Getting Clients 101:
A Step-by-Step Approach to Landing
and Working With New Web Writing Clients

Getting clients … getting clients … getting clients …

If you’ve been keeping up with Wealthy Web Writer this month, you know we’ve been talking a LOT about getting clients.

And for good reason …

It’s the thing most copywriters and web writers fear when starting out, so I wanted to make sure we covered the topic in depth.

Well, to wrap up this getting clients series, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to an AWAI and Wealthy Web Writer member who has been successful, and get advice on what worked best for her.

If you’re familiar with Pam Foster, you already know that she has had incredible success landing and working with clients ever since she left her full-time corporate marketing job, and joined AWAI back in 2005 to live the writer’s life as an independent freelance copywriter.

Well, yesterday I interviewed Pam and had her walk me through the process, from finding a client all the way through doing the work, step-by-step.

In case you missed it, I wanted to give you the “cliff notes” for handy reference.

Of course I kicked off with the most pressing question …

How to land your very first client, even if you’re brand new to copywriting.

Pam’s main advice is to start with the people you already know. In her experience, referrals have been about 90% responsible for new clients!

Think back through your entire working life and write down every person you can think of who is a contact. Think of previous bosses, co-workers, work friends you’ve made along the way, people you met at trade shows or through associations, anything.

Then, think about people you do business with now. For example, do you belong to a fitness club? Buy flowers from a local florist? Use a local carpet-cleaning business? Doggie day care? Yarn shop? Car-repair shop? Every one of those businesses is a potential client or source of referral.

You can probably come up with at least 50 names if you sit down and give it some thought for half an hour. So when you’re done reading this article, give it a try!

Once you’ve compiled your contact list, drop them a personal email message or stop by and tell them about your business. Remember to keep the message focused on a benefit to them. Something like: “I help companies improve their website content so it works better for them by showing up higher in Google results, attracting more web traffic, and ultimately generating more sales.”

Then follow-up by asking, “Is this something that would benefit your business?” If not, then ask them, “Do you have another business contact that could use this help?”

According to Pam, you’ll be surprised just how often you’ll hear, “Good to know! Our website needs help. Let’s talk.” … or

“Great stuff! Yes, I know a company down the street who could definitely use your help.”

Along with Pam’s personal experience, I know of lots of other freelancers who have found great success using this technique for landing new clients. Give it a shot and see for yourself!

In the meantime, let’s assume you get at least 2-3 positive responses. It’s time to pitch your services, but you’re feeling a bit nervous.

How to feel more confident when talking to potential clients.

You know the classic trick for remaining calm when it comes to making a speech, right? Picture the audience in their underwear!

(Don’t worry if you’re coming to Bootcamp — I don’t use this technique!)

Pam recommends using a similar trick when pitching your web-writing services. Think of your potential clients as someone who has NO web copy knowledge. They don’t know what to do … otherwise they would have done it already!

As a web writer who has been studying the craft, you could easily know 80% more than your potential clients. Maybe even more. They’re too busy running their businesses to pay attention to web copy best practices. And that’s why they’re interested in listening to what you have to say.

You can also build confidence by taking pride in everything you’ve learned so far. If you’ve been a member of Wealthy Web Writer for a while now, you’ve learned quite a lot about writing web content that works.

And, if you’ve taken any of our programs —Nick Usborne’s Copywriting 2.0, Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Success, Jay White’s Autoresponder Apprentice — not only do you know a lot about specific types of web writing, you learned from well-known experts in the business.

There’s tremendous value in that knowledge, so feel good about it. Feel proud that you invested in yourself and your business, and use that to boost your confidence.

So, moving right along, we’ll now assume you’ve pitched your services with confidence and the potential client wants to know more.

How to sell the value of what you do … and ensure you’re charging the right rates.

Before Pam had her own case studies that demonstrated the effectiveness of her work, she relied on statistics from the industry leaders who test this stuff every day. Her two favorite resources were MarketingExperiments.com and Jackob Nielson’s Alert Box.

These two organizations test web content for all types of clients and report on their findings with clear, super-helpful language, statistics, and images. You can then turn around and use their findings to do the selling of the value for you!

When you’re talking to a potential client, simply show them some of the expert guidelines to follow based on scientific testing. Show them how a certain content shift increased response by XXX%, and that’s what you’d like to do for them.

