Running a small business involves many balancing acts, few of which are more important than generating new leads. You have to work at creating leads. It’s naïve to expect that lucrative business leads will walk up to your front door or passing strangers will throw checks in your letter box. It doesn’t happen.
I’ve seen many businesses fail, not because they don’t have a good product or service offering, but because they can’t generate enough leads that eventually translate into fee-paying projects.
Many writers wrongly believe that their writing skills alone will bring in work. Not true. That’s just arrogance. Writers are in the same boat as everyone else. You have to get out and sell your wares. Otherwise the checks stop coming in.
Entrepreneur.com adds “Go where the people go. A booth displaying your product offering usually works best to get attention. Keep in mind you’re there to create leads for new recruits and not just sell products.”
Let’s look at some of the traditional ways to make contacts and some other avenues you mightn’t have thought of. If you have other ideas, send them over.
- Existing clients – always ask your current client for quotes, references and positive endorsements. Post theses on your website, brochures, and sales material. Endorsements are gold-dust. They prove you’ve delivered the goods and people are willing to give their name to your company. Make a point to follow-up and get an endorsement from every client. If you can’t get endorsements, you’re in real trouble.
- Former clients – follow-up every 3-6 months, but don’t be a pest. Phone, don’t email. Don’t assume everyone has your contact details; even the best of us lose business cards and delete emails. Make regular contact to stay on people’s radars. As people move on from organizations, be prepared to re-introduce yourself. Don’t take this as an insult (do I have to do this again?) but as an opportunity to make a greater impression. Have something to share when you call, don’t just make chit-chat. Yore wasting their time and the wont take your call the next time.
- Contribute – write articles to trade magazines, local newspapers, business newsletters, chambers of commerce and so forth. Get your name in front of people. If you don’t have money for advertising, writing articles is a low-cost way to generate business leads. Ask the editors if you can republish the articles on your site. You can also bang your own drum by listing the publications you’ve written for in your sales literature. If you write one article a month, it will soon start to add up. The point is to start!
- Join organizations – people prefer to work with friends. So joining local business organizations, making contacts, and contributing will always work in your favor. Be active. Turning up isn’t enough. Make presentations. Offer suggestions. Organize workshop. The more you put in, the more you’ll get back, though this is long-term strategy as it takes time to build trust and friendships with others. Again, it’s low cost and gets you out from behind the computer.
- Partnerships – approach small-to-midsize companies who could use a writing expert on a project by project basis. For example, web design firms need content developers, graphic design and advertising agencies need copywriters, and local government agencies need proposal writers. Smaller firms will not have these skills in-house. Offer your services as their preferred partner.
Tip: Don’t say you’re a freelancer – it reduces your status. Freelancing is not appreciated within large organizations. Instead, suggest a partnership. This has more gravity and offers the prospect of long-term relationships. Write a press release to promote your partnership. Get photos taken marking the event. Then, send it to the local newspapers, radio stations and other channels. You could never do this as a mere freelancer!
- Help new writers – make it known that you assist new writers breaking into this field. As well as generating goodwill, these writers will return the favor and send you leads, while also including you in projects that are outside their scope.
- Web Portfolio – finally, you have to get an online portfolio. Your website is your all singing all dancing business card. It says who you are, what you do, and even offers free quotes. Understand how you can use the web to your advantage. After all, your competitors are. One suggestion is to define a niche and write about it every month. For example, write tutorials on help wanted ads, letters of resignation, cover letters, grants or some other area that most writers don’t cover. Establish yourself as an expert in this field. Give plenty of tips, tricks, and downloads. Put your phone number (low-cost if possible) on the home page. Don’t hide it in the About Us page. Highlight the companies (and sectors) you’ve worked in, backed up with enthusiastic endorsements from your best clients. If you know nothing about web design, look at the entry level package from Dreamhost. Their free web design tool is like using Word. Cut and paste your content, click a button, and you’re site is updated.
Give at least 25% of your time every week to generating leads, otherwise you’re going to run out of work. The lead you start today may not translate into hard cash for several months, so plan long-term. Use different approaches to highlight your services. Over time you’ll find the ones that are most productive.