From Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing: Chapter 25: Corporate Market Services (Everything You Wanted To Know About Freelance Writing). Read all excerpts from the book here
Chapter 25: Corporate Market Services
In writing for the corporate market, the problem is not a dearth of opportunities but a plethora of them in terms of the number of companies out there and the types of written communication they require. That is why we will spend time looking at what you have to do to focus your marketing effort and to find contacts, and on how to best communicate with the contacts you have selected. However, in this chapter, we will look at the types of writing services you can offer corporate clients. Then you will revisit your business vision.
Before you focus your marketing efforts—sell yourself as a writer—you need to know what types of services you can offer the corporate market. You may want to avoid writing some types of documents. For instance, if you don’t know what a white paper is, you probably should not bill yourself as a white paper writer. That does not mean you would not write a white paper, if asked. However, you’d want to find out more about it first, before you decided to write it or pass on it. In addition, focusing on particular types of writing helps you focus your marketing. As you gain experience writing a variety of documents, you can broaden the types of writing services that you offer.
Writing services you can offer corporate clients
I have included a brief description of many writing services to help you determine whether they are services you can, or want to, offer. And I’ve included the department or person (job title) within the corporation who is most likely responsible for assigning the work. The list is comprehensive but not exhaustive. I may have left out something obvious; I may have left out something obscure. If you can think of any other writing services, add it to the list! Also, feel free to e-mail me (email@example.com) about any writing services I may have left off the list.
Media releases: This is one of the most common forms of corporate writing. You can see sample media releases online at www.cnw.ca/en. (This is also a good place to find companies that issue media releases and to look for contacts who might hire you to write media releases or other documents.)
The person who writes the release does not always issue it, but there are opportunities to add value to your writing services if you want to issue releases as well. To issue releases, you need to build a database of local, regional, national, and possibly international media contacts. (The Web makes this easier than ever to do, but it still takes work to do it.) You keep this database up-to-date and send releases by e-mail, fax, or mail to appropriate contacts.
You can also issue releases using such companies as CNW, Marketwire, PR Newswire, and so on—but make sure you never issue a release until your client has signed off on it, in person or by e-mail. It takes a particular degree of media understanding to issue and effectively follow up on media releases. That is why most companies employ an internal public relations department or an external PR agency to do so. However, media release writing is often contracted out by the PR department and PR agencies.
Articles for employee newsletters, newspapers, magazines, websites or e-mail: Human resources departments have to communicate policies and procedures to all employees. Sales and marketing managers have to motivate their sales forces. Lowly employees have to be kept in the loop to stay motivated. Whenever new technology is introduced, or new business directions are charted, communication is vital.
Most of this internal communication is done in employee newsletters, newspapers, magazines, brochures and websites, or by e-mail. The writing is often handled by human resources, the corporate communications department, or the manager of the department concerned with whatever issue is being addressed. The writing is also frequently contracted out. Your job is to find out who is responsible (the point person) for assigning the work, and then make contact with that person. (More on how to do so later.)
Articles/documents for stakeholder newsletters, magazines, websites: Companies communicate with stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, vendors, and investors. The material may go out in a newsletter or magazine, by e-mail, or on a website (often in a password-protected space on the company website where stakeholders can read about the latest developments, new products, special offers, etc.). If you are interested in this type of writing, you need to find the right contact person (often sales or marketing, public relations or the external communications department) and connect with that person.
Articles, case studies, blog posts, and other copy for corporate websites: As with the above, this kind of information is generally intended for stakeholders. However, the public, employees, and media frequently devour it as well. The main contacts can be corporate communications, external communications, or a senior executive managing a major department and working in co-operation with corporate or external communications.
Google ads, banner ads, and landing pages: Coordinated by marketing, companies often contract out the writing of the short ads that appear on Google (and other search engines), banner ads that appear on websites, and the landing pages—the pages that readers are taken to when they click on ads.
Social media (tweets, blog copy, social media profiles): Coordinated by marketing, companies often contract out the writing of blog copy and Twitter tweets, as well as profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other social networking sites.
Direct mail promotions; print, radio, or TV advertisements; infomercial scripts: Advertising material is usually meant to generate sales or customer traffic. Advertising may be coordinated by marketing. The writing is often contracted out to an advertising agency. Think like an entrepreneur here. Since some ad agencies contract out writing, who might they contract it to? Why not you? If you have the ability to write ad copy or direct mail brochures, this can be a lucrative market.
