You’ve been a writer for quite some time, so you get the importance of building a brand and marketing yourself as a way to help you land more freelance writing jobs. But, lately it feels as if you’ve been sinking your hard-earned money into marketing campaigns that don’t seem to be working for you. After your most recent attempt at boosting your communications and promotions on Facebook failed to garner any real attention, you’ve just about given up. You have a blog, a newsletter, and an active social presence, but you still haven’t grown your audience to a level you’re comfortable with.
Get out of the marketing and branding funk you’re in and try something new: video storytelling.
You’re hesitant. I know, I know. I was too. We’re wordsmiths, not broadcasters. We thrive on the way our writing reaches out of the screen to grab our reader’s attention. Heck, if you’re anything like me, you’re living the stereotypical freelancers-wear-pajamas-all-day lifestyle. Add a sloppy mom bun and big under-eye circles, and, at the time, I had no right to be recording videos. What would make freelance writers even consider stepping in front of the camera, especially for a live broadcast?
Although it might feel counter intuitive, live video is actually sweeping the marketing scene right now. In fact, 78 percent of online audiences are already watching Facebook live videos. By choosing not to meet audiences where they are, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. You could even be losing potential clients to other freelancers and solopreneurs who have made the commitment to video marketing.
It’s time to push the fear aside and try video storytelling for yourself. Stop what you’re doing, keep your hard-earned money in your business bank account, put on a nice shirt (you don’t even need to change out of your pajama bottoms), and start using the camera to build your brand.
The answer is yes, yes, yes. With nearly 55 million freelancers out there, you need to be visible in order to stand out and get hired. And do you want to know how to get more work? It happens by building relationships and being likable.
“But, Erin,” you may be protesting, “I’ve put a ton of work into building relationships with my audience and none of it’s working. I send newsletters. I write blogs. I update my website copy what feels like every single week, and I still can’t seem to gain more work or take on new clients.” Ah, be patient, grasshopper. All of those methods are great, and I recommend you keep up the hard work. (Well, maybe you should take it easy on your poor website. How can you know what’s working—or isn’t—if you don’t give it time to perform?)
While all your content marketing efforts and communications are strategic and well planned, there’s one huge gap in your efforts. All you are using to sell yourself are your words.
As a fellow writer, I dig that. Words are the bees’ knees.
However, as a content strategist, I want you to know that you have more options. Your words may be beautiful and carefully chosen, but video helps bring those words to life. In fact, it’s a shame that video and writing are often pinned up as direct competitors to each other when in reality, they often play well together. (Collaboration over competition, y’all.)
Okay, so I know I told you to let your bank account rest for a little while, but if you’re going to get serious about recording live videos, there are three basic tools you should purchase first. Video expert Cristin Goss, founder of gossBoss Marketing & Brand Strategy, says, “First and foremost, consider external audio, and get a wireless shotgun mic or wired lavaliere mic. You want people to hear what you’re saying! Second, lighting is key so your viewers can see your beautiful, smiling face. Always utilize natural lighting and position yourself in the brightest room in front of the light source. If you’re like me in dreary Pittsburgh, investing in studio lighting is key. I use a full-size ring light for all of my live broadcasts, my video calls, and my prerecorded content. Lastly, get a tripod. If you’re holding your phone, you’re inevitably going to shake and that makes your viewers tune out.”
One more tool you might want to consider is a professional photography background or some type of decoration to accentuate your videos, such as a curtain or art print. At the beginning of my live video journey, I wasn’t sure I could find a place in my house that was quiet enough to film (in other words, away from active or napping children) that also looked professional enough for a backdrop. There were tons of spots that met one of the needs, but none that really filled both requirements. A backdrop can be hung or pinned to any wall or door to give you the look you want without needing to sell your home and buy something fancier.
Now that you’ve got your tools, it’s time to test things out. Don’t go live until you’ve given this new approach a few runs through. Use the video recording feature on your phone to record yourself speaking to the camera. Remember to actually look at the lens and not the screen. Smile. Be personable. Then, watch your recording and critique yourself. Do you say “umm” too many times? Maybe you have another nervous tic, such as running your fingers through your hair or clearing your throat. Notice these subtleties and work on lessening their appearance in future videos.
