A writing career falls in the category of consulting. I believe that majority of us are familiar with some people who are consultants. A consultant is an individual who provides professional or expert services in a particular field to either an organisation or individual.
A consultant provides expertise that a client lacks or support that a client is unable to fulfill for various reasons such as not having that specific function in the organization. The consultant charges a fee in return for their professional services.
Consultants can work at a consultancy firm or operate as independent consultants (freelance). In some cases, some experts work as consultants for a particular organization. The fields are diverse; book keeping, journalism, legal matters, medicine, administration and so much more.
I want to focus on the freelance writer (the consultant). Those who are employed probably by publishing firms or media houses adhere to the terms and conditions of their job contracts. The topic of identifying your niche is already covered in an earlier blog article so I will not discuss it.
As a writer, you will need to understand what it means to be a consultant or a self-employed individual. It means that you will be running your own business. The success of that business is entirely up to you. Let us look at some of the functions you will need to take care of in order to run a successful writing career.
Setting Up The Business
As with every other business, you will need to make critical decisions about the set-up of your business. This includes matters such as business registration and premises. Ensure that you are operating according to the law by getting your business registered. Where will your business operate from? Will you work from home or will you operate from an office?
If you opt to work from home, put into consideration matters such as working space, reliability of Internet connectivity since writing requires a lot of research which often needs to be done online, possible distractions from the rest of the family especially if you have young children or other family members who could be spending long hours at home. Do you have some free space that you can convert into your office and is it conducive to long hours of work?
Working hours are also important to think about when you are setting up a consulting business. Will you work full time or part-time? If you will work part-time possibly because you have a job or another business, how will you make sure that you meet clients’ deadlines?
Every business requires some tools of the trade. To be able to operate a writing business, you will need to own a computer and to have reliable Internet connectivity.
There are places that have unreliable power supply, with power blackouts being the order of the day. How will you ensure that power blackouts will not cripple your business especially because writing assignments come with very strict deadlines? Will you invest in back-up power? Will you have an alternative place to work from when such happens, maybe a nearby cafe with Internet connectivity or a cyber cafe?
A writer earns a living through writing. This means that writing is a required skill. A good command of the English language is a must. You will need to be a good writer, a skill that can be nurtured and perfected through investing in time to learn. A good writer is widely read so reading widely is a requirement.
Read as much as you can every day. Read stuff in your niche and in other niches too. Read fiction and non-fiction. The key is to get exposed to different styles of writing.
Write every day, in season and out of season. Write about your experience riding in a matatu, about a program you have watched on TV, about some new equipment you bought about your friendship with one of your buddies and everything else that you can write about. Becoming a good writer takes practice so keep writing and don’t stop.
Plagiarism – which is the act of taking someone else’s writing and making it your own – is a very serious crime and you must never be guilty of it. To guard against plagiarism, research widely before writing about a topic.
Research from more than one source and only take notes in point form, not as complete sentences. Avoid saying anything in the exact words of someone else no matter how it perfectly fits in with what you want to say. Always say it in your own words, your own style.
To become successful as a consultant you will need to master the time management function. A business is not just one thing so you will need to know how to utilize your time effectively. This means that you devote more time to the most important activities.
What are some of the activities that will take up your time on a day-to-day basis?
Publicity and Marketing
I say this time and again; that if you bake the yummiest cakes on the planet and they are sitting on your kitchen table and no one knows about them, you are not in business. And if only your neighbors and relatives know about your cakes, you still are not yet in business. Yours is actually a hobby.
So if you are a great writer but no one knows about it, you are not in business. Writing for you is a hobby. To turn it into a business, you will need to structure your skill or talent into a business then you also have to be visible to a large number of people. Publicity is what will bring in business.
The Worldwide Web has made this easy, but mastering the use of the Internet takes time and effort. Are you going to use a blog for publicity? Will you post regular videos on Youtube? Will you have a business page on Facebook? Will you use other social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram?
Will you pay for advertisement? It is critical to begin with the end in mind, to identify your target market and come up with a strategy how they will know about your existence and the services you offer. Factor in the time you will devote to publicity for your business. This is an important activity and you will spend a lot of your time doing it.
Sales: Sourcing for Clients
Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Without clients, there is no business. Clients don’t normally come knocking on your door; you have to look for them. How are you going to ensure flow of clients? Once you identify your niche, that will help you get clarity about who your ideal clients are.
The next thing is to know how to pitch them. For example, if you write content for blogs and websites, where will you connect with potential clients? Will you register on platforms for freelance work?
Will you pitch blogs that you already follow and find out whether you can write guest blog articles? Sourcing for clients is an activity that will take up your time regularly and you need to factor it into your schedules.
Retaining Your Existing Clients
Repeat business is very important so keeping your business in the face of your existing clients is very important. Will you write a regular newsletter or how do you plan to keep in touch with your clients? Will you send them goodwill messages during seasons such as Christmas or New Year? Will you send them a message every time you have something new to report?
Writing for clients and submitting the finished work is not all it takes to build a successful consulting business. There are administrative tasks that need handling such as invoicing clients, record keeping and filing tax returns.
As a writer, you will spend a lot of your time writing. You will need to factor in the time spent researching about different topics and doing the actual writing. Be prepared to work long hours especially when you are starting out.
Be prepared also for a period of time when you will not have income yet. Plan how to finance yourself and your business in the initial stages before you get clients and begin to earn.
If you enjoy writing, a writing career might be for you.
Would you like to earn income as a writer? Book a coaching session here.
This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, life coach, mentor, network marketing professional, freelancer and blogger.