By Marcia Yudkin
Friday, November 19, 2003; 12:00pm EST
In 1995 I created and distributed a free document called Frequently
Asked Questions about Freelance Writing, or the Freelance Writing FAQ.
I've updated it several times since then and allowed anyone to post it
at their Web site without a fee. That FAQ has done more than anything
else to keep my 1988 book Freelance Writing for Magazines & Newspapers
from HarperCollins in print. The last time I checked, my FAQ was
posted at more than a dozen Web sites and linked from scores of
others, as well as recommended in numerous books and magazines.
With the maturing of the Web, the strategy of setting out free bait
for your target market has become more and more powerful. Here's how
and why it works, and some non-obvious ways to make the most of the
bait you create.
On the Internet, people are ravenous for information. Correspondingly,
lots of sites find it in their interest to point their visitors to the
best resources available in their topic area. If you can create a
mostly unpromotional informational piece and make it available with
minimal strings attached, you'll find complete strangers publicizing
and distributing it to your benefit. Really!
In a nutshell, start by asking what data or advice would be of value
to the group of people you want to attract as product buyers or
clients. Search to see what's already available on that topic, so you
don't spend your energy satisfying a thirst that's already been
slaked. Create something authoritative on the topic that unobtrusively
establishes you, your company or your product as serving that market.
Then set out your bait online with explicit permission for people to
spread it widely. Keep your piece updated and every once in a while
search for new takers, and then enjoy the results.
I concocted my FAQ after interviewing a law student named Terry
Carroll who said that his FAQ on copyright law had made him a minor
celebrity with respect to the topic and helped him land his first job
as an attorney. Since I'd been teaching classes on freelance writing
for years, I knew all questions beginning writers had, and their
answers. Following the format of other FAQs I looked at, I organized
24 commonly asked questions into five categories and did my best to
keep the answers concise.
To make sure that writing and distributing the FAQ would redound to
me, I also composed the last of the 24 questions to read, "And who are
you, anyway?" That gave me a natural way to present my credentials and
the titles of several of my books.
Although I believe the FAQ format has particular power on the Net, for
you the ticket might be an article along the lines of "Five Things to
Think About Before You Hire a...," "11 Low-risk Ways to...," "...
Demystified," or simply "How to..." Call your bait piece a "white
paper" if you're appealing to a corporate population.
Resist the temptation to devote any more than 10 percent of your bait
piece to self-promotion. Doing so would make it less appealing for
others to recommend or reprint it. Producing something that benefits
your market without a heavy sales pitch attached puts you in a very
positive light, and just a low-key business bio and contact
information at the end entices readers to get in touch.
Think broadly about what kinds of sites might be willing to host or
link to your informational offering. In addition to resource sites
that aim at a comprehensive collection of topical links, consider
non-competing businesses whose visitors need to know about your
specialty. For example, with some of my small-business-oriented bait
pieces on marketing and publicity, I've had requests to repost them to
sites for a stock photo company, a specialty printer, a crafts dealer
and numerous trade associations. Always request a live link to your
Web site and an e-mail link to you when someone reposts your piece at
If you have a Web site, the out-of-pocket cost to add a bait piece
there will usually be zero. Mentioning your bait piece in your
signature when you post to discussion lists is another way to spread
it around effectively. If it has an appealing title and genuinely
useful content for some well-defined, information-hungry audience,
you'll find this piece soon funneling leads to you - without the big
expense of a conventional push for traffic.
Source of Article
Marcia Yudkin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the author of Internet Marketing for Less than $500/Year, Poor
Richard�s Web Site Marketing Makeover and nine other books. Based in
Boston, she provides business owners around the world with creative
publicity strategies and performs marketing makeovers of Web sites and
print materials. You can read more articles by her or subscribe to her
free Marketing Minute newsletter at