Who Needs Samples? Creating Mini-Stories to Land as Many Clients as You Need

One of the biggest concerns of freelance writers is having samples and relevant experience when approaching new clients.

Perhaps you have the same worry?

When I first started out, a friend of mine arranged for me to meet with a company looking to contract a writer for a huge project. The project fee was in the neighborhood of $60,000.

The problem was I didn’t have any samples to show and very little writing experience.

So I used my real-world accomplishments from past non-writing jobs to successfully trump the other candidates. I did it using a technique I like to call “mini-stories.”

If you don’t have samples to show prospective clients because you are just starting out … or you don’t have any relevant samples in the area you want to specialize in … you can still win assignments.

There’s a good chance you have an experience or event in your past you can use to show how you are qualified to solve your prospective client’s problems.

It’s a little-known strategy that will boost your confidence and win you as many clients as you can handle.

The trick is to take your past accomplishments and develop them into concise, easy-to-remember stories that demonstrate how you’ve successfully solved problems.

Here’s how to develop your own mini-stories:

Step One: List your biggest accomplishments. Think of situations in your past when you had the biggest impact on your organization. Try to include instances which highlight knowledge, skills, or experience your ideal client might require.

Tip: To get an idea of what your ideal client might be looking for, look at descriptions listed in Direct Response Jobs or freelance positions listed on other job boards.

Step Two: Don’t forget key information. List pertinent details to incorporate into your story to add proof. This includes the result you produced, the name of the company or organization you did the work for, and the time period it occurred. Depending on relevancy, you may also want to include your job title.

Step Three: Describe the situation. Take a situation from the list you created in step one and answer the following questions:

  • What was the challenge or opportunity your company faced?
  • What caused you to act?
  • How bad was the situation? (Be as specific as possible and quantify when possible.)
  • What would happen if this problem wasn’t addressed?
  • How were you involved in the situation?

Using your answers, craft one or two sentences to set the stage and explain the situation. Be graphic in your detail so the person listening can “see” what was going on at the time. Look for ways to involve your listener.

Step Four: Recount the action you took. Think about what actions you or your collective team took to solve this problem or seize this opportunity. Create three or four sentences which are easy to understand and describe what you did. Use this part of your story to highlight your special skills, knowledge, or experience related to the project you’re after.

Tip: Use active verbs much like you would in a resume. For example: I developed … I trained … I wrote …

Step Five: Highlight the benefit received because of your actions. This is the part of the story where you list the results you produced. Be specific and quantify when possible. For example, how much money did the company or organization make … or save? What percentage increase or decrease occurred?

As taught in the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, exact numbers are best and add believability. However, if you don’t know specific numbers, a ballpark estimate is better than no number.

You’ll also want to include a timeframe for how long it took to achieve these results.

This part of your story is where you will really stand out. Most people seeking freelance assignments focus on the types of tasks they can perform … “I write autoresponder emails …” or “I help improve website rankings …”

Instead, you should focus on showing what specific, direct results you had in the past and how you can repeat them for a new project. This demonstrates that you’re results-oriented and focused on contributing to organizations in a positive way.

Step Six: Put it all together. Now that you have your situation, the action you took, and the benefit the company received, put them all together in a mini-story. (You’ll create a different story for each situation you identify.)

Review each mini-story to make sure you’ve included the elements needed for an effective story. Here are some things to look for:

  • Is it concise and tight?
  • Did you use action verbs?
  • Is it believable?
  • Did you highlight your relevant skills, knowledge, and experience?
  • Did you demonstrate a measurable benefit?
  • Does it flow well?
  • Is it easy to understand?
  • Does it provide impact?

Here’s an example of how the mini-story works:

Suppose you’re speaking to a prospective client and he says, “One of our biggest problems is retaining customers. We are always chasing new clientele.”

This might be a typical response:

“I can help you with an email autoresponder campaign that is geared toward retaining your customers. I’ve been trained by one of the leading experts on how to write autoresponders that get results.”

A better way would be to use a mini-story which shows a similar problem and how you solved it:

I understand how that can be a problem—to spend all that time and money getting a new customer only to lose him.

(Situation) When I worked with Company ABC, we spent thousands of dollars each week on advertising to attract new customers. Because we weren’t retaining customers, our business dropped off when we stopped advertising.

(Action) I helped develop a customer loyalty plan that rewarded customers for spending time and money at our facility. We researched what incentives customers wanted, what made them return or not return, and why they would choose another establishment over ours.

(Benefit) The following year, we cut advertising spending by 30% and increased revenue 95%. This effort gained more than 200,000 members in our customer loyalty program and saved $90,000 in advertising costs.

If you already have some clients, you’ll find it easier to come up with stories that relate to a new project. You’ll also find your mini-stories will help you secure clients in a different industry.

If you’re transitioning from a different career into the writer’s life, these stories can make a huge difference in helping you get your first assignments. It might be a little more difficult to create mini-stories in this situation, however, a portfolio of mini-stories is a powerful tool when you have limited or no samples to show.

The key to success when using these mini-stories is to have an inventory already prepared for any assignment you are seeking. That way, when speaking with a prospective client, you can easily whip out a relevant story that highlights your skills and abilities that will fulfill your prospective client’s most important needs.

Practice your stories beforehand so you’ll be prepared to get on the phone or meet in person with a client at a moment’s notice.

As your experience grows, update your mini-story collection with your new accomplishments. That way, you’ll always be prepared to land your dream client.

Six-Figure Copywriting Program

The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting

Turn the ability to write a simple sales letter into a successful freelance career. Find out how you can make a six-figure income working from anywhere you want as a direct response copywriter. Learn More »

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Published: August 29, 2011

6 Responses to “Who Needs Samples? Creating Mini-Stories to Land as Many Clients as You Need”

  1. Cindy, What an excellent idea! I've used the above scenario for my personal resume, networking face-to-face interactions, etc but never to the specific degree that you've outlined here. Thanks for the clarity on this. I'm implementing this right now!

    Anthony Contreras

  2. Thank you Cindy! This was actually a big concern for me. I really want to start landing clients now but I don't have samples nor have I finished the accelerated program yet. Like Anthony I will also begin to implement this strategy.


  3. I've always heard that demonstrating how you can solve your prospects problem is worth much more than a sample. It's good to hear this from someone with hands-on experience using this method - and for quite a large job! Great article! Thank you!

    Kellie Craft

  4. Great article Cindy, as always. What a novel idea, and so valuable. Just goes to show that keeping it simple often produces the best results. This is a simple thing to do in our self-marketing, yet I had not even thought to do something such as "mini-stories".

    Thanks for the tip!



    Guest (Jim Rodante)

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