There are times when the word “freelancer” can kill your sales pitch. Just like location, location, location in real estate is everything — in the uncertain world of freelancing, perception, perception, perception is the golden rule.
So, following are three instances when you should refer to yourself as something other than a freelancer.
1. Networking Functions: I’ll use a personal example here. I attend many networking functions in pursuit of business. When I do my elevator speech*, I usually refer to myself as a freelance business writer.
However, when I do my follow-up, I use the phrase “business copywriter” or “copywriter.” Why? Simple. In a group, many ears are listening and freelance conveys an overall idea of what I’m all about. The broad groups gets the broad message. BUT, when I follow up, I use the more specific term, ie, business copywriter.
Usually I will forward/will have forwarded samples of my work to prospects so that when I contact them, they have some reference point from which to judge. This is why it is important to target a niche and market to that niche, ie, I’m a real estate writer, a technology writer, a finance writer, etc.
While you can ostensibly write for many different markets, it is much easier to become successful as a freelance writer if you target a niche and market the hell out of it! (See the article, How to Develop a Niche with NO Experience & Make it Profitable for Years to Come, on InkwellEditorial.com for more on this).
*Elevator Speech: A 10-second commercial you can repeat in your sleep potential prospects. Every professional – and too many writers don’t treat their livelihood as a profession – should have one of these.
Mine is, “I’m a business writer with particular focus on marketing and real estate issues. I produce copy for everything from brochures to websites to direct mail pieces.”
2. Direct Mail/Sales Materials: Why wouldn’t you want the word “freelancer” on these?
In my experience (and we’re talking 19+ years in the editorial industry), using the word freelancer conveys the message – cheap/will work for free/will work for food/can write about anything and will do so for chump change.
Sorry, but this is just my feeling – and my experience.
When you define what you do in specific terms, ie, legal writer, direct mail copywriter, it immediately adds more prestige to your image. It conveys a message of “I have some experience here that is worth paying for.” Not, I’m a starving hired hand.
When you put your image out there – particularly if you are paying for items to promote your business – ie, brochures, postcards, etc. – you want prospects to immediately connect with what you do.
Nike Your Way to Success!
A good example, Nike. While there are tons of sneakers – Nike separated itself by being the shoe of ATHLETES. It’s not the first shoe you think of when you think of style, but if you think of running, golf (thanks to Tiger), basketball (thanks to MJ), I’ll be Nike is in the top three.
And, that’s all you can hope for.
“Freelance Writer” doesn’t convey any specialty – there’s nothing to make the skill stick to.
I understand why many freelancers do this – they’re trying to attract as many clients as possible. But again, lest I sound like a broken record, take the time to define and go after a niche and hang your hat on that. You’ll be much more successful much quicker than trying to target everyone with your services.
3. Seminars/Presentations: If you are lucky enough to speak to a group of people, remove the word freelancer from your presentation (almost).
When I speak, I always address the issue of freelancing” I usually say something along the lines of:
“Yes, I’m what most consider a freelance writer. But, what I’m going to talk to you about today is my real job, how I became a self-sustaining, work-from-home, business writer.”
Usually, I get a few confused looks. And I go on to explain that:
“There is a difference. The difference being that freelancing is usually not thought of as a business.”
I further explain that I think of, and conduct my writing career as, a small business — a small business that provides business writing services to a myriad of clients. I clarify for them that I believe that my success can be attributed to this fact.
That’s when I usually grab their attention.
Then, I go on to say that they may refer to me as a freelance writer, but I refer to myself as a business writer/small business writer/business copywriter. This gives them something else to add to “freelance;” it gives the word freelance something to stick to.
Why would you want to give the word freelance something to stick to?
The Power of Qualified Referrals: When prospects think of you, or think of recommending you, you want them to refer people who can actually use your skill set – and to whom you will have to do little actual selling.
If you tell someone that you’re a freelance writer, but don’t tell them what you specialize in, they may refer you – but it will be someone you can’t work with. This damages you in two ways:
a) First, it may make people hesitate to refer you again because they don’t have a clear picture of what you do. When people are unsure, they don’t act. So, make sure what you do is crystal clear so that when people refer you, they can also rave about you!
b) Makes you look incompetent: As a writer, your job is to get a message across. If you can’t even get your own marketing message across, how can you possibly convince a client that you can make their message crystal clear?
Conversely, if your message is seamless, you can use your own site/brochure/newsletter as an example: ie, remember when you went to my website? Could you tell immediately what my message is? Well, I can make sure that your message comes across just as clear.
Boom – contract signed!
In conclusion, it has been my experience that people listen peripherally, UNTIL you hit on something that appeals to them. So, while using the term “freelance” can garner you some initial interest from prospects, being specific is what will bring in the money.