Updated: Dec 23, 2020
“Son, you’re not going to like to hear this, but you have to pound the pavement just to get your foot in the door. You’re in New York City--that’s just how the world works.”
“Yeah, but things are different now, Dad. Cold calling is dead. No matter how hard I hustle, it’s all about who you know, not what you know.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. Try harder.”
I did, and I failed harder. Eventually, I decided that there HAD to be another way.
And there was.
Learning How To Get My Foot in The Door
It takes time to properly apply for a single job. You have to restructure your resume, draft a unique cover letter, follow up, follow up with the secretary--I feel like getting your foot in the door is a thing of the past.
These days, you have to bash down the entire door.
Whatever you do, whether hitting the LinkedIn easily apply button or going so far as to write a free trial piece for someone, your efforts can easily result in nothing.
Not even a response sometimes.
I spent years grinding and actively applying for thousands of writing jobs, freelance writing gigs--you name it. I’m not sure what my success ratio is, but I am sure I spent a lot of time doing this with very little results.
And what few results came my way usually weren’t ideal opportunities for one reason or another.
"There has to be a better way," I thought, "I need to be better!"
So I dedicated a lot of time sharpening my skills learning how to interview and pitch. I got so good that I taught interview skills for a living to high school students and ended up being featured in a book about freelance writing success.
So at this point I felt confident enough to pitch anyone, and I felt ready to be a real, professional full-time freelance writer.
Problem was, I didn’t know who I wanted to work for or where to find them.
We all outgrow the content mills at some point, and the next step for me when I left F*verr was to respond to ads on websites like problogger. For a solid two years, I found good gigs there. I took a break from pitching as much to be a tour guide at the Statue of Liberty, (no regrets) then the pandemic shut everything down and I returned to problogger eager to write again, only to find jobs advertising $0.04 as a competitive rate....
I said, there has to be a better way.
And there was.
I’m not talking about stimulus money--that ran out. And when it did run out, the opportunity that was there all along was still there all along.
And in hindsight, I wish I had spent more time capitalizing on this opportunity while I was teaching myself how to pitch and interview.
The Better Way: Passive Job Searching
I had been hearing that the real pros find a lot of work on LinkedIn.
“Recruiters just reach out to me,” the marketing gurus I followed said. “It’s a lot easier than you think,” they said.
In that moment, I knew how my parents felt whenever I told them doing something on
Facebook was easy.
Some of the gurus attributed that to their huge followings that they had cultivated from teaching people how to become freelance writers. But that didn’t make sense to me, because why would a hiring manager care about your program that teaches freelance writing? Wouldn’t they care about your writing?
And if you’re a full-time professional freelance writer, why would you give away so much of your trade secrets for free to your competition like me?
Then it dawned on me… I had just learned from these gurus how to explain the value of inbound marketing to clients: it’s a method of automating conversions. You save time and money investing in a successful blog because you make yourself discoverable to not just anyone, but your ideal customers.
And sure enough, many of the legit gurus had optimized their profiles and websites with keywords for their writing services and courses respectively.
The Impact of My SEO Makeover
The time and effort I put into actively pitching an interesting client compared to the time and effort I put into optimizing my LinkedIn Profile is pretty much the same, except it took less time to optimize my profile and I've had multiple opportunities (and counting) present themselves as a result.
In other words, I can spend an afternoon applying for one opportunity today…
I can spend an afternoon optimizing my LinkedIn profile to effectively apply for multiple opportunities indefinitely.
After I performed the SEO makeover on my LinkedIn profile, I started seeing results within a week. Recruiters started reaching out to me like never before, and I made more in a month from freelance writing than I had the rest of the year.
During a literal global pandemic right before the contentious election.
I can’t wait to see how things go in January-March when more companies are known to be looking to hire.
SEO Doesn’t Get Me Jobs, It Brings Me Opportunities
My work is far from finished. I’m glad my parents taught me so much about interview skills and I’m proud to have shared that knowledge with thousands of students across New York City. Having the confidence to pitch is a game changer. I could have used that confidence to Start Freelance Writing With No Experience.
But if I had started focusing on SEO earlier, I’d have had more opportunities coming to me while I wasn’t pitching on problogger. What little time I spent pitching while tour guiding (and not getting many responses) could have been spent responding to recruiters who had found my keyword optimized LinkedIn profile.
And the views I accumulated during that time would be paying off even more now.
Without getting too deep into it, SEO tends to work like compound interest in that the more views accumulate, algorithms are more likely to detect and display the content. This can explain why some influencers don’t worry about keywords as much--their content is so frequently viewed that if you search “Jayson Hewitt” search engines might say “did you mean Jason Hewett” and show you the most viewed profile or website.
And yes, I’m not quite at that level yet, but my point is, there are other Jason Hewetts out there, and I wanted to outrank them and be relevant enough to have my name spelled wrong in the search bar. Back then I didn’t know about SEO but I’ve always been one to experiment with creating content--and in the world of inbound marketing something is better than nothing.
Even before I optimized my profile it was harder to find some of them on LinkedIn as opposed to me simply because I’ve had my profile up and active since I was in college.
All the Jason Hewetts who had stable jobs and didn’t write LinkedIn articles eventually ranked lower and lower in the search results for our name. Google was a different story, so I made sure to buy my domain name early in case any of them ever happened to be content writers. Then I got around to optimizing my website, and now my website ranks first for the keyword Jason Hewett.
Admittedly my name is not a very competitive keyword on Google--not many people are searching for it. But more importantly, the other Jasons didn’t bother investing in any SEO for their names and profiles, and that’s how I got the competitive advantage over them. I bring this up because you’d be surprised what SEO opportunities your competitors are letting pass by. Sometimes jumping on an unused keyword like Denver based graphic designer or Jersey City Gluten-free Pizza can bring you opportunities for jobs and business just as quickly.
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