Writing For Local Businesses
Many writers concentrate all their efforts on trying to sell their work to national
publishers and magazines. And yet, by doing so they are overlooking a huge potential
market which is literally on their own doorstep.
There are many small and medium-sized businesses who at times would appreciate the help
of a writer, yet have no idea how to go about finding one. Among the many items they might
need assistance with are:
• Newspaper advertisements
• Brochures and leaflets
• Sales letters
• Website content
• Press⁄news releases
• Important letters
Bear in mind that the average small business owner may be very good at auto repairs,
plumbing, interior design or whatever, but have limited writing skills. If there is
someone local he (or she) can turn to, who is not going to charge a fortune, chances are
he will be delighted to hire that person to take the work off his hands.
At this point you might ask why such a businessman would not simply go to an
advertising agency for help. The answer is they could, but agencies are expensive, and
because they make their money from commission on the advertising they place, most are not
really interested in doing occasional work for small businesses.
This is the market niche which you, with your writing skills, can fill. I would suggest
charging by the hour - maybe starting at around $25 an hour initially, perhaps increasing
to $50 to $100 an hour or more as you become established. This will give you a reasonable
rate of return for your efforts, but will still be a lot less than most agencies will
charge (or professionals such as accountants and lawyers).
Here's just one example. A few months ago I was contacted by a man who runs a local
second-hand car business (we met when I bought my current vehicle from him). His landlords
wanted him to vacate the land he was using, which he had sub-contracted from a local
garage. He felt this was unfair, and had drafted a letter explaining his objections and
offering to pay an increased rent. In view of the letter's importance he wanted a
'professional' to check it before he sent it. I edited the letter, correcting several
spelling and grammatical mistakes, and re-typed it on good quality paper.
I charged him $50 for this, which he was happy to pay. I am pleased to report that the
letter had the desired effect, and he is still successfully trading from the site in question!
Work can be obtained by advertising in local papers and via mail shots. You could also
spend a day leafleting local businesses. Word-of-mouth is also a powerful sales medium, so
if this type of writing appeals to you I recommend getting some business cards printed and
handing them out to everyone you meet - the car mechanic, the gardener, the builder, even
the dentist! It's also worth trying local charities, schools, and so on. After all, if
they don't hire you, they might end up spending an awful lot more on an advertising agency.
On the other hand, advertising agencies (as well as marketing and PR agencies) can be
markets for freelance writers as well. At one time I did a lot of work for a local
one-man-and-his-dog advertising agency. The main in question was a talented graphic
designer but did not really have a way with words (neither did his dog), so he used
freelance writers when required.
You should be able to find information about local agencies in 'Yellow Pages' or
whatever local business directories circulate in your country. Drop them a line
introducing yourself (preferably with one or two examples of your work) and ask if they
would be interested in using your services. If you're brave enough, follow up the letter
with a phone call a few days later.
Another tip is to make friends with your local printer. Printers regularly deal with
small businessmen and women, and will often be willing to refer requests for writing help
your way (especially if you bring them work in exchange). Ask if you can leave a supply of
your business cards on their counter.
And finally, don't forget to try your local newspaper. Often nowadays they have only a
skeleton staff of reporters, and many rely on freelances to supply news and gossip to help
fill their pages. You won't get paid a fortune for this work - though you should certainly
be paid something - but it can be good fun, and a way of raising your profile in your
Nick Daws is a best-selling author living in Staffordshire, England. This article is
based on material from Module 11 of his course, available from
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