Product/services promotional brochures, spec sheets, price lists: Supplementary or collateral material to support the advertising effort; again, frequently coordinated by the marketing department.
Proposals: Agencies, organizations, groups, and companies are constantly seeking funding from government departments or agencies, service clubs, corporations, and other organizations.
For instance, not-for-profit organizations in Ontario often seek funds from the Trillium Foundation, an agency at arm’s length from the government that administers the disbursement of lottery funds. Film companies often seek funding from Telefilm Canada and other government agencies that fund feature films in Canada. Most social service organizations apply for funding on an annual basis. Many community groups appeal to corporations for funds to support the arts or local projects. Groups seeking funding require writers to generate proposals. This type of writing is often contracted out.
RFQs, tenders, bids, sales proposals: Companies often contract out the writing of requests for quotes or proposals (RFQs or RFPs), replies to RFQs and RFPs, and the writing of tenders, bids, and sales proposals. The purchasing or accounting department is a good place to start, although individual departments may be responsible for generating their own material, particularly the sales and marketing department.
Recruitment advertisements, job descriptions: Companies have to hire. To do so, they produce job descriptions and recruitment ads. Some freelancers write nothing but recruitment ads and job descriptions. It helps if you know a bit about HR and labour laws to write such material, but that is not always required.
Looking to add value? Offer to place the ads in selected media. However, it requires a particular kind of media buying knowledge to move from being a person offering writing services to a business offering to write, create, and place recruitment ads.
Recruitment letters, e-mail, brochures, websites: Before the dot-com and technology meltdown, high-tech companies were spending tens of thousands of dollars producing recruitment information. Pick a sector that is hot and hiring and you will find companies spending money to recruit new graduates and to cherry-pick employees from other companies.
This kind of communication is not a recruitment ad, although recruitment ad copy may spring from it. It is used to sell the company and all its benefits to potential recruits. The service is often co-ordinated by human resources, but is sometimes farmed out to a recruitment department that works on college and university campuses and at job fairs.
Training manuals, videos, multimedia programs: Once a company hires new employees, it has to orient and train them. The production of training and recruitment material is primarily a human resources function. It may be coordinated by human resources for consistency, but left up to individual departments within some organizations to create. The writing of scripts may be contracted out to freelancers.
Corporate histories, company profiles, and executive bio/profiles: Written for websites, brochures, annual reports, shareholder, or investor videos, these are generally handled by corporate communications and are often contracted out.
Annual and quarterly reports: Writing annual and quarterly reports involves gathering information from a variety of sources for inclusion in the reports. While annual reports include a great deal of dry financial information, they also contain corporate histories, company and department profiles, executive profiles, forward-looking or visionary statements, product information, etc. The writing is often coordinated by corporate communications.
Ghost writing (speeches): This may be handled by corporate communications or the assistant of the executive giving the speech. Speeches may be given at share-holder meetings, sales and marketing events, conferences and trade shows, employee functions, customer appreciation events, convoca-tions, political forums, and a full range of other occasions. The speeches have to be written. Why not by you?
Ghost writing (articles under byline of executives): Written for trade publications or newspapers, these articles can be handled by external communications, public relations, or marketing—depending on the nature of the publication and the topic. Think like an entrepreneur. Look at trade publications for articles written by company executives, including guest columns or regular columns. These are most likely ghost written. Find out who placed the article and offer your services.
White papers: Industry-specific papers that address trends, systems, methodologies, and technologies. Tend to be long, research-intensive documents. May be initiated by marketing or senior executives.
Editing: All this writing needs to be edited. Often the writer is expected to do it; in some companies, writing is done in-house but is farmed out to an editor for final review.
Other editing opportunities: Fiction and non-fiction books (for publishers or self-published authors), newspaper and magazine articles, university papers and doctoral theses, research papers, and so on.
Other services you can offer: Communications consulting, strategic planning, business and report writing seminars, and media interview preparation workshops… It all depends on your background, knowledge, and expertise. For instance, to earn passive income, I write books on business writing and freelance writing (www.paullima.com/books).
Do you want to flex other muscles and offer a variety of services? Is that part of your vision? Think about all you can do before you decide what you want to do. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you will want to do it or that you have to do it. In other words, part of developing your business involves thinking about what you want to offer and what you don’t want to offer.
What can you write?
