the uniqueness of her focus. “I network a lot, and I don’t know anyone else who is going after this niche.”

Look on the web in your sectors/industries and see who’s doing your document specialty. Take customer stories/case studies. Find those companies who are doing these but not well. Approach them with the idea of how you can help them, and prove it with your credentials. Gordon suggests something like, ‘I am an experienced magazine writer with 25 stories in x and z. You can see my samples on my website, ‘’. I’ve interviewed over 50 executives. And I’m interested in writing for your industry. I’ve noticed the customer stories on your website and I believe I can put more zing into them, make them more compelling, and make them work better for you as a marketing tool.’

And this brings us right back to the beginning–the value of being a perceived expert. You’re no longer the starving writer asking for a break. That, says Gordon, is just putting more work on your client’s back to figure out whether they can use you. Instead, you’re already a specialist in their industry, and you’ve got the evidence to prove it. That elevates your stature immediately from being just one of the vast (perhaps not unwashed but likely underfed) writing masses. You come with a solution to their problem, that makes you the expert, and their peer.

And it gives you a straighter path to where the money is.

Luigi Benetton is a copywriter, journalist and trainer who focuses on serving the information technology industry. For more information, including free special reports, check out his website

Award-winning writer Gordon Graham has been a freelancer for 25 years, and written close to 1,000 magazine articles for everyone from accountants to woodworkers. He currently specializes in B2B white papers and customer stories for clients such as Google, Intuit, and Oracle. Gordon is a past president of PWAC.

Paul Lima is the author of “Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing” and several other books on business writing and the business of writing. You can read more about Paul and his book online at

Mariellen Ward is a travel writer and blogger who writes the “meaningful adventure” travel blog,, inspired by her extensive journeys in India. She writes for many print and online publications. Her book, Song of India: Tales of Travel and Transformation, is available for sale on her blog.

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Welcome to Show Me the Money

“Do what you love and the money will come. Thats what weve always been told but, for some writers the money hasnt come, at least not as a sustainable stream.

Thats where we hope Show Me the Money can help. We will put to a panel of successful freelancers a making real money question–using a blog platform–with one question per blog post. We hope their actionable advice can help to increase your income and give you solid business development ideas.

We would love to have you as a panelist and/or to hear your topic suggestions. Please email Heidi Turner at Although this blog is offered as professional and business development geared to PWAC members, panelists do not have to be PWAC members. We would love to include any successful freelance writers you can suggest.

Show Me the Money is written and maintained by Carla Furlong and Heidi Turner.

Heidi Turner is a freelance writer and is currently the British Columbia Regional Director for the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). She also maintains a blog, called The Happy Freelancer, geared to freelance writers and people who are exploring a career in freelancing. Heidi’s second blog is Vancouver Writing Jobs, where she lists writing, editing, communications, marketing and social media jobs, contracts and internships in British Columbia. She has been published by the CBC, Lawyers and Settlements, Business Fraser Valley and other publications. Her freelance work also includes corporate communications.

Carla Furlong is a business-writing strategist, coach and UBC School of Business faculty instructor. An MBA in Marketing and Finance with undergraduate studies in the physical and biological sciences, she has specialized for over 15 years in offering investor relations materials for the banking, investment, resource, biotechnology, biomedical and health care industries. Her first book, Marketing Money, was one of the first to focus on the unique nature of financial communications.

About PWAC

The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) is a national organization of non-fiction writers that works to develop and maintain professional standards for writers, provide networking and professional development opportunities for members, and lobby for freedom of the press in Canada, among other things. Writers who wish to join PWAC can learn more about membership here.

Make More Money: Part 1

We’re on a mission:  To seek out and explore new ways to make money. To go where (too) few freelancers have boldly gone before: Into the minds of our seasoned colleagues to gain concrete, how-do-you-really-do-it tips to being successful freelance writers.

For our inaugural post, our question to the freelance gurus is general: What are your best business development tips? Future posts will dig for details into the ideas suggested here and many more.

Our first panelists are the talented, successful and highly-respected writers, Suzanne Boles, Paul Lima and Kathleen Rake (please see below for their bios). We’re thrilled, and grateful, they agreed to be part of our first post. (Please note: This initial post is in two parts. Click the heading for each post to read it on its own page).

Make More Money Now

Our gurus recommend a variety of ways to increase your income, including having a niche market, marketing yourself and making connections with current and potential clients.

Narrow to a Niche?

You may be asking, “Why limit myself with a niche, why not present myself as a writer for everyone and everything, rather than forcing myself into a narrow market?” “Reality check,” cautions Paul Lima. “Go ahead, be this Jack/Jill of all trades, but now go forth and market. That will be darned hard.”  And market you must, says Suzanne Boles. You can never stop putting yourself out there–by marketing and promoting yourself–because you can bet you’re going to lose clients. People switch jobs and companies go out of business or have their budgets slashed. “Every year something jolts,” she says. Having a niche makes marketing easier.

A niche is not a prison; you can step out if a non-niche opportunity comes your way. Paul illustrates: “A lawyer contacted me and said, ‘We’re producing some software’. I said, ‘I don’t have a legal background’.” But the lawyer wanted Paul’s IT knowledge, not legal acumen, so Paul got the job.

Find your niche.  “Target the companies in the sectors that make sense based on your education, your experience, your hobbies, your interests, your passions,” Paul says. Kathleen Rake did just that when she made a decision to grow her business around her passion for wine, a move that within two years allowed her to quit her day job and more than replaced that income with full-time freelance work.

