One of the great things about freelance writing is that much of our work is remote. We don’t need to live or work anywhere near the people who hire us.
Sometimes it’s convenient to be in a similar timezone, for example, if you need to connect on the phone regularly or have frequent email communication close to deadlines. But generally, being geographically close by doesn’t matter as a freelancer.
Because of this, you may be overlooking one smart way to grow your freelance business:
By going local!
Think about all the potential writing opportunities that may exist in your community
- Small retailers may need website copy or product descriptions for their site or catalog.
- Local organizations may want to outsource the creation of their newsletter or other marketing materials.
- Non-profits or local businesses who need blog content; maybe they’re using members of their team and haven’t even thought about using freelancers.
- Local papers and publications (for your town or city, as opposed to the larger metropolitan papers) may use freelancers or accept story pitches. These articles may be more human interest or happenings around town but could be a good way to grow your portfolio as well as your income.
And these are just a few examples!
When you consider your local community (and surrounding areas) as a potential source of business, you open yourself up to a lot of potential work. Even if you come from a small area, or have to think in a wider circle than someone in a metropolitan area, just about everyone can “go local” and find potential clients.
Before you go local
If you just had a big “aha moment” here, sit tight before you start reaching out to every business within a 10-mile radius. Just because a company is near you doesn’t mean that you should reach out to them to see if they want to hire you.
If you start contacting places haphazardly and without a plan, you can run into issues like coming across as unprofessional, being unable to deliver on what you’ve said, or getting a bad reputation before you begin.
You know you don’t want that!!
To have the best chance of building up your local clientele, here are some things to think about:
- Consider what your strengths are as a writer and what type of work you prefer to do. Is blog content with an emphasis on story-telling your strength? Are you able to weave promotional content into a blog without sounding salesy? Are you a lean, mean, website copy-writing machine?
- Before you reach out to people and businesses in your area, it’s smart to know what services you will and will not offer.
- What niche is your writing best-suited for, and where do you have experience? This is important. Since you can probably list 30-40 (or more!) businesses, restaurants, and stores, easily, that doesn’t mean you just reach out to all of them about blogging (or whatever your specialty is).
- If you don’t have a background in medicine, it may not make sense to reach out to doctor’s offices to assist with their content needs (notice I said “may not”- it’s not a hard no); If you’ve never worked in tech, then it likely doesn’t make sense to reach out to highly technical clients. You still need to consider your areas of experience and expertise; just because someone is local, that doesn’t automatically make them a good fit for you.
- Though experience is important, keep in mind that you don’t have to have written in a certain niche for it to make sense for you. For example, if you live near a lot of restaurants, you’re a bit of a foodie, and you feel you could meet the needs of the clients, then perhaps you reach out to some of the restaurants nearby.
- Do your research to find out what these businesses and organizations are already doing. If they already have a blog but don’t update it often, that’s good information to know. If there isn’t a blog, it may be a hard-sell to convince them to start one and pay you. However, if you’re a patron of the business and you see that their website doesn’t reflect all the services they now offer, this could be part of your pitch. Understanding the business from a local’s perspective makes you uniquely qualified, and can help you sell your services.
- Craft your pitch. Since these businesses are local, you have options for how to pitch, beyond sending an email. You can start with an email like you might any potential client. Or, you could think about taking advantage of the fact that you’re local and meet face-to-face. (If you’re not sure how to pitch, check out this post and this post).
- This is where it’s important to know your audience before you just pop in to say hello. Some potential employers will want a phone call or an email to set up an appointment. Others will likely be okay with a quick introduction in person during business hours. For example, if you want to pitch a website copy upgrade to a local restaurant, call ahead to find out when the owner is in and the time things get busy. Then, head there before the crowds get overwhelming (better yet, go in for a meal!) and introduce yourself. Share briefly about what you do and how you think your services could benefit the business, and ask if you can send more information.
- Know your rates and packages. Pricing your services can often be an art, but the people you approach will want to know what you cost. Be prepared to say something like “Blogs start at $X/post” or “Website copy begins at $X per page”- locals may talk to one another, so it’s important to explain that you price based on the job. (Unsure about how to charge? Check out this post).
Once you start to grow your local business
As always, make sure you’re doing great work. Word spreads fast and it will spread even faster in your local community, both good and bad.
If your work starts to take off, you could consider creating a new webpage (or section of your writer’s website) to promote your local work, and create business materials to leave with people to help improve your ability to network and gain referrals.
Even if you don’t make local writing work your focus, this can be a great way to supplement the other writing that you do. Not only will this diversify your income, but it may also allow you to write about topics that you wouldn’t get to otherwise!
Whether you’re a newer freelance writer, or you’ve been doing this for a few years, consider which local businesses, schools, organizations, or causes may benefit from your writing services, and reach out.