So, you want to be a freelance writer? Is writing from the beach G-O-A-L-S, goals? Today, social media marketing has made it easier than ever for word lovers to live the dream. Back in my day–the days of light up sneakers and grunge bands–writers had to rely on newspapers, radios, even billboards to get their work seen. Talk about ice age! amIright? 😂
Jokes aside, writers these days need to be triple threats: editors, marketers, and publicists all wrapped into one. Your writing can be in front of readers, agents, even fellow writers in just 280 characters. BUT with more than 200 active social media platforms deciding where to put your energy is still a challenge many writers face. Even trying to be on all the major players–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn–may not be ideal for a writer doing #allthethings.
Focus is power, sensei.
Now that you have to be your own agent to even get an agent where does social media come in? From branding to strategy, to pitching and guest posting the wide world of social media marketing can bring on major anxiety for even the most seasoned freelance writers. But, there’s no need to fret. I got you, kid! Here’s a little story I like to call social media marketing 101 for freelance writers:
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Create Your Story: Branding
What’s the backbone to every piece of entertainment? From novels to music lyrics? Well… the story! (Sans, of course, Fast & The Furious). This might seem intuitive to some but what I mean is as writers there’s a vision that comes to us. Sometimes we hear a character or see a scenario that sparks the whole thing.
Then we flesh these visions out. We give characters motivations: a personality, a backstory, a journey. Creating your brand is no different. The very first step in becoming a master at social media is to create your own story. This means understanding the personality behind the brand, in this case, YOU, and who you best connect with.
Part of understanding your own story is understanding what you’ll most want to write about as well. While you may want to write about ALL the things and reach ALL the people (we’re very ambitious people us writers) it’s simply not possible. You won’t become J.K. Rowling by writing in every genre under the sun. The idea of a “niche” makes a lot of freelance writers cringe. I myself have fallen privy to the “but-what-if-I-pick-a-niche-and-want-to-write-about-other-things?” mentality.
When you’re putting together a social media plan, you need to think about what YOUR story is. The why behind your writing.
First off, let’s be real. Do you really want to write about all those things? Or can you pepper them into what you already enjoy and love? Branding is about authenticity. If you find yourself watching more Romance movies than Comedies, more Historical timepieces than Thrillers then my dear: your interests are telling you something. That doesn’t mean your 18th Century British Colonial (that is a thing right?) can’t have drama, romance, or comedy.
Actually, you’ll notice that a lot of different niches and genres influence each other and play well together–for example, the Romance Comedy, one of my favorites. Love is a funny thing especially when you love what you’re writing about. Getting clear on your own story will lay the basis for your brand. Which really means: who are you as a writer? as a person? Who is your reader? Why would they be interested in what you write? What makes you special? What makes your writing special?
I’ll share a personal example. I love empowering creative and entrepreneurs especially female creative entrepreneurs. Because I grew up in a predominately Black & Hispanic neighborhood (Wash Heights represent!) I saw firsthand how little opportunities young creatives of color have to follow and pursue their passions.
As a little girl, I always wanted to see people who looked like me on tv and in films! But Arts programs in my neighborhood were consistently cut from public school budgets. Since then, I’ve wanted to use my love for writing, media, and tech to help people creative entrepreneurs follow their dreams and create a life that excites them.
You may like a whole bunch of things, but you’ll probably notice that what you already pay most attention to is what matters most to you.
So, who are you? What interests and hobbies are central to your backstory and journey as a writer? What has motivated you to write? Think of branding as the initial step in your character development. Let your character–yes, that means YOU!– shine. AND pick a genre. The genre that speaks most to your soul. I pinky promise showcasing who you truly are to the world will be worth it.
Research Your Story: Content Strategy
Alriiight. Now we’re getting into the fun stuff. Marketing, while all fun and creative is also about planning. Think of your content strategy as your writing roadmap. A content strategy, like a story’s research, is the backbone of the entire book or novel. You wouldn’t, for instance, have your character pull out their shiny new iPhone X if your story is set in the 1980s. It wouldn’t be relevant to the world you’ve created.
As you begin to map out what happens to your character you add key events and experiences to the story. Same thing with branding.
Think about you: the writer. What is most relevant to your work, your values, your mission? What newspapers, magazines, publications would you like to connect with? Who in your field most inspires you? What events and experiences can you offer your audience and community that relate to your work? Take some time to dream and visualize your end goal. Include content within your strategy and marketing plan that puts you closer to your goals.
For example, say you’re working on a new script. You can share behind the scenes to your writing process, create a live webinar on dialogue for screenplays, or share a freebie with your email list on the top 10 screenwriting niches. (Hope you’re all taking notes! 😋 LOL) Mix it up and get creative about how you’ll promote brand YOU. Your strategy is all about seeing what relevant topics and themes tie into your work.
What steps do you, the character, have to make in the beginning, middle and end to tie up the entire novella? That’s your marketing plan.
Your strategy will include a string of different mediums from a website to social media to email newsletters. As a professional writer, it’s your job to let your audience know you’re a master wordsmith. Creating a website is an excellent and fairly easy way to do so. (Editors note: Here’s a great post I wrote on how to create a website with Siteground to get you started).
