Even though I blog for others as a freelance writer, I’ve struggled to blog for my own web properties. I’ve felt like everything I have to say has been said before, and it’s been hard to prioritize the time.
But a couple of months ago, I decided to try something new. I’d been collecting email addresses on my website since I started freelancing, and I’d managed to gather some subscribers. “Maybe these people care what I have to say,” I thought. “They subscribed, after all.” Without further ado, I started my own email newsletter. I decided to send out writing tips and inject my personality whenever possible. I called my newsletter Whackadoodles.
Many freelance writers have email newsletters, and their lists are filled with friends, current clients, leads, and other freelancers. These newsletters keep the lines of communication open. They add legitimacy to a freelance writing business.
Often, email works better than social media, and it’s the perfect complement to a blog. But if you’re starting an email newsletter, you probably have a lot of questions. What should you write about? What service should you use? Today, we’ll explore the ways in which email marketing can positively affect a freelance writing business, and answer some of those questions along the way.
As freelancers, we want to build an audience. We want people to trust us, and we want to be the go-to writers for all of our clients. Email gives us the opportunity to develop an audience, enhance our communications, and build up our reputations as trusted experts in our spaces. And if you build an email list, it’s yours forever. You don’t have to worry about pesky algorithms that prevent your content from being seen.
Email marketing is much more personal than social media. Rather than sending a Tweet into the Twittersphere, you’re delivering an email straight to someone’s inbox. If you use personalize your emails (for example, by using first names), you can create messages that seem like they’re from a friend.
Email also works as the perfect promotional channel for ongoing efforts. Many freelance writers keep blogs, but how many are sending out these blog posts via email? Derek Halpern, a marketing blogger, conducted a test: he promoted a blog post via email and via Twitter to see which proved to be the easier, more effective way to reach an audience. He found that 300 people clicked through to the article from Twitter, while 4,200 people clicked through to the article from email. Need I say more?
I didn’t start using email marketing consistently until I’d been a freelance writer for one year, but I experimented with it along the way. Last Valentine’s Day, I sent an email to all my current clients thanking them for hiring me. When this email received a 90 percent open rate, I knew I was onto something:
Soon after, I put an subscription form on my website to collect email addresses. Many freelancers think they won’t be able to build a list, but remember that an audience of a few people is enough of an audience to send out messages. I didn’t do a lot to promote my email list, as I wasn’t sending emails, but I still received a bunch of subscribers. Once about 30 people had signed up for my emails, I began sending consistent messages.
One of the things freelance writers struggle with is finding unique angles for their newsletters. The internet often feels like an echo chamber, and it can seem like there’s nothing original you can add to it. When it comes to writing content for email marketing, I suggest you write what you know. Start by telling stories about your own career, or try creating lifestyle content about yourself as both a freelancer and as a human with a life outside your work. You can also take an experiential approach: do some research into your industry to learn more about the kinds of questions like-minded people are asking, then set out to answer them. Or, you can curate a newsletter and send out inspiring content that you love. Whatever you do, just make sure it feels true to you.
It’s also important to ask yourself why you have an email newsletter. I’ve seen a lot of freelance writers write email newsletters for other freelancers, and while the content is great, I wanted to target potential clients. My Whackadoodles contain writing tips, but they’re not just for freelancers. Instead, they’re for anyone who finds themselves using writing in their career (which, for me, is many of my clients!).
I’ve used a few email marketing tools, both as a freelance writer and as an in-house marketer. My favorite is Campaign Monitor, but many freelancers use MailChimp or Constant Contact. Here’s a quick breakdown of the tools, in my experience:
Campaign Monitor is extremely easy to use, very intuitive, and a great option for one-person businesses. The basic plan, which is $9 per month, covers almost all of a freelancer’s needs.
Plenty of people adore MailChimp, and if you’re interested in testing out a tool that doesn’t require a financial investment, the company offers a free plan that satisfies the needs of most freelancers. Personally, I do find it a bit buggy compared to Campaign Monitor, but the free plan makes it a low-risk option.
Many small business owners swear by Constant Contact. It’s extremely to use, but a bit more expensive than the other two tools. Plans start at $20 per month, but you can try it for free for 60 days.
Once you’ve chosen a tool, decided on a unique angle, and created (or curated) some content, it’s time to start sending your newsletter. Here are a few best practices that will set you up for success:
No one’s going to subscribe to your newsletter if they don’t know it exists. I have subscribe forms on my website and my blog, and I occasionally post calls to subscribe on Twitter.
Some freelancers send out emails every week. I knew this was too much for me, so I decided to send emails twice per month. If twice per month feels like a lot to you, start out at once per month, and see how things go. It’s better to be consistent and send out great stuff than to be overwhelmed by the promises you’ve made.
You won’t see results from email marketing right away. It takes time to build a list, and sometimes the results aren’t easily quantifiable. Remember: if people read and open your emails, you’re doing a good job. You’re proving to your audience that you’re legitimate. From there, you can only improve!
Thinking about starting an email newsletter? I’d love to hear your perspective. If you want inspiration and writing tips, sign up for the Content Standard Newsletter.