Monday, June 30, 2014

The Power of A Testimonial (Part 1)

A testimonial -- brief yet concisely written -- can either make or break a freelancing professional. While it's good to cultivate your work ethics and perennially aim to exceed your clients' expectations, keep in mind that you should devote part of your routine to promoting yourself and your services.

And freelancing professionals know that advertising one's services can rack up considerable expenses, especially if one pays for web hosting, or needs to have a stack of business cards professionally printed.

Now, if you've had tenure in the workplace before deciding to turn freelance, surely you're aware that citing the names of former colleagues or supervisors, or anyone who can vouch for your competence at work, is one of the sure-fire ways to speed up a job search.

Likewise, asking a satisfied client to write a glowing testimonial for you can serve as proof that you're reliable and trustworthy. And a testimonial can be obtained at no cost at all. You can just ask a client to jot it down verbatim and then proofread it yourself.

Potential clients are more likely to notice a freelancer who's proven his skills and mettle, and once they log on to your website and read all those wonderful stuff you've done for your former clients, surely that would convince them that you're worth a try.

Since testimonials can make you more appealing to potential clients, it's worth taking some time to learn to utilize it to maximize its benefits. Tune in for my next several posts as I provide a few guidelines in using testimonials.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How to Bait Your Hook (Part 5)

Here's the last way to bait your hook effectively: 

Web stalk potential clients, and align yourself according to their most pressing needs.

If you aspire to capitalize on social media and make it your specialty, you should start along this line. Since more and more entrepreneurs are realizing the limitless potential of social media, simply logging on to Facebook and creating an Official Page or having an account on Twitter and Instagram to promote their brand or services can be appealing to a mobile and tech-savvy clientele.

And yet, having a Facebook Page, Instagram, or Twitter account doesn't guarantee long-term success. Putting out a Facebook Page to advertise one's products or services or getting the right type of audience to follow you on Twitter takes careful planning and preparation. 

In the March 2012 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines, it was stated that people are more likely to trust information that comes from friends and those with whom they're connected or affiliated, like colleagues at work.

This is why entrepreneurs need not just showcase their brand or services through photos shown on a Facebook Page or a Twitter or Instagram account. They should also create meaningful content that will mostly likely spark the interest of their target market.

And optimizing a Facebook Page isn't limited to SEO specialists. If you're freelancing as a copywriter, you can broaden your range of skills by engaging online users and get them to post comments or allow them to initiate a discussion over the pros and cons of the brand or services. 

Also, the success of a business or an enterprise doesn't necessarily lie in having more and more customers or clients in the long run, but to keep the clients that they already have loyal to their brand for the longest time possible.

This is the main reason entrepreneurs make innovations, or formulate new or better strategies, to keep their clients or customers happy.

As I round up this series in my next article, I'll cite several ways on how you can attract the attention of entrepreneurs who'd like to generate sales or have more clients by advertising through social media. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Bait Your Hook (Part 4)

After dealing with the importance of baiting the hook through business cards, print ads, and websites, here's the next effective strategy:

Selectively give away freebies.

After years of checking out numerous blogs over the blogosphere, I now understand why plenty of freelance writers give online users access to a free ebook. These authors need subscribers to keep their blogs alive.

They might make an initial offer of subscribers getting a free ebook. If they teach correspondence courses about writing or other topics, a free ebook would be the perfect bait to inform their subscribers about the benefits they can get should they finish a course. 

And such deals aren't limited to freelance writers. In recent years, life coaching has become an extremely fulfilling and lucrative career, to the point that even men and women who have experienced remarkable success in the workplace found it worthy to jump ship and get themselves retrained. 

Now, having a platform is one of the determining factors to a life coach's success, and putting out a website and blog are just a few ways to show that he's serious about his game.

The key to remember when giving away freebies is this: provide just enough information to satisfy the curiosity of your subscribers, but leave out the rest of "the goods" that they'd want more of what you have to offer.

