The Single Most Important Factor For Long-Term Freelance Success
Imagine yourself at a point in your copywriting career where you can call up pretty much any company in your industry that you'd like to work with, and start working with them on the spot for fees you determine.
Or better, imagine them calling you — lining up at your door begging you to work with them, ready and willing to pay any fee you ask for.
What a fantasy, right?
Sure, it may seem that way — but this is the position world-class copywriters like Bob Bly, Clayton Makepeace, Ted Nicholas, Dan Kennedy, and others find themselves in. They didn't start out that way — no, they started in the same place as you and me … As rookie copywriters just trying to get by in this exciting field.
But, they worked their butts off to do one thing — and that one thing has taken them to a level where they now enjoy unparalleled success as freelancers, copywriters, and businesspeople, and will likely continue to do so for as long as they wish to work.
The "R" Word
What these and other top copywriters have done is the single most important thing you can do to ensure long-term freelance success …
They've built a solid REPUTATION.
They've worked long and hard — often behind-the-scenes where nobody could see them sweating away — to develop powerful personal positioning in the marketplace. They've done the work to ensure people know who they are — and the quality of the work they do. They've worked hard to be where they need to be and do what they need to do, so that even as I'm writing this article and thinking of "famous copywriters with good reputations," their names come to mind.
And, they've reaped the rewards, too … If I were looking for the best-of-the-best copywriter to help me grow my business, and had an unlimited budget to hire who I wanted, these are the exact copywriters I would go after. Sure, I'd be paying a bit of a premium for their reputation — it's quite possible I could get similar results by paying less to a lesser-known copywriter. But frankly, I'm going to go with the copywriters with the reputation because of their reputation.
Wouldn't YOU like to have that kind of reputation, too?
Well, let me help you get on your way …
5 Steps To Building Your Million-Dollar Reputation
A reputation like those of the copywriters I listed above doesn't come overnight — and I'm not going to promise that if you follow my five steps below you'll be on their level tomorrow, next week, or even next year (I'd be there in a New York minute if you could do it overnight).
But, what I will promise is that if you make these five steps a part of your regular routine, your reputation will grow and improve quicker than if you don't. By proactively taking the steps to build your reputation, you'll find clients more and more apt to work with you, and pay higher and higher fees for your services.
The rewards will build with your reputation — so each year will be more abundant than the last.
I've been working on all five steps myself, and I’ve gone from "making the leap" to full-time freelance on February 11th of this year, to quickly being recognized as one of the hottest up-and-coming copywriters out there. I'm not stopping until I hit the top — and I don't suggest you do, either.
Why You Should Build An Amazing Reputation
One quick thing before I get to the five steps … The reason why behind all of this.
Money and nice things aren't a good reason why — though they are benefits of building a million-dollar reputation.
Fame and power are easily mismanaged and are also not a good reason why either — although if they’re handled well they can also be benefits of building a million-dollar reputation.
The real reason to build a million-dollar reputation, in my opinion, is because in whatever you do, it's your duty and your responsibility to the world to do it in the best possible way.
I'll never say it as well as Marianne Williamson did in her book A Return To Love:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
If you internalize that quote — make it a part of who you are, as I've been doing since I first heard it years ago — you realize you have no choice but to live big, love big, laugh big, and do big work, including building your own million-dollar reputation.
Now, your five steps …
Step 1: Always deliver remarkable work
Frankly, in our field it's hard to build a reputation without getting results. So, from today until the day you quit working, you should be developing and furthering your mastery of your craft.
At any point in your career, you should be able to look back even a year or two at something you wrote — even something that worked phenomenally well — and think, "I could do that better if I re-wrote it today!"
Do a little bit every day to improve yourself — go back through your AWAI programs, buy new ones, read books, copy good ads and sales copy, practice writing your own copy. And, when you dive in and are working on a client project, think about how the finished result will represent you and build your reputation — because with every piece of copy you deliver, your million-dollar reputation is enhanced or diminished, and it's your choice which one it is.
