If you want to work at home, like dealing with people, and never miss the local paper’s business section, then business writing may be your niche. While there’s no such thing as the great American press release, this type of nonfiction writing offers challenges and rewards all its own.
The main way writing for business differs from other nonfiction is in its goal. Other forms seek to inform or entertain. While business writing may do those things, its big hope is to sell.
Ads sell the product to the consumer, press releases sell the company to the public, newsletters sell the company to the employees. It’s all about casting the most favorable light possible and getting results for the client.
Business writing comes in more varieties than Heinz ketchup: copy for print and broadcast advertising, slogans, product packaging, direct mail packages, brochures, newsletters, fliers, billboards, press releases, media kits, annual reports, prospectuses, speeches, letters and memos, video scripts, audio/visual presentations. Add to this the fact that successful business writers bring home $50,000 or more a year, and you have an enticing prospect.
The catch is, no one is going to come to your door offering you this work. As a business writer, you have to successfully market your services.
I recommend working for an advertising agency as your first step. Advertising or public relations firms commonly use freelance writers when the work load gets too heavy for their staff. You can get all kinds of work this way, from short press releases and newsletter pieces, to more involved video scripts.
Find some agencies in your area, call and ask for the name of the creative director. Send this person a super-well-written letter showing your enthusiasm for entering the field of business writing. Mention any writing credentials or education you may have, and ask for a short meeting to introduce yourself.
Follow-up is everything in business, so wait about a week, then call. Don’t be shy; agency people are used to calls from freelancers they’ve never met. If they don’t have any work for you at the moment, ask them to keep you in mind, and call about once a month to check back.
If you do get an assignment, be prepared to work long and hard at it. Not only is your performance on a first assignment crucial, you may also need to deliver on a tight schedule. Drop everything but your day job, and do your best work. Get it back to them on time or sooner. Don’t hesitate for a second to call with any questions you have, and don’t wait for the last minute to call. These folks are busy and can be hard to reach.
If they like your work, and you enjoy doing it, your first assignment could be the beginning of a long and profitable relationship. All it takes to get started is that first phone call and letter.
Once you have some experience and confidence in business writing, the other way to get work is by taking on individual clients. The tricks, of course, are finding potential clients and getting them to hire you. This is where you really need the ability to sell yourself.
One business writer suggests introducing yourself to local printers. They see a lot of advertising and PR material and may be able to tell you which businesses need writers. It’s also a good idea to contact your local chamber of commerce. Tell them you’re a writer seeking clients and see if they have any suggestions.
Another approach some writers recommend is to be on the lookout for examples of poor writing in business communication. Write to the company, diplomatically make them aware of the weaknesses, and offer your services.
It can also help to develop a particular area of expertise, like health care, construction, or finance. This makes targeting prospective clients that much easier and more successful.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get your first client. Like any form of writing, writing for business involves a lot of rejection. Stay positive, keep networking, and you’ll find work. Once you do, ask your client to suggest others who could benefit from your talents.
Soon you’ll find yourself with a growing clientele and a successful writing business.
To review the What Kind of Writer Are You? series, use the links below:
What Kind of Writer Are You? Part One: The Pet Topic
What Kind of Writer Are You? Part Two: The Message
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