In a Holiday Mood

Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg

I haven’t been working much lately so I haven’t had anything to post.  I distributed a rack card about my online tour guide to the two visitor centers in downtown Raleigh, and I added an article about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to my web site that I hadn’t been able to place.  But mostly I’ve been in a holiday mood.

I went to Colonial Williamsburg for Thanksgiving and have been attending a series of parties and concerts throughout December.  I love choral music, and the annual concerts are a big part of Christmas for me.  We are fortunate to have several great choruses in the Triangle, and most of the concerts are low-cost or free.  I hosted an open house last Sunday for the first time since 2004, and that took a lot of preparation.  Enough excuses.

I’ve been reading The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and Enviable Lifestyle by three authors.  It is somewhat in the style of most “how to get rich” books, but it does offer some practical advice.  It is not oriented specifically to writers since there are many owner-operated businesses these days.  We used to call them home-based businesses, but I know too many people who operate out of coffee shops where they meet clients or rent an office where they can “go to work” and get away from the distractions of a family home.

To over simplify their recommendations, you have to have focus and persistence, both of which I lack.  The old cliché of “find a niche and fill it” pretty well summarizes their approach of sales and marketing as well as customer relations.  You find your potential market and analyze it carefully rather than write something and try to place it.  I was unsuccessful at two tries as a salesman: one for outside sales and the other for inside sales.  And even successful writers have to continue to sell their services.  I’ve written a lot about branding of professional services.  Doctors and lawyers used to rely strictly on referrals and word-of-mouth to generate clients, but they use marketing techniques now that are considered acceptable professionally.

I guess that I am still trying to establish my brand as a writer; some people call that “finding your voice.”  I have written in many different fields and styles of writing and have considered myself a “generalist”: give me a topic, a word count, and a spin, and I will produce copy for you.  But I’ve learned that I’m not a copywriter; I can’t write sales copy either for print or the web.  I’m just too blunt and frank to think that way.  I know that you “sell” benefits and not features, but what are the real benefits of hiring me rather thousands of other writers?

If you don’t live in a major metropolitan market, then your personal networking opportunities are limited.  I’ve joined about every professional communications or marketing group in town over the years, but they haven’t provided access to my niche market.  It comes down to the old-fashioned query letters (mostly done via e-mail today), and I have a whole shelf of books about that.  I’m just not interested in working with local businesses.  I tried that, and they just don’t pay well.

Editors are hard to reach, and I tried attending major writing conferences where I could make personal contacts, but most editors no longer have the time nor the inclination to speak or attend those conferences.  If you don’t have clips or credibility, then a 10-minute personal conversation doesn’t help you very much.  Most conferences I’ve attended are oriented more toward book authors or fiction writing, neither of which fit me.  I wrote a book six years ago, and I’m not motivated to go through that struggle again.

I used to get prospects from my web site, but that seems to have dried up.  I’ve written about that in prior posts.  Perhaps I need a professionally designed site that presents a better face or one that is not so static. Maybe the truth is that I’ve just gotten lazy since I don’t have to work as a writer to make a living anymore.

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