Pam has taken this approach and had very good results with even the most skeptical clients.

Regarding rates, I’ve actually put together a rate sheet that gives you the typical fee ranges you can expect for various types of web-writing projects. It’s available anytime you need it on the Wealthy Web Writer website, and if you have an oddball project that isn’t included, let me know! I’ll be happy to update the list any time.

Pam recommends starting with the ranges I give you, create a custom budget for each client, and then present it in a proposal.

Make sure the proposal begins with all the great work you’ll do and how the client will benefit. Then, list your fees last so the client can see what each service will cost.

The new client agreed to your fees! Here’s what you do next …

In Pam’s experience, the best way to make your client immediately comfortable is to show them that you’re a professional. You can do this by explaining the process you’re going to follow when doing their project, including timelines and deliverables.

That way you’re in control of the client’s expectations, and everyone is on the same page right from the start.

Next, you’ll need to gather the information you need to get the project done …

Start by outlining a list of questions that will give you an overview of the client’s business and goals.

Then, use a formal questionnaire to make sure you get ALL the information you need; that way nothing falls through the cracks. Pam uses what she calls a “Web Purpose Brief” to do this (which is outlined in The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits). It’s a list of questions about the company’s products and services, target audience, value messages, competition, barriers to overcome, etc.

Finally, ask about the current sales process. Ask what their best sales rep does to make the sale. Then suggest that the client’s website become their best sales rep online, by offering the same type of persuasive methods and messages.

Now it’s time to tackle the actual website …

How to determine what’s working and what isn’t on the client’s current website.

Every day, Pam reads about what’s working on websites and what’s a disaster. So over time, she has created a couple of checklists of “must-haves” in order for a website to succeed.

These checklists serve as her “diagnostic tool kit” as she reviews a client’s site. Think of them as a 21-point car tune-up list. Are the spark plugs clean? Is the oil level too low?

The same concept goes for her website checklist. If the client’s website is in rough shape when measured against her checklist, she knows what to tell her client in very clear terms: “This is missing, we can fix this, and here’s an opportunity to delight your customers …”

(You can get her entire checklist in Site Audits Made Simple, as well as other “diagnostic tools” you can use to determine what’s working and what isn’t.)

Once you have your findings, it’s time to let the client know what work needs to be done …

The best way to provide your feedback and recommendations to a client.

From Pam’s experience, it’s best to provide a written report that clearly outlines all your findings and recommendations. She makes her report very thorough so the client knows she took the time to identify every issue that can be improved.

She uses screen shots and other visual tools in the report so the client can envision their website layout and know exactly what I mean. This “show and tell” approach is very effective.

How to organize your work for each client so the project goes smoothly.

Earlier, Pam discussed a structured process that she follows. This 7-step process keeps her super-organized and helps the client see how each phase will progress along the way. It minimizes surprises, confusion, or any “what do we do next?” concerns.

Not only does this process keep her on track, but everyone on the client side, too … from the decision-maker to the web developer who will be revising the site with any recommended changes.

Plus, she includes a detailed Project Scope in her proposals, and creates a production schedule/timeline if the client doesn’t have someone on their team doing that.

By the time she’s working through those steps, they have several reference points that keep them all on task.

Conclusion …

These are probably some of the most common questions new web writers have about working with clients. And right now, you have the tools to go out, land a new client, and feel confident about working on the project.

Of course, if you’d like step-by-step roadmaps for working with clients, “diagnosing” what’s wrong with a website, and effectively proposing how to fix it, I highly recommend checking out Pam Foster’s two popular programs …

The first, Site Audits Made Simple, is your roadmap for diagnosing how a website can be improved, and communicating this to the client so that they hire you to do the work. In it, Pam gives you all the tools you need to do this effectively, AND get paid for the proposal, too. That way, even if they don’t hire you to actually do the work, you still walk away with a good chunk of change for your research.

And, if you do work on fixing the website, or work on any other web-writing project for that matter, you’ll want to check out The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits. With this program, you’ll know how to effectively work with clients and get the project done so that the client will hire you (and refer you!) again and again.

This article, Getting Clients 101: A Step-by-Step Approach to Landing and Working With New Web Writing Clients, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

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Published: July 28, 2010

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