Have you ever tried to adapt someone else’s predesigned template for a specific purpose of your own? Or tried modifying a template to meet a need different from the original? The more complicated the project you’re working on, the more frustrating it is to make someone else’s template fit your needs. It’s easier to start from scratch…if you know what to do, which most people don’t.
For freelance technical writers or writers who have experience with business contracts, creating custom templates for clients could provide a lucrative source of income. Although many websites offer free templates of all kinds, they are generalized, mostly used for common tasks. More sophisticated uses need more specialized templates.
The benefits of custom templates
I recently worked for a company that contracted with major utilities to conduct water use surveys for conservation. Each contract needed its own customized report template,
because each contract was different in size and complexity (e.g. residences vs. hotels and resorts).
Each party benefited from these customized report templates.
- Clients benefited: because the reports were uniform they could easily find information to use for their own internal reports.
- Their customers benefited: information about their water use was clearly laid out and easy to understand.
- The company benefited: the templates enabled us to save time in writing and editing reports, no matter who conducted the survey.
We were a small company running four or five contracts each year. Our competitors numbered in the tens, each with their own contracts needing custom templates. We regularly submitted proposals for new contracts, for which we used templates. And many of the agencies we worked for developed templates for various uses. This was a fairly small industry. Think of the possible market for templates in larger industries.
The custom template market
These are not specialized templates that one can find on the Internet. Hence, there is a market that writers like you and me can fulfill.
How would you decide whether or not this market is viable for you?
- Have you used templates before? What did you use them for?
- Have you worked for companies that used or could have benefited from templates?
- Do you have friends or contacts with companies who contract services that require reports?
Consider these uses for which customized templates could be created:
- Business contract reports
- Grant or proposal writing
- Press releases (a press release package for magazines, newspapers, newsletters, websites)
- Financial reports (different templates for quarterly and annual reports of different types)
- Legislated reports (e.g. reports to the state required by law)
And consider these potential customers who would need such reports:
- Government departments monitoring the effects of legislation or financing projects related to legislation.
- Agencies or utilities offering contracts to carry out some of their ad hoc projects.
- Contractors and consultants bidding on contracts that require regular reports.
- Nonprofits searching for specialized grants or reporting on the results of grants.
- Corporations promoting a particular image to the public.
If you have worked in any of these venues, you can recognize opportunities and generate ideas for fulfilling them. The price you charge will vary by size of company and project. The easiest way to start charging is by the hour, until you see how the market develops.
How to offer your services
Here are some ideas for getting started:
- List the types of templates you’ve seen professionals use.
- Name the companies or organizations you know of that use them.
- Who do you know in those organizations? How can you find out more about their use of templates?
- Develop a few samples. Look to see how long it takes you and decide on a reasonable starting point for negotiating cost.
- Send the samples to your contacts, asking for referrals to people who might need those services.
- While waiting for responses, find a nonprofit who could use custom templates and offer your services free of charge, in exchange for a testimonial or two.
- Add the services and testimonial/s to your website and marketing materials.
- Follow up with contacts and let your regular customers also know about these additional services. Broadcast them on your social media sites.
- If you are familiar with a particular industry, keep an eye out for contracts being issued. Government agencies are required to post the winning bid. You can contact the agency and that company to offer your services.
Note: After reading through this article, if you still have no idea how to get started, this market is probably not for you. Simple templates can easily be purchased online. This specialized market requires the knowledge and prior use of templates, as well as good writing and some formatting skills. If you have those, understand this article, and are already thinking of potential clients, go for it! You probably won’t face much competition, and you should be able to develop a good reputation fairly easily.
About the author:
Susette Horspool is a freelance writer with a business and environmental background. She also writes online articles, blogs, and web content. See www.susettehorspool.com and watergeek.hubpages.com for samples of her business and environmental writing.