I’ve often said that the internet is an all-you-can eat buffet for freelance writers. There’s enough work out there to keep a great content writer busy indefinitely. However, there are also a lot of great writers — and even some not-so-great ones — who stay busy because their clients are perfectly happy with not-so-great content (think clickbait). Conventional wisdom says that the best value proposition lies in picking a niche topic and becoming an expert at it, but I’ve always felt that to be slightly insulting. The first time I wrote an article on DDoS, I didn’t even know what it was. But the client never knew the difference, because I know how to do research and synthesize it into something new. And I fervently believe that any truly professional writer can do the same. So my advice isn’t to define your value proposition by topic; it’s to define it by what you deliver better than anyone else does. Here are just a few of the approaches you could take:
There’s always going to be someone who thinks they can write the content themselves and then throws in the towel at the last minute. Or someone who can’t decide what content they need until the next-to-last minute. If you’re a fast writer, your value proposition could be quick turnaround times. If you could guarantee delivery within a couple of hours, and write quality content while doing it, that would be a competitive advantage you could market.
Some clients know exactly what they need — to the degree that I fail to understand why they don’t write it themselves (but that’s a topic for another blog post). I don’t like working this way myself, but writing copy to exacting specifications is definitely a skill you could market.
Sometimes the original writer just can’t get the job done, for whatever reason. There’s a market there: “I’m the one you come to when you need a mess cleaned up.” This is actually a pretty easy niche, because, a lot of times, the research has already been done for you.
I was rather shocked to learn how many writers miss deadlines, turn in work that’s full of typos, etc. There’s something to be said for reliability. A lot of editors are thrilled to work with a writer who proofreads, meets all deadlines, and consistently does what they’re paid to do.
There are a couple of approaches to differentiating yourself on price. You can price yourself lower than everyone else and get by on volume. Or, if you have the chops to pull it off, you could price yourself high and establish yourself as offering an elite service. I don’t know about you, but I rarely go for the cheapest of anything, because I assume that the quality will be less than spectacular. I usually go mid-range, but I’ve been known to choose from the high end of the price range when quality is especially important.
Strategy is the value proposition I’ve chosen for myself. I like helping a client nail down exactly what they’re trying to accomplish. If a client asks me to write an article on X, I could just produce an article on X — but I don’t. Instead, I ask questions like:
- Why do you want this article?
- What do you want it to accomplish?
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want them to do/think/feel after they read it?
I also make a habit of asking questions and pointing out inconsistencies. My clients get a lot of emails that start with, “What about…?” Some clients don’t like it. In fact, I recently dropped a client who wasn’t interested in that type of collaboration. But that’s the beauty of freelance writing. Clients have many different needs, and the key to success lies in determining which need you can satisfy better than anyone else — and then doing so consistently. What is your value proposition? Did I miss any?