I believe the reason certain companies are hell-bent on programming and brainwashing consumers is this: it's very difficult to make people part with their hard-earned money unless you appeal to a legitimate need they have, like raising their self-esteem, or appealing to their jolts of vanity or sexuality.

Whether advertising is good or bad has never been the point. If it works, who cares about the way I got you to spend your money?

The good news is, you don't have to be a slick-sounding salesman or write a lot of "marketing fluff," like those generic-sounding, pie-in-the-sky promises that do nothing to your credibility.

If you already know how to write quality content, or if you outsource paid writing jobs to competent writers for your website or blog's content, then you're already halfway done when it comes to getting noticed by your target market.

If you can win subscribers to your point of view, and make them see the benefits that they can get from your services, you'll stir up a desire in their minds and hearts.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Bait Your Hook (Part 3)

The third way to bait the hook may be a tad too complicated for newbies, but taking the necessary amount of time to learn the ropes until you're fairly comfortable will, in the long run, yield better and better results.

Here it is:

Be aware of the benefits that an informative and engaging website can bring.

In this mobile age when the Internet is not just recognized as another form of media, the importance of having an online presence cannot be stressed often enough.

And yet, websites that are an apparent hodgepodge of information with no sense of cohesion are a dime a dozen over the World Wide Web. As a freelancing professional, you'd want your site to get you more clients in the long term.

A website can be a cost-effective way to land you better-paying clients. You'll come across as tech-savvy and abreast with the times, provided you know how to utilize your site to achieve maximum benefits. 

To get you started, since your Home Page will serve as your landing page, or the first thing that potential clients will see when logging on to your website, this is where you should sum up who you are as a freelancing professional and the types of services you offer. 

Use graphics sparingly and keep your text to no more than a three-font scheme. It's best to use black-colored fonts over a white background.

Include a professional-looking photo of yourself (a shirt and tie or a collared shirt is appropriate for the men, while a blouse in a conservative color is just right for women).

You should have a Page dedicated exclusively to your clips or portfolio, and make sure you keep it up-to-date. Exclude anything that you've done more than two years ago, with the possible exception of any clients who were willing to give you a glowing testimonial. 

Your contact information (e.g. mobile number, email address, Skype I.D., etc.) should be accurate. If you entertain inquiries through phone, provide the best hours to contact you.

Also, think about the various ways you'd like to get paid for your freelancing services. If you have a PayPal account, set up a PayPal badge to inform clients on an international scale that you prefer to be paid through your account.

Other freelancers accept payment through Xoom[dot]com . In the Philippines, you need to open a savings account in banks like Banco de Oro and Metropolitan Bank of the Philippines and be able to present a valid I.D. in order to claim payments transferred to you by clients.

If you cater more to local clients, you can choose to get paid by having the exact amount deposited straight to your bank account, or through check or credit card. Have several modes of payment so your clients can have a variety of options before choosing the one that's most convenient for them.

Lastly, do not neglect SEO to get your site on top of search engines. Think about all the keywords or key phrases that are related to the type of work that you do. For example, "freelance writer" is too vague a term, but "freelance copywriter" or "corporate resume writer" lends a level of specificity in an online user's search. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

How to Bait Your Hook (Part 2)

By now you may have figured out how baiting the hook, or dangling an attractive bargain in front of potential clients, can make them sit up and take notice of your competence as a freelancing professional. Here are several other ways of doing it:

Harness the possibilities of built-in publishing software.

Home computers usually have built-in software, like Microsoft Publisher, that enables you to create marketing materials like flyers and brochures. The good news is you don't need to invest in expensive ink-jet-friendly paper. White typewriting paper of good quality will do (A4 or 8 1/2" x 11" is ideal).

While a business card can be handy whenever you attend any of those networking events or conventions, a three-fold brochure that concisely states the type of services you offer is more effective when you want clients to remember you should the need to hire a freelancer comes up.

