Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They’re foundational to your writing life.

Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

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Four decisions every writer needs to make

In the writing life, it’s easy to get swept up in tactics and strategies other people recommend. When you’re just getting started it makes sense! You don’t know what to do so why not try something that seems like it’s working?

Making decisions about who you are as a writer may seem overwhelming and restrictive, I get it. But in thinking this through, it will provide you with an important foundation. These decisions will help keep you focused when the writing gets hard and the rejections pile up.

The four questions

Consider these four questions and try and come up with answers that reflect your personal writing goals. What you come up with will help you stay focused in the wild west of online marketing. And yes, you can change your answers over time. Definitely!

Who is your target reader?

  • Try and form a mental picture of your ideal reader, your biggest fan
  • Where does this person spend time online?
  • What does this person care about?
  • Why does this person love reading your work?

For more on discovering your ideal reader, here’s a longer walkthrough.

Why do you want an online following?

  • This may feel like a selfish/self-serving question but it’s important to know what your goal is and why you want followers
  • There are no wrong answers so be honest with yourself!
  • It’s important to know your end goal so you don’t get swept up in every trend and fad
  • Understanding why you want an online following will help you hang in there when you don’t feel like being online or you encounter bad Internet people

Writers who want to be traditionally published should be working towards growing a platform. For more on author platforms, here’s a definition and an explanation.

What is your focus/niche?

  • What do you write about?
  • In a perfect world, what would you be known for?
  • What type of writing do you do?
  • While you may have diverse interests and write in several genres, decide on a primary topic or focus

Often, writers are resistant to choosing a narrow focus or niche. I’ve written about my journey and expand on why branding yourself is so important in the online world.

What problem do you solve for your readers?

  • What is something you offer your ideal readers that they both need and want?
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Think about what your reader is hoping you’ll help them with
  • The problems and solutions you offer can be big or small

Understanding why what you write is important to your readers is a fabulous opportunity to help people take the next step on their journey. It also helps you build your brand, which I expand on in this article.

Why do you write?

Bonus question: Why do you write?

No matter the reason, you should know why you write. If you can get clear about your why it will act as a beacon when your path isn’t clear. You know, when things like self-doubt and insecurity knock at your door. Or when success doesn’t come in the timeline you daydreamed about.

Your why will help you see past the discouragement of the day and keep moving ahead. Because you have a larger purpose! Your why is bigger than a momentary setback.

Ready to create your writer’s statement? Download the worksheet from my free resource library.

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And for the sake of an example and accountability, here is my recently-updated writer’s statement.

I write stories and articles to help others create vulnerable connections—with others, with themselves, with the world—so they can move towards the person they’re meant to be.

My goal in sharing is to help someone else discover they’re not alone and give them hope for the future.

Writer’s Statement, Robyn Roste (February 2020)

By the way, I worked through this at Laura Munson’s Haven 1 Writing Retreat earlier this year. Ask me about that incredible experience!

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They're foundational to your writing life.

This is an excerpt from my workshop Blogging and Social Media for Writers.

You’ve heard that, as a writer, you need to build an online platform, but what does that mean? While building a presence through blogging and social media is both a science and an art, there are consistent elements writers need to think about and commit to. This workshop reviews the top elements to consider and the four decisions every writer needs to know before they get started.

There are four decisions every writer needs to make before they get started marketing themselves online. They're foundational to your writing life.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients

Wondering how to make stronger connections online with your clients or prospects?

It all comes down to understanding your ideal readers/clients/customers, answering their questions and delighting them with your generosity.

Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients

How to make stronger connections with your ideal clients

In order to get more engagement with people online, there are a few areas worth considering. One of the most important is content. Yes, writing!

Part of a strong digital presence is what you write, on your website or blog and on social media. This comes from a strong foundation based on your unique, individual brand.

Here are a few tips for making stronger connections in the digital space.

Get to know your ideal client

It’s important to know your customers, clients, prospects, followers, readers, etc. Critical even! We’ve all heard when you try and appeal to everyone you appeal to no one. Getting laser focused on your target customer will help you make authentic connections and build relationships.

As a busy freelance writer, you don’t have time to craft posts that don’t do anything for your business. Try writing for your ideal client when you’re posting online, not just when you’re doing paid work. Write for and to them. See what happens.

Extra credit: Want to discover your ideal reader? Here’s an exercise I hope you’ll enjoy!

Create high-quality content

Everything you do online is marketing your business. So when posting, no matter if it’s a four-word meme or a 2,000 word blog post, make sure it’s quality.

