Are You Committing “Self-Marketing Suicide”?

Happy New Year!

Cindy Cyr back again. And I’m bursting with stuff you need to know if you want to live the writer’s life.

This week, I’m going to answer some of the burning questions you have about what to say, do, and write when approaching clients … and even more importantly, what NOT to say, do, or write when promoting yourself.

Recently, I experienced three separate situations that gave me valuable insights about how you and I promote ourselves and our freelance businesses.

I’m going to share these real-life examples of “self-marketing suicide” – mistakes many freelancers are making that you’ll want to avoid.

Today, I want to start with you some observations I made during AWAI’s recent Job Fair, which is where AWAI connects copy-hungry companies with eager copywriters. Make the right connection and you can quickly take your copywriting career to a whole new level.

This year, I found myself in the unique position of being on the vendor side of the table instead of seeking projects like I normally do.

Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, I stood in for my contact at a client of mine, Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle (GKIC), to help man their table.

It was a completely different perspective on the "Job Fair Process." I noticed avoidable errors that immediately took people out of the running in my mind. Curious, I asked some of the marketing vendors their thoughts on the matter.

Based on my experience and their comments, here are the top self-marketing mistakes and how to avoid them …

Don’t give your prospect or client any indication that you don’t know how to complete an assignment. One vendor told me someone asked him if a headline was necessary for their sales letter spec assignment. This may seem like an obvious question not to ask. However, you might be surprised how often you let something slip that lowers your prospect’s confidence in you. Many times, this is out of nervousness or not knowing what to say, as I’m certain was the case here.

How to handle: If you’re uncertain how to complete a specific project or feel a bit insecure about it, consult AWAI and ask for their help. They will answer your questions or point you towards the resources you need.

If you are nervous about speaking with a prospect or client, write out a few questions and a short script ahead of time to refer to during your meeting. It’s also a good idea to role play and/or practice ahead of time. The more you do this, the more confident you’ll become.

Stay away from projects you’re not really interested in. I actually had several people ask me for a spec assignment and then tell me they weren’t sure they wanted to work for GKIC. Worse, they revealed why they didn’t think they were a good match. They said things like, “It’s not my area of expertise,” and that Glazer-Kennedy marketing wasn’t to their tastes.

How to handle: If you’re not sure and are still considering a project, keep your mouth shut. Prospects want someone that is qualified and 100% enthusiastic and excited about working with them, not someone they believe is on the fence. More importantly, you might offend a potential client. It’s a small industry where everyone knows about everyone, so you risk more than losing just that one client.

If you need to decline an offer, explain in a way that won’t offend the client. For example, recently I was asked to write for a political party against my beliefs. I told the client, “This sounds like an incredible opportunity. However, you’ll get better results and be much better served by a writer who is wholeheartedly passionate about your party’s beliefs.”

Eliminate language that says you’re unsure of yourself. This was a big one at Job Fair, even from freelancers with years of experience. Saying things like the following is a big no-no:

  • “I’m not sure I have enough experience, but …”
  • “I’m not as good as ________________, but …”

How to handle: You might be quaking in your boots, but save those words of self-doubt for your cheerleader friend who can encourage you. Change your vocabulary from phrases like … “I think I might” … “I’m not sure if I can” … “I probably can” … “I’m just starting out” … “I’ll try to” …

To a more confident approach by saying, “I will” and “I can.”

Instead of thinking what you don’t have to offer, concentrate on presenting what you do have to offer.

Steer clear of the self-marketing suicide traps listed here. When you do, you’ll come across as a confident marketer who is focused on helping the client instead of yourself—which can often be the deciding factor in landing paying projects.

Are there self-marketing suicide blunders you’ve overcome? Share your story here so others can learn from your mistakes.

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Published: January 2, 2012

8 Responses to “Are You Committing “Self-Marketing Suicide”?”

  1. Excellent tips, Cindy! Thank you.
    And may I add from my own personal experience - if a project takes longer then you planned for, keep the client informed! I'm not saying you should send them a blow by blow account of your struggles with their beloved copy. But definitely let them know that while its going somewhat slower than you expected, you're still working on it in the same confident "I'm on top of it" tone that Cindy advises. That's all most clients want to know, anyway.

    Suresh Nair

  2. Great article, Cindy. Interesting view from the other side of the table! Everything you mentioned has to do with confidence and that comes with practice and persistence. But it also comes from articles like yours...understanding what other new copywriters are doing shows me that the scramble to the top isn't so unreachable. With an "I can do!" attitude and AWAI backing, we can't lose!

    Marianne Foscarini

  3. I'm one of those rare (and probably annoying) people who doesn't have a problem with lack of confidence. I simply jump into things. If I don't know what I'm doing, I figure it out as I go along. Of course I'm not a complete idiot, I have studied many copywriting and marketing courses and do have lots of past experiences that I bring to any job I take on. Sometimes building confidence means taking inventory of what you have to offer.

    Jeff Kontur

  4. What a great article Cindy! I heard quite a bit of this myself. I was an observer at the job fair, and it was a real eye opener to me as well. You hit all the key points I witnessed.

    Tonimarie Marrese

  5. Cindy, great article... THANKS!

    I recently was contacted (Googled) by a natural health marketer. We talked some... he reviewed my website. I submitted a proposal.

    During a follow-up conversation, he asked me point-blank if I'd ever written anything for his particular product line.

    Caught me by surprise, but I basically admitted "no", and proceeded to explain why I could write well for him.

    Not sure yet if he lost confidence in me, but I haven't been able to reach him for two weeks now.

    Jerry Bures

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