Self-Marketing for the Meek

Self-Marketing for the Meek

Presented by Laurie Gibson
Organized and Notes Written by Dawn Adams
May 11, 2004

Marketing is one of those tasks that we freelancers and job seekers all know we should do, but somehow, whenever we think about it, a host of other tasks such as re-alphabetizing those client files become so much more fascinating. This forum, a workshop conducted by San Diego-based editor and teacher Laurie Gibson, offered participants the opportunity to explore marketing alternatives for editors.

"As editorial people, we are word-centered, but on the written word rather than oral," Gibson said. "It's important for us to bring to mind the interactions we have with people as we're trying to solicit business or get jobs."

The workshop was divided into three parts: looking at marketing (defining it and participants' attitudes toward it); looking at editors, specifically their skill-sets and characteristics; and looking at the marketplace, how to take the editorial personality into the marketplace and connect with people.

While members of the audience agreed that part of the problem surrounding marketing was the inherent "ick" factor associated with high-pressure advertising and the hard sell, Gibson stressed that, at its simplest, marketing is about making connections. For editorial types, low-pressure networking is often the most effective marketing strategy.

"What we're selling or proposing is intellect, artistic contribution," Gibson said. "It's that real belief that you have in your value as an editor, the value that you give to the written word. Are you even capable of doing the hard sell? It's so foreign to us."

So why is defining marketing important? According to Gibson, defining the term enables us to look at our attitudes toward it and to take some steps toward viewing marketing in a more positive light, which in turn will make it easier to approach it as a doable task. Many people shy away from marketing themselves because of the fear of rejection, or of becoming the stereotypical salesman.

"If you think exactly of the things you're afraid of, then think about how you're going to prevent them," Gibson said. "Bizarre things happen in real life. But if you're in the middle of a negotiation and your pen explodes, you'll probably both laugh, and a laugh is the shortest distance between two people."

Gibson recommends identifying your weak points and then working to overcome them. For example, if you feel like negotiation is difficult for you, then attend a seminar, read a book, or call up a professional negotiator to get some tips. She has found that one key to successful negotiation is to be willing to walk out the door. If you're looking for a job and you freeze up during interviews, find someone to conduct mock job interviews with you beforehand.

The next steps are to define your target market (to whom do you want to market yourself) and establish why you want to market to this person, company, organization, or industry. Putting this information down in black-and-white will give you a starting point for formulating your marketing plan. Once you know your target, then you can make a list of your strengths and match those up to qualities that this company, managing editor, or hiring editor is looking for.

"Look at your professional skill-set—how can an employer or client benefit?" Gibson said. "If you can articulate it, you can communicate it to that person who's thinking about employing you. You also need to know what they want, what their pain is, so that you can offer a solution."

Gibson noted that many of editorial characteristics—introspective, perfectionistic, tenacious, independent, diplomatic—translate into being a low-maintenance employee who gets the job done with minimal supervision. What employer or client doesn't want that?

"You don't have to change or become someone that you're not," Gibson said. "You already have tools that you're comfortable with to start, and these are all things that the marketplace will pay for."

And one of the tools that freelancers have is their current client list. Gibson recommends taking good care of good clients and looking at what extras you can provide. For example, hand-written thank-you notes and thank-you gifts are one option to set yourself apart. Freelancers can also consider giving discounts for referrals, or asking clients for testimonials that can be used on Web sites or in marketing materials.

Postcards are one tool that can be used to reach current as well as prospective clients. They have an advantage over e-mail in that they can't be as quickly deleted, and an advantage over letters in that they don't have to be opened.

"I am fond of postcards, because they are a good way to connect with people that is passive and noninvasive and doesn't disrupt their workflow," Gibson said. "You have to create a message, maybe a reminder that 'I'm still interested in any opportunity to work with you.'"

Other options for low-stress marketing include the following:
— Sign up for a temp service to get in the building and see what jobs are listed as open;
— Go through the Help Wanted section of the paper to broaden your perception of where your skills are needed;
— Include "editor" and your contact information in your e-mail signature line (a tip from Hilary Powers);
— Volunteer for professional organizations such as BAEF to get your name out and recognized among your peers;
— Send out vacation notices to current clients (another tip from Powers);
— Create flyers advertising your services (but, Gibson noted, be prepared to deal with all the members of the public who will be calling you);
— Work out barter agreements for your services (e.g., trading graphic design services for proofreading); and
— Go to events where there aren't multitudes of other editors (e.g., writers' conferences and writing groups, lectures and panels, or chamber of commerce functions).

"Small talk—this is where you have to participate," Gibson said. "Ask open-ended questions—anything to get the ball rolling. You can get in touch with the officers of the organization for chamber of commerce functions; it's their job to make people feel comfortable and you've established a connection right away to the upper level of the organization."

Gibson recommends wearing your name badge on the right-hand side of your body (line of sight) and keeping the cold, frosty drink in your left hand (making it easier and more pleasant to shake your hand).

Even cold-calling can be relatively low stress given the proper preparation, Gibson said. She recommends taking five minutes before picking up the phone to brainstorm about what you want to accomplish and how you're going to make it happen, and then to write a short script (three sentences or so).

"There are some phrases you may want to use, for example, "Is this a good time for you to talk?"—this demonstrates respect and courtesy." Gibson said. "You want to consider when to call, late afternoon as things are winding down, or you can also call before or after business hours and leave a voicemail."

BAEF Webmaster Karen Asbelle recommends that if your targeted employer has a Web site, visit it and do your homework first. Be sure to check out their "Contact Us" page to make sure that you have their correct address and management names, and review the "About Us" and other background information.

Quick marketing tips:

  • What are your professional and personal traits? Know yourself. Know what you can do for others.
  • Go after improving your weaknesses: take a class in public speaking, grammar, communications. If you're shy, you can also consider acting and improv classes.
  • If time is an issue, consider online classes.
  • Start marketing where you are, with your very first circle of people: your family and friends. You can mention that you're starting a business, looking for a job, or that your workflow is a little light right now.
  • Start with manageable amounts of time. Twenty or thirty minutes a day, or whatever chunk works for you to spend on marketing.



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