And even in this mobile generation, when most start-up businesses and enterprises in the stage of growth and expansion are realizing that an online presence is essential, it's still apparent that advertising through print hasn't completely gone kaput.

Now, when it comes to creating your brochures (or even flyers), you have to keep your costs low while maximizing the potential of print ads. Think about this: strategically giving away 25 brochures that would generate two to three clients each is more effective than having a hundred brochures printed and getting only several clients in the long term.

Start with a definite plan. One of your best bets would be to get in touch with small companies through snail mail. Small companies do not have big budgets to spare in the way huge companies do. Huge companies can pay for a 30-second TV or radio commercial and launch campaigns through billboards and magazines, and organize events at upscale venues.

What keeps most small companies afloat is carving out their own niche in a huge market, or by consistently meeting the needs of a select group of clients or customers. 

And yet, even small companies can get swamped during certain times of the year, like tax season and the holidays. Outsourcing projects to freelancers has proven to be an excellent alternative in order to keep their workforce small.

In the Philippines, it was reported by the website Entrepreneur[dot]ph that huge companies only make up four percent of the country's industries. What keeps the local economy vibrant, aside from remittances from OFWs, are the profits generated by SMEs.

You can obtain the contact information of most SMEs through Entrepreneur magazine, and any networking event or job fair. You can try "cold calling," or mail them a letter, where you can conveniently insert your three-fold brochure in a legal-size envelope.

In your brochure, an attention-grabbing announcement can look like this:

== Huge Discounts! ==

Make an Appointment
From December 1 to 31, 2014
and Get 20-30% Off Our
SEO Copywriting Services!

Remember that fancy-looking fonts are distracting, so keep it to a two- or three-font scheme, and it's best to use black ink over a white background. Simplicity has more impact on potential clients. No one has the time nor patience to wade through marketing fluff.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Bait Your Hook (Part 1)

In my previous post, I mentioned the fact that all of us loves a bargain. As a freelancing professional, you should capitalize on the "feel-good" vibes brought by getting more than what you paid for to build your career and eventually end up making a five-figure or even a six-figure annual income.

Even if you're already charging competitive rates, it wouldn't hurt to tweak your marketing strategies even more in order to land more clients, or maybe end up with less, but better paying, projects.   

The following is not an exhaustive list, but just some ways of baiting the hook:

Provide a "teaser" in your business cards.

To illustrate, if your specialty lies in writing business plans, advertising copy, or resumes, you can inform potential clients that you're offering an initial session of 30 minutes for free. 

Imagine what 30 minutes of free counseling can do to a potential client. You can immediately nail down the reason he wants to hire you. You should be able to pinpoint his goals, or at least get a good grasp of his desired results after your meeting.

And should your client decide to stretch your meeting for another 30 minutes, or even go one full hour or two, you can just mention that you'll bill him for the session once you've submitted the finished project and you'll proceed to prepare an invoice.

Be strategic with your website.

For graphic artists, designers, and web developers, a functional website exhibiting your previous works is essential.

According to envato studio, a popular site for freelancers, a web developer can make an average of USD185 to USD400 for a single landing page for a website, provided it would help the entrepreneur garner more sales or more clients for his business.

Now, regardless of one's specialty as a freelancer, most workers operate on the standard number of free rewrites or revisions, which is a maximum of two. In envato studio, a web developer in his early 'twenties posted in his profile that he can have the finished project delivered to the client in five days, and he's allowing up to five revisions. If websites are your thing, your bait could mean allowing more than the standard number of revisions to potential clients.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bait Your Hook, Make Your Clients Happy, and End Up With a Fatter Wallet

We all love bargains. That's a fact.

And one of the best ways to get more clients and increase your chances of earning more is to offer bargains that are so good, potential clients can't help but take notice and inquire about your freelancing services.

And how do you do that? By baiting your hook.

