8 Steps to Finding Your First Clients

We’ve heard from dozens of AWAI members who told us that finding their first clients was much easier than they had feared. They approached this first step in becoming a successful copywriter with one purpose in mind: building their portfolios.

If you adopt building your portfolio as your number one priority, you too will discover that finding your first copywriting jobs can be easy … if you know where and how to look.

Don’t worry about the status of the company. Don’t worry about how many people will see your copy. Don’t even worry about how much you’re paid … if you’re paid at all.

"Just do it," and you’ll soon have a strong enough portfolio to justify asking for more money.

That said, here are 8 steps to finding those first, all-important clients.

  1. Brainstorm your passions.

    What topics stir your passions? Politics … animal care … coin collecting? What are your areas of expertise? Music … the stock market … parenting? What do you love to do in your free time? What would you do if you had time? Which sections do you gravitate to in bookstores?

    Write down 10 subjects that you feel passionate about. Put the list aside for a day, then add five more. Don’t censor yourself by saying "There’s no DM work in this area." Just write.

  2. Turn your list of passions into a list of local and regional businesses, agencies, and products.

    Start with the Yellow Pages of metropolitan areas near you. Find businesses or organizations that reflect your passions. Use your imagination.

    For example, if you subscribe to Prevention Magazine … and talk with friends about your supplementation regimen … and eagerly seek out the health section of the newspaper … one obvious choice for you is alternative health.

    Here’s a brief list of possible businesses listings in the Yellow Pages that reflect your interest: health food markets, chiropractors, spas, massage therapists, alternative health newspapers and magazines, physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners.

  3. Talk to friends.

    Tell friends what you’re doing and ask for ideas. Don’t try to limit their suggestions. Listen. And make notes.

  4. Arrange a personal meeting with potential prospects to discuss your services.

    Prepare a 5-minute chat about how you could benefit each prospect’s business.

    Then, call or visit each establishment and ask for a 5-minute appointment with the owner or director. Be prepared to give your spiel right then and there.

    Briefly explain how you can benefit him or her. Consider making a one-time free offer. You’re trying to develop your portfolio, so a few freebies won’t hurt. They’ll help build your portfolio fast.

  5. Do your best work – regardless of what you’re paid. (’Nuff said.)
  6. Get exposure.

    While you’re contacting potential clients, get some exposure to local businesspeople. Contact service clubs like the Rotary or Kiwanis and Chambers of Commerce. Offer to do a program for one of their meetings.

    Your program should be something of general business interest – and should last between 5 and 15 minutes. It should not be about your copywriting business per se, but about how your topic will benefit them. (i.e., 10 Ways to Build Lasting Relationships with Your Customers … 5 Proven Strategies for Writing Powerful Space Ads)

    Have something of perceived value to pass out at the end of the meeting – something like a one-page summary of the advantages of direct response marketing. Attach your business card.

  7. Jumpstart your search.

    Shortcut your search for first clients by going to AWAI’s Direct Response Job Board at www.directresponsejobs.com. (If you haven’t yet signed up, do it now.)

    AWAIer Ryan Healy wrote to tell us that he’s earned $3,050 in the last week from clients he’s found on DRJ.

  8. Spread your wings: "Ask the Masters."

    AWAI’s fourth and final "Ask the Masters" teleconference is scheduled for July 20. This teleconference features three professional marketing directors from top DM companies who will be explaining exactly what they look for from new and established copywriters. Plus, they’ll have spec assignments exclusively for the teleconference participants.

    Only a limited number of lines will be available for this call. If you haven’t reserved your place yet, make sure you do so today. Register now at:


The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: July 5, 2005

1 Response to “8 Steps to Finding Your First Clients”

  1. This is very good advice. Thank you.


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