Learning to market your business doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take time to figure out what works for you. I’ve come to realize that marketing and promoting my writing business started long before I had a firm grasp on what marketing was. And it’s all thanks to my appetite for knowledge.
Although I started writing in my teens and got my first paid writing job in my early 20s, the time when marketing really mattered was when I went freelance in 2005. As always, I did a lot of reading and soon realized that anyone who had a business needed to have a website. Without the budget to pay a web designer, I set it up myself. I’ll spare you the painful details of how I taught myself HTML, found some WYSIWYG editors and took my first steps in coding.
First Steps in Marketing My Writing
Suffice it to say that I was soon able to put together what at the time seemed very credible website that I could show to clients when they asked what I had done. It was skeletal (home, about, services, work samples and testimonials) and very Web 1.0 but it did the trick. Many of my small business clients also start with small sites, though arguably they are far better designed than my early one.
After five years in teaching, I didn’t have a lot of recent work to showcase, but I knew that had to be the next step. For me, this wasn’t about marketing, but about having an online way to show what I had done lately to replace the portfolio of newspaper and magazine cuttings I used to show to editors. Going back to my source material, I was directed to article marketing services. At the time, they were a great way to show what you could do and publish for free. So I wrote. I wrote articles to promote my husband’s legal services business. I wrote book reviews. I wrote about moving house (by then I’d moved more than 20 times). While my portfolio wasn’t coherent, it proved I could write.
Researching My Way Into Better Marketing
At the time, I spent a lot of time talking to other writers to learn more about the online writing world. Though I didn’t know it, that was marketing too. One of my fellow writers put me in touch with the copywriting agency that became my bread-and-butter for the next 18 months. The pay was not great but it gave me a chance to learn about search engine optimization and to write about an even wider range of topics that matched my expertise. By the end of that period my already well developed journalism and research skills were backed by solid SEO and web writing skills.
And I kept going. Every time I learned something new, it invariably led to other opportunities:
- Entering a blogging contest led to me getting my first paid blogging gig.
- Writing book reviews for an article marketing site led to a paid gig writing web app reviews.
- Talking to people led to new gigs.
That last point was important. Many of my most successful marketing opportunities came about when I made genuine connections with other people. None of us were trying to market, but we helped each other be more successful. I’m still in touch with some of those people today.
What I’ve Learned About Business Marketing
These days, I’ve realized that marketing is mostly about telling my story – and I’ve learned lots of new ways of doing that thanks to friends who can tell me which parts of marketing are worth spending money on, what marketing is good for and what a unique value proposition is worth.
Best of all, there’s no single right way to do it. The more real you keep it, the more people connect with you. That’s why when I write content for my clients’ web pages, I spend time getting to know them so I can capture the essence of what they are all about and help them to market themselves authentically.
How has your marketing evolved since you have been in business?
This post is part of Word Carnival: Mission Storytelling, a collection of business blog posts by some pretty smart people. This month’s theme: Marketing without Marketing. Check out the rest of the posts on the Word Carnival site.