People sometimes get swept up in thinking they need to post frequently in order be noticed. To stand out. To stay top of mind. And yes, posting on your chosen platforms consistently IS criticial. However, think quality over quantity. Post as much as you can at a rate you can sustain. Keep the quality up. You’re doing this for your people.

Strengthen your lede

“Lede” is a journalism term meaning the first sentence/introduction of a news story. This is the most important piece! The lede should tell the reader what to expect and compel them to go deeper.

In the noisy digital world, you have micro seconds to grab attention. If your lede doesn’t entice people to keep reading? They’ll keep scrolling.

Build stronger connections

When thinking about blogging and SEO, getting noticed online means standing out. And that starts with the title. Get creative and think about what your ideal clients want to read. Answer the questions they’re asking. Be generous with your advice.

But most of all, hook them so they’ll stick around.

Want to make stronger connections? Engage!

While creating content that connects is important, showing up online and interacting with your ideal clients is where the magic happens.

It does take some extra time so it’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have time to be social. But might I push you to reconsider? Just a bit? A few minutes per day?

If you want to build relationships online it comes down to spending time with people. Yes, it’s work. And yes, it’s difficult to attach ROI (but not impossible!). But it’s, in my opinion, time well spent with your tribe.

Wondering how to make stronger connections online with your clients or prospects? It comes down to understanding your ideal readers/clients/customers.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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What’s an ISBN? Do I Need One?

What’s an ISBN? This is a great question! It’s an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. I know, jargon. You’re not supposed to use industry jargon. But we’ll let this one pass—just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

ISBN Explained

Oh wait, so all books get them?

It depends. If you’re publishing your book and selling it on your own, then you don’t have to get one. However, if you want things like distribution and placement in bookstores, then you do need to have one.

Don’t worry if you already published your book without getting an ISBN—you can still get one post-publishing. It’s fine. As long as you have the number you can add it as a sticker to your book or give the number to the distributor. Really, it’s fine.

What if I wrote a book but someone else is publishing it?

Whoever publishes the book obtains the ISBN. Think of it this way. Whoever is taking the financial risk on the book is the person, business, or organization who applies for the ISBN.

Does one ISBN cover an ebook, a paperback and an audio book of the same book?

No. You will need three separate ISBN’s. Also, if you publish an updated edition you’ll also need a new ISBN for that. Oh, and also a hardcover and in 17 different languages? Yes, all different ISBNs.

Where do I get one?

Every country has its own way of doing it. In Canada, you apply for an ISBN through the Library and Archives Canada at no cost. In other countries there may be a fee or service charge.

Is an ISBN the same as a bar code?

No. A bar code is a graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned at a retail outlet. The ISBN is a 13-digit number. That said, you can have your ISBN translated into a bar code.

Still more questions? No problem, just let me know. But I hope this has at least unravelled part of the mystery to the question what’s an ISBN. Crazy-boring, hey?

Other resources

What's an ISBN? It's an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. Just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Do I need an ISBN? Do I want an ISBN? Do I have to have an ISBN? What's an ISBN? Does someone else take care of the ISBN? What's my responsibility anyway?

Cold Pitching To Get Clients Fast

Cold pitching is not magic and it takes hard work but it’s also not as scary or intimidating as it seems once you get going. Here are a few tips for geting this strategy up and running.

Cold Pitching To Get Clients Fast

In case you’re not familiar with this term, in the freelance world, “cold pitching” is what happens when you email or call strangers hoping to get work. This can be overwhelming at first and requires a different strategy than reaching out to warm leads (people with whome you have existing relationships). But if you want to grow your freelance business, it is a necessary step.

Cold pitching to get clients fast

I see a lot of freelancer posts in networking groups talking about how they’re tired of searching job boards for a decent opp paying a reasonable rate or sick of pitching magazine and newspaper stories that don’t pay well.

They’re feeling frustrated and stuck but they don’t know where to look for those niche clients who pay well.

The fastest way I know how to make money as a freelance writer is to pitch companies with marketing budgets. Yes, you can also pitch publications but the turnaround time is longer. And you can also sit back and hope your website will earn you passive ad income or affiliate sales or whatever else, and that’s fine too. But it’s a long game. And if you need money now, it’s not a great short-term strategy.

Bonus tip: For freelance writers searching for stable corporate clients, LinkedIn may be their shining beacon of hope.

