E-mail Newsletters Offer Opportunities to Writers The Buzz


Out of "site," out of mind. Once someone clicks out of a business website, they may never come back. Many companies are now choosing to keep in touch with potential or existing customers by offering them a free e-mail newsletter.

It takes excellent writing skills and dedication to make an e-mail newsletter effective. Many businesses are contracting freelance writers to write and even manage these newsletters.

"E-mail newsletters are the single highest profit or sales return vehicle that exists today. And while we've known this for several years now, the masses are just discovering it," says Christopher Knight. He is the founder and publisher of Emailuniverse.com. This site offers information on starting and promoting an e-mail newsletter, among many other services.

Knight adds that while most businesses write their own newsletters, about 15 percent outsource some or all of their content.

Freelancers, especially those experienced in writing website content, are prime candidates for taking on these newsletters. In fact, more freelancers than ever are writing content for the web.

"We note in our incoming mail more frequent references to writers taking advantage of opportunities to write and publish on the Internet," says Anne Osborne. She is the vice-president of a writing association.

E-mail newsletters shouldn't be confused with those unwanted e-mails, commonly known as spam, that you find stuffed in your virtual mailbox. E-mail newsletters are sent to people who sign up for them. Generally, this is done by filling out a small form on a business website.

An e-mail newsletter may accomplish several things for a business. According to an article in Web Marketing Today, these may include:

  • Conserving contacts
  • Encouraging people to remember the site
  • Building trust
  • Establishing a reputation
  • Promoting products or services
  • Selling advertising

E-mail newsletters may be sent monthly, weekly or even daily. That's a lot of writing.

Yet freelance writers who write e-mail newsletters may take on even more than just a writing assignment. Many have the opportunity to also manage the newsletter.

"From a business perspective, I think it's better to actually manage an e-mail publication, rather than just write individual articles," says Amy Gahran. She is a content consultant for online media who has written for various e-mail newsletter projects.

"The pay and workflow [are] more reliable. Also, in my experience there are more organizations that need to outsource their e-mail newsletters, rather than just hire some writing help."

Gahran emphasizes that managing a newsletter requires more skills than writing alone. But it's also "easy enough for anyone with some basic publishing experience to pick up these skills."

According to Gahran, some skills needed might include the following:

  • Planning an editorial calendar and schedule
  • Making assignments
  • Developing a format and editorial standards
  • Understanding how e-mail newsletters work in technical terms

She says it isn't usually necessary for the writer to handle the technical stuff. But it helps to understand opportunities and limitations. It's important to be able to recognize a potential problem.

"The best perk is reliable ongoing income," adds Gahran.

"Usually, when I manage an e-mail newsletter, I strike a deal for six months to a year at a time. That's much better than chasing down smaller projects, one at a time! Plus, once you've been in charge of a publication, it's more likely that you'll retain work."

Gahran finds new projects by marketing her content-related services. "In this way, I've established my professional reputation. Quite honestly, since I've done that, my clients have been seeking me, rather than the reverse. I realize that's not the norm, but fortunately that's how it's worked out for me."

Writing an e-mail newsletter, like writing any content for the Internet, requires a particular style of writing. Gahran notes that "you need to keep the content especially short and tight, because it's physically difficult to read in this medium. If you're writing for a text-only newsletter, you'll probably end up handling much of the design as well as the writing and editing."

Gahran notes the importance of planning the format of the newsletter and making the content useable in that particular form. Some things to think about include: "offering an index of stories at the top, clear dividers between stories, headline format, a clear and intuitive way to present links, etc."

Pay varies with the type of project and the client. Freelancers may be paid by the hour or, most often, by the project.

"One needs to be very knowledgeable about rights before agreeing to contracts with online publications," says Osborne. "But that observation could be made of many other kinds of publishers as well."

Gahran is happy with her decision to take on e-mail publication projects. "If you're using an e-mail publication to support another project, [then] running an e-mail newsletter is one of the most effective ways to attract and retain the attention of people you wish to reach. So there's the satisfaction aspect -- you know you're doing something that makes a big difference."

Links

Emailuniverse.com
Great info on e-mail newsletters

Web Marketing Today
Read How to Develop an E-mail Newsletter, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Contentious.com
Offers an editorial called E-mail Newsletters: A Growing Market for Freelancers, by Amy Gahran

Writer's Digest
Interested in writing? Here's a great place for info