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Don’t Market Your Writing. Do This Instead.

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 6.13.24

How should you market your writing? It’s an all-consuming challenge for freelance writers.

And the conundrum is universal among wordsmiths of all types. It makes no difference what kind of writing you’re selling or what niche you’re in. Maybe you’re trying to increase sales of your latest book. Or gain more traction on your blog. Or sell your writing services to businesses and organizations that need content creators. Or get more visitors to your niche site. Regardless, you want to how to get your content or your skills in front of more eyeballs. We writers want more readers, period.

Professional marketers offer plenty of practical advice for writers who have zero sales experience. A standard list of tactics includes basics like:

But there’s one tactic — actually, a mindset — that’s missing from many marketing lists. And it’s one guaranteed to help you market your writing, yet so many writers are unaware of it. Adopt this mindset and it will transform how you market your writing, take away your uneasiness, and help you embrace getting your content in front of more readers.

The tactic is simply this: don’t sell your writing. Help readers instead.

Market your writing with this top tip from Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #WritingTips #Marketing

Why writers market writing by selling

At the heart of marketing is selling. You present goods (your content) or services (your writing skills) in exchange for cold hard cash. Selling a transaction. It’s a one-time (hopefully repeatable) event. Writers market their writing by selling because that’s what marketers tell us to do.

But writers aren’t big on selling. For one thing, you don’t want to try to sell your writing or your services and then get rejected. For another, that little voice at the back of your mind whispers, “You’re pulling the wool over their eyes. Your writing isn’t worth dollars and cents.” Moreover, plenty of writers are not trained to market their writing. It feels uncomfortable or even foreign to our creative juices.

But you must market your writing if you want more readers or clients, right? So you follow the advice of professional marketers and sell your services and content by trying to convince readers that they want what you have. And you end up feeling manipulative (at worst) or sounding sleazy (at best).

Market your writing by helping

Helping, on the other hand, is offering assistance or support. You provide or contribute something useful or necessary so that another person can achieve an end.

We admire those who help others. Like you, I sigh in admiration when I see a shopper pay for a frazzled mom’s groceries. I nod in satisfaction when a driver yields to another car trying to merge.

But you hesitate to help other people because getting involved can complicate your life… you’re worried that helping may mean you’ll be taken advantage of … you are busy and therefore afraid that helping someone will eat up too much time …

The biggest roadblock to helping isn’t selfishness. It is fear — fear of complications, vulnerability, and scarcity. But if you fight past that anxiety, you’ll see a significant marketing principle about helping.

The principle is this: helping others helps you. 

Marketing vs. selling: big difference

Writers offer information. Readers need information. When you adopt a helping mindset, you focus on getting your information into the hands of those who need it. Your spotlight shifts from you to them.

Ironically, what happens next is a marketer’s dream. With a helping mindset, you think of ways to phrase your content so that a specific kind of reader can understand it (audience). You dig deep to make your content findable (SEO). You look for places to publish that content so it’s accessible to readers who need it (website/blog/guest posting/social media). You acquire email addresses for readers who need this information and begin to feed them regular doses of it (email marketing).

Here’s the contrast: in a selling mindset, I picture myself browbeating a reader with fear or needling him with greed. But a helping mindset shifts the focus from me and places it on my readers and their needs. You have something that readers are desperate for: information packaged in words or the ability to package a client’s information in words. You simply need to find readers and clients who need that help.

A helping mindset is a relationship, not a transaction. “People start businesses and all they can think of while building it is, I have to make sales,” says affiliate marketer Matt McWilliams. “They’re chasing sales and they forget to do what actually leads to a sale, which is helping people.”

Don’t sell. Help instead.

It’s not that you shouldn’t use the practical marketing tactics that I listed above in order to market your writing. You should. But choose to drive those activities with an underlying need to help, and you’ll find you won’t cringe at the thought of marketing. Put that way, your marketing To Do list sounds like this:

  • Assemble a portfolio to show prospects how you can help them.
  • Create a website to help prospects and readers get to know you.
  • Leverage social media to offer help and tips to readers.
  • Create and send a prospecting package to make prospects aware of how your services can help them.
  • Plant inbound links to help readers find useful information on your site.
  • Start an email list so you can send readers helpful information.

People can’t help but be drawn to those who want to help them. Adopt a helping mindset and you’ll acquire readers and followers and clients aplenty.

American author and salesman Zig Ziglar (1926–2012) said it well. “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

Don’t market your writing. Help readers instead.

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