To create a website:
- Decide on a name. Choosing a name, while challenging, is also one of the fun parts of starting a new website. First, decide what the purpose of your site will be. Are you looking to brand yourself as an author, novelist or screenwriter? If so, use the name you’ll be writing under. It will help readers associate you with your work. If you’re instead looking to create a writing business, think about what makes your business stand out. Have fun with your business name and be creative!
- To Self-Host or Not? If you plan on self-hosting your own website–which means paying a company to store all the information, images and content from your site– then you’ll want to use a site like Namecheap to ensure the website name you want is available.
I personally chose to self-host because I enjoy the flexibility and control it allows me over my design and webpage. After switching from a different self-hosting company, I decided to go with SiteGround because their customer service is extremely helpful (especially for us non-web designer folks) and it’s one of the cheapest options out there. If you’re interested in setting up your own self-hosted site, use my code to get 60% off.
- Choose a Blogging platform. WordPress.com (not .org) and Squarespace great choices if you’re just starting out. If you’d like a website that’s easy to design and manage then a blogging platform is the way to go. As part of your package, you’ll also get to choose your domain name.
- Decide on your “look.” While you are yes, a writer, the visual aesthetic of your website will matter. Think of it like your book cover. One of my favorite markets, Creative Market, allows you to purchase affordable website themes and get up and running in a matter of seconds!
Blogs are very popular and one of the fastest ways to share what inspires you. But they’re not your only option! A content strategy is where you get to pick and choose what happens to your character on the journey. It could include a vlog, a monthly newsletter, or even a fun-podcast you co-host for the community.
Marketing and business mastermind, Kimberly Ann Jimenez, has a great post on how to create a content marketing plan for your online business over on her website that I suggest you check out to get started.
You may have heard a rumor going around that “email is dead.” The truth? It’s actually the only form of marketing that you have the most control over: remember when you lost all your MySpace friends because Facebook took over? Unless you sell your domain and shut down your site, your newsletter will be a direct line to your readers! So, be sure to invite visitors to sign up for emails and share what you’re working on.
Pick Your Agent: Social Media
Alright soldier: now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to pick how you’re going to deploy it. This is where your storytelling skills will really take center stage. When it comes to marketing, you generally want to find out where your audience is. This is similar to when you’re sending out query letters, and shopping around for agents.
You wouldn’t send your fiction manuscript to a well-known agent who specializes in non-fiction. That’d be a real faux pas. Each social media platform has its own community and “specialization” too. Here’s a nifty social media for writers guide from Writer’s Cookbook that I love!
Now, this doesn’t, of course, mean that if you’re a screenwriter you can only make good use of Twitter. With a little creativity, you could create a presence on a social media platform where most of your audience is not: that’s why your strategy is so important. Because you could, say, share a riveting script about the rise of a media mogul on LinkedIn, where members are always looking for thoughtful, leadership content.
No matter what channel you decide on, remember it always boils down to the story: why would someone be interested in your writing? why would they read your book? Watch YOUR film? Catch my drift?
Think about what story would captivate that platform.
At the start, you want to choose 1-2 platforms to work with. This’ll make it easier to manage and learn the platform. Once you’ve identified a social media platform’s audience, and the right platform for you it’s time to start sharing and promoting. With your content strategy in tow, start to put out original content and content relevant to the interest of your readers.
What I see a lot of writers get wrong in this stage, is that they make their efforts 80% promotional and 20% informational etc. Instead flip it, so that your social media is 80% informational etc. and 20% promotional. How? Simple.
To engage your readers to create content that speaks to their interests. Before reaching out to an agent it’s always smart to research what stories they publish and are interested in. On social media, this means talking to and connecting with fellow writers, readers, and the community.
One great source for learning more about your audience are groups, like Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, as well as Twitter Chats. You may, for instance, find that your audience is really interested in learning more about the publishing process, or interesting historical places found in novels. By joining the conversation, you get to listen to what your readers and community really want. And deliver.
Do A Book Tour: Promote, Promote, Promote
Yes! You just:
- Wrote a story
- Found an agent
- Landed a book deal
Now it’s time to take that baby around the world! Guest posting for blogs and publications you enjoy is a great way to get your name out into the world. Websites like The Write Life, The Creative Penn, and Jane Friedman are always looking for relevant guest posts. As a writer though the sky is the limit for where you can submit your work.
I, for example, love learning how to stay healthy as a freelance writer and very often submit to wellness blogs and publications to share what I’m learning with other writers and creative entrepreneurs. Just like a book tour puts you directly in front of your audience, so does guest posting.
Another way to promote? Talking with podcasters and YouTube influencers. One of my absolute favorite is Marie Forleo. She invites writers, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives of all industries, backgrounds, and ages to share their story on her popular MarieTV.
You may already enjoy a number of great podcasts or be Instagram friends with readers who would be interested in sharing your work. Or, you may want to invite your favorite writers to chat with you and share the conversation with their community.
Whew! Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first lesson in social media marketing for freelance writers. Figuring out whether to Tweet, Instagram or keep it strictly Facebook can be a MAJOR decision. Instead of spiraling down the marketing rabbit hole think of social media much like writing.
First, decide on your character (personality, backstory, journey, etc.) and key players (influencers, agents, etc.). Then research your story and get to learn more about what topics and themes need to be included (strategy). Finally, get it out into the world through an agent and promote!
What tips do you for using social media as a freelance writer or creative entrepreneur? Share them below in the comments. 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