If you want to capture your trial runs without tying up all your phone’s storage space, go straight to Facebook. Carrie Sharpe, communication consultant and speaker who just released a course on Facebook Live, says, “The best way to feel comfortable speaking live on camera is to practice it until it feels more natural to you. The easiest way to do that is to create a private Facebook group with just you in it. Then you can use that group to practice over and over until you are more confident. You can watch your videos to see what you like and what needs tweaking before you go live on your business page.”
One way to feel more confident on camera is to develop an outline for what you’ll discuss. Write down a few notes and tape the paper on your tripod. If you have easy access to your main points, you’ll be more likely to stay on track and less likely to stumble over your own words. Goss agrees, and says, “Have notes on your computer or paper. No shame in that! It’s better for the viewer to see you glance over at your notes then to stumble and sit there in silence.” Plus, if you’re a rambler like me, your outline will help reign you in when that story or those examples really start derailing your train of thought.
Similar to your outline, make a brain dump of topics you can cover on future videos. If video recording is out of your comfort zone (and I’m guessing for many of you it is), you’re going to look for any excuse to not post regularly, and being unsure of what to talk about is one of the easiest excuses to muster. Writers have a wealth of share-worthy content. Did you publish a new post on your professional website recently? Great, recap the main points as a TL;DR companion video. Then, embed the recorded live video into your blog post. Do your clients regularly ask the same questions of you during an on boarding process? Make short FAQ clips to address their questions. Talk about your writing process. Discuss your evolution as a writer. Ask your audience what they’d like to learn from you, and then talk about that in your next show. Just don’t stop before you really get started.
You’re almost ready to record, but where do you share the final product? Many freelance writers have business pages in addition to personal Facebook accounts, and some even run their own groups. So, where do you post?
Sharpe’s vote is your business page, and I agree. “I always recommend going live for business on your business page (or in your own group) rather than on your personal profile page. Your friends and family who follow your personal page are interested in seeing pictures of your kids and reading your personal status updates, but they don’t want to be inundated with your business offers. It’s important to keep the two separate. There’s no reason not to share an occasional live video from your business page to your personal profile so your friends and family become more familiar with your business, but it’s not a good idea to go live from your personal page for your business. Friends may unfollow you if you try to sell to them too often.”
However, I know many writers who disagree, and argue that their personal network is much larger and regularly offers up leads, and that works too. Where you share your live videos is largely a personal choice—at this point. There’s nothing too apparent in the Facebook algorithm that suggests you should keep videos on your personal account, business page, or in a group, except for the fact that your audience will be limited to who can see what you’re sharing. For example, if you have a Facebook group with 100 members, but your business page has 700 likes, you’ll get the most attention by posting on your business page. But don’t stop there. Wherever you choose, share the video after you’re done in your group or on your personal account.
Just like with social media posting, choosing a regular schedule and determining the right moment to go live is highly dependent on your audience. I won’t pretend to have an answer for you, either. The key is to try all different times and days to determine when you get the most engagement, and then make adjustments as you continue to publish. If you’re really struggling, conduct an audience survey to determine what time of day the bulk of your audience is using Facebook, and/or when they’d be most willing to tune in for your latest live session.
As for cadence, set expectations for your viewers. If you find yourself publishing once a week, then make sure you’re there weekly. Your audience wants to know when to expect you so they can look forward to seeing you. This is also determined by how much time you can dedicate to posting. I found that the more I posted, the more people engaged with me. Rhythm takes a while to figure out—so when you start out, don’t expect to have the answer immediately, and allow yourself to try things out.
Don’t forget to determine how long you’ll talk for, either. In my experience, live videos work best when they are either concise and to the point or explicitly long and detailed. My top performers are either under 5 minutes or over 12. Goss says, “If you can deliver really valuable content in five minutes, don’t feel like you have to drag it out to 10, 15, 30 minutes—but if you are getting a lot of engagement and need more time to deliver your main points, by all means take more time!”
One final, but extremely important tip to landing more freelance writing jobs is to interact with your viewers. Even if potential clients aren’t watching your videos live, they’ll see how you communicate with people who were viewing as the video happened. So make yourself stand out by involving your viewers. Sharpe says, “To increase engagement during live videos, ask specific questions while you’re live and have your viewers post their answers in the comments section. Asking questions helps your viewers feel like you’re interested in what they have to say, and their answers give you additional topics to talk about.”
Have you ever used Facebook live as a marketing tool for your writing business? What’s your biggest fear about going live? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.
Featured image attribution: Ihor Malytskyi (via Unsplash)