To illustrate, if you've ever tried fishing, you may have figured out that if you want to catch trout, you can't use shark bait. In freelancing, attracting the clients that you want means putting the right type of bait to your hook.

Your "hook" could be anything, from an email query to the managing editor of a niche magazine, a sales pitch in your website, or a three-fold brochure advertising your copywriting services.

Now let's take the case of writing feature articles. Magazine editors know the importance of keeping their readers up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations, and they have to make sure that the tone of their articles are slanted appropriately to their readership. There's a huge motive behind this: their magazine's success depends on the number of readers they acquire in the long term. Therefore, managing editors are always on the look-out for freelance writers who not only do their homework, but aim to exceed their expectations as well.

The right type of bait for a managing editor can be offering additional facts or tidbits of information to serve as a sidebar, or filler, for their magazine articles. Sidebars brighten up the pages of a magazine. They stand out without being too distracting, and they often make readers want to know more about the article's topic or theme.

Now, let me give an example as a freelancer. As a professional who provides resume writing and editing services, I fully understand how a neat and well-written resume can help an applicant land that dream job or a much-coveted position.

The truth is, potential employers, over the years, have become more and more stringent with the way they screen applicants. Submitting a resume that is devoid of misspelled words, awkward sentence structures, and misplaced punctuation marks is no longer enough. Modern resumes, in addition to being concise, need a well-defined career objective and keywords for better and faster online screening.

And what's as important as a well-written resume is a cover letter, where an applicant should briefly introduce himself, mention his key qualifications, and convince a potential employer why he's the best man for the job.

Over the past few years, writing cover letters have become a lot trickier. And it doesn't matter if an applicant sends it through snail mail, email, or hand carries it as a walk-in applicant.

So in order to give potential clients a good bargain, I offer to write a cover letter for them at no additional charges.  

A resume that's flawless or faultless may document your educational attainment and past achievements, but only the right cover letter can open up doors of opportunities for you.

And in one resume writing website, an article was published that in some instances, resume writing fees can be declared as a tax deductible, and if you want to focus on resume writing as a specialty, this can be a good reason for you to charge competitively.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Setting A "Flooring" to Your Freelancing Rates

After two to three years of working as a freelancer, it may now be time to set a flooring on your freelancer's rates.

I first heard about the term flooring from a Bainbridge Island, Washington-based freelance writer named Carol Tice, who started her career in 2005. She narrated how she got from the status of pricing her services at mid-range to earning six figures. Ms. Tice wrote that "it had everything to do with flooring."

I realized that one of the perks of freelancing as an industry is you can never really set a "ceiling price," or a price that is too high for your services. If you possess a professional attitude and always aim to exceed your clients' expectations, rest assured that someone out there will always be willing to pay you, no matter how high you (eventually) set your fees.

Now, putting a flooring on your rates as a freelancer simply means gradually raising the minimum amount you're willing to accept as payment. Granted, you can only do this by continually honing your skills and being more competent, and by being selective with the tasks and projects you accept over the years.

To illustrate, when I was starting out in my career, I worked on a few projects as a ghostwriter. I wasn't sure how much to charge at first, so I consulted another experienced writer. She advised me that charging Php1,000 for an 800- to 1,200-word article, or a 400- to 600-word speech, would be a good start.

My flat fee for a ghostwriting project was Php300, so that means my flooring for my ghostwriting services would amount to Php1,300. If I got offered a project where the client would pay me less than that amount, I knew that it would be better not to take it, as it would not be worth my time and skills. 

If you have multiple skills, it could also mean having multiple flooring rates. For my resume services, the lowest I charge is Php3,000 if the applicant is seeking an internship or an entry-level position. My flat fee is Php300, so that would amount to a flooring price of Php3,300.

Keep in mind that since I'm based in Quezon City, Philippines, where the cost of living is lower than the majority of cities in the world, I can afford to set my prices at rates that are lower than my North American or European counterparts. I also have cheaper overhead expenses, so I can accommodate more local clients.