A few years ago, after a company layoff, I tried a career as a freelancer. Since my new path wasn’t completely by design, I called myself The Accidental Freelancer.
In the early days, most of the work was writing, and I had regular and one-off gigs. Since then, I established a marketing agency (Attention Retention LLC) and offer services around consulting, content marketing strategy, social media, and product marketing.
Though I’m focused on consulting and still write occasionally, I more often assign writing projects received through inbound requests or my consulting clients to freelancers. Though I’m the only full-time employee, my network of freelancers serves as the agency’s virtual team to satisfy client requests.
Like my freelancing career, I discovered this network by accident. It all started with a tweet:
An unexpected Twitter comment about hiring content freelancers.
After a guest appearance on the Rockstar CMO podcast, someone replied to a tweet promoting the episode: “Hey, are you by any chance hiring marketing professionals?”
I replied, “I’m looking for a freelance writer or two to help with blog posts on marketing-related topics.” Others replied to that with comments like:
“I’d love to send you a few samples for this position!”
“Hello, I would love to extend my interest in this. May I know if this requirement is still open?”
“I’m a content marketer with six years of freelance writing experience. Are you still looking for a freelancer? Would love to be considered!”
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I hadn’t anticipated so much interest. Truth be told, I didn’t have enough active client projects to distribute to the interested writers; but the opportunity seemed too valuable to overlook. Here’s what I did to create a solid network of freelance writers ready for assignments.
I know what it’s like to earn a living from writing. It’s as hard as it seems – you’re not making money unless you’re writing, and all the while, you need to be pitching and hustling for your next assignment.
I didn’t want to ask people for their writing samples or lowball them on a “let’s get to know each other” project. Even though I didn’t know them, I took a leap of faith and hired them for a paid gig.
I gave a paid assignment to every writer who contacted me on Twitter: Craft a summary of a presentation chosen from the meetup’s playlist. Based on the length and subject of the recording, I gave a target word count, typically in the range of 800 to 1,200 words.
Here was one of the outcomes from Nicole Pyles, who summarized the presentation by marketing executive David Rodnitzky and his new book, Unfair Marketing. It began:
“Online marketing used to be as easy as panning for gold during the California Gold Rush. You didn’t need to put in a whole lot of effort to earn a decent income. However, much like the gold rush, the competition heated up and made it harder to earn a living.”
This first paid assignment was essential to helping me build a network of outsourced writing talent. Let’s explore the resulting benefits.
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Assess freelance writers’ styles and strengths
All the recap submissions were copy-edited by me and published on the company blog. Editing the writers’ work helped me assess their abilities.
By “ability,” I don’t mean classifying them as an average writer or excellent writer. Instead, I got a feel for the types of assignments where each writer could excel. It was based on my clients’ industries, subject matter, and expectations. When a new writing request comes in from a client, I can pair it with a best-fit writer. These paid gigs were worth their weight in gold.
Having a network of freelance writers is a win-win scenario: The writers win because the work I send them helps pay the bills. I win because I can fulfill more client requests and assignments. When the writers buy into the process, they’re engaged and are eager to take on more work – as you can see from this (paraphrased) email I received:
“Hi Dennis, I enjoyed working with you in the past. Just checking in to see if you have any new assignments coming up.”
Writers in an engaged network usually respond to new requests quickly and are incentivized to continue delivering quality work.
Always have a freelance team
I recommend having a go-to freelance network, whether you’re at an agency or in a full-time role at a company.
While I’m on the agency side now, I once was a director of content marketing at a B2B software company and didn’t have any direct reports. The network of freelancers I built then was essential to the completion of my projects. Even if you have a full-time team of writers and designers, keep some freelancers on standby in case of employee turnover, illness, or other unexpected events.
I also recommend adopting an always-be-looking mentality – like the always-be-recruiting mindset software engineer managers have, since they commonly face hiring challenges. From time to time, freelance writers in my network take on full-time roles and are no longer available for assignments. So I’m always looking to add to my network.
Take advantage of accidents
I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in my career. I have the independence of running my own business and the excitement of working across different clients and industries. I didn’t have a grand plan for getting here, but I’m thrilled with where I’ve landed.
I fell into freelancing by accident. Next, I discovered a network of freelance writers by accident. In other words: Accidents happen, make the most of them.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
This afternoon, HubSpot announced it would be making cuts in its workforce during Q1 2023. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it put the scale of the cuts at 7%. This would mean losing around 500 employees from its workforce of over 7,000.
The reasons cited were a downward trend in business and a “faster deceleration” than expected following positive growth during the pandemic.
Layoffs follow swift growth. Indeed, the layoffs need to be seen against the background of very rapid growth at the company. The size of the workforce at HubSpot grew over 40% between the end of 2020 and today.
In 2022 it announced a major expansion of its international presence with new operations in Spain and the Netherlands and a plan to expand its Canadian presence in 2023.
Why we care. The current cool down in the martech space, and in tech generally, does need to be seen in the context of startling leaps forward made under pandemic conditions. As the importance of digital marketing and the digital environment in general grew at an unprecedented rate, vendors saw opportunities for growth.
The world is re-adjusting. We may not be seeing a bubble burst, but we are seeing a bubble undergoing some slight but predictable deflation.
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.
He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.
Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.
Happy customers love to share their experience, but sometimes they need some encouragement to do so. The cool thing is, once they do, they become even more loyal to your brand.
So, at this stage of the Customer Value Journey, ask people to share their positive experience with your brand by writing a review or sharing a social media post.
Once you get to stage seven, the Customer Value Journey is going to get a whole lot easier for you. This stage is all about learning your customer’s experience, and building up your testimonial database.
The most important part of this step is asking these four questions.
