The hardest part about being a new writer – besides the writing itself – is figuring out how to stand out. Often times, you don’t try hard enough to market yourself, and thus you fail to break through the noise. Sometimes you go at it a little too hard, and come off as spammy or too self-indulged. There’s a little bit of balance, and a lot of specificity and bravery, involved in self-promotion. It’s hard. But it can be done successfully.
Here are several general tips for new writers hoping to learn how to market their work, and themselves as a professional brand, online.
You’re being too generic
You’re a writer. A blogger. A novelist. A freelance writer. So is everyone else you’re sharing a profession and market share with, especially online. On my Twitter, Facebook and Upwork profiles, I don’t even call myself a writer anymore. Labeling yourself as something generic is neither impressive nor helpful, especially when you are looking for a job. People don’t look for writers to hire. They look for content creators within a specific genre, who can show proof of successful work in a particular field.
On my Upwork profile, I am an “expert health, fitness and nutrition writer and editor.” A mouthful, but it explains exactly what I do. When I’m talking about my creative writing, I talk about writing young adult novels focused on mental health and relationships. That speaks not only to what I do, but what I stand for and why I write in my spare time. Whether you’re pitching an article, querying an agent or trying to break into professional writing, you need to be as specific as possible.
You’re being too modest
I think we all have or still do deal with this a little bit. You don’t want to sound like you’re bragging about having a blog or showing off your shiny new novel. While there’s a time and a place for promoting yourself, that shouldn’t stop you from saying, “Hey world! I just finished a novel and I’m so excited and happy!” If you don’t put yourself out there, and get over your fear of seeming too self-centered … no one is ever going to find you. And you definitely don’t want that, either.
Admittedly, I still struggle with this. That’s not to say I’m an amazing writer, but I’m skilled and experienced in what I do. I share my work because that’s the point – if I’m writing for other people, it makes no sense to keep it buried and hidden away. It’s OK to be proud of what you’re doing. It’s OK to publicly celebrate your accomplishments. Those who matter will congratulate and celebrate with you. You should feel good about what you’ve accomplished. You wrote a thing! Or you published a thing! That’s awesome!
You’re talking yourself up TOO much
Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between promoting your capabilities and accomplishments and exaggerating your expertise … or worse. Yes, it’s hard to “get noticed” online. It can feel like everyone is doing the same things you are doing – often times, seemingly better than you. You want to jump at any and every chance you can find to put yourself out there. This is a great idea in theory, but it’s possible to take it too far. And many new, and even more experienced writers, do.
You don’t necessarily have to keep your self-promotion for your own social media profiles and channels specifically. It’s OK, and often effective, to find threads and groups and forums that relate directly to something you’ve just written. Or maybe someone is looking for services like the ones you offer, or you feel qualified to answer someone’s writing or topic-related question. Great. But don’t give off the impression that you’re the best and that you know everything … you don’t. You’re part of a community, not the all-knowing overseer. Give more than you receive. Be kind. Be helpful and encouraging.
You’re making it all about you
Remember, as important as you may be, people care much more about themselves and their problems than they do about you and whatever you’re dealing with. That doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to talk about yourself or ask for help. However, marketing yourself as a writer isn’t really even about what YOU’VE written or what YOU’VE accomplished or how YOU’RE trying to make the world a better place. It’s about what your articles, stories and other work have to offer people. It’s about the messages being sent and the value of the “product” – not a thing people should read simply because you wrote it.
When I submit proposals for freelancing contracts (pretty much cover letters that potential clients actually read), I never talk about myself – not specifically. I will include things like, “I can provide x number of articles on x topic to help x website build up a steady foundation of content over the next x months.” Or something like that. It’s not about MY experience and what I hope the client and do for ME. It’s about what I have to offer, based on my skills and experience, to be of assistance to THEM. This is why I emphasize, probably more often than I need to, why other people don’t care about you. It’s more that they care about what you can DO. You are providing a product or service, depending on what and who you’re writing for. You are, essentially, a business.
It’s hard to stand out, and prove you can do good work, in the beginning. I know. Maybe you need to push a little harder, or back off just a little bit. Maybe you need to be more specific about what you can and want to do as a writer. That might take some soul-searching and self-evaluation. But it’s worth it. All of it. Show them who you are and what you stand for. Be unique, within reason. Be proud of what you do. Get out there and do it.
Well, write first. Then show it to the world.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.