Cold pitching companies is also a better, quicker strategy than responding to posts on job boards or prospecting on a freelancer bidding site. For starters, in these places the competition is fierce and often, because of the large pool of willing writers, the pay is low.

Here’s a quick three-step strategy to get you going

If you’re ready to make this a part of your regular prospecting, schedule one to two hours per day for cold pitching. Some of this time will be research and some will be emailing. Trust me, you’ll need all of the time.

  1. Research. Search for and make a list of marketing and advertising agencies. You can use Google, LinkedIn, local directories, etc.
  2. Find a specific email address. Look for someone like a marketing manager or communications director, someone who would be an actual contact and do your best to find their real email address (rather than “info” or “contact”)
  3. Send a cold pitch. Also known as a query or letter of inquiry (LOI), send a short email asking if the company works with freelance writers

If you get a “yes, we do work with freelance writers,” then you can continue the conversation by letting them know who you are and how you can help them (this is where an elevator pitch comes in handy).

Two extra tips. They may ask for samples or portfolio links, have them ready to send (another option is having your LinkedIn profile optimized and sending that link, totally acceptable!). It’s possible they’d like references—have a couple ready to go, previous clients who can vouch for your work and character.

Like I said before, this will all seem scary and intimidating until you get the hang of it. Cold pitching can be terrifying if you overthink it. And yes, you’ll experience rejections, although many won’t respond at all, and that’s OK. It’s all part of the process.

Here are a few more ways to increase your odds of getting to “yes” from cold pitching

  • Warm up the connection as much as possible. Find common ground wherever possible, like a mutual connection or membership in the same organization
  • Send cold pitches to companies that look like they’ll need your services. Rather than shooting a buck shot, try targetting your pitches to places where it makes sense and your skills match
  • Narrow your search by thinking local rather than global. You’re trying to get quick pickups here, so look for places that likely aren’t getting as much pitching
  • Keep your email short and to the point. In your first outreach your goal is to get a response to begin a conversation. That’s it.

Once you get into this prospecting strategy, you’ll realize you need a tracking system and a follow-up system. In fact, following up is one of the most important pieces. How many times have you intended to respond to an email and just let it get away from you? A short, polite follow up is sometimes all it takes to prompt that positive response.

If you’re ready for it, here’s a great three-step follow-up system from Jennifer Goforth Gregory.

Other articles you may enjoy

Cold pitching is not magic and it takes hard work but it's also not as scary or intimidating as it seems once you get going.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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Get Your Freelance Business Noticed

Getting your freelance business noticed is more important than ever, whether you’re new to freelancing or a wisened vetran.

Get Your Freelance Business Noticed

Get your freelance business noticed

Are you struggling to to stand out in a sea of multi-talented freelancers? Here are four ways to get your ideal clients to notice your freelance business.

Identify your target market

When you first start out it’s easy to become a generalist freelancer. You’re so desperate for work you take any client or gig that comes your way. This type of scattered approach may work for a while. However, it prevents you from developing streamlined processes because you spend so much time switching gears from one job to the next. It’s important to take a strategic, targeted approach if you want people to notice your freelance businsess.

Think about who your ideal clients are and how you can best reach them. What social media platforms do they use? Which forms of advertising would best reach them? For your target market to notice you, you need to be able to appeal to them and make them want to find out more about your business and how you can help them.

Bonus tip: Here are three questions to ask to discover your ideal reader

Know your niche

Operating a small business in today’s gig economy means niching down and finding ways to specialize is more important than ever. Is your industry already saturated with similar-sounding buslinesses? If so, it may be time to get specific.

Try to identify how your business differs from your competitors, figure out what your unique selling proposition (USP) is. What can you do better than anyone else? Why do your current clients choose to work with you instead of someone else? Narrowing your services and pointing out your differentiators is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd.

Bonus tip: If you’re ready to work on your freelance business branding, here’s more about choosing a niche

Optimize your website

Having a website is a business requirement. To get your business noticed, your website needs to rank on search engine results pages so potential customers can discover you. Website optimization can be tricky and overwhelming, which is why many people choose to work with agencies such as Let’s Get Optimized.

Bonus tip: Here are seven essential freelance writer website elements

Engage with your ideal clients

A big piece of getting noticed online is by actually interacting with people. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful tool for freelance business owners, enabling them to engage with their followers and potential customers.

Bonus tip: Here are five tips for optimizing your social media profiles

Whether you're new to freelancing or a vetran ready to streamline your client base, getting your freelance business noticed is more important than ever.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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