October Seminar Notes – Build Your Buzz: Self-Promotion for Writers

For our “Build Your Buzz” seminar, held on October 17, PWAC Toronto Chapter welcomed panellists Alison Garwood-Jones, Tennile Cooper and Chuck Black. They shared their freelance writing experiences and offered advice on tools and techniques for self-promotion and attracting new clients.

Alison Garwood-Jones, Blogger, Illustrator and Web Series Creator

Alison is a busy freelancer who can track the evolution of her writing career by her LinkedIn headline changes. She has incorporated her art into her writing career and now identifies as a blogger and illustrator. Alison stressed the importance of developing a hybrid skill set, and she offered self-promotion advice for versatile writers.

  • Don’t be too precious about yourself and your skills. Alison transitioned from journalist to blogger-journalist to writer-illustrator.
  • What can you offer beyond writing? Alison’s flair for art and video is now reflected in her creative portfolio. Think beyond posting just words. How else can you tell a story?
  • Illustration is “having a moment.” If you have a talent for art, can you offer it as a service? Alison posted her art on her blog, and that resulted in a connection to a TED conference organizer via LinkedIn. That led to work as a graphic recorder, which is translating conversations or talks into images and drawings onto large pieces of paper, and other event opportunities.
  • Post the type of work you want to be recognized for and get paid to do. Take advantage of free online tools to demonstrate your skills. Alison shares her art on Instagram, for example.
  • Recommended reading: Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.
  • Alison encouraged the audience to explore new media rather than legacy media: “Throw your energy at the future, not the past.”
  • After completing a project for a client, find out if you can repurpose content into a video/audio interview. Tailor content to what folks are looking for online and promote that.
  • Focus on video for future opportunities based on your expertise. Consider mobile content and learn video editing software (e.g., iMovie, Final Cut Pro).
  • Build a website if you don’t have one. Squarespace and Wix are not as finicky as WordPress, and they’re more user-friendly.
  • Remember that the “hub and spokes” model for content doesn’t drive traffic back to your website anymore. Social media platforms want readers to stay on their platform, so publish directly on each one. Cross-post your content on LinkedIn Publisher, Medium and Facebook, to start.
  • It’s trendy to write about creativity and the applied arts right now (e.g., photography, film, video). Branding agencies are hubs for print media alumni. Alison gets paid $1 per word by branding agencies. Go ahead, pitch yourself!
  • Diversify your work experiments. Google calls them the “10-20% projects.” These experiments can generate leads and conversions over time.
  • “Pivot” yourself – leverage your existing skills into new opportunities. Recommended reading: Jenny Blake’s
  • Buy business cards to help people remember your contact info.

 Tennile Cooper, Copywriter, She is Epic, Inc.

 Initially, Tennile worked in the non-profit sector. When a communications role opened up, the opportunity led to new possibilities and ultimately her career as a self-employed copywriter. Her background also includes IT, life coaching, and psychology, all of which inform Tennile’s current branding. Tennile generously shared her own promotion strategies.

  • Online self-promotion tactics work, but not without the right mindset and confidence to pull them off.
  • When Tennile saw her website traffic decline, she began focusing on other channels. She publishes business articles directly on LinkedIn, Medium, her Facebook business page and other channels.
  • Video is taking over. Learn how to create videos and post them to Facebook Live, Vimeo, YouTube, and Snapchat.
  • Who is your target market? Tennile’s clients are business owners, so she concentrates her efforts on LinkedIn. Facebook is more for making personal connections.
  • If you do use Facebook for self-promotion, you can avoid bombarding friends and family with business content. Tennile has created a list of business contacts within Facebook, and she shares business posts only with those people.
  • When new contacts approach you online, ask how they found you. It opens a conversation about what services they might need, and you can also gauge which promotion strategies and social media feeds are working for you.
  • Anticipate the needs of potential clients. Offer free tips and advice. Providing samples of her expertise has helped Tennile generate targeted leads.
  • When you reply to posts and queries on LinkedIn, include your title with your name (e.g., Tennile Cooper, copywriter). Folks will see it and remember how you can help them. “That’s what they’re looking for.”
  • You need to put yourself out there. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you – ask to participate and speak at events to promote your brand. (Tennile asked to be a speaker at this seminar.)
  • In response to a question about book promotion, Tennile recommended using Facebook ads. She also suggested downloading the author’s LinkedIn contacts and pushing the ad only to those connections on Facebook.
  • Tennile uses Facebook Live to answer common copywriting questions, queries about business struggles, and work/life balance issues. She sometimes includes a call to action, but not all the time – that’s too much of a hard sell.
  • Remember: “In your world, no one is better than you” and “Start where you’re at.”

 Chuck Black, Journalist, Commercial Space Blogger and Technology Advocate

Chuck writes about the aerospace industry. He edits and writes articles for the Commercial Space blog and curates news feeds for Canadian Aerospace News, More Commercial Space News and Space Conference News. Chuck also organizes events focused on the commercialization of space-derived technologies. He shared his advice for building a writing career in technology.

  • You can write about any interest you have. Chuck’s commercial space blog led to space conference invitations.
  • Build communities for your career. Chuck’s space communities created his writing partnerships.
  • Get comfortable with talking in public. Chuck’s strategy to overcome his shyness was to stand up and ask a question during Q&A sessions at events.
  • Chuck’s commercial space blog was the marketing arm for the conferences/events he launched and it drove his revenue. He wrote about aerospace companies, similar events and academics, who welcomed the publicity because they were often raising money and applying for grants.
  • Use business cards. Chuck also gives away buttons.
  • Improve your public speaking skills. Start with small, intimate events like PWAC seminars, if you’re shy.
  • Attend industry events to make connections that may lead to speaking and other opportunities.
  • Find Facebook groups for your area of interest and ask to post a relevant article to their community.
  • Pick your topic and blog about it consistently to build your audience and develop writing opportunities.
  • As an example of branching into newer media, Chuck recommended the video series “New World Next Week,” an alternative political news channel created by a group of commentators who connected on Google+. It has become very popular and led to new opportunities for the creators.
  • In response to the question about book promotion and how to find key contacts, Chuck suggesting doing a Google search for Excel spreadsheets (search for the suffix “.xlsx” or try “.xls” for older spreadsheets). That could uncover lists of people who attended a conference, for example.
  • New media is the future and you will create it.

Special thanks to our moderator, Nate Hendley, along with our enthusiastic panel of writers for sharing their diverse insights with an eager audience. We hope that everyone left with a wealth of self-promotion takeaways. Happy writing.

Apryl Boomhour (@AprylBoomhour) is a Toronto-based writer who helps indie creators thrive. She specializes in fiction, film, video and arts marketing. She co-organized the “Build Your Buzz” seminar.