A Powerful Self-Marketing Tool

If you were fortunate enough to be in on any of Bob Bly’s Selling Yourself Teleconferences, you heard a number of very effective ways of getting your first jobs.

These first jobs are crucially important for you as a freelancer. They are the foundation upon which you’ll build your portfolio. The more work you can show prospective clients, the better your chances are of landing them.

And the quicker your portfolio builds, the quicker you’ll be able to start ratcheting up your fees.

But this is a "chicken and egg" situation. How do you GET experience when you don’t HAVE experience? AWAI member Duane Sipe is using one of the strategies Bob recommended. Here’s his story:

"I’d been putting off joining my local Chamber of Commerce until I felt I ‘knew something.’ Anyhow, I went in today and joined. The Membership Director was very courteous and asked me to tell her what I did.

"I didn’t expect to get involved in a lengthy discussion. I was only expecting to write a check. But the ‘Essence of AWAI’ spilled out of me. (Whether or not AWAI members realize it, this ‘stuff’ really does sink in.)

"As a result, she asked if I’d be willing to review the Chamber’s current and future publications … with the probability of either editing or writing them.

"If writing for your local Chamber is not ‘leverage’ in the business community, I don’t know what is.

"And what a morale booster!"

Joining groups like your local Chamber of Commerce provides you with important opportunities. As in Duane’s case, Chambers frequently have things they need written or designed. These include brochures, press releases, visitors’ guides, and newsletters.

In addition, Chambers are great places to make contact with business owners in your area – that all-important networking. With very little effort on your part, you can have other members turning to you when they need a good graphic designer or copywriter.

Don’t limit yourself to your Chamber of Commerce. Joining a service organizations (like the Rotary or Lions) or social organizations (like the Eagles or Elks) is also a great way to make contact with potential clients.

However, DO NOT JOIN simply to network. Join because you believe in what the group does. All of these organizations – including Chambers – frown on people whose only intent is to network. Join because you have something to offer them.

Even if you decide not to join, offer them something anyway. Offer to rewrite or redesign their brochure. Write a column (for free) in their newsletter.

These organizations are also looking for people to put on programs – give talks of interest to their members. Offer to give a speech – not promoting your freelance services but on some aspect of marketing that their members can use. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you could talk about how proper graphic design affects response rate. Or if you’re a copywriter, you could talk about the importance of knowing your prospect.

When you give a talk to a group, be sure to have your business cards with you. But don’t simply hand them out to members. Instead, give them a special report you’ve prepared that relates to your business … with your business card attached.

This report should NOT be a summary of your talk. Make it different. Make it specific. Make it useful – something like "The 8 Cardinal Sins of Marketing Design" or "4 Ways to Make Sure Your Advertising Works."

A secret here: You want the report to be useful for your reader. But when he looks it over, you also want him to feel, "I like what she has to say. I should contact her to do our next ad."

Don’t limit yourself to local organizations. Check surrounding communities. When you travel, see if you can do a program for an organization in the city you’re visiting. (You’ll find that it helps if you belong to your local branch of that organization.)

Duane Sipe took a significant and important first step by joining his local Chamber of Commerce. However, he almost missed the opportunity it presented because he kept putting off doing it.

ACTION PLAN: Actively pursue contacts and memberships (when appropriate) in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Be prepared to work with them … and to build your portfolio with the work you do for them.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: January 10, 2005

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