The Internet is bloated with freelance writers in search of opportunity. And that shouldn’t be any surprise. An online writing career holds the promise of limitless possibility–as long as you’re willing to work hard and climb your way up rung by rung.
The pay is solid, the flexibility fantastic, and (let’s face it) the commute is about as good as it gets.
So how are we supposed to compete against the flood of freelancers on Elance, Guru and Constant Content, many of whom are willing to work for rates that would barely pay the rent on a fifth-floor Bangalore walkup?
The problem with many online copywriters is that too many are singing in the exact same key.
How not to get work
Cold calling is for the birds, and I’m happy to say I’ve never done it. Not once.
I also don’t spend time on message boards looking for work. I gave it a brief try, just long enough to verify without the shadow of a doubt that it was something I didn’t want to do.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with looking for work. But we only have so many minutes in the day. No one is offering any more.
I’m a writer. If I’m on a message board, I’m not writing. If I don’t have any paid work on my desktop, I’d rather spend my time writing something that will support my business and potentially pay dividends later.
No, it isn’t an easy decision, but it’s been the right one for me. Every second I’ve stayed on task has made me a better writer.
Standing out in a crowded market
The only way to stay far from the freelancing bottom-feeders and close to decently paid work is by distinguishing yourself from the crowd.
You don’t necessarily need to be a better writer. The Internet is filled with amazingly talented (and broke) wordsmiths.
But I know my strengths and I don’t shy away from tooting my own horn. (I’ve raised that to a full-fledged orchestra these days.)
I have a simple tactic I learned from my decade running a flower shop.
When you create a bouquet of flowers, you need to finish off your design before you hand it across the counter. Not only does a completed bouquet need a beautiful ribbon to tie it all together, it also needs a focal point so striking it takes the viewer’s breath away.
Of course, not every writing job gives you the opportunity to polish your prose to perfection. Basic SEO blog posts aren’t exactly the type of copy to satisfy the muse.
But whenever I can, I spend the extra time to include at least one line that sets me apart from every other writer–one sentence that could only come from me.
That sentence, that final “bow on the bouquet,” draws the client toward me. And I make sure it also draws my client’s customers toward them.
Taking the time to make it great
After my client sees the bow that ties it all together, they can see for themselves the difference I’ll make in their copy. The “secret,” if you can call it that, is that most freelancers don’t take the extra minutes to really make their copy shine. They’re rushed, they take shortcuts, and it shows.
You can’t compete with the world, it’s way too big. Besides, why would you ever want to be anyone other than yourself?
But you can compete with every writer your client has worked with before you. If you’re willing to take the time to tie a bow around your copy, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the rest.