Written By Alexandra Romanov

The Small Town Freelance Writer

Small Town Freelance Writer

Many people dream of becoming a freelance writer, but quickly find reasons why they just can’t do it. I’m here to say you can do it. Keep reading if you want to be convinced.

Recently, I’ve recieved a lot of letters from people who say  they would love to be a freelance writer but they just can’t because they live in a small town out in the middle of nowhere and there are no freelance markets.

“I can’t be a freelance writer because I live in a small town.”

You have an Internet connection so you can find clients. It’s as simple as that. However you are correct: You can’t be a freelance writer. You will never make it with an attitude that says you have given up before you ever started. There is nothing I can do to help someone who has given up. But let me tell you a story before you go.

Back in the day

I started my freelance writing career in an incredibly small and backward town in extreme Southern Illinois, population 5000 people and one old sorehead (that was the town motto!) When I started there wasn’t even a traffic light but there were two stop signs. There was no business district. I was still able to build a successful writing career.

Since then I have lived in towns as small as, wait for it, 350 people. The fact remains that if you want to build a freelance writing career then you can but it will only happen if you want it.

I got started freelance writing because I loved to write and it was a way to make money without driving for an hour or more to a “real” job. It was a lot of work to get started but that’s true about anything worth having. Keep in mind that I started my freelance writing career back when the Internet was in its infancy and “going online” was done with America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe. This was an entertainment media and the dot-com era hadn’t yet begun.

In the case of someone in a small town back then, I made the drive for an hour to the nearest major university library and used some of their references materials, namely phone books and business guides to make it possible to target potential clients. Now you can do the same thing in under a minute using Google!

There were also no online writing companies. In some ways I was lucky in that my online writing career grew alongside the writing on the web so I was often one of the first writers to sign up at new companies like Associated Content (Now Yahoo! Voices) and Helium. But those were all untried and struggled to make a name for themselves in the first years they existed.

Now, if through all of that I managed to create a successful freelance writing business, anyone can. I’m not alone in this, every freelance writer who started when I did or before had to work at getting clients in an entirely different manner than we do today.

Look in your own backyard

Today even the smallest business in the middle of nowhere most likely has a web presence. If they don’t then you can target them and show them the benefits that the content you create can have on their business. If they do then you can show them how your content can improve their business. That is just locally.

You know your neighborhood better than I do. Your first step is to start thinking like a freelance writer. Read the newspaper and look at the ads. Could you improve them? How? What would you reword to get the attention of the public? Send an email to the company in the ad and sell your writing services to them. In small towns it’s not unusual for the business owner to write the ads because they don’t feel that they have a choice. Well give them one!

Many small towns have quarterly magazines that they publish that cover things like history, gardening in the area and so forth. Look into writing a piece for them. Because many of these are given away to citizens of the town, the pay is often low. Even if they don’t pay for the piece it will get your name out there and in the beginning that is the most important aspect of your business. However anytime you write for free try to get your email address, phone number and website listed under your byline.

Expand beyond your immediate town

In a couple of the small towns I lived in the joke was that I didn’t really ‘live’ there, I just slept there. I would get up and if I was doing anything from grocery shopping to seeing friends it was in the next town over. So look beyond your immediate town to those around it when hunting for clients.

At least two of you have told me that even looking to the next town or even two towns away there was still nothing because they were so small. 25 years ago that was barely an issue for the ambitious freelance writer and today it is long past being an issue. Hit every town the same way you hit your own: direct email marketing, cold calling, direct mail marketing or whatever other techniques you find that work for you. The one thing I can absolutely promise you is that no one will hire you if they don’t know that you exist. Let them know.

Network, Network, Network

Just because you are in a small town doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother to network. Small towns are actually one of the best places to network because they tend to be gossipy places where everyone knows everything about everyone and can’t wait to share! Attend city council meetings, school board meetings and county board meetings. If there is a public meeting, attend. Often you can pick up ideas for writing articles as well as interact with potential clients.

I’ve attended a LOT of public meetings in the towns I have lived in and if there is one thing I know it’s that small town politics makes for great entertainment. Everyone who is anyone or who wants to be someone shows up at those meetings looking to make a name for himself before he runs for mayor or council member. I’ve had council members running for reelection hire me to write the content for their websites, speeches and coach them prior to debates. All in a town of less than 2,000 people!

Business members tend to frequent them because there is often an issue before the council that will have a direct impact on their business. Talk to them. Find out what issues their business is facing and chat about how you are able to use your writing to bring them more business. Keep it friendly and relaxed; you will be surprised how often you are called.

Think outside your geography

I’ve had clients from across the street (literally) and clients from the other side of the planet. Geography is not an issue as long as you can write what the client needs. Direct email marketing, something I’ve written a great deal about before, is an outstanding way to get your name in front of potential clients. If you are fluent in more than one language, use those same techniques on areas where each of your languages is represented. Do not limit yourself based on geography. It’s a big world out there. Use it to your advantage.

Start online

Look, maybe you aren’t the type to jump in and start networking and marketing. I get that, honestly I do. Get your writing career started by joining one of the online writing companies that I have reviewed and learn the ropes that way. Once you are more confident about your skills you can move on to the rest of it. This is also a great way to find out if you are suited to being a freelance writer without quitting your day job. Simply by working for these companies you will start to see what is out there and where the hot sectors are for your particular specialty. It’s drastically better than doing nothing.

Small towns are great places to live

Granted I have a bias in favor of small towns but they are great places to live. With the Internet freelance writers can literally work from anywhere and thanks to the invention of the automobile we can drive to larger cities when the mood suits up. However when we go home it’s to a small town. If the small town you live in is anything like mine then the people are friendly, you know your neighbors, the crime rate is low (and often rather amusing) and it is quiet. The quiet alone is worth it to me and probably too many other people as well. Now go get started on your career!


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