I sat down to write a quick blog post after a conversation on Twitter this morning and it kind of…exploded into a 4-part series. So we’re going to be having a long conversation about the opportunities freelancers have to support Black businesses, a few critical truths that we all need to accept if we want to be successful, how to deal with kickback and frustrations, and some immediate action steps that you can take to get started ASAP. If you’ve got any questions or ideas, make sure to drop them in the comments. Ready?
I want to talk to you about supporting Black businesses in a way that doesn’t get enough attention…a way that helps them impact their local and community economies for years to come.
I’m not talking about buying more from Black businesses. Trust…that’s important too, but this is something deeper on the back end…I’m talking about actively using your writing skills in the form of content marketing to build mutually beneficial relationships and help Black businesses flourish. (What is content marketing?)
I’m also going to tell you something about business owners that a lot of people, writers especially, miss. They can’t do everything.
Even if a business owner is a gifted writer, their energy is probably better spent elsewhere (developing products, strategizing, etc.), and they can benefit from working with someone who’s taken (at least some of) their professional time to learn business writing and connect with the challenges Black business owners have.
When I say “Black businesses” I’m talking about a really wide range of companies including…
- Subscription “box” services
- Makeup and hair companies
- Not-for-profits (churches included)
- Clothing companies
- Events and conferences (they need to sell tickets and get information out too)
- Local salons/barbers/mechanics/restaurants/doctors/lawyers/caterers
- Real estate agents
- Fitness personalities
- Mail order food companies
All of these business (and these are just the start) use writing now. You’ve seen it…product descriptions, newsletters, flyers, blogs, Facebook posts. It’s EVERYWHERE. They also stand to see even better business results with focused content from someone who takes content marketing seriously.
Before we get into it though, I want ask you to make a couple of small mental adjustments.
Whenever I bring this topic up, I get a lot of the same knee-jerk responses that are mostly based on misguided expectations of what Black businesses should look like, what our responsibilities as freelancers are, and what level of “sacrifice” we should make to give our support.
I’m asking you to do this up front because if you don’t, you’re going to miss a lot of the opportunities that both you and your business partners could see from your partnership…
- Let go of the idea that Black businesses won’t invest in writing. If they’ve paid for a website or any kind of marketing, they’re willing to invest in their businesses…if they see a reason to.
- Walk away from the idea (even the subtle thought) that all Black businesses are the same or mostly alike. We represent a wide range of niches and also have amazing diversity between business owners in terms of goals, attitudes, and reasons for being in business in the first place.
- Remember that as a freelancer, “they don’t value writing as a skill” isn’t a viable excuse. The value of writing (or visuals, or audio, or any other creative-leaning content) is highly subjective when disconnected from business results. It’s our job to find, discern, and communicate with the people who can and will find value in our work. (Sometimes we have to move first here.)
- Don’t think you have to risk your own financial well-being to support Black businesses. The ideas we’re going to cover might be worth considering full time or just as a side or practice gig. Nothing discussed here has to be all or nothing.
- Remember that we’re all a part of the same business ecosystem. Helping businesses develop better, productive content means more opportunity for you and all the freelancers and entrepreneurs around you.
- Keep in mind that things change over time in business. Writing niches grow, mature, and die. Just because something is one way today doesn’t mean it will be the same tomorrow. One of your primary jobs (and perks) as a freelance writer is to remember that and be ready to respond.
Also a quick FYI that I’m going to be talking primarily about Black businesses that sell to Black consumers, but some of the points also apply to any that sell to a mainstream audience. This post is also going to focus mostly on online businesses, or online components of brick and mortar businesses.
Why There’s a TON of Opportunity in Content Marketing for Black Businesses
I’ll be the first to tell you that there’s not a lot of high-level insight into Black commerce, BUT, there is enough to get a picture of the potential out there for Black writers who want to get into content marketing.
This is a little bit of what we do know…
- Black buying power in the U.S. alone cracks $1 trillion.
- Black e-commerce is much bigger than just the U.S., and that already has mainstream attention.
- Black-owned businesses are largely solo efforts.
- Black industries on their own are massive…Hair for example is estimated to sit at $500 billion.
- Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.
What’s that mean for writers interested in content marketing?
It means that not only is there huge (and growing) business and financial opportunity, there’s also a place to help Black businesses take advantage of the opportunity in front of them…and where there’s a need for business support, there’s opportunity for freelance writers to plug into demand (both effective and latent…we’ll talk about this more in a bit) for our services.
Since this is a niche that’s currently painfully underserved, any freelancer who’s willing to invest a bit of time and effort has a chance to jump on some low-hanging fruit and establish their reputation and connections as an effective resource for growing Black businesses.
What Content Marketing Looks Like
Content marketing is really just the strategic use of written content to move business and honestly, you’re probably already VERY familiar with it. Here are a few examples of the types of written pieces that come together to make up content marketing…
- Blogs (quick reminder that while blogging as a career on its own is largely dying out, paid blogging lives on as a core component of content marketing)
- Product reviews
- Product descriptions
- Infographics (hello Black graphic designers who already understand our aesthetics)
- Website content (hi web designers)
- Social media content
- Post-purchase customer service and information
- Videos (scripts)
If you’re already a writer or blogger, you’ve probably created a few, if not all of these. Starting your content marketing career just means learning how to use these strategically to move business, but we’ll get into resources to learn that later.
What You’re Stepping Into
There’s a rule in business that you shouldn’t get into a market where you have to convince people to buy or educate them too much about why your services are important. The argument is that you’ll spend way too much time and energy trying to change people’s minds and that there’s always easier target markets out there. I agree with that…to a point.
I’m a content marketer in an industry where historically business lived by word of mouth. Connections were everything because the stakes are high. The community is tight knit and people liked working with who they know. Sound familiar?
Thing is, these days? Things are changing.
A few break-out businesses have figured out how to apply the trends of modern business (content marketing is one of them) while respecting the cultural values of the industry and get great results. Now, everybody’s playing catchup to them.
As a freelance writer who wants to support Black businesses, your main goal isn’t to try to convert everybody. No. You’re going to focus on the handful of businesses who are open to what you do. Remember, you’re a small business. You don’t need all or even most of the hundreds of thousands of Black businesses out there to sign up with you. You just want a few, open-minded clients.
What do they look like? You’ll know them because they’re already dabbling in blogging, or social media, or product descriptions, or customer newsletters. As a freelance content marketer (remember, the employed version of this exists too), you can offer them something that gets them better results and more sales.
Action Step: Start making a list of the Black businesses around you…both online and in person…where you see content in your daily life. Part of learning to become a content marketer is shifting to a content-focused mindset, and that can take a minute. This is how you start.