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A Step-by-Step Guide to Determining Your Target Market as a Freelancer Writer

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The key to successful marketing lies in understanding and accurately reaching out to the proper target market. Target market research is critical to fine-tuning your approach and building a customer base.

Without this focused target market research, you end up wasting a lot of time trying to connect with people who are a lot less likely to want your services as a guru freelancer.

Some of the questions you will ask include:

  • Who is going to want to know about the information that you are so specialized in?
  • What are your target market demographics?
  • Once you find them, how do you find out the best way to connect with this group?

This article is a freelance writer walk-through on determining your target market and the research you'll need to go through. The end goal is to give you a specific set of tasks you can work through that will leave you with at clear picture of your target audience.

Step 1: Know Yourself

Before you do anything, you need to sit down with a cup of coffee and have a good, creative look at what you have to offer the world. Don’t limit yourself to convention. For instance, if your specific knowledge is in neuroscience, you wouldn’t just have to write to other physicians and scientists. You could write about information regarding child-rearing, how the brain affects taste preferences, if brain development has anything to do with relationship development.

The key here is to carefully define you niche area of expertise. You are the only one who can really define this for yourself. Start with the most specific topics and expand from there. What you may find is that even your most niche fields need plenty of content generated.

Task: List your areas of expertise, starting with most specific and branching out into broader areas from there.

Step 2: Identify Readers

Using our neuroscience example, let's examine the three niche areas you could write about: child rearing, brain affecting taste, and brain development.

Here you want to identify various readers who may need your expertise.

You already have three vastly different audiences: parents, chefs/food connoisseurs, and people affected by social anxiety, for example. Make a bullet point list of all your specific knowledge points and all the ways that you can think of that they can be utilized. If you haven't already, write up several articles (short or long, depending on your style) that are in those varying degrees of interest.

Here you want to identify various readers who may need your expertise. Each of these readers have their own voice, body of knowledge, and needs. This is your initial target audience group. You don't have enough information at this point to jump in with both feet, but you're getting there fast!

Task: List the various readers for each of your niches. Take the time to list a topic or two for each of these types of readers so you can remember later why you thought this might be a good target audience.

Step 3: Research

Now that you have a list of niche topics and various kinds of readers, it's time to do some target market research. Your research should center around:

  • Competition - are there lots of other more qualified writers in this arena?
  • Content - is there already a lot of content in this particular niche?
  • Publications - where can I get this content published?
  • Pay - how well does writing on this topic pay?

The research stage of your target audience identification can be incredibly helpful as you may quickly eliminate some of the niches and readers from your lists. You may find that the pay is great in one area, but the competition and amount of content is so saturated that it's going to be too tough to establish yourself.

Task: Rate each of the niches and reader types with the four research topics. Give each a high/medium/low rating.

Let's look at a Neuroscience example:

  • Neuroscience
    • Parents
      • Child-rearing
        • Competition: low
        • Content: low
        • Publications: low
        • Pay: high

In this imaginary sample, you've discovered that there isn't a lot of competition or content for this target audience, but there aren't a lot of publications that may want these topics. Still, the pay is good, so you may keep this particular niche topic at the top of your list for the next stage.

Tip: You can perform research using the Google Blog search feature. Go to Google and search for your particular topic. On the results page to the left, you will see more options. One of these is "Blogs", which filters the results by blogs that contain your keyword search. This is a great way to get a sense of the level of competition and whether or not there is a great deal of focused content in this area.

Step 4: Trial and Error

Once you've ranked your topics, it's time to start testing the waters. Send out a variety of different articles on the same basic topic to a number of different types of magazines, newspapers, and online sources. Note how well-received each article is. You can also do some personal blogging and see what types of people are most attracted to your work. This can be noted through comments left or the type of bloggers that follow your blog. You can even ask your target market (i.e. your current readers) what topics they would most like to read about.

You should come away with a strong sense of which topics are getting traction.

Task: Find and list various publications that might want your work. Send them an article and document the time and exact article you sent them. Follow up with those who haven't responded within a week, and document the responses of those who do provide feedback.

You should come away with a strong sense of which topics are getting traction. Often you will find a few publications that are very interested and who are willing to pay for your work. You may just get a lot of negative feedback that you can use to incorporate into the next round of articles you send out.

Step 5: Fine-Tune

Once you have a clear idea of who is interested in your talents, begin to market your ideas specifically to them. Research these publications very carefully to understand their audience and what content they may need that you can handle.

What you should find here is that you now have a customer who you can begin writing for. In many ways, this helps narrow your target audience for you since these publications have their own target audiences.

Task: Pick one publication who has shown interest in your work and research their target audience and what content topics they don't have that you can speak to as a guru freelancer. Develop a list of content ideas and pitch them to the editors.

Step 6: Build

Once you've got some published pieces on niche topics, the target market will begin to define itself based upon demand for your skills. Take your published pieces and use them to build a resume and market yourself to other sites. You may have found that there are some very high paying sites that want writers with a lot of credibility. As you build a reputation on a certain type of site, you can then leverage that to expand your niche topics to other sites.

Task: Document your published work and build a boilerplate resume of links to published pieces. Use this as part of your pitch to publications to show you are a credible writer.

In Sum...

Start with those areas in which you are an expert or for which you have a strong passion. Define the types of readers you want to write for - this is your initial target audience. But if this audience is too small or there is no way to make money from your writing in this narrow niche, then you don't have a viable target audience. That's where some target market research and trial and error comes into play.

The big takeaway here is that you can define your target audience all day, but a truly successful guru freelancer career means you get paid well for your craft.

The big takeaway here is that you can define your target audience all day, but a truly successful guru freelancer career means you get paid well for your craft. So pitch some ideas to paying publications and take their input to fine-tune your work. You'll eventually start getting work published and can build your resume up from there.

Your target market will likely shift a bit as you go. Demand for work can be influenced by the headlines in the news or even the change of the seasons. So don't be afraid to adapt as you go, but always keep your own area of expertise at the center of your content. Without passion and a deep body of knowledge, you will either quickly burn out or, worse, your audience will notice your lack of passion and knowledge and abandon you.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by paulfleet.

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