Offering a piece of writing to businesses
Original project idea
As I explained in the introduction, I was inspired by John’s marketing project ideas. One of his suggestions was to write a blog post, reach out to a bunch of blog sites and convince them to accept my writing as a guest post.
I expanded the scope a little bit: I searched for small businesses and produced one piece of copy/writing for each. Depending on what platforms they use, I wrote blog posts, sales emails and Facebook posts, then offered them to use it free of charge. All I asked for in return was that they let me know if they decided to use my copy, so I can put it in my portfolio.
Selection of the businesses
I wanted different kinds of businesses to have a broader experience, so searching by the type of activity was not an option. I remembered a website from a couple of months ago that had been created for small businesses in Edinburgh (that’s where I live) to help them during Covid-19. As these businesses might be in need of help anyway, I thought it would be a good place to start.
I tried to pick areas I am somewhat knowledgeable about or at least I am a customer of to shorten the time spent on research. I only selected businesses that I thought offered a quality product or service, had at least a decent website and a platform they actively used to communicate with their customers (whether that be a blog, social media or email).
I ended up contacting five businesses in total, including a nutritional advisor, an interior designer and a company selling aromatherapy products.
1 out of 5 got back to me and accepted my post. Which is one more than I expected to be honest. It was Dec McLaughlin Nutrition, and he was actually the very first person I contacted. Dec has a blog on his website, so I went ahead and read all his posts. He gives a lot of value in the blog alone, so it was safe to assume that it's no different with his paid services.
I did some research, found an interesting aspect of nutrition and wrote a blog post for him suggesting 3 different endings. Two of those were actually pitching, as I mainly want to write sales copy in the future. I sent him the final version and received a response shortly after. He seemed to like what I'd written for him and said he would love to use it in his blog.
He added a few bits and made some minor changes to it. Once the post was live, he shared it on his LinkedIn and tagged me in. He also said he'd happily send anyone in need of copywriting services my way.
Not bad for a first try.
You can read the final post here.
Pros of this method
1. Practice. Even if nobody accepts your writing, you get to practice a lot before you start working with paying clients, without all the pressure client work comes with.
2. Learning about how you write. If you've never written copy before, you probably don't know how long it takes for you to produce a piece of writing. At least, I had no idea. You also learn how to structure your time in terms of intervals of writing and breaks. I, for one, couldn't stay focused longer than 2 hours straight. Any longer than that just became counterproductive.
3. Generating ideas. If your copy doesn't get used, not to worry! You can keep it and use some of the ideas in future projects.
Cons of the method
1. Time consuming. You have to contact a lot of businesses to increase your chances of getting a response. And you have to produce a new piece of writing for each one.
2. No results guaranteed. Even if you contact hundreds of businesses, there is no guarantee anyone will get back to you. And chances are, you don't even have time to write hundreds of copies.
3. Can be intimidating. At least for some. It definitely was for me.
4. No interaction with clients. Although you do practice writing this way, you don't get to practice how to deal with clients.
This is not the most "profitable" way of creating portfolio items in the sense that you have to invest a lot of time and effort, and the direct results are most probably minimal. If I didn't have a lot of time, this method wouldn't be my number one choice. However, I still believe that the hidden benefits are valuable enough to go through with it if you have time, even if no one gets back to you.