Earlier this year, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of forming Voice Communications.

I was a new mom with a six-month-old baby girl with a dream of writing for a living. I’d been writing “for fun” for years, but to actually make writing my livelihood seemed like a bit of a long shot at the time. I had an accounting degree and eight years of accounting and finance experience under my belt, but no professional writing experience.

Around the time my daughter was born, I had decided it was time to make a change. A major life change like parenthood will do that to a person. You start evaluating your life and your goals and realize that waiting to chase your dreams only pushes them off further. Life never slows down. “Now” rarely seems like the right time to take a big leap of faith. So if you want something, you might as well just go for it.

Good marketing requires planning, focus, and a plan.

The first thing I did when I decided to give this a real try was think about who might want to hire me. I’d done enough research to recognize that businesses need writers to help them create powerful messaging and strong marketing and communications materials. But how could I get to the people who would actually want to hire me?

Funny enough, before I set out to market the heck out of myself, I did something then that I advise my clients to do today: I wrote down a simplified game plan. Sure, I could have mailed out a ton of flyers and made a bunch of calls about my services, but that seemed like wasted effort. Instead, I wrote down these things:

  1. What types of clients I wanted (as specific as possible).
  2. What I assumed those companies needed in terms of writing services.
  3. How I could help them— and more importantly, how I could convince them that I could help them.

Only when I had the above items pretty ironed out did I start going after clients and marketing my services. I had done my homework, so companies that actually had a need got the picture right away once I reached out. My marketing efforts weren’t vague or broad. They were targeted and researched.

It’s a whole new marketing world…or is it?

Today, the world is very different. Social media marketing is actually more than a fad and most clients strive to do a whole lot more than market themselves. It’s all about engaging your audience, telling your story, and building a following. In some ways it is much harder to get noticed.

In a lot of ways, however, the basic principles of solid marketing still apply. Whether you’re a large company or a smaller business, before you even think about building a brand—and certainly before you spend any time creating an advertisement, newsletter, blog post, or anything other piece of written material—you must answer these questions:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What do those people need?
  3. How can I help them?
  4. When I reach out to market my services, am I articulating #3 effectively?

If you have a handle on that, you’re headed in the right direction. If you’re struggling to do so, it might be a good idea to hit the pause button. Your audience will never hear you if you’re not even sure what you’re trying to tell them.

To think that I sit here in my office all these years later with a range of clients that keep me learning every single day and that I am advising people on the above (and how to write great content) is, in a word, amazing. I’m grateful to the clients who have trusted me to support their communications and marketing efforts. It’s been a fun journey and I’m excited to see what the next decade brings.