How AWAI Member David Chapman Landed Two Clients in One Week

We recently received a note from AWAI student David Chapman telling us about a great way to land additional clients from one job. David's note was so inspiring we asked him for a few more details in hopes that you too can use his technique to win your own new clients.

TGT: David, give us a little background. How did you get into copywriting?

DC: I worked as a technical writer and trainer for a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor, but that job was cut. I was driving trucks when my brother sent me the AWAI copywriting course promotion. Honestly, it sounded too good to be true – but after my 18-wheeler slid on an icy bridge, I took a chance and enrolled.

Unfortunately, soon after completing the course, I landed a nice union job. Freelance work seemed risky, compared to good paychecks and easy duties. So I didn't really try copywriting until 3 years later, after a layoff. Now I wish I'd started sooner.

TGT: Last month, you landed two clients inside of a week. Can you tell us a little bit about how you found them and what you did to land the jobs? Did you go in with a portfolio? A brochure?

DC: I had no portfolio … not even a business card. A couple months ago I placed an ad in the yellow pages selling my writing services and this particular client was simply someone who responded to that ad. (I have to admit though – there are better ways to market yourself than with a yellow pages ad. They're now charging $50/month per ad. Personally, I like the way I got my second client better).

Anyway, he called and we arranged a meeting at a local Starbucks. Fortunately, I had learned the great power of helping customers solve their problems from my past job at Hewlett-Packard. So I just started asking him questions about his business over a cup of coffee: what he's accomplished, what his goals are, and how well his present marketing works.

TGT: He gave you the job of rewriting his website, even though he had worked with ad agencies and an "established" freelance copywriter before. What do you think made the difference?

DC: He bluntly said that he wasn't happy with the results he got. He had prepared five questions to ask me. If he liked my answers, I would get the job. If not … forget it.

I remember taking a deep breath and thinking, "OK, Michael Masterson and AWAI, this is it. Let's see if you really taught me all I need to know" Then I smiled and told him to ask away.

To my amazement, the answers were easy! Our AWAI course had trained me to handle all his questions – and I sound like an expert in areas where other professionals had failed. After my first answer, he began to smile. After I gave each new answer, his smile got a little bigger … and my confidence grew. Finally, he offered me the job of revamping his website. And I'll never forget his awe-struck expression as he told me that he'd never learned even a small fraction of what I had just told him – straight from our AWAI course! – from any other professional…

TGT: You took a rather unusual approach in landing your second client. Tell us how you did it.

DC: I was web-surfing, doing research for my first client, when I found an interesting website. From my technical background, I knew their product was very good … but their headline and sales copy really needed help.

Feeling bold, I clicked on "contact us" to send an e-mail. First, I praised their product and explained why I thought it was excellent. Then, I said I was a "world-class copywriter" and I gave 5 specific reasons why their headline and lead-in were weak (just like an exercise from the AWAI course!). I offered to fix it, and I guaranteed I could dramatically improve their response rates.

Next morning, I got an answer from the president of the company. He said he wrote that copy himself, admitted it was "sales weak," and offered me the job of doing a re-write.

TGT: How did you gain the confidence to go after the work?

DC: First, I truly believe that our AWAI training is the best anywhere. Just knowing that gives me a great deal of confidence. But I have to say – I got the poise and the confidence to face these clients head on after the very first bootcamp I attended back in '98.

When I met Michael Masterson, Don Mahoney, Bob Bly and the others, I realized that these guys aren't just authors of the letter that brought me here. They're real people with real stories. And it made me more confident in the course and in my training. That's the biggest fear you need to get over.

The bootcamp really took the whole thing out of the theoretical, course-book world and brought it into the real-world for me. And I think about that each time I have a client starring me in the face. I think to myself – Bob Bly said to do this…and then that's what I do. It works for them and it works for me now too.

TGT: So what do you talk about? How do you know which questions to ask?

DC: I tell prospective clients that I just finished training with some of the world's best copywriters, and I want to use my knowledge to increase their business (Benefits, right?) Then I keep the focus on their marketing efforts and why my services will improve their sales. Believe me, businesspeople are far more interested in problem-solving than in looking over anyone's portfolio.

When I can educate them – by talking about the basic elements of powerful copy, for example – that takes the focus off my modest experience. I feel more relaxed and confident. And my clients are impressed when I toss out ideas on the spot. That builds credibility fast!

TGT: What are your future plans, David? Will we see you at the upcoming bootcamp?

DC: I'm going to do everything I can to get to this next bootcamp. Copywriting can get lonely when you're first starting out. It can be scary at first too. But when you're surrounded by a group of other people who are scared too, that fear seems to fade away. You make friends and you network. Most importantly, it recharges my batteries. I gain confidence in my training and therefore gain the confidence in myself that I need to be ready to tackle as many clients as I can handle.

As far as future plans go, I have an idea for the AWAI $10,000 Challenge and I want to write more copy for the Internet. I'm also going to start focusing my attention on marketing myself through the Internet rather than the old yellow pages ad. There are vast job opportunities there, and I love the idea of getting 1% or 2% of gross sales from websites that use my copy. Both of my clients quickly agreed to pay me that commission, by the way. But I also want to develop my copywriting skills and try my hand at direct-mail packages.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: June 16, 2003

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