Tera Kristen is a freelance writer and community builder based on Vancouver. In addition to curating Vancouver’s StartupDigest and co-organizing #FoundersVan, maintains a lifestyle blog on health, flourishing, and professional development.
Below, Tera shares her thoughts on getting clients, measuring ROI, building up followers, sharpening skills, and working as a freelancer.
How do you get work as a freelance writer? Do you actively reach out to potential clients, or are people referred to you?
My current freelance writing role was a result of reaching out to someone who worked with a local online mag that I thought was cool and would provide me with a platform for writing that was a little bit out of my comfort zone.
What would you recommend to aspiring freelance writers who do not know how to go about finding their first clients?
Offer your services for free. Lots of online magazines are looking for volunteer contributors. I would recommend emailing a magazine that is the right fit an article that they can publish. The great thing about volunteer writing is that you can negotiate a pace that fits your schedule. Make sure you under-promise and do not overestimate the amount of writing you can get done! There are also lots of online resources, like FreelanceWritingJobs.
As a marketer and community builder, how do you measure the impact you have made? Do you have any particular tools you like to use to measure ROI or whether your efforts are driving sales/signups/other actions?
The impact you measure will always align with the goals you set for any community building or marketing tactic. For example, if your goal is to increase your blog readership, then you would measure pageviews, social shares, subscriptions, etc. Another example might be that you wish to increase sales of Product A through your blog, so you could use Google Analytics to look for people that buy Product A after reading a blog post, or use bitly.com to track clicks on Product A’s link from a blog post.
What have you done to build a following for your lifestyle blog? Which tactics have been most effective when it comes to getting new fans/readers?
The best tactic is to always provide value to people. My favourite tool for doing this is Twitter – and I’ve been able to build an audience on Twitter by making sure that I *always* post a link to a great article about my specific interests. People follow me for news about psychology, marketing, community management, startups. Spending time curating interesting news every day allows you to build an audience that will also listen when you share your own content with them.
Is your purpose in blogging to introduce more people to your work (i.e. do you get business proposals and new clients through your blog), or is the pursuit primarily recreational?
The purpose of blogging is to become better at writing, web development, and community building. In a way I guess it’s both, because I use my blog to practice my skills, and then they also become a very tangible example of my skills when people are interested in hiring me.
Is your primary source of income your writing/editing work or your work with marketing and online communities? If someone were considering a career in marketing and community management versus freelance writing, which would you recommend as being more financially stable?
My primary source of income is my work as a marketer – but the skill I primarily use in that role is writing. The freelance writing that I do enables me to practice writing in a wider variety of forms, and I retain a lot of freedom and control over that writing. But, my number one community building strategy is content, which includes a lot of blogging, website copy and emails for businesses. The two roles are sides of a coin, like business in the front and party in the back.
If you want financial stability, do not become a freelancer. It is “feast or famine” lifestyle and many people, unfortunately, do not have the foundation in place to go without pay for a couple of months. But, if you can make it work, freelancing the best way I’ve found to create your own career on your own terms. My main motivation for submitting writing work for free is that when they don’t pay you – they can’t tell you what to do.
Photos by Tera Kristen