Research to see what’s needed out there and where there’s a match for you, counsels Suzanne. Experiment a little. Listen to what others say are the strong points of your writing. “People have advised me that profile writing would be a good niche for my style of writing, and these are people who are successful in other areas of business writing.” She’s rebranding to focus on that business specialty.

Build and showcase your niche credibility with sample evidence. When you’ve introduced who you are, and what you do for whom, the first question from the prospect’s mouth will be “Who have you done this for?” Paul has evidence that he does case studies, press releases and web content for his niche sectors–IT, telecom and education. And he can give names, like IBM, Bell Mobility and the University of Toronto to back that up. To give her wine writing specialty credibility in the wine world, Kathleen went back to school and is now “Certified Advanced” with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, recognized worldwide as a wine education and accreditation authority.


Make More Money: Part 2

Work On Connecting, Then Work Those Connections

Social media connections helped Kathleen gain that elusive freelance holy grail: full-time sustainable writing. She’d been doing general business writing for more than 20 years but wanted to build a new business around a niche she had knowledge about: wine writing. And, in just two years, she did that with blogging and Twitter. Why these media choices? “Because that’s what I saw when I was online looking up things about wine.” And it paid off. Those from the wine industry liked her wine knowledge and her writing. “I get a lot of work now from PR firms that have wineries as clients.” And non-wine industry readers liked her writing and hired her; she rewrote Tourism Abbotsford’s travel guide.

Re-visit the traditional “letter of introduction.” Many of Suzanne’s clients have come through this seemingly out-of-date tool where you introduce your services, and tell prospects what you can do for them as a writer. It may sound old-fashioned, but it works.

Once you’ve got clients, work those connections to generate repeat business, referrals and testimonials. Paul calls this “picking the low hanging fruit” and credits it with releasing him almost completely from the difficult task of snaring new clients.

Here’s how he does it. Every four to six months, he emails clients with whom he’s enjoyed a good working relationship. The gist of his message is, (tailored for each individual): ‘Hi, how are you, how are things? As you recall, we worked on project ABC and I’m wondering if you’re looking for someone to assist you with any other writing.’

Some clients acknowledge Paul’s first message but no work is forthcoming so he sends his next missive. “Hi, really enjoyed working with you on project ABC and, because of my interest in x sector, I’m wondering if you might be able to refer me to other customers, vendors, suppliers in your sector that you feel could use a writer or editor.”

For testimonials, Paul writes: ‘Hi, etc. I’m updating my website (or some such) and I’m wondering if you might have a few comments on project ABC, a kind of testimonial you might like to share with me. I’m only looking for a few sentences, I can give you a draft that you can revise as you feel it needs….’

Clients won’t be annoyed by this practice because it is normal business, Paul emphasizes. He contacts only satisfied customers and, if he gets no work from any client after two tries, he takes them off his repeat list. “I have never ever had anyone say, ‘Why are you sending me this spam’?”

Broaden Your Circle by Exposing Yourself (Literarily speaking, of course!)

Widen your circle of influence with select social media. Kathleen credits her wine blog and Twitter as the vehicles that helped her gain wider exposure to new audiences, which propelled her to full-time freelancing. And blogs can drive business, says Suzanne. Originally, she saw blogging as a creative outlet only but has learned she can use her blog to push business towards her new niche–business writing with a profile slant.

Anchor your exposure with a website. All three of our contributors are firm on this: every writer needs a website. Fifty to sixty percent of Paul’s new business comes from his website. But make the website efficient. “I’m the world’s laziest marketer,” Paul admits, so his website is keyword optimized for prospect search. Suzanne will use her new rebranded website as a reason to put herself in front of prospects. “I’m going to go to prospective clients and say who I am, here’s my new website, and this is what I can offer you.”

Get out of the office and into places clients gather, such as conferences. And then talk to people. “I go to IT conferences; I bring my business card and I walk around the trade floor and chat. ‘I realize you’re trying to sell software to people here; I just want you to know I’m a writer specializing in IT and if you need someone to write your documentation, website…….’ ”

Step out of your comfort zone and take some risks, advises Suzanne. Forget the starving artist bit; you’re only starving if you’re not going out and marketing yourself or if you’re not prepared to take on something not as personally fulfilling as you’d like.

Take trade and organizational periodicals, markets many writers eschew as not a good fit for their literary talents. Suzanne points to a number of things these have in their favour: “It’s steady work. They write to you and say, ‘Do an assignment’ so you’re not always querying.” She offers this success story in illustration. She was doing research for an article and called the Canadian Franchise Association to get some statistics. “While we were talking, I said, ‘I noticed you have a magazine for your organization. Do you use freelancers?’ He put me through to the editor. We chatted and I ended up reselling that story to them and I’ve been writing for them ever since.”

The bottom-line: Never get so comfortable that you stop marketing yourself. Writing must be a business, and if you want to sustain yourself by writing, you’re going to have to be both flexible and tenacious. “You’ve got to go after the work,” Suzanne says.

Suzanne Boles is an award-winning freelance journalist, business writer, mentor and writing coach, blogger and writing instructor, and design dabbler. With articles in numerous publications, Suzanne has worked on writing and communications projects for a wide range of business clients.

Paul Lima is a freelance writer, business-writing trainer and author of ten books on business writing, copy writing, writing non-fiction books and the business of freelance writing. You can read about his books at

Kathleen Rake, founder of Click Media Works, is a plain-language practitioner who has written, edited, and developed writing workshops for industry, government, non-profit, and small business for more than 20 years. Kathleen’s second website is