With the popularity of content marketing on the rise, more and more companies are turning to freelance writers. Have you been thinking about breaking into the world of corporate writing but aren’t sure where to start? In our latest #ConnectChat, held March 5 on Twitter, writer Susan Weiner discussed the ins and outs of how writers can break into the corporate market.
Weiner writes and edits articles, white papers, investment commentary, Web pages, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. Her Investment Writing blog is popular with advisors who want to deepen their connections with clients and prospects. Articles she has written, edited or ghostwritten have appeared in Advisor Perspectives, Boston Globe, Bottom Line/Personal, CFA Magazine, Financial Planning, Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds, Wealth Manager, and other national publications.
Weiner is also the author of “Simply Irresistible: Writing Financial Blog Posts People Will Read” (forthcoming, May 2013), which is based on her well-regarded class for financial advisors. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter, which has useful tips for financial writers and more.
Following is a recap of Weiner’s chat:
Why should writers consider writing for corporate markets?
Corporate markets can pay well and are growing with the rise of content marketing. [Companies] need journalists' skills, like understanding the "hook" and clear writing.
What’s the biggest difference between writing for publications and writing for corporations?
Writers need to consider corporate goals. Clients often don't think in terms of word count, and may be new to working with writers. Your sources may be all inside the client company. Pay and terms can be much better.
Is the pay comparable to writing for publications?
The pay is better in my experience. Also, I can get a 50 percent down payment when I charge on a project basis -- a big advantage!
What is the pay cycle like? How quickly can a writer expect to be compensated?
I think 30 days to pay is typical. Some big companies have longer pay cycles. You can't get a down payment with a traditional publication; you can with corporate writing.
What are some of the different types of corporate work that are available?
My favorites are articles and white papers. I describe white papers here: ht.ly/ihcPK
Websites and sales materials can also benefit from a journalist's eye. There are forms of copywriting that require more advertising flair, too.
What's the best way to encourage more corporate clients: letters of introduction (LOIs), in-person meetings, phone calls?
Personally, I prefer one-on-one networking to learn about needs before I pitch my services. Try to identify people in hiring roles, such as director of marketing/PR/etc. LinkedIn can help.
How can writers find out who is responsible for making corporate writing assignments at a particular company?
It takes research to identify the folks who hire. I find the hiring managers mainly through word-of-mouth and networking. There are common titles, too: director of marketing, editorial director, PR head. The paid version of LinkedIn can also help identify folks in key roles. I compiled a list from business directories at the library.
Do you recommend sending LOIs to the individuals you mentioned. Have you had luck with that?
LOIs work for some people. They haven't worked for me. I've tried postcard campaigns with little luck. I think follow-up phone calls may be the key. [Consider] offering a free report? In my case, I had teaser copy on the front and then a Web address to download a free report.
What's the best way to get your foot in the door with these managers, outside of word-of-mouth?
Social media gives you incredible access. Interact with prospects in a discussion, not promoting yourself at first.
Which social media platforms are best for that?
Many prospects have found me through my participation in LinkedIn Groups for my industry. I like LinkedIn best for my industry, but I have one great client who found me through Twitter. Putting out my own blog content on social media also positions me with prospects.
There are so many LinkedIn groups, even in specific industries. How did you decide which one(s) to participate in?
I experimented. Also, I looked to see where people I respect participate.
What do corporations look for in writers? What skills/experience should you look to highlight?
Companies want clear, fast writers who understand their businesses. Learn about an industry you like. I found that companies liked my track record of writing for trade publications. The work is similar.
So if you write mainly for health publications, would a good strategy be to reach out to health companies? Or does it not matter?
Great question! It makes sense from a corporate viewpoint, but it raises ethics questions. Editors may worry that you'll lose objectivity. But it makes sense to have a specialty. Specialists can charge more.
If you write for a corporate client, can you still use them as a source in your articles for publications, or is that a no-no?
I suggest asking the editor about that. Disclosure is essential.
You mentioned white papers. What’s a typical time frame for producing a white paper?
Four to six weeks to complete a white paper -- but a lot depends on how quickly the client gives feedback. For projects like white papers, it's important to designate one person to coordinate the company's feedback. Also, specify how long the company has to respond. Otherwise, it can drag on forever.
After the work is done, are writers expected to do anything else (like help promote it), or is it strictly writing?
In my experience, it's strictly writing. But, one of my newer clients has hired me to write social media updates regarding new pieces.
With companies doing more content marketing, some are hiring ghost bloggers. Have you done ghost blogging? Any tips?
I’ve ghost-blogged for a couple of firms. In one case, I'd written a white paper for them, and then plundered the white paper for blog posts, spinning the content in new ways. With another client, I blogged about a topic I knew well.
That’s a great way to get the most out of content.
I try to re-purpose whenever possible. More companies should take their complex content and re-purpose it into shorter pieces.
In my industry -- financial services -- it has bounced back since 2008-2009. With the rise of content marketing, the demand for writers will continue in corporate world.
Do you recommend targeting certain industries? I know education and healthcare both have seen cutbacks.
I've been successful targeting industries, but it's tough when times are tight there. Sometimes cutbacks boost business for freelancers, as companies cut in-house staff.
What are some of your big “don’ts” for aspiring corporate writers?
Don't pitch story ideas. Instead, listen to what their needs are.
Don't expect immediate results. The sales cycle can be a lot longer than in journalism.
Here's a "do": Do ask questions about their needs and focus on the benefits they'll get from your work. I used to trot out my portfolio in in-person meetings. Then I learned to focus on asking questions. Ask, "What problem can I solve for you?"
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