When you hear the word “tech,” you probably think of consumer tech companies like Apple, Google, and Uber. But one in five tech companies sell exclusively to other businesses — known as B2B, or business to business—and they pay a lot for writing.
B2B writers earn 20% more than B2C writers, the latter of which must spend a lot of time pitching media sites that are themselves struggling to make a profit. Take VICE as an example. VICE pays $500 for a $1,500-word article that may take three weeks of interviewing, reporting, writing, and editing to complete. And sometimes, they don’t publish. A B2B startup pays the same — $500 — but the article is 700 words long, takes two days, and they’ll want 2-3 articles per week.
Want B2B clients? Here are sales tips for breaking in.
Step 1: Pick a niche
I’ll take flak for saying this, but writing B2B is harder than consumer writing. Rather than convincing one person to, say, download a free app, B2B writers write for what’s known as a buying committee—the group of five to seven people within a business who are jointly responsible for purchasing a software or service. They often disagree. The head of marketing may want to purchase a software that the CFO thinks is extravagant. B2B writers need to understand and persuade all those people, sometimes in one article.
It helps a lot to have a degree in business, or a background in sales or customer service. You need to know how your client makes money, but also how your clients’ clients make money. It can be taught, but it helps to have a genuine interest.
If you don’t understand your niche, your writing will lack substance. You’ll make simple errors that, to your readers, telegraph that you don’t get them or what they do. For instance, and this is common, starting an article to IT leaders by explaining the cloud, which is so obvious it goes without saying. It’s as if a newscaster explained how cars work before they described the morning traffic.
Here’s another one that came up recently: In a B2B article, the writer instructed the customer service team at an enterprise like Hertz to “update their website.” Hertz has 19,000 employees. The reader has exactly no idea who runs their website or where that team is based. It’s akin to telling Frodo to “just go drop the one ring in Mt. Doom.”
To ease your entry, pick a B2B topic that’s tangential to something you’re already interested in. Create Google alerts and find blogs to follow, and then hunker down. There is no shortcut. Only time and exposure.
Some great B2B niches:
- Customer service tech – We’ve all been put on hold.
- Marketing software – We’ve all been marketed to.
- HR tech – You’ve probably been an employee somewhere.
Some great blogs:
Step 2: Craft a tight pitch
The most compelling pitch a B2B company can get reads like this: “Hi, I write for your biggest competitor.” That message packs a lot into seven words: It says you already understand their product and customer, and that someone else has already vetted your writing. When I began writing, simply saying “I write for Marketo” magically opened doors. It communicated so much that few prospects bothered to read my sample articles — they simply scheduled a call.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have samples, make some. It’s good practice, and you can self-publish in moderately credible places such as Medium, Business2Community, Business.com, or Thrive Global. If your niche has a popular industry publication, they probably accept guest contributors.
Craft a pitch that communicates you expertise, like so:
"I write for [B2B sales tech and MarTech startups] like [Marketo]. If you know anyone looking for an expert content writer, I’d love to chat with them."
Step 3: Send your pitch to warm leads
Make a list of 15 people in your network that know, like, and trust you, and who’d be happy to help. Very often, your first client is a past employer. It’s a huge advantage for them to hire you as a freelancer: You already understand their business and they already trust you. They can try you out on a limited basis before they commit.
Note that the pitch (step 2) asks if the recipient knows anyone. Send this even if you think the person you’re sending it to needs your help. It saves them from having to awkwardly deflect your request but leaves the door open. Very often, their response will be, “Actually, I might need you.” Otherwise, they’ll still refer.
Step 4: Send your pitch to cold leads
Don’t wait for your warm leads to close. Make a list of 20 ideal B2B clients to write for. A good place to begin is on LinkedIn Jobs. Search for “B2B writer” or “content writer.” Companies hiring full-time writers here are showing you that they have at least $60,000 to spend on writing, actively need a writer, and might be open to hiring the right freelancer.
Sometimes, LinkedIn will even show you who posted the job. If it doesn’t, review the careers section of their website and look for an email, or find out who runs marketing or PR and message them.
The titles of people who can hire you are: Head of marketing, CMO, VP of marketing, director of content, content marketing manager, social media editor, and similar. If it’s a cold lead, make your pitch direct: Ask if they need an expert freelance writer.
After you go through your list, create calendar reminders to follow up no less than five times. People at work are busy. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Be polite but persistent until you get a no, or if they ignore all five messages.
Getting a no, by the way, is a good thing: It saves you from wasting time one someone who’s never going to buy. Continue through your list until you stumble upon someone who needs your writing help so bad that you’re the one doing them a favor.
Step 5: Repeat
The hardest B2B client to get is the first one. After you have several, and a modest portfolio for you niche, you’ll find that the logos of you current clients earn you more clients, and you’ll gain enough traction to support yourself on your B2B writing.
Want more tips? Watch the first chapter of my sales course for freelance B2B writers and if you’ve got questions, let’s chat on Twitter: @cgillespie317
Chris got his start selling software and now helps B2B companies ditch the jargon and grow by telling stories. Join his newsletter for writers: https://findaway.media/newsletter