Success Story:
Vic Elias Tells Us What He's Learned About Finding, Landing, and Keeping Clients

Like so many of us, AWAI student Vic Elias was working at a job he didn't like when he received the "Can You Write A Letter Like This One?" promotion. He signed up for the course, finished it, and immediately started to call up businesses and offer his copywriting services. After about 80 calls, Vic had his first three clients.

With that first taste of success under his belt, Vic took the Masters Program and attended a bootcamp. A few months later, he quit his job so he could become a full-time copywriter.

A lot has changed for Vic since then. For starters, he moved from Vancouver, Canada to beautiful Okanagan – an area of British Columbia dotted with lakes, orchards, and vineyards. Also, as he tells us in today's interview, he's learned a much more effective way to market himself.

TGTE: Vic, you received your first writing assignments simply by picking up the phone and making a bunch of calls. Cold calling is one of the hardest things to do. How did you prepare for it?

VE: I never had a problem calling people. I figure it's part of working for yourself. I do have a hard time starting things sometimes – but once I get going, the time flies by. It's just self-discipline really.

When I first started, I made a lot of calls. I would ask to speak to the company's Marketing Manager. When I got them on the phone, I would tell them a bit about myself and – if they were interested – I would send some info I had prepared (or whatever else they asked for). Basically, I just followed what's in the Accelerated Program's "Selling Yourself" section.

TGTE: Your self-promotion techniques have evolved since then. Tell us what you do now to get work.

VE: When I decided to write full-time, it was the year following 9/11 and I wasn't getting the response I had gotten a couple of years earlier. It sounded like everyone was crippled by the economy and more cautious about using new talent. I tried different markets but found them all to be pretty much the same.

I called up Katie at AWAI for any help she could offer. She gave me some suggestions and also referred me to another student, Catherine Cairns, who had successfully gotten a big, national client by using a self-promotion mail campaign.

I e-mailed Catherine and she was very helpful. She showed me how she got her dream client by e-mailing and faxing introductory letters and following up with a full direct-mail package.

With her permission, I used the same approach but adapted it to my situation. My campaign focused on why I would be a better choice than another writer. I wanted to be the only choice worth considering.

And since I was going after publishers, I wanted my package to look like a newsletter. I studied many designs until I found one I liked. I ended up with an eight-page letter on two 11 x 17 folded sheets of paper. When I printed them out, I personalized each using MS Word's mail-merge feature. It looked very professional.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To learn more about MS Word's mail-merge feature, open a new Word document. Go to "Help" at the top of your page. Click "Microsoft Word Help". Type in "mail merge" and you'll get a list of topics to choose from. I suggest starting with "About mail merge for form letters."]

TGTE: What did you do next?

VE: I started off with a list of 12 prospects. These were my ideal clients, companies I really wanted to work for. I also prepared phone scripts, and e-mail and fax copy with merge fields.

I contacted each prospect by phone to find out if they were at all interested. Then I sent off an e-mail or fax to thank them for their time – and mailed the self-promo.

A week after they received it, I'd call to follow up. In a few cases, I received calls from the publishers before following up. I got an exceptional response – couldn't believe all the work I started getting. I've been fully booked ever since.

TGTE: Tell us more about your phone scripts. How did you come up with the right things to say?

VE: The phone scripts were very helpful. I put them together from many sources. Over the years, I'd been saving information I came across in Early to Rise and The Golden Thread in folders on my computer. I also included info from other writers like John Forde and Bob Bly. I have a "Making Calls" folder, a "Self-Promotion" folder, a "Getting Started," folder, and so on. So all the tools I needed were right there. I just put them together in a flow chart showing what to do once I got on the phone. After that, it was a no-brainer. "If the receptionist won't put you through, go to step No. 2." That kind of thing.

Right about that time, AWAI's "Getting Clients" course came out – and I signed up right away. It was an enormous help to learn what the pros were doing to get and to keep clients. Helped me feel like I'm on that same playing field. With the information from this course, I was able to establish good relationships with many of my clients and prospects.

TGTE: One of the projects you landed from your self-promotion piece was for a well-known financial publisher. How did you approach this project?

VE: Much the same as I approached other projects before that. I start by asking for anything the client can send and studying it – their product, their promos, other competing promotions, information about their market, their prospect. Then I may ask for more or do my own research. I talk to people, surf the Web, do additional reading – anything that might help. I jot down a lot of notes before I'm done.

After I've absorbed everything, I may go through some chapters of the Masters Program to refresh myself on how to dissect the Core Complex or use a certain technique that I think will work. I want to make sure I analyze everything thoroughly.

Then I draw up the Copy Platform and send it for approval.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Instructions for writing and using a copy platform can be found in the previous article: Roadmap to Success: The Copy Platform – How to Write One and How to Use It.]

TGTE: What would you say has been the biggest benefit you've gotten from copywriting?

VE: A new career and lifestyle. I'm now doing something I really enjoy. I'm living my dream life.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: September 8, 2003

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