Michael Tevlin has a solid writing career. After taking the Better, Smarter, Richer class, he stepped up his game.
What the business does: Market content and corporate communications.
The Value of Specializing an Established Career: Michael Tevlin describes it as “the career equivalent of driving off a cliff” when he left the corporate world to be freelance writer full time. He earned a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon in 1981. Already established as a corporate communications writer for PGE, he decided to strike out on his own in 1996 when he was in his early forties. That decision was made partly by noticing that freelance writers and photographers were getting paid pretty well. He wanted to write fiction, and a corporate setting could not accommodate that.
With the advent of the Internet, it was easy for him to get his solo business writing career going. He was able to retain PGE has a client as well. Michael has had a variety of clients over the years, including Tri Met and the Portland Development Commission. His interests got a little too broad before reeling it back in. He has continued his interest in high tech.
By the year 2000, Michael got interested in the sustainability industry. “There is always an opportunity to learn more, to really understand the business,” he says. Michael is passionate about renewable energy, and has made that his deep and narrow niche, taking a page from Jackie B. Peterson. He limited his geographic area to Portland, Oregon. Now he has clients around North America.
Michael has his approach to finding prospects down. He writes, “LinkedIn is how I identify individuals at particular companies or organizations. I will send them a connection request (always with a note about why I want to connect). Once connected, I will look for ways to deepen the relationship. I’ll ask them if they want to get my newsletter.” He may first send a ‘warm email,’ asking if they’d like to connect. “If they’re encouraging, I’ll nurture them along for a while, and ask them to subscribe to the newsletter.” He does not attend meet ups unless they are targeted to his market.
Lessons Learned: Michael describes freelancing as a writer as a “roller coaster ride of feast or famine,” adding that 2016 was his best year yet. Marketing is ongoing. “It took a long time to understand that and make it happen.” What works? “Constantly looking for companies,” in his industry niche. He uses Hubspot to keep track of contacts. Michael stresses that it is important to have a niche. “Your niche does not have to be an industry; it can be your style.” He continues, “How well your writing matches their voice, tone and brand; how quickly you ‘get’ their business or organization.” Personality and professionalism are subtle aspects a client will be interested in as well.
Michael really loved Jackie’s class. He has had follow up meetings with classmates. Facebook writers’ groups help stave off isolation. That’s one way he has checked to find out if he is charging fees appropriate to his industry, and turns out he has.
The deep and narrow niche approach to specializing his solo writing business has enhanced his career. Michael discovered effective ways to find new clients. It is working to his advantage.
On a final note, Michael stresses going solo was the right choice for him. It afforded him flexibility to write two novels, play guitar in a band, and be at home with his two sons when they were in high school. “I am fairly well convinced I would not have done those things had I stayed; I would have been richer financially. But I HAVE made a living—and a life. No regrets!”
If you would like to learn how to find your deep and narrow niche, check out Jackie’s classes offered at the CLIMB Center. Like Better, Smarter, Richer on Facebook to keep up with the latest information, happenings, and events.