Some businesses don’t have blogs.
Not just business that run out of caves on Mars, either. [Though Sophie says she would totally read their blogs if they existed.]
Real businesses. With running water, and clients, and big juicy marketing budgets. But no blog.
As a professional blogger, you might be tempted to write these stone-age businesses off. After all, they don’t need your services, right?
Of course they do!
Some of the best blogging clients out there are the ones whose blog doesn’t exist yet. It’s true you have a little more work to do up front with this approach — you have to convince the client they want and need a blog. But that’s easy when you have the right tools (more about this in a moment). And the advantages are undeniable.
Advantages of the no-blog-yet market
When you pitch to a company without a blog, there’s no competition from other writers. You aren’t pitching to a marketing director who gets 100 pitches from freelancers every day. You know you won’t get the old “our freelance roster is full” line, or find out the business you just spent an hour pitching already has a full time staff writer.
A strong pitch makes even more of an impact when it’s the *only* pitch.
This approach lets you form a relationship with the client from the ground up. They’ll think of you as their “go-to” blogger, and that’s likely to lead to a long term relationship.
Plus, you get to have serious design input into their blogging approach. You’re in the perfect position to sell yourself as a content strategist or an inbound marketing expert, if you’re interested in taking that direction.
So how do you convince a business they need a blog? Fortunately for you, the reasons sell themselves. You just have to put them in front of your client’s face.
5 ways to show companies they need a blog
1. The “Blogging is lucrative as hell” approach
The most powerful strategy is also the easiest. Business blogging has proven that it gets results. Numbers speak louder than words. Or they would, if they could talk. Show your client the numbers, and you’re two-thirds of the way there.
2. The content marketing approach (A.K.A. free stuff is awesome)
“Content marketing” is one of the biggest buzzwords in the business world, but it isn’t really new. It’s just how you say “giving away free stuff so people will buy your product” in internet-speak.
Back in the Mad Men days, that meant pens and chocolate bars with the company logo on them. In the 21st century it means white papers and videos and, yes, blog posts. Not as tasty as chocolate bars, but a whole lot more useful to your client’s customers. Plus, it’s expensive to keep pens in stock.
Show your clients that a blog post is a one-time expense that they own and can give away forever. Show them online companies like Copyblogger that have built empires around regularly updated blogs.
3. The social media approach
Most businesses have a social media presence, but a surprising number of them are nothing more than a sad Facebook page that’s never updated and the occasional re-tweet of Steve Jobs quotes. Let your clients know that the best thing for their social media strategy is to have their own content to share.
This ties into the content marketing approach, but it lets you use sexy phrases like “social media strategy.” And here’s why you’d want to: There’s a good chance your client’s boss or some consultant told them to improve their social media strategy, and they aren’t quite sure how to do it.
That’s where you come in. Blog posts with great content will get them them Facebook and Twitter shares they crave.
4. The brand voice approach
Every company wants to have a unique identity. They try to do this with a flashy logo on their website, or a duck mascot that looks different from all the other duck mascots.
One of the best ways for a company to have a unique identity is to have a unique voice. Blogging is the single best way for a business to develop that voice. Show your client you can communicate their message in a way that is exciting and doesn’t sound like anyone else, and they’ll hire you in an instant.
5. The community-building approach
Companies know their customer base can be more than just people who come in the store to buy their vacuum cleaners, then never set foot in the building again. They’ve seen what Apple and others have done with fan culture and online communities, and they want to try that, too.
The obvious way to do this is on a social media platform like Facebook. This is also a terrible way to do it!
A company has very little control over their social media community. It’s on someone else’s space and with someone else’s platform. It’d be like holding shareholder meetings in the food court at the local mall.
A company forum is one way to create an online community, but a blog is an even better way. It has the one-two punch of providing content as well as a community discussion space, and a blog is easier to run and moderate than a forum.
Now that you plan to go ahead and pitch that blog to that business, you should be aware that there are a few potential pitfalls, and they are deep and have spikes at the bottom.
Here they are, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Risk 1: Bad client
Make sure you vet the company.
This is a given with any client, but it’s even more true when blogging for a company without an existing blog. Choose established companies, or startups with venture capital money and marketing budgets. Your tiny local businesses probably could use a blog, but most of them can’t afford to pay you a professional rate.
Risk 2: Unreasonable expectations
Be very, very clear about pricing and responsibilities.
Companies that are new to blogging are more likely to undervalue your services. $50 for a 1000-word post might be fine when you’re at the very beginning of your career, but you don’t want to get trapped in that price range forever.
Tell the client what you charge right in your query, or early on in the negotiation process.
Likewise, you might have to educate them a little about what you do. They might try to hire you to “be our blogger.” Don’t let them! Set a specific schedule and a specific number of posts. Let them know that’s how you work, and that you’re available for more work once the first batch is done.
If you also position yourself as a content strategist, clarify exactly what that means and what specific work you’re going to do in that role, too.
Explain everything thoroughly. More than you would for clients with established blogs. Pretend they know nothing at all about blogging, because there’s a good chance they don’t.
Don’t forget that just because you’re immersed in the blogging world, that doesn’t mean everyone else is. In fact, your immersion is one of the things that makes you valuable to these companies.
Risk 3. Starting the blog FOR them
You don’t want to start your client’s blog for them, and you don’t want to have to teach your client WordPress. Especially without charging for it. Make this clear, and make it a sticking point in your negotiations.
Beware: you might think you’re being clear, but maybe your message isn’t as crystal as you hoped. If you say “I’ll provide content for your blog,” a client with no blogging knowledge might interpret your words to mean “I’m going to create for you a fully working blog — using special zero-cost magic!”
The best way to avoid this is to ask about it. You don’t want to say, “You realize I am not going to start this blog for you, right?” That’s just… hello, awkward!
Instead, say this: “Who on your team will be building and maintaining the blog? I’d like to speak to that person so we can get on the same page.”
If they don’t have anyone who can set up and tend their blog for them, you can guide them without having to do the work yourself. A great way to take care of this is to keep a list of contact details for some website design and development companies. If you work this angle well, you may even get a few referrals from those designers and developers when their other clients need a blogger!
If I can convince you it sounds like a good idea, with many advantages and no uncontrollable risks — well, then you can convince a prospective client.
Most companies have customers who use the internet. Most companies already know they should be blogging. They just don’t have the time or the right skills to get it done.
So trade your time and skill for their money — and you’ll be their freelance blogging hero.