What Was Your Life Like Before Finding Our Solutions? What Challenges Were You Facing That Caused You to Consider Us?
These questions are great not only because it gives you some really good stories, but because it gives you some insight on how you can provide similar prospects with that AHA moment. Understanding the average day of your clients is important in reflecting on your Customer Value Journey, and helps you understand what really set you apart from your competitors.
What Key Features Had the Biggest and/or Fastest Impact?
Not only is this going to get you to really specific stories, you will understand the specific things you provided that gave the biggest impact. The answers to these questions will not only give you great insight and testimonials, it will provide you with ideas for new lead magnets. This part is a new Entry Point Offer goldmine!
What Has Been the Impact or Results in Your Life or Business Since Using Our Product or Service?
This is a fairly broad question, and that’s why we put it after the others. You will have already gotten all of the specifics out of the way with #1 & #2. But when you ask this question, this is where you get the most valuable stories. You can use this part as testimonials, as an order form, as a sales page, this part is testimonial gold.
If You Were Asked to Justify this Purchase to Your Boss or a Friend, What Would You Say?
This is our favorite question by far. If you had to go back in time and justify this purchase, what would you say? I promise you what we’re going to find is a lot of great ideas for the jobs that your product or service has done. You’ll get a lot of great ideas for your core message canvas. This question is about backfilling all of the assets that you may not have. Here you’re going directly to the customer who are already happy, and using their justifications to help you sell to new customers.
Hopefully you now understand just how valuable the Advocate stage could be, as well as the key questions you need to ask to get your customers talking. Here’s how it works for our example companies.
When it comes to fashion we all love to show off our outfits. So a good example for Hazel & Hems would be to have customers write reviews for a discount code or points towards their next purchase.
Better yet, follow up with the customers to ask them to share and tag themselves wearing the items in a social media post and providing them with something valuable as a reward.
For Cyrus & Clark Media, hopping on zoom meetings or a streaming service for live talks about them and their business could generate valuable awareness for them, and a live case study for the agency. They can use the questions Ryan provided during this lesson to conduct the interview.
Through deals and coupons, Instacart has saved consumers more than $700 million in 2022. As we dive into 2023, the leading grocery technology company in North America has big plans to help consumers save even more while also helping CPGs generate sales. Instacart recently announced an advertising solution that helps both sellers and consumers called Instacart Promotions. This exciting feature is designed to help drive conversions, boost sales, and generate overall engagement on the app.
Interested in this feature and how it can help your business on Instacart? Read on as we dive into everything you need to know about this ad solution including benefits, how to get started, and more.
What are Instacart Promotions?
Instacart Promotions is an advertising feature that’s now available to all brand partners, including emerging brands, within their open beta program. Promotions give CPGs the opportunity to offer new deal structures, promotions, and incentives with Instacart Ad campaigns. With this feature in place, consumers will have access to more promotions, coupons, and deals that are tailored to them within the Instacart Marketplace.
“With the launch of our new Instacart Promotions, all of our brand partners now have the ability to set up coupons and promotions that can drive meaningful business results while also passing on more savings opportunities to consumers. We’re proud to continue expanding our portfolio with additional self-service capabilities, ad formats that drive results, and measurement that brands need to understand the true impact of their campaigns on Instacart.”
– Ali Miller, VP of Ads Product at Instacart
How Do Instacart Promotions Work?
Promotions, now available in Ads Manager, gives consumers the ability to discover more promotions and savings opportunities within the Instacart app. These promotions now show up directly on product item cards before checkout for easy accessibility. Promotions allow advertisers to customize their campaigns to sync with their goals and objectives whether that be driving sales, building baskets, or boosting trials.
Athletic Brewing, General Mills, Sola Company, and Wells Enterprises (maker of Halo Top) are strengthening campaign performance by pairing Instacart Promotions with ad formats such as Sponsored Product and Display. Instacart Promotions include two new flexible and customizable structures: Coupons (“buy X units, save $Y”) and Stock Up & Save (“Spend $X, Save $Y”).
According to Instacart, in the coming months, the company “will work to further enhance the new offering with new deal structures such as Free Gifts and Buy One, Get One (“BOGO”). The new deal structures will help brand partners run “Free Sample” programs that can win new customers and serve personalized discounts for different customer segments, such as “new to brand” and “new to category.”
Instacart Promotions Benefits
Deliver Value and Savings to Consumers
With Instacart Promotions, you have the opportunity to deliver value and savings that will have consumers coming back for more. With this savings feature, your brand can stand out among the competition and offer a variety of deals to shoppers ie: “Buy X units, Save $Y”.
Hot tip: Ensure you are selecting products for your promotion that are well-stocked and widely available.
Tailor Your Campaigns to Specific Objectives
With a variety of savings options available, your brand can structure deals to fit specific business goals and objectives.
Hot tip: If you’re looking to drive visibility and awareness, try pairing promotions with Sponsored Product campaigns.
Access Real-Time Performance Insights
The Promotions beta program is live and can be accessed within Instacart Ads Manager. Within Ads Manager, advertisers can access real-time insights to maximize performance and adjust campaigns as needed.
Hot tip: Make sure your budget matches your discount and objectives.
“As an advertiser, Instacart’s unique offering to self-manage promotions is so exciting! Historically, making adjustments to offer values and other promotion parameters was a more manual process, but now we’ll be able to easily make optimizations in real-time based on redemption performance.”
– Emily Choate, Senior Specialist, Marketplace Search at Tinuiti
Interested in Instacart Promotions?
With Instacart Promotions, you have the opportunity to reach new customers, build bigger baskets, and drive sales. Interested in testing out the beta program or looking to get started with advertising on the app? Drop us a line – we’d love to help elevate your CPG brand on Instacart.