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    B2B Strategies for New Freelancers

    I recently received an e-mail message from a writer who had made the leap from full-time salaried employee with a newspaper to full-time freelance writer. This victim of corporate downsizing felt he had little choice but to try it out. He had read a story I wrote a couple years ago that explained the finer points about the business-to-business trade press. He was inspired to learn more.

    His e-mail reminded me about some strategies that you can easily be implement to foster relationships with business editors and turn spotty jobs into a lucrative freelance writing career.

    There's no doubt that making the transition to full-time freelance writer is a difficult move. Not only must you discipline yourself to send out queries and hit the telephones daily, but you must also grasp the fact that you are now an independent contractor. That designation comes with a host of accounting and tax implications.

    The next realization is that if you don't write, you won't eat very well. Losing a full-time job and venturing into the sporadic waters of the freelance world can be scary, in some cases, horrifying. It will force you to find as much writing work as possible to ward off starvation and poverty.

    This particular new freelancer said he was writing some PR for political campaigns and doing minor projects for a few clients in the real estate market. Obviously, his toes are just touching the top of the water. PR writing, in my experience, isn't necessarily as lucrative as establishing a relationship with a few B2B editors. Nothing could be more valuable, except having relationships with consumer magazine editors.

    But, let's look at his background -- what can he bring to the party? Essentially, his experience has been hard news and business writing. Those traits are ideal for the scores of B2B magazines out there, some of them seeking those exact skills in a freelancer. I stressed that he try to forge relationships with several business publication editors in different markets to shelter him from the ebbs and flows of the economy. Real estate might be a great sector with which to start.

    Writing clips form B2B publications can be extremely useful in pitching other business editors in different markets. I warned, however, that it is not wise to write for more than one publication in a particular market. For example, if you are a freelancer for Electrical Contractor magazine, you shouldn't also write for its closest two competitors. Editors seek talent, but they are sometimes touchy about sharing good talent, especially within the same space. They can't tell you where you can and cannot make a buck, but they can stop handing you assignments, so proceed with caution.

    An alternative to saturating a market is to choose a few specialty markets and develop relationships with editors within those areas. For instance, I know dozens of writers who specialize in construction writing. They have been successful by spreading themselves across several areas within the construction market. One writer, who contributes regularly to my publication (electrical), also writes for an underground construction magazine and a heavy construction pub. He is a member of the Construction Writers Association, clearly indicating his propensity toward construction-related material.

    It's not a bad idea to focus on construction or another general category, i.e., financial, medical, government, etc. As an editor in the construction market, if I see clips from other construction-related areas, I am much more inclined to take a closer look than if the clips were in general business news or about sports. Familiarity with general terminology, whether construction, financial or another area of the business world, will win points with editors in that general space.

    I encouraged this e-mailer to examine, the CWA and similar associations and societies, because they are ideal for networking with B2B editors and writers. There are other associations for different genres of B2B writing, as well. Look into the ones that interest you and make sure you fully utilize their job banks and networking opportunities.

    I cannot provide a formula that will guarantee success as a freelance writer. I cannot tell you that success in B2B writing is perfect for you. But, I can provide some advice that has made many freelance writers (and B2B editors) very successful. In many cases, they've become financially secure. By learning from those doing it daily, you, too, can forge a long and prosperous career as a freelancer.

    The first assignment is the most important, though. Once you get an assignment from a B2B editor, you have to hit a home run in your first at-bat. That means you must write well, meet or beat the deadline, hit the word count and send a reminder afterward that your services are still available. Be careful to not push too hard, just drop the editor a short e-mail to indicate your willingness to continue a relationship.

    A short news story may lead to a feature or profile. Good work will keep you on the freelance roster. Performance will keep your phone ringing.

    Copyright © 2002 Joseph M. Kelly

    Joseph M. Kelly, who is editor of Electrical Contractor magazine in Bethesda, Md., and a Baltimore, Md.-based freelance writer, has been published in daily and weekly newspapers, national trade magazines, newsletters and online. His work has appeared in The Maryland Coast Dispatch, Hardware Age, Home Improvement Market, LBM Retailer, Garden Supply Retailer, Decorative Products Retailer, Outdoor Power Equipment, Association Publishing, Writing For Money, The Baltimore Press, The Enterprise, Electrical Contractor, AWritersLife.net, Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel, and several other publications.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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