How to Turn Small Copywriting
Assignments into Big Bucks

“We’ve got a little copywriting job we’d like you to quote on …”

This is music to a B2B copywriter’s ears because in the B2B world, it’s often pretty easy to turn a little copywriting job into a bigger one.

Here’s how the scenario usually plays out …

You get a call from a marketing manager who says, “We just need a little brochure for the sales people to give to customers. We have all the information you’ll need on our website and we just need a small brochure that explains who we are and what we do. Can you quote on it?”

As the copywriter, it’s tempting to just say, “Okay!” and then go rushing ahead to put a quote together. Maybe you’ve been in this situation before; maybe you’ve even landed a few small assignments this way.

If so, you might have left some big bucks on the table.

Each time you agree to quote on a “little” project exactly as it’s described to you, you actually miss two BIG opportunities. Here they are …

Opportunity #1: There’s often more money on the table. (Grab it!)

When a client says to you, “We just need a little …” press release, brochure, web page or anything else, it means he's determined (often in a hurry and without a lot of thought) that this project is going to be a quick no-brainer for which he “just needs a copywriter” to put the words together.

But the client may be wrong. In fact, he may be doing himself, and his company, a disservice by giving the project little thought, and not doing a better assessment of what he really needs.

Let’s look closely at the brochure example to see how you might turn a “little” assignment into more money for you, and a better outcome for your client.

In this example when the client calls to tell you he needs a brochure, your first action should be to discover why he needs it.To do that, just ask him “what is the purpose of the brochure?”

“Is it going to be used by the sales force? Is it going to be included in a direct-mail piece? Is there a trade show coming up where this brochure will be handed out?”

By asking questions like these, you may find out that there is indeed a trade show coming up and the client wants to arm his sales force with some material to hand out to prospects.

Bingo! That’s your opportunity to turn a small project into a bigger one, by saying something like this:

“ I see. Well, giving your salespeople something to hand out at a trade show is important, of course. At a busy trade show, however, you might want to consider arming them with something more alluring than a run-of-the-mill brochure. What about white paper or a special report that deals with a hot topic currently on the mind of the prospects you hope to meet at that trade show?

If you had a brochure and a special report stacked beside each other on a table, you’d see the report go like hotcakes – which your sales team would, of course, love. I know you called me for a quote on the brochure but, would you like to spend a few minutes talking about that trade show, and maybe I can give you a quote on writing a special report too? Then you can decide if it’s worthwhile to produce both pieces or not.”

See how easy it is can be to open the door to more work? With that thirty-second script you’ve potentially added a nice-sized special report to quote on. (A report for which you might quote $2,000 to $4,000!)

Notice in the above script you’re not trying to tell the client that they don’t need a brochure. This is not your goal. Your goal is to see where their “little” project fits into their bigger marketing plans, and get working on more pieces that support those plans.

Now, did you notice the other opportunity that you automatically seize when you deliver a script like the one above?

Opportunity #2: You can position yourself as a consultant, not just a copywriter.

The fact is, when a client or prospect calls you asking for a quote, there is actually a little window of opportunity there where you decide to become an order taker, or a consultant. And many freelance copywriters, especially newer ones, miss that little window altogether.

Excited by having a prospect on the phone who’s offering work, most copywriters find themselves shouting “Okay!” to whatever comes out of the client’s mouth.

A writer who does this goes charging down the path of order taker, when all that is required to become the consultant instead is to take a second to breathe, and ask a couple questions as to why the client needs what he says he needs.

In the scenario above, where you discover the client has an upcoming trade show, and you offer your suggestion to create a special report on a hot topic instead of just a run-of-the-mill brochure, you really give your client something to think about! In the span of about 30 seconds, you’ve offered some great advice that could really turn that trade show into a great lead-generating opportunity for the company.

In elevating yourself to the consultant position, you’re also differentiating yourself from the other copywriter(s) who simply said, “Okay!” to the client’s request for a quote on the brochure, with no regard for their bigger marketing plans.

Of course, you won’t always manage to turn a little project into a big one. For instance, after suggesting the special report, you might be told that there’s just no time to plan and write it. (“The trade show is in 10 days!”) But you’ve still managed to demonstrate your higher-level “consultant” brain to the client.

That means you’re more likely to hear the client come back to you saying something like, “Your quote was higher than we expected, but you seem to have a better handle on what we’re trying to accomplish, so we’d like you to write the brochure.”

The truth is, once the client perceives you as a consultant, not just a copywriter, your value goes up.

And who knows, maybe that special report idea of yours can be used in a direct-mail campaign to follow up with the client’s prospects after the trade show! (Suggest this!)

So next time a client asks you to quote on a “quick, little project,” remember the two opportunities presented. Take a few minutes to find out why this little project has come up, and how it fits into the client’s bigger marketing plans. Use your B2B marketing savvy to suggest ways to expand that little project into something more; something that may improve the outcome for the client. You’ll convince clients to let you quote on bigger projects, and you’ll position yourself as a consultant in their eyes – two things that are sure to bring more money your way.

[Ed Note: Pete Savage used clever techniques like this to break through the six-figure threshold as a B2B copywriter. Wouldn't you like to know what Pete knows about becoming a successful B2B copywriter? He'll show you in the B2B Virtual Workshop, How to Launch and Supercharge Your Own B2B Copywriting Business. An intensive eight-session workshop delivered by Pete, Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia.]

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Published: November 18, 2009

1 Response to “How to Turn Small Copywriting Assignments into Big Bucks”

  1. Superb advice. Some would cynically call this "upselling" the client to more than what they wanted, but it is actually RIGHTSELLING them to something that will BENEFIT them much more than what they thought. (Like the difference between a sales CLERK waiting on you and a sales PROFESSIONAL helping you really solve your problem with the best solution possible!)

    Way to go, Pete. Thanks!

    Paul Ramirez

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