Freelance Writers: How to Partner with Your CompetitionWritten by Melissa Brewer
Freelance writing is an unstable occupation sometimes. We already have to struggle with dividing our time between marketing our skills, writing queries, and seeking out new clientele. Sometimes there's not enough time; sometimes there's not enough money.
With current economy, many freelance writers wonder if it's time to return to a "steady paycheck." This has always been my personal "backup plan", but at same time, it isn't very logical. The current economy is creating MORE freelancers, and fewer opportunities for full-time staff positions and W-2 paychecks. Many of my dot-com clients are probably at unemployment office or working for "the man" right now. Small businesses have tightened their budgets, and are trying to do as much in-house production as possible.
So much for steady paycheck, right?
Not necessarily. There are hundreds of corporations and government agencies that award large contracts to agencies and groups every year. They don't hire freelancers because their project needs typically require a mixture of graphic design, desktop publishing, editing, and long-term communication strategies. Corporations and government entities typically have a budget and a regular contract with an agency for marketing, PR, and other communications that MUST get used by end of fiscal year, or it will be allocated to another area. This is great for vendors that they hire; last minute projects are thrown in their laps with bigger-than-anticipated budgets. And usually, they need to outsource to pick up pace...
So how does a freelancer gain access to these opportunities? The key to success in these areas is a little research and a lot of networking. There are many types of contracts that you, as a freelancer, can join forces and gain access to. Here are three of most lucrative:
1. Government RFP and RFQ's
Government Requests for Proposals (RFP) and Requests for Quotes (RFQ) are typically published in "Public Notices" section of daily newspapers. Honestly, descriptions of these services are usually vague -- if you want to bid on these projects, you'll need to contact government entity and ask them for their specifications, then write up a lengthy proposal incorporating all of these specs. This can be time-consuming and complicated. You'll also have to fill out paperwork to be considered for all future posted projects.
How can you skip these steps and get in on action? Find your state's Business Registrar's office and keep track of who is winning these RFP's. They typically post a "Notice of Award" for every contract issued on their website. You can also find out information about Federal Agency contracts awarded by visiting their office of procurement's website.
Keep track of who is winning communications contracts. When you see a project awarded, you can pitch your freelance writing services to company that won. Congratulate them in your letter, send samples of your writing or your resume, and express interest in that specific contract. You can also offer to help pick up other work while they focus on their new projects. Even if they don't need you now, be sure to follow up and keep track of their accomplishments by visiting their website. If government agency is happy with their work, they'll most likely be regularly contracted to in future. If you can establish a repertoire with a government contractor, you'll have a client relationship you can rely on. (At least until next election, when government department heads may change!)
Web Writing's Evolution: The Web Content Market for Writers Written by Melissa Brewer
When It All Began: The First Web Writings
While there weren't many online writers in formative years of web, if you were around then, you know what it was like. What I remember most about web back then (the Al Gore days?) was plain text, 10-point courier font that was consistent with 90% of websites I encountered. Searching web was a pain, but reading web on-screen was impossible. By end of day I was completely nuts and half-blind. I would print out what looked to be a thousand pages of text and take it home to read and highlight. Even on paper, font caused my eyes to be squinty and my head to ache. I probably drank two liters of coffee a day to keep my eyes moving across page. The next day I would return to school computer and begin again. The web was a pain, but it was still a fascinating source of information that was free and at my fingertips.
A year or two later, web design evolved into flashing text and moving GIF's that danced across page. Words were scarce, and oftentimes, filled with unbelievable claims and brazen, nothing's-too-wild hype. There are still a few of these sites up on web today, but consumers shy far away from them when it comes to online shopping. Thank you, Jakob Neilson! While Jakob didn't change writing itself, really, he DID change way it was displayed and warned that blatant commercialism sent customers running for cover. Because of his research (available at useit.com) millions of websites changed way they did business, and learned about relationship building and credibility building. Web designers and writers began to learn and understand nature of web and process of converting website visitors into loyal readers. Web text became readable, scannable, and interesting. By 1998, I was using web on a regular basis again. While I still encountered many ugly, unreadable websites, I discovered a few gems and I was hooked on "free information" movement again.
Web Writing Markets Today
Between web designers and web writers, web has evolved into a medium that is not only scannable, but also readable. Thousands of websites hire content writers to create interesting, compelling, emotional content for their customers. While it is true that online business has lulled, truth is that online content is here to stay. As you may know from a statistics class, there is really no way that 100% of online businesses will crash and burn. For every website that is on web today, there will be two online tomorrow. Web business moves at a quick pace; but as one dot-com crashes and burns, another is submitting their press release to online venues around world.
Understanding web writing markets is crucial to success for online writers. Many writers get frustrated because they can't find work or don't know where to start. An understanding of term "content" is a good start to understanding companies that need content.
Online content today consists of: *Web sales copy *Filler *Articles *Online tutorials *Online user manuals *Newsletter writing *Online press releases *Online journalism *Flash movie scripts *Online game scripts *Online ads