The Loop: Filling Your
Calendar With Work, Part 1

Professionals built the Titanic, but amateurs built the Ark. You don’t have to be perfect when launching your part-time business, but there are 5 action steps you must take in order to succeed.

Launching a business – any business – is 98% attitude and belief. You already have both of those covered. If you’re reading this, you’ve already decided that you can have a part-time business – and that you will have a part-time business.

The other 2% is mechanics – how to do it. That’s what we’re going to look at.

By way of background, let me say that prior to launching my freelance career, I was a business consultant. I looked at all kinds of businesses, all the time, and developed programs to increase cash flow and make them more profitable.

What I’m going to share with you are some ideas based on a series of business-development seminars I did for start-up companies to help them become more profitable quickly.

These principles and techniques have worked like gangbusters for me in developing my own copywriting and resume businesses.

Let’s get something straight. When I was first starting out, copywriting was my part-time business. Now, copywriting is my primary means of support. My spare-time business is a resume service with job-search consulting thrown in.

So, here’s how I built my businesses. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, but here’s what worked for me.

Step #1: Make a Prospect List

Everything starts with a prospect list. It is the most important step of this 5-step process. Nothing works without a list. Without a list, you’re out of business.

More than just a catalog of names, the list has 3 uses:

  1. It helps you get the names of prospects you already know. Whenever you meet someone you know, the list taps you on the shoulder and says, “Put him/her on the list!” When you do business with a company … go into a store … or use a product … the list tells you to put that company on the list.

  2. The list helps you meet new prospects. Whenever I meet someone new, I smile, stick out my hand and say, “Hi! My name is Tom. What’s yours?” Their name goes on the list. If it’s a businessperson, I’ll ask, “What do you do for a living? Do you have a business card?” They go on the list, and so does their company.

  3. The last (and least) thing is the cataloging effect – an inventory of names.

Who or what goes on this list?

If yours is a B2C business, the list should comprise the name and contact information for every single living human being that you know. Don’t pre-judge. If your list has fewer than 100 names on it, you’re pre-judging.

You don’t even have to know their names. Do you have a mailman? Put down “My mailman” … or “My meter reader” … or “My garbage man.” You can chat them up later and get their phone numbers.

Whenever you meet someone new, ask for their name and number and put them on the list. People exchange phone numbers all the time – at chamber of commerce meetings, networking events, or any lively club on a Friday night.

If you’re launching a B2B business, the list should contain the same information about every single company you have ever done business with or ever want to do business with.

Remember, just about every adult that you meet either owns his/her own business or works for someone who does. That’s why I always ask for a business card. I get their contact information and the name of their company – a company I can research later.

There are lots of ways to build your list. You can build a list by networking, by being outgoing and friendly, by researching companies in your field of interest … or you can rent one.

There are plenty of list brokers on the Internet. The advantage here is that you have a ready-made catalog of individuals or companies that are open to looking at whatever goods or services your business provides. The downside is that renting lists can be expensive.

Whatever method you use to develop your list, realize that building a list is a never-ending process. You have to keep priming the pump by adding new prospects to your list.

Once you have a list, you need to get rid of it. How? By contacting every person or company on it.

Step #2: Take a Direct Approach

I favor a direct approach, because it’s faster and it gives me more control. I’m a pretty proactive guy.

But, I’ll admit something personal to you right up front – I hate rejection. I don’t handle it well. So, when contacting prospects, I never let them say “No” to me. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

At this point, your list is not a prospect list – it’s a suspect list. We don’t know who is going to be interested in what you do. You have to ask them. If they’re interested, then, and only then, do they become prospects.

Here’s how I got most of my copywriting clients.

“XYZ Agency. How may I direct your call?”

“I’m a copywriter specializing in direct mail. I’d like to send some information to your company. Who is the best person for me to send it to?”

See how easy it is?

Once you get the name, you have some options. You can send him a pre-approach letter, your advertising package, or you can give him a call.

I call, because I’m cheap. I hate to pay for postage if I don’t have to.

Basically, the call goes like this:

“Do you ever use freelance copywriters?”

If he says, “Yes”, I tell him I’ll send him my advertising package. He’s just gone from being a suspect to being a prospect. This little conversation just about guarantees that he’ll at least look at it.

If he says “No”, he isn’t saying “No” to me. He’s telling me that his company doesn’t outsource their copywriting. Great! I just saved myself postage and a lot of wasted time chasing somebody who isn’t looking. That’s smart business!

When they say “No” – I say “Next!” That’s the advantage of having a big list.

If you have a resume business, it’s the same thing. The call goes something like this:

“Do you have any interest in looking at any emerging opportunities that may be stronger than what you’re doing for a living right now?” If he says “Yes,” set an appointment, tell him to bring any past or current resumes, and pitch him at your consultation. He’s looking. If he says “No” – NEXT! He’s not looking. You get my drift.

Whatever your spare-time business is, you’ll find that the direct approach is the quickest, most-effective way to book your calendar solid with work.

Next week, I’ll continue with Step #3 of my “build a successful business” plan. Stay tuned!

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: June 9, 2009

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