How to Target 10 Perfect
Catalog Clients in Just 3 Days

“It’s the best niche for copywriters … so many people overlook it. It has the opportunity for a writer without a huge copywriting background to crack into this business.”

Those are the words of Herschell Gordon Lewis – master copywriter and undisputed “King of Catalogs.”

Even though he had no experience when he broke into catalog copywriting, he quickly began making six figures and has written for top catalog companies like Harry & David, Orvis, Sharper Image, and Omaha Steaks.

But Herschell told us that even beginners writing for smaller catalogers can make a sizeable income from the beginning. He said if you write just 10 descriptions a day, it’s easy to pull in between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, even when you first start out.

Just 10 descriptions a day. That’s just two or three hours of work. Six figures. And if you’re willing to put in more time, Herschell stated emphatically that you can easily be pulling in as much as $250,000 per year.

Is it hard to find these high-profit clients? Not at all. You can easily target at least 10 – or more – of them in just three days …

That means identifying the best clients for you … putting together irresistible samples to show … and then sending them out.

And, this can all be done in just three days. Here’s how:

Day 1

Step #1: Identify your passions.

It may be tempting to target your initial efforts on big name clients. After all, who wouldn’t want to say they’re writing for Lands’ End or Sharper Image?

But going after these biggest clients can actually slow down your pursuit for your first, high-paying clients. The best place to find these good clients is with you.

Start your search by focusing on your personal passions. Do you love to knit? Fish? Collect books? Climb mountains?

Regardless of what your passions are, there are tons of catalogs about them. These are the clients you want to target when you’re breaking into the market.

Your writing reflects this passion. And your potential client can see it immediately. He will see that even if you don’t have one shred of catalog experience, you have what it takes to excite his customers into buying from him.

Your passion about beading shines through your writing. Your passion about kayaking means you already speak the language of your prospects.

If you love baking, you know exactly what hot buttons to touch when writing about the latest fluted, springform pan.

This brings us to the next step in the process of finding your first clients … how to find them.

Step #2: Target the best catalogs to contact.

If you’ve ever bought anything from a cataloger in the areas you’re passionate about, you’re probably already getting catalogs from them and similar catalog companies. This is a good starting place.

But it’s not where you’re going to find the most leads. The Internet has made that search almost effortless.

Go to your favorite search site (like Google or Yahoo). Put in the terms “catalog” and “baking” (or whatever your passion is). Click the search button and be prepared to be flooded with results.

Thoroughly explore 20 or more sites that excite you. If they sell products you might buy, they’re good prospective clients. Bookmark the page. When you have 20 potential clients (or more) bookmarked and listed, it’s time to go on to the next step.

Step #3: Research the best person to contact.

Find the name and email address of the person responsible for hiring catalog copywriters for your high-interest catalogs (print and online). This is usually the marketing director or someone with a similar responsibility, like a creative director.

If you can’t find this name, call the company and ask for the information. If this doesn’t work, find an email or regular mail address for the company. When you send your samples, put “Attn: Marketing Director” in the subject line or on the envelope.

The reason for researching contacts before putting together samples is simple. Some of the companies you’ll contact use in-house copywriters only and aren’t interested in seeing samples from freelancers. By getting the contact information first, you will not have wasted your time.

But once you do have your contact information, it’s time for the next step.

Day 2

Step #4: Get your samples ready.

“What do I do if I don’t have any writing samples in my portfolio?”

This crucial question bedevils beginning copywriters everywhere. But there is no niche where the answer is as simple as in catalog copywriting. Simply make your own samples … which is incredibly easy.

Look at a catalog you want to write for. Find a copy block you feel can be improved. Rewrite that copy block. Put the original and your rewrite into a Word document. Including graphics is fine, but don’t stress over them. Concentrate on the words. The marketing director wants to know if you can write compelling catalog copy.

Do this for five to 10 catalog items. Let your copy sit overnight.

Day 3

Step #5: Review your samples.

Take a look at the samples you wrote with fresh eyes. Make any revisions you think will improve the copy. When you’re satisfied with the copy, show it to someone who shares your passion and get his feedback … preferably using AWAI’s Peer Review process. (More about the Peer Review process coming soon.) Make your final changes based on that feedback.

Now it’s time to take the next, big step.

Step #6: Introduce yourself.

Email the potential client the Word document with your sample catalog copy.

While some copywriters disagree with me on this next point, I feel it’s important to soft pedal the “I can really improve your lousy copy” approach. You never know who wrote the copy you’re trying to beat. It could be the person you’re sending your sample to.

Instead, tell the marketing director how much you enjoy looking at their catalog. Explain that you’re a catalog copywriter and are sending several sample descriptions to show how you can help them with their copywriting needs.

A beautiful thing about prospecting for clients this way is this: You can personalize your samples and still churn out one sample a day. Or more.

In just three days, you’ve taken a huge leap toward becoming a successful catalog copywriter. You now have a list of top-quality clients who you want to work for and who are likely to hire you.

You’ve made samples that are targeted to your potential clients – specific, targeted samples that greatly improve your chances of landing a profitable copywriting gig.

And most crucial: You’ve sent out your samples, letting your potential clients know that you’re here … you’re available … and you’re capable.

Once you get a client wanting your services, the next step is obvious …

And Then, One More Step for When the Big Day Arrives

Step #7: Setting reasonable (for you) fees.

While it’s easy to earn $100 or more an hour writing catalog copy, Herschell tells us you never want to charge by the hour. He calls it “a good way to commit suicide.” Nobody wants to pay by the hour, especially to an unknown source. The best way is by the copy block.

Figure charging about $50 to $100 for small copy blocks (50 to 120 words), and up to $250 for larger copy blocks.

If the copy takes up a full page or more, then you’ll charge more. If you’re writing for a large retailer like Sharper Image, you can charge upwards of $1,000 for a page.

For a smaller company, you would negotiate for between $250 and $500 per page. Of course, anytime you negotiate fees, you want to be careful about low-balling.

If you feel you must settle for a low-ball figure because you’re just starting out, tell the client you’re offering him a one-time or limited-time special. That normally your fees would be higher.

If you’ve done a good job with your samples (and I know you will), your work speaks for itself. In 30 days, there’s no reason you can’t have 10 hot offers.

And if you send out just one sample per day, Herschell assures us that in a short amount of time, you will have legitimate offers of work.

Study the Masters … and You’ll Become One, Too

While you don’t necessarily want to target the top catalogers your first time out, you will want to write for them when you’ve honed your craft.

So Herschell advises that as soon as you decide you want to be a top catalog copywriter, you should start studying the leading catalogs. His favorite ones to study include Harry & David, Orvis, Williams-Sonoma, and Levenger. To that list, you should add all of the Top Mailers you got in last week’s Copywriting Insider. These really are the best places to see how master copywriters do it.

This niche is not about to cool off anytime soon. But if you want to start earning a six-figure income doing some of the easiest copywriting you can imagine quickly, right now is the perfect time to start. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll join the ranks of the highest-paid catalog copywriters.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: November 11, 2008

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