The toughest part of working as a writer, especially as a freelancer, is probably marketing. How do I get more clients and writing jobs? Hell, how do I get just one client!
We often hear about guest posting, cold-emailing, social media and a great website as smart marketing tools and strategies, and they’re all great. But much as the latest technologies and apps can help you promote your business, consider some of the older tools of the trade.
Offline marketing strategies spread the word about your services in a different way than online ones, and have helped me land lucrative jobs and clients. If you’re ready to go old-school, here are some of my most successful methods.
1. Write by hand
Walk into a coffee shop or library today and you likely won’t see many people using a pen and paper to write. If you choose to scribble away in a beautifully bound book while everyone else is tapping to glory on their laptops, you’ll be an anomaly in the crowd. If your book or pen has something cheeky written on it, even better!
I can’t count the number of times my pen on paper writing tactic has sparked a conversation that resulted in a business card exchange and eventually a new client.
2. Read a writing-related book
Sitting in coffee shop or co-working space reading Ellen Gilchrist’s The Writing Life or William Zinsser’s On Writing Well easily brands you as a writer. (Note: This doesn’t work if you’re using a Kindle!)
I was once accosted by an older gentleman at a neighborhood coffee shop while frantically scribbling notes from The Writing Life; he wondered whether I was, in fact, a writer. As we chatted, the conversation led to an assignment to write reports for his charitable foundation — and the foundation needed a lot of reports.
3. Carry physical copies of your work
Do you have an article in the recent issue of your neighborhood alt-weekly? Is your feature story in the new edition of National Geographic? Don’t only share the links on social media. Carry a copy with you — you never know when it will come in handy.
I happened to be carrying a copy of a magazine I write for when I met a friend for coffee. After I showed him my latest article, my friend asked about my work and hired me for a project. Overhearing our conversation, the coffee shop owner asked for my business card and called me to polish the shop’s marketing materials.
Being able to share your work immediately in a tangible form holds a little bit of magic compared to a follow-up email with a link.
4. Dress the part
This one can be tough, but give it a try. See whether you can broadcast your skills or knowledge with your clothing or accessories.
For example, I have a T-shirt that reads “Ce moment when you start penser en deux langues at the same temps” (“that moment when you start to think in two languages at the same time”). Speaking more than one language fluently is a fantastic skill set to have. Wearing this shirt and sharing my skills rarely fails to start conversations, and as a result I’ve landed translation contracts with clients I never dreamed I’d work with.
Another option is to use a writing-related bag to carry your pen, paper and reading material. I use a bright blue laptop bag with the words “Excellence in Journalism” in bold white capital letters from the Society for Professional Journalists conference. I’ve ended up signing clients who noticed my bag and needed help with research — something journalists are generally great at.
The great thing about these strategies is that you don’t need to learn to use a new platform or buy an expensive membership. Use what you’ve got, be ready to talk about your skills, and let your new marketing strategies work for you.
Have you tried any offline marketing strategies like these? How have they worked for you?