Looking to break into the lucrative world of content marketing?
There are dozens, if not hundreds of places for writers to find content marketing clients: job boards, LinkedIn, through agencies, via websites such as Contently that match writers with businesses, and of course, by contacting potential clients directly.
With the exception of websites that allow you to put up your portfolio and let clients find you, most times, you’re going to have to be proactive about contacting potential clients and finding work. And you do this by sending a Letter of Introduction — a short email introducing yourself, mentioning your clips and credits, and outlining why you’d be a great fit to do content marketing for this business or agency.
A strong LOI can be the difference between getting thousands of dollars worth of work within a week and never hearing back from anyone.
But if you’ve never before written an email that sells you and your writing services, it can be intimidating. Here’s what to include in your Letter of Introduction to increase your chances of landing content marketing clients.
1. Your writing experience
You may be a new writer, but if you’re sending an LOI, you need to be able to convincingly show the person you’ve contacted — whether that’s an agency or a potential small business client — that you’re capable of producing the work.
You can’t do this if you have no writing credits. This is why, if you’re a new writer with no clips, I recommend networking and finding clients in other ways (through Contently, for instance) before you start sending out dozens of pitches.
2. Your business and content marketing experience
Ever written brochure copy for a corporate client? Blogged for the Indian restaurant down the road? Put together a case study for an animal rights organization?
That’s all experience you should highlight. If you’ve ever written for a business or worked for a business or association, pick the most relevant experiences and highlight them — even if you did the work for free. There’s no need to point out your volunteer status; what matters is that you did the work and you did it well.
3. Your understanding of their business
Enough talk about you. Let’s talk about the business. When you send an LOI to a small business or a corporate client (this doesn’t apply as much when pitching agencies), the one and only question they’re really asking is: What’s in it for me?
So make sure you provide a good answer to that by first making it clear you understand what problem they’re trying to solve and what need they’re filling with their business. This could be as simple as referencing some of their older content and explaining how it helped you (if you’re the target market, that is), or pointing out that no one else seems to have the same unique selling proposition (USP), which really helps them stand out in the market. Compliment them, but be sincere.
4. Your understanding of their needs
One of the best ways to make your LOI stand out and get immediate responses is to do as much research on the company as you possibly can and find a couple of areas where they can do better. I’m not a big fan of the “you suck at this and I can fix it” approach, but I do sometimes point out obvious areas of lack that I’m sure the business already knows about and likely wants to improve.
Some brands get a lot of cold pitches from writers, and most of those aspiring freelancers don’t do their research, so showing you put in the time and effort to really learn about this particular business will set you apart from everyone else.
For instance, you might find the content marketing strategy for that budgeting app you use has a lot of information about creating and sticking to budgets, but not enough on how to organize those savings they’re creating through budgeting. By proving that you understand their needs, not only do you make clear that you’re interested in what they have to offer, but you highlight the fact that you’ve invested time in learning about their business and are keen enough to come up with solutions without any guarantee. Especially when you’re new, this can get your foot in the door.
5. Your niche
When it comes to content marketing, it is absolutely essential to choose a niche and make clear to your potential clients what that niche is. Businesses don’t just hire freelance writers, they hire writers with expertise in a subject — their subject.
A writer who specializes will always win assignments more regularly than a writer who writes about “everything.” While writing skill and reporting ability are more valuable when it comes to journalism and freelance writing for publications, deep knowledge of a subject and the ability to convey it is the prized skill when it comes to writing for businesses and brands.
My rule of thumb: When connecting with individual clients or corporates, mention one, at most two, areas of specialization that are relevant to their business. When contacting agencies, give them at least three or four niche topics you can write about so they have an easier time placing you within their existing client base.
6. An invitation to connect over the phone or Skype
While freelancing tends to be accomplished over email, business is frequently done on the phone. Most editors I know absolutely hate having to answer phones in the middle of the workday. On the contrary, most entrepreneurs cannot understand why you’d waste half a day with emails flying back and forth when you could easily pick up the phone and sort it out in less than ten minutes.
What I suggest is that you give people options, and let them choose what works best for them. If they prefer email, continue on. But if they’d rather discuss working together on the phone, make sure you’ve offered them the option. This is one effective way to make their job easier, so they want to work with you right from the start.
An effective Letter of Introduction can be the sharpest tool in your content marketing toolbox. Even better, once you’ve written a good LOI that you know works and can get results, all you need to do is tweak it for new clients.
You write it once, and you reap the rewards repeatedly. That’s why it’s important to get yours right from the get-go.
Do you pitch potential clients regularly? What do you include in your LOI, and what do you leave out?