Friday, November 05, 2010

Working at Home - in Your Hometown

Where do I start as a freelance writer?

That questions enters my mailbox often. The scenario happens like this:

1. The person feels comfortable he/she can write.
2. He/she wants to work from home.
3. He/she doesn't know where to start.

Often, people are thrown into a situation where they've lost a job, lost the ability to work, or suddenly need to work. Then I get these desperate requests for ideas on how to make a quick dollar. Writing is not a get-rich-quick effort. It's not even a get-middle-class-quick effort. Add a bottom-of-the-barrel economy to the equation, and it's almost not a get-fed-quick effort.

But if you've a hankerin' to freelance and become freelance famous in your hometown, here's where you start.

1. Open the phone book. Yeah, seriously. You'll find businesses in there you never thought about, yet you probably drive by them every day.

2. Determine what you're willing to write and what those businesses may need. Seeing those businesses will joggle your thoughts. Newsletters, ad copy, tech manuals, employee guides, press releases, management bios, handbooks, website copy, even blogs.

3. Prepare great samples of your work. Scan the newspaper for grand openings, sales, special events affiliated with those businesses. Fabricate examples so potential customers can read your talent.

4. Prepare a business card. Don't just say "writer" but don't crowd the card, either. Post your name, company name (if applicable), email, phone, website, Facebook (if applicable), Twitter (if applicable). Some people prefer an online connection and others still like to talk to a human. Offer both.

5. Who do you know at any of those companies, businesses, schools, nonprofits or civic groups? If an uncle works for the animal shelter, start there. Your cousin might sell clothes as a chic dress shop. A friend from high school might work at the bookstore. Rack your brain for a connection or two. Ask for the names of friends of friends. You know how it's done.

6. Offer to write something for free in exchange for them spreading word-of-mouth. You need testimonials, because in this line of work, testimonials and word-of-mouth make or break you. If you are new to the area or don't have connections, you get to start cold-calling - in other words, present yourself to someone and ask them for the opportunity to help their business. Do homework before approaching them, so you understand what they do and how well they do it.

7. Network. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Members are known for using each other's services. Join civic groups (Rotary, Lion's Club, etc.). Join charities. Join the PTO. Neighborhood watch groups and homeowners' associations are great connections. Your kids' sports and social groups work, too.

8. Advertise in the newspaper. This works best in small towns. Don't discount writing FOR the newspaper, either. Newspaper editors know everybody in town.

Remember to keep track of your expenses, mileage and postage. Note every membership fee and office supply.

This entrepreneurial job you've decided to pursue won't happen overnight, though. It'll take time. You'll experience lows that will make you want to quit. Then one day, you land that assignment. Then your phone rings and someone actually asks if you're available for a gig. After a while, if you've pushed and not taken this work-at-home thing for granted and frittered away the days, if you've used each day to make connections, you'll have a few steady, repeating jobs.

Success can't happen in a week or two, or a month or two, but if you focus on the business instead of the calendar, at the end of a year you might have more attention than you can handle.


Unknown said...

Great article Hope. You are very talented at simplifying information and making it very readable. I always read your Tweets first, because I know I'll learn something. Have a great weekend.

Maribeth Hickman

Patty Golditch said...

Thanks for some inciteful advice. My first attempt at a freelance writing career happened backwards. A friend presented me with a writing job, and THEN I decided to turn it into a business. I soon learned that the idea of the business was more appealing than the actual work effort that was involved in propelling it forward. I balked. I procrastinated. I feared success. And while I still wrote occasionally, it seemed easier to offer my work in trade, or "gratis". My Take My Word writing business was just that: I gave away my talent. I took a non-writing part-time job to pay the bills, though in reality it gave my subconscience permission to let go of my writing time.

Now, after five counter-productive years, I have a new perspective. I let my original FBN expire and now I write under a new handle: My Word Is Gold, to give value to my work and resurrect my resolve. Stumbling upon your website today gives me "hope". My new goal is to work hard at my writing, find the means to support my passion, let go of the part-time job that distracts me and pursue this dream to the end. Thank you!