If you're like a lot of freelancers, finding enough clients that you enjoy working with can be a challenge. I know. I've been right there with you, having learning experiences in the never-ending quest to attract people who aren't going to turn into The Client from Hell.
Let's face it, marketing is a never-ending challenge. In a sea of other writers, Web developers, translators, business consultants or graphic designers, how can you stand out? If you're strategic about your marketing, you may have selected a niche to specialize in. That's a good start, but unless you're a Web designer who only works with underwater basket weavers, you probably have competition.
The truth is that in our increasingly noisy world, even once you've gone to all the effort of finding and selecting a niche, it still can be a challenge to stand out among your peers within your niche.
But here's something you may not have thought much about. While you're fretting about your lack of clients, your prospective clients may be equally frustrated! People hiring freelance professionals have a lot of fears. They worry that you are:
- The Disappearing Freelancer: No one wants to spend money on a flake who is going to disappear and leave their job in the lurch.
- The Incompetent Freelancer. They're afraid you don't actually know what you're doing and those testimonials on your Web site are a bunch of big fat, creative lies.
- The Know-it All Freelancer: In this case, they're worried you'll make them feel stupid by intimidating them with a lot of big confusing terms they don't understand. And maybe talk them into expensive options they don't need or want.
How can you get past these fears? Many freelancers start blogs and post articles online. That's a great start toward showing that you know what you're doing. But I'd like to suggest an even more effective way to stand out: write a book.
Book Author = Expert
Writing a book gives you a level of credibility like almost nothing else. Being a book author sets you apart and positions you as an authority in your field. Anyone can set up a blog, but few people go to the effort of getting published.
If you've read classic marketing books like Get Slightly Famous or The Obvious Expert, you've probably read the advice to write a book before. Maybe you thought it didn't really apply to you.
But the reason it has stood the test of time is that it works.
I know because I've written 12 books (so far). Even books I wrote years ago continue to give me the gift of credibility. Just the other day, for example, someone asked me about PowerPoint. I said, "Well, I wrote a book on that software tool." Suddenly, the tone of the conversation completely changed. And I wrote that book more than a decade ago!
Think about the quotes you read from experts in magazines. Although it's changing slightly, you still almost never see bloggers quoted as experts in print articles. You certainly don't see quotes from e-book authors. What you inevitably read are quotes from published print-book authors.
A great study in Rain Today called "The Business Impact of Writing a Book" showed that "56% of authors reported a "strong" or "very strong" influence on their ability to generate more leads for their services."
The reason writing a book has such an effect on your ability to attract great clients is that it dispels the fears prospective clients have about hiring you.
Writing a book is a public undertaking. You've put yourself out there by authoring a book. It's unlikely you're a flake and will disappear. Plus, once you're a published author who has gotten press because of a book, you've made yourself even more visible.
To write a book, you need to know what you're talking about. In my case, for example, I can legitimately say that I am an advocate and expert on adopting and caring for dogs and cats from animal shelters because I have written books on the subject (Happy Hound and Happy Tabby). And not to toot my own horn too much, but I am an expert, because the process of writing a book forces you to learn a lot about a given topic. I really do know a lot about caring for adopted pets.
You can explain what you do. To write a good non-fiction book, you have to figure out how to explain things in a way people understand. (Interestingly, those condescending "know-it-all" types don't seem to be able to write helpful books or articles.)
When you have written a book, all those fears your clients had about your credibility simply evaporate. It's not like a book is going to solve all your marketing problems, but you won't have to try and prove yourself in every conversation anymore.
I know that writing books has taken my business to a completely new level. People who have read my books contact me almost every day. Even back when I did Web design work, the fact that I had written a book called Web Business Success: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Web Sites That Work made a huge difference in my ability to get clients, even in my small town.
There's nothing like walking into a meeting with a prospective client with a book you wrote in your hand.
Your Next Steps
If you've been writing articles for your blog anyway, a book is really just the logical next step. Think about all the questions your clients ask. Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm 10 ideas based on those frequently asked questions. Among those ideas you may discover good topics for a book. You might end up writing the book you wish you had when you started out.
If the paper feels too confining, experiment with a white board or play around with mind maps. See where your creativity takes you and let your mind wander.
Every book starts with an idea. It's not as hard as you think to turn your ideas into a book. And being a published author can make a huge difference in your business.
In my next training episode, I'll give you some strategies for simplifying the process of writing your book. But don't wait for that information to get started. Start brainstorming book ideas today!
Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant (http://www.TheBookConsultant.com) owns a book and software publishing company. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her four dogs out for romps in the forest. She also is the Fearless leader of the Book Authors Circle (http://www.bookauthorscircle.com) mastermind group, a community of creative authors striving to publish and market quality books.