There is so much you can write or edit. The problem is often a question of where to begin. To figure out where to begin, ask yourself the following question: What have I done? In other words, based on the evidence (what you have done), what do you know you can do? The evidence is a combination of your education and previous work and writing experience.
Remember, you have to sell yourself as well as your services. That can be a hard sell if you have only done a limited amount of writing. For instance, if you have never written a white paper, or don’t even know what a white paper is, you do not want to pitch yourself as a white paper writer. But what if you have never written a media release? Can you pitch yourself as a media release writer? If you have written news articles, you should be able to write media releases. But before you say you can, take time to examine several releases to determine how they are structured and practice writing a few.
If, however, you have never written news articles or media releases, you might want to take a media release writing workshop before you try to sell media release writing services. (If you want to research what a media release is and how it’s structured, almost any corporate website contains news releases. The Internet also abounds with information online about writing them.)
If you’ve done a solid job for people—delivered the right words on time and on budget—they will trust you to do it again. But if you are cold calling a prospect who has never heard of you, you have to convince him you can do the job. That’s why you have to sell your writing experiences (and, as we shall see, demonstrate knowledge of your prospect’s business sector and business).
Look at the list of writing services you can offer corporate markets. Which ones do you believe you can offer? To help you determine the services that you can offer, see the services evidence list below. Then make a list of the writing services you can offer, based on your evidence. This will form an integral part of your business plan and marketing effort.
Services evidence list
Make a list of the services you can offer based on the evidence—your education and previous work experience. Follow the service evidence list format below.
Services: Write/edit IT white papers and case studies.
Evidence: Covered IT for various newspapers and magazines; worked as copywriter for
; wrote IT white papers and case studies for
Services: Write/edit magazine ads, brochures.
Evidence: Wrote promotional brochures for
in 2005 and wrote product catalogue copy and magazine ad copy for for last two years.
Service: Media training workshops.
Evidence: Conducted over 500 newspaper/magazine interviews. Have adult education training background and have taken media training workshops. Have trained several dozen executives, business owners, and authors. Received excellent feedback.
Service: Edit and translate legal documents, client letters, and promotional material
Evidence: Trained as a legal secretary; have previously edited and translated documents for three law firms and the Ministry of the Solicitor General
Service: Write user manuals and technical documentation
Evidence: Degree in software programming; taken technical writing workshops with Technical Writers Association; wrote training manual for
What services can you offer? Think about your previous experience—your full-time, part-time, and freelance work experience. Explore your education, hobbies, passions, and interests. Based on the evidence, list three to five services and related evidence. If your list contains any services you do not want to offer, eliminate them. If your list includes services you would like to continue to do, keep them. If you think you can offer any services that did not make your list, add them. However, change “evidence” to “PD Required”—Professional Development Required. In other words, don’t offer the service until you find a workshop, course, or other form of training that will enable you to offer it with confidence.
Please create your service evidence list before you read on.
Revisit your business vision
Now that you have a list of services, backed up by evidence, that you can offer corporate clients, revisit your W5 business vision questions. Add the appropriate services to your “What do you want to do?” list and revise your business vision. Include any services that require professional development. The professional development required will become part of your business plan.
If you reviewed the list of services you can offer corporate clients and became curious about services you are not familiar with, investigate them. Find and review samples of the kind of writing you are curious about. If, upon review, you think you would like to try your hand at such writing, look for a workshop or course that will help you become more familiar with it.
Where do you find samples? Do you know people who work for different companies? Ask them to bring home samples of material from human resources or other internal departments. Ask people to bring home samples of marketing material that the company they work for produces or that they get in the mail from other companies. This is a great way to see what is being written. It’s also a great way to start networking, which we will discuss in detail later.
Also, go to the websites of different companies (later in the book you’ll find out how to select companies you want to target) and look at the wealth of written material on display. At a minimum, you will find media releases and marketing material. You may also find articles from annual reports, bios of executives, corporate histories, white papers, and other samples. Review this material and ask yourself whether you can, or want to, write it.
Your goal is to focus on the type of writing—the writing services—you can do and would like to offer corporate clients. This will help you target your marketing effort. With that in mind, revise your business vision if it is appropriate to do so. Once that is done, we will work on determining the corporate sectors you can target.
Please revise your vision before you read on.
From Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing. Read all excerpts from the book here. Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing is based on The Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments and Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines.