Dear Sir: May I write stuff for you?

Dear Sir:

May I write stuff for you?

OK, what do you think of that sales letter? Or how about:

Dear Sir:

May I write stuff for you? I have experience.

My tongue is not even stuck firmly in cheek here. Trying to drum up work, many freelance writers write sales letters or website copy that says little more than the letters above. Oh, maybe they say it more eloquently, but that’s about all they say — “May I write for you?

Write what? Who are you? That’s what the reader needs to know.

That’s why you need a business vision (as well as a marketing plan). Your business vision describes who you are, what you do, who you do it for, as well as where, when, and why you do it. You then incorporate that vision in your marketing plan and promotional material, including sales letters or query letters.

“Who” for most of us is easy. Who am I? I am a freelance writer. (Or, in my case, a freelance writer and business-writing trainer.)

What do I do? Do I write white papers, media releases, case studies, direct mail products, articles, as well as other material?

“What” I do is based on what I know how to do. For instance, if I don’t know what a white paper is, I wouldn’t try to sell white paper writing services. If I have written direct mail brochures and media releases, then that is what I am going to actively sell. If  I’ve never written a feature article I would pitch a feature idea — not until I’ve learned how to writ a feature. if I’ve never written a case study but want to, then I am going to learn how to do that before pitching that service to prospects.

“Where” and “when” are important too. For instance, I do my writing from home. That means I do not accept writing contracts that would involve going to another location to do the writing work. However, I will travel to conduct training sessions for a half day, full day, or even a couple of days.

I work almost all year (other than short holiday bursts), although I do shut down for most of December. I don’t mind working evenings and weekends. If you shut down for the summer or for particular times during the year, then you’d better not take on clients who need you all year round If you don’t work evenings or weekends, you need to avoid clients who have a propensity for rush jobs.

But who do I work for? Ask me what color car I drive. The answer: a black car. In other words, why would I actively target the auto industry, or pitch article ideas involving cars, when I know nothing about cars?

Ask me what I think about tobacco companies. Their executives should be shot. There, I said it. So big tobacco is not my target market either. But can I talk Information Technology (IT)? You bet. There are other sectors, like education, with which I am familiar because of my education and work experience. So when I actively market my business, I sell specific writing and training services to companies in specific sectors or pitch article ideas on topics I have some familiarity with.

I might accept work for companies in sectors that I don’t target (other than sectors that I would turn down for moral reasons), but only if they find me (through my website, for instance –, and only if I believe I can deliver the right words, on time and on budget, for the company or organization.

My business vision describes who I am, what I want to do, and who I want to do it for. It is the foundation of my marketing plan – my systematic plan of action that tells me how to make my vision a reality.

In other words, with a business vision in place, I am better able to craft marketing material that will help me sell specific services to companies, organizations and publications in my targeted sectors so that I can generate business. My business vision helps me avoid marketing material that says little more than

Dear Sir:
May I write stuff for you?

[Paul Lima is a freelance writer, business-writing trainer and the author of a dozen books on business and promotional writing, self-publishing and the business of freelance writing. Learn more about Paul, or read about his books, at]


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