Will blog for free
May 24, 2012 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Approaching a local small business with an offer to write their blog for free: is this a good idea? If so, how to do it? I'm looking to gain some freelance writing experience and thought this might be the way.

There's a local mom-and-pop business with a website in need of content. They have a "blog" link but then that page indicates they are working on starting a blog--please visit their Facebook and Twitter pages in the meantime.

I've been thinking of trying to break into freelance writing, and thought that offering to write a weekly blog post for them for free might be an opportunity to gain some experience. I do have some published material, but it's not necessarily of the marketing or advertising sort.

I also have no idea how to approach them--in person? Via email? I thought that showing up at their store with a folder of printouts of my written material and resume might work--would they think I was crazy?

Thanks in advance.
posted by indognito to Work & Money (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I do this all the time (except I get paid to do it). I would suggest contacting an industry association instead, as businesses really ought to be paying you to do anything, while industry associations typically need all the help they can get, and their blogs and websites will provide you with greater visibility.

When doing this sort of pitch, it's important to really, really understand who their audience is, and what the audience is interested in.

For example, I pitch (and then write) guest blog posts for my clients all the time, and a recent win has been getting a weekly guest blog post in a local chamber of commerce. My clients get exposure through the blog post, and the chamber gets quality content that helps them in a couple of different ways.

The most important thing is that the guest blog posts speak to a very specific audience, namely local businesses that are chamber members who pay membership fees and like to see some ROI on that investment. So, the guest blog posts always include some recognition of particular businesses, or particular issues that are important to the chamber membership.

That's the most important thing to the chamber, which is why I pitched it that way.

A recent failure of mine was pitching, on behalf of another client, some beauty tips to a beauty blog. I don't know much about beauty tips, so I relied on my client for the content of the blog piece. But they just didn't understand (or have the time to understand) what the blog readership wanted, so the piece came off as more of an advert, so I abandoned the campaign.

Figuring out who is reading and what they want is important.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:45 PM on May 24, 2012

In terms of approaching whoever, email has always worked for me.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:48 PM on May 24, 2012

From the perspective of a freelance writer, not a small business owner, I'd suggest offering to do it for cheap maybe, but not free. Perhaps you could write a sample post on spec and if they liked it, they would pay you $X per post from then on. ($X being less than what a more established writer of this stuff would get, but not nothing.) And then if they really liked you and it continued, you could decide whether to ask for more. Sometimes when you're just starting out you have to write for free to get clips, and I think that's fine, though others disagree. But you have some stuff published already, there's no reason to start out telling them your work isn't worth anything. Obviously they have no blog, so it doesn't seem like you have tons of competitors offering to do it.

And I'd say email them, unless they're a really small non-tech-savvy local store that still relies more on word of mouth, etc. I like email personally because it gives people time to think, but I've dealt with plenty of mom-and-pop stores that would trust an email far less than a friendly person who just walked in.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:57 PM on May 24, 2012

I'd email them and offer to come in and meet if they're interested. You could also structure it that you'd write some number of posts for free to see if the relationship works for both parties, and that if/when they are seeing increased traffic/business as a result of the work you're doing, you'd be interested in discussing payment for going forward. It's possible that as a small local business, they have very little web traffic and don't see that as a strategy for driving business, and therefore would not be willing to invest anything in that effort.
posted by judith at 2:02 PM on May 24, 2012

I would strongly suggest you request some kind of compensation. (Not just because it won't undercut those of us who blog professionally for a living, and who have to maintain professional rates.)

I have done plenty of work for local businesses on a "store credit" basis. Many businesses would rather give you store credit than cash, because it costs them less. (And not to state the obvious, but you don't have to use your store credit if you don't want to.)
posted by ErikaB at 2:23 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Always charge if you're doing it for a business - only ever for free if it's for a local volunteer organisation or charity.
posted by mleigh at 3:27 PM on May 24, 2012

Are you planning on doing all the promotion needed to get links and readers and links, etc.? Because just writing the post alone won't get eyeballs to your work nor customers to their site. Writing the post (and once a week is not enough, honest) is the easy part. Promoting it and creating SEO results are far more work, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2012

Thoughts in no particular order?

-- don't offer to do it for free for them or anyone ever. Doing it for free doesnt not make you a freelance writer it makes you a chump who tells people he is a freelance writer. Freelance, does not mean free.

-- write up one blog post that shows that you know them and their business. In fact brown nose the hell out of them. Good Ole Bob and Darlene here, mom and pop, great shit, decent prices. Lay heavy into the shop local we're your neighbors stuff. It can be totally generic. If I am reading you right, they dont have the words and skills to do this for themselves, and no one else to do it for them. This is where you come in. You are going to write some absolutely glowing shit about them, that they will have no problem paying you to put on the web for them.

-- As much as I agree that email is the best way to approach it at first, seriously, my gut is telling me.. just maybe go in, and sit down. Take a fuckin shower and a shave and don't be high,and for god's sake don't wear a suit but don't wear flip flops either if you dig what I am laying down.

Obviously, if they are weird busy, dont mess with them -- they are making money. I would advise going in either right as they open, or right before they close. I dont know what sort of business it is, so I cant gauge if they have rush times or anything, but find a receptive audience eh? If the guy is polishing his counter and sighing and you walk in and say hey, I have an idea to bring in business thats going to help you a lot, help me out a little, and I'm only going to pick your pocket a little bit about it. You know XXXX, and I know the internet and social media. What say we take it out for a spin.

-- Talk with the folks seriously about their business plan/model OK? My first gut says charge them ten bucks a post, five posts a week. That aint shit to a businessman. But be understanding and responsive. Maybe they just aint got nothing to sell on Wed that's different than Thurs. What do they sell? Is this something people need every day, or is a matttress joint that figures every anniversary of a President's death is a reason to have a going out of business sale?



You have skills they could use, and can afford. This is a total win-win situation.

Or, a win for a while but it just ain't happenin situation

I'm bettin on the first.

Please Memail me if you have any more questions.

I was you 25 years ago. And there was no fuckin internet you little snot nosed......ooooh bacon. BRB.
posted by timsteil at 5:46 PM on May 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

I really like the idea of writing a blog post on spec to see if they like it. And writing for cheap or for store credit, at least at first. I do wonder if judith's hit on something, though, in that perhaps their website isn't a huge source of marketing for them.

I'm having a hard time breaking myself of the habit of writing things for free--it's all I've ever known! Thanks for the advice to look at industry associations, KokoRyu--I plan to look into this. That might be a good midway point between writing for free for nonprofits and writing for $$ for businesses.

timsteil--LOL. I promise I will not show up at their store high. :)
posted by indognito at 6:54 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another idea (I don't have the experience) -- if you use the business, maybe you're developing a rapport with them, and maybe it would be good to bring up while you are there anyway.
posted by maurreen at 7:33 AM on May 25, 2012

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