A System for “Attracting” Clients
Back in my corporate days, I stepped into a situation in two different sales jobs where no one knew who I was and where I had a lot of competition.
As a freelance writer, you might be in a similar situation today.
To attract clients when I launched my freelance business (when I was new and had no track record), I applied a system I used in my sales career in the early '90s. So far, this strategy from the corporate world has helped me build a solid base of repeat clients and make a full-time income doing what I love.
It's based on two solid sales principles:
- Show potential clients how you're different and how you can add value to their business. They want to know, "What can you do for me?"
- We get paid on results, not effort.
Let me break it down into the seven simple steps …
Step 1: Scout out the playing field. In other words, size up the competition.
When I sold legal publications to attorneys, I had to know the advantages and weaknesses of my competitors.
As a copywriter these days, you can do your detective work online.
If you have a niche, look at other copywriters' websites in your niche. For example, if your niche is self-help, Google "self-help copywriters" and analyze the sites you find. What services are they offering? What's their angle? Read the testimonials: they can give you a clue about what clients value in work from copywriters (and what you want to strive for).
Step 2: Play up your strengths and differences. Now that you know what your competition is doing, identify how you're different and better.
When I started my freelance business in the self-help niche, I noticed that many copywriters emphasized that they knew the mind of the typical self-help buyer because they were one themselves.
Rather than using that same angle, I emphasized my background in sales. Since I had given over 20,000 sales presentations in my career, I understood the psychology of selling, which produces powerhouse copy that gets results.
Find your unique attributes, and accentuate them online, in print, and in person.
Step 3: Start small. When I started freelance copywriting, it was much easier to land smaller projects with smaller clients. I went after self-help and information marketers who understood the value of copywriting but couldn't afford the big-name, A-level copywriters.
This step is more of a philosophy and not meant to show you how to go about getting clients. Rebecca Matter has two articles that fit into this philosophy well: "Getting Clients 101: A Step-by-Step Approach to Landing and Working With New Web Writing Clients" and "The Fastest Way to Getting PAID as a Writer."
Step 4: Over-deliver. Once you land a project, do everything possible to give your client more value than they expect. I can't emphasize this step enough. If the project is a landing page, give them two versions to split test. If they ask for 10 headline ideas, give them 15 or 20. And of course, give 110% to the quality of your work so that your copy has a better chance of delivering better-than-expected results.
Step 5: Ask for a testimonial. When the project is over and you have a satisfied client, don't hesitate to ask for a testimonial. People like to help, but they'll be more likely to give you one if you give them an example of what you'd like. The best testimonials are short, specific, and address a typical desired result. For example, "Steve delivered our copy on time and on budget. Our website traffic is up 37% already and began generating new clients almost immediately."
Step 6: Leverage that testimonial. Once you solve a problem for a client and get a good testimonial, find a similar client with a similar need. (Check out Cindy Cyr's article "How to Get a 'Date' for Your Copywriting Business" for a few quick tips on this.) Tell them the story, show them the testimonial, and it's almost a no-brainer. The key is to aim for slightly bigger clients and bigger projects each time.
Step 7: Keep your clients, and repeat steps 4-6. If you're over-delivering, you'll hang on to the clients you have. Repeat steps four, five, and six for these clients, and you'll build a solid foundation that you can always expand upon. It worked for me in the corporate world almost 20 years ago, and it worked for me only two years ago as a freelance copywriter. It'll work for you, too.
Once you've gotten the ball rolling and secured a few clients, you're ready to start thinking bigger and planning for the future. Check out my article "Strategic Planning for Freelancers" (and the end of January is a perfect time to do this!).
Have you used similar techniques? Any success stories? I'd love to hear about it. Let me know by posting a comment here.
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