Thursday, November 20, 2008

Writing for Local Businesses

by Nick Daws

Many writers concentrate all their efforts on trying to sell their work to national publishers and magazines. And yet, by doing so they are overlooking a huge potential market which is literally on their own doorstep.

There are many small and medium-sized businesses who at times would appreciate the help of a writer, yet have no idea how to go about finding one. Among the many items they might need assistance with are:
• Newspaper advertisements
• Brochures and leaflets
• Sales letters
• Website content
• Press/news releases
• Important letters
Bear in mind that the average small business owner may be very good at auto repairs, plumbing, interior design or whatever, but have limited writing skills. If there is someone local he (or she) can turn to, who is not going to charge a fortune, chances are he will be delighted to hire that person to take the work off his hands.

At this point you might ask why such a businessman would not simply go to an advertising agency for help. The answer is they could, but agencies are expensive, and because they make their money from commission on the advertising they place, most are not really interested in doing occasional work for small businesses.

This is the market niche which you, with your writing skills, can fill. I would suggest charging by the hour – maybe starting at around $25 an hour initially, perhaps increasing to $50 to $100 an hour or more as you become established. This will give you a reasonable rate of return for your efforts, but will still be a lot less than most agencies will charge (or professionals such as accountants and lawyers).

Here's just one example. A few months ago I was contacted by a man who runs a local second-hand car business (we met when I bought my current vehicle from him). His landlords wanted him to vacate the land he was using, which he had sub-contracted from a local garage. He felt this was unfair, and had drafted a letter explaining his objections and offering to pay an increased rent. In view of the letter’s importance he wanted a ‘professional’ to check it before he sent it. I edited the letter, correcting several spelling and grammatical mistakes, and re-typed it on good quality paper.

I charged him $50 for this, which he was happy to pay. I am pleased to report that the letter had the desired effect, and he is still successfully trading from the site in question!

Work can be obtained by advertising in local papers and via mail shots. You could also spend a day leafleting local businesses. Word-of-mouth is also a powerful sales medium, so if this type of writing appeals to you I recommend getting some business cards printed and handing them out to everyone you meet – the car mechanic, the gardener, the builder, even the dentist! It’s also worth trying local charities, schools, and so on. After all, if they don’t hire you, they might end up spending an awful lot more on an advertising agency.

On the other hand, advertising agencies (as well as marketing and PR agencies) can be markets for freelance writers as well. At one time I did a lot of work for a local one-man-and-his-dog advertising agency. The main in question was a talented graphic designer but did not really have a way with words (neither did his dog), so he used freelance writers when required.

You should be able to find information about local agencies in 'Yellow Pages' or whatever local business directories circulate in your country. Drop them a line introducing yourself (preferably with one or two examples of your work) and ask if they would be interested in using your services. If you're brave enough, follow up the letter with a phone call a few days later.

Another tip is to make friends with your local printer. Printers regularly deal with small businessmen and women, and will often be willing to refer requests for writing help your way (especially if you bring them work in exchange). Ask if you can leave a supply of your business cards on their counter.

And finally, don't forget to try your local newspaper. Often nowadays they have only a skeleton staff of reporters, and many rely on freelances to supply news and gossip to help fill their pages. You won't get paid a fortune for this work - though you should certainly be paid something - but it can be good fun, and a way of raising your profile in your local community.

This article is based on a section from Module 11 of Quick Cash Writing, the brand new course by UK freelance writer Nick Daws on making money from shorter writing projects. For further details, including any current special offers, check out http://www.quickcashwriting.com/

Nick Daws is a best-selling author living in Staffordshire, England.
You can discover his exciting course “How to Write Any Book in 28 Days – OR LESS!” online at http://www.writequickly.com/

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