Sometimes the best answer to a question is NOT a direct answer to the question…
I’ll share some advice with you today that may run counter to my entire role and identity as a direct marketer and salesperson.
But sometimes, that’s the absolute best thing I can do.
Because what I try to give you — especially when answering your questions — is an experience-based and direct answer to the question that’s based in principles that will serve you for life.
That is especially the case here, where my answer may seem superficially to have very little to do with the question, at least at first…
It’s Mailbox Monday…
The weekly issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets where I answer YOUR questions.
To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, send it to me via this quick 2-minute questionnaire.
Here’s today’s question…
What is the best way to search and find copywriting clients who will respect your work, pay you, and come back for more (or will be open to a retainer option)?
Let’s start with a story…
A week and a half ago, I had a colleague reach out to me. I worked with her at one client, and she works with quite a few.
She has a new client, who she’s been working with for a while. They’re pretty successful, but — like many financial publishers — they need more great copy.
Now, this colleague knows I’m incredibly busy. She knows I am not really taking on any freelance work right now.
But, she and the client were also willing to be flexible with solutions.
Why? Because of the quality of the work I’d done at our mutual clients in the past.
And so we came up with an agreement.
I can bring a junior writer on board — someone I know and trust and have worked with in other contexts before — and we’ll do a project where I am ultimately responsible for the work but the junior writer handles a huge chunk of it. (And sorry, this slot is taken — no applications, please.)
I largely dictated the terms of agreement.
Based on my past work with this colleague (who is functioning as an intermediary/copy chief/copy supervisor on this project), I expect everything to go smoothly.
And assuming my process works well for working with this junior writer, this will likely be my first of many projects on these terms and with this client.
And this is one of many clients who would love to tie me up for multiple projects. A number of past clients. Folks I’ve worked with elsewhere, who’ve since moved. And even just last week, I was talking to someone who basically wanted to throw a bunch of clients at me, if I could handle them (I told him to hold off for now).
This is basically the ideal client scenario you want…
And let me tell you this…
This is despite what I see as many shortcomings in my work as a copywriter. Sometimes I’ve let myself rest on my laurels, and I’m not proud of it. Sometimes, I wonder why a client would ever come back (although, admittedly, I am my harshest critic).
And, this is despite me being inconsistent with marketing myself on that side of my business. I’ve put very little time, energy, or effort into chasing new financial publishing clients in the last couple years, and yet somehow I’m as booked as I want to be.
So… What’s my secret?
How do I do it?
Get really fracking good at what you do.
Somewhere along the way, I know that I shared that one of Gary Bencivenga’s driving questions was (paraphrased), “How can I create CONSISTENT winners?”
He worked nonstop to get better, until nearly every promotion he put out was a winner.
Not everything was a breakthrough, grand slam home run. He only had one promotion, that I’m aware of, mail 100 million pieces (and earn him enough royalties that he bought a house in the Hamptons).
But he had a TON of base hits. A TON of doubles and triples. Quite a few home runs.
And he had a smoking-hot batting average.
I’ve probably trotted out the following testimonial Doug D’Anna gave about Gary Bencivenga more often than I’ve trotted out the one Gary gave me, but here it goes again…
“If a copywriter beats the control one out of four times, you’ve got a really good copywriter. If he beats it two out of four times, you’ve got a great copywriter. If he beats it seven out of eight times, you’ve got Gary Bencivenga.”
Gary Bencivenga was notorious for doing the OPPOSITE of what I do. He never marketed publicly. He waited until retirement to teach his methods. Unless you paid him to write copy, you probably didn’t know how he worked.
And for the most part, when I got started, it took some serious legwork and research before you ever even heard his name.
He was that secretive.
And yet, he never wanted for work.
I know multiple copywriters whose name you probably wouldn’t recognize, who also don’t want for work.
They’re literally booked as much as they’re willing to work.
All while so many novice and wannabe copywriters struggle, and struggle, and struggle — and wonder where all the work is.
Clients run in small circles.
They get together at meetings where you’re not allowed.
(There’s one group of financial publishers who I tried to get to let me in years ago, that rejected me, even though they all knew me.)
When you get really good at what you do, and focus on serving one particular industry, it becomes almost impossible for them to ignore you.
Even when you get relatively good, you’ll start to show up on the radar, and in these conversations.
Tactics are worthless if you don’t apply this principle…
There are tactical ways to reach out to clients.
There are self-marketing methods that work.
I could sell you a million “magic pill” techniques that would change your life when you use them.
Except, they wouldn’t.
Unless you are focused on this one thing.
(Borrowing a turn of phrase from Cal Newport’s book…)
How can you become so good they can’t ignore you?
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,