Step 2: Be good to work with
Jerks don't get million-dollar reputations. Eccentrics might — but jerks don't. When you engage with a client, engage fully. Talk to them, and listen to them. Accept feedback — even feedback that you don't like — with grace. When you do disagree, be diplomatic.
When it comes to delivering copy, be sure you get the details right. If you agree to a sales letter and seven autoresponder emails, don't write the sales letter but forget about the autoresponders (sounds unlikely, but crazier things have happened). If a client wants to see three headline and lead combos of up to two pages each that they want to decide between before you write the sales letter, don't "over deliver" by writing three sales letters up front — this just makes you look unprofessional.
And, here's one of the most absurdly simple, yet most often screwed up, rules about being good to work with. When you set a deadline, meet it. When you agree on a project, clients are usually pretty flexible about letting you pick your deadline. So set a deadline you can meet, and don't miss it. Often, once you set your deadline, the scheduling of many other things is set in motion and you screwing it up can come at a significant cost to your client and, therefore, irreparably damage your relationship.
Step 3: Don't be afraid to disagree
In Step 2, I mentioned that when you disagree with clients, do it diplomatically. A friend of mine pointed out an interesting experience recently. He noticed that for a particular client, nobody on staff will disagree with the owner. He frequently disagrees with the owner — in a polite and diplomatic way — and has gained massive respect as a result.
If you don't have your own opinion, you can't create a million-dollar reputation. Reputations are built, in large part, on being unique. And, you're not unique if all your opinions are "me too" or "what do you think?"
Be bold, have your own ideas, and stand up for them when you think they're right — especially when it comes to copy ideas you believe are in the client's best interest in terms of results they will generate.
This doesn't supersede listening to others — you should listen, carefully consider opinions that are different than yours, and revise your opinion when a better opinion (or an opinion with better justification or proof) is presented. But ultimately, you should have your own opinions and stand behind them.
Step 4: Don't be afraid to brag … A bit
I heard a quote once from the late world-famous copywriter, Gary Halbert, speaking to the reality of our business as he saw it:
"We're not in the copywriting business, we're in the self-aggrandizement business."
Much of your reputation will come from you talking about yourself and your accomplishments. If you're scared of doing this, you should probably get over it. Stick to the truth — don't lie about what you've done or who you've worked for. But, when you have a nugget of truth that will help you build a million-dollar reputation, use it.
I often talk about the client I worked with who doubled their multi-million dollar business in a few short years and landed a spot on Inc. Magazine's list of America's fastest-growing private businesses. Also, the business that used my copy to generate into the six-figures in high-margin sales in under two weeks. The first uses a real situation to plant the idea that working with me will lead to you doubling your business, and the second uses another real situation to plant the idea that using my marketing can lead to instant cash flow for your business. This is strategic bragging — based on real marketing situations I was involved in.
Identify your own success stories and use them to brag a bit about the results you can accomplish (this builds proof and credibility in your favor) — but then stop bragging and get back to talking about your client and how you'll help them accomplish their goals.
Step 5: Publish
This is a bit of an advanced reputation-building strategy, but at some point I'm convinced it becomes necessary. You have to get your name, your ideas, your opinions, and your knowledge out there through publishing.
Writing articles like these through AWAI is one way to get going. You can also reach out to niche publications and build your reputation through writing articles for them.
Beyond this, you should seriously consider self-publishing … And, maybe even publishing with a major publishing house. I can't really speak to working with a major publishing house as it's not something I know well, but I can talk about self-publishing. You can do free and paid newsletters (paid builds far more credibility and reputation than free), video courses, audio courses, teleseminars, webinars, live seminars, reports, individual and group coaching, books, manuals, and a whole lot more. Whatever format you can put information into, you can use it to publish your information.
By publishing yourself, you set yourself apart as an expert in your field. People can learn more about you, your ideas, and what you stand for without having to hire you or speak with you directly. Every copywriter I've mentioned in this article — Clayton Makepeace, Ted Nicholas, Dan Kennedy, Bob Bly, and Gary Halbert — have used publishing (including self-publishing) to build their million-dollar reputations … And, so should you.
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