Today, one of my most powerful methods for landing THE BEST copywriting clients…
I’ve used this exact same method many times. To land many top clients, and to establish myself as a proven and in-demand freelance copywriter.
I’ll share one story below, of how I used it to start one client relationship. And that client went on to pay me well into the tens of thousands of dollars, hiring me for multiple projects (and paying a ton of royalties).
You can use this immediately. And you can use it again and again.
All the juicy details to come.
First, a couple points of housekeeping…
My family vacation was awesome! I’ll probably share more details tomorrow, but suffice it to say I’m reinvigorated and raring to go.
And just a reminder that today’s issue is a Mailbox Monday issue. That’s your weekly issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets where I answer YOUR burning questions on copywriting, marketing, selling, internet entrepreneurship, career-building, and more.
To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, click here.
Here’s today’s question…
I’m just starting out my copywriting business. Right now, getting clients is my number one problem.
I’ve tried job boards, and freelance sites, and cold emails. No results. I’ve had a few inquiries from potential clients, but they never led to a project. It’s very possible I’m not good at talking to prospects. I’m working on that.
Mostly I just don’t know where to look for clients.
I’m a financial copywriter, and aside from the big publications whose sales letters I’m studying, I’m not sure where I can find these people who need financial copy.
I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong, or where I’m not looking when I should be.
First, here’s how and why most copywriters fail in approaching clients…
Most copywriters — including those getting started in direct response — have the “job-seeker” mentality.
That is, they think they’re looking for a job.
Which means, they treat it like looking for a job.
In other words, they look for a client who is actively seeking candidates to do a writing assignment.
THIS IS TERRIBLE!
It’s just wrong on so many levels. And when you approach getting copywriting clients this way — ESPECIALLY if you’re a direct response copywriter — you’re not going to get any gigs.
I’ve shared this before, but this is basically “Will Write For Food” — or WWFF for short.
When you approach copywriting this way, you have ZERO credibility or power in selling what you do.
You’re basically begging for table scraps. Willing to write whatever comes along.
Literally ANY direct and specific offer you can make for a piece of copywriting you’re good at and that the client needs is better than this approach. Because an offer gives them something to consider.
On the other hand, if you’re just asking for work, you’re creating a problem for them, instead of solving one. You’re throwing the ball in their court, saying, “Please, take some time out of your busy schedule to think of what I might be good at, and give me that work.”
You’re also asking THEM to value that, which, hint, will lead to a VERY LOW VALUE.
All the work and all the risk of the transaction are on their side of it. Which is exactly the wrong way to go.
Is there a better way?
Here’s how I got in the door at one client, and got paid tens of thousands of dollars…
And remember: this is one story of many, where I’ve successfully used this method.
So, there was one client, Lee Bellinger, whose universe I’d been bouncing off of for a few years.
I’d met him at conferences, and we didn’t end up working together.
He randomly connected with me through another copywriter, and we didn’t end up working together.
We’d exchanged emails, and we didn’t end up working together.
Then, one day, I decided to change that.
So I looked at Lee’s products and at his marketing. And I thought of an idea that might work to sell some of his stuff.
I sat down one afternoon, and cranked it out.
By that I mean, I opened up a word document, and wrote a headline and lead amounting to somewhere around 1,000 words. Roughly one-tenth of what the sales letter would end up being, if he wanted me to write one. And enough to give him a really good perspective on whether he liked my idea and my writing.
Then, I sent it off, with a note saying something like, “Hey Lee, I think the attached lead could really work for selling your products. What do you think?”
We were on the phone that day…
There was very little negotiation.
He was uncomfortable with my fee, but willing to pay it.
He loved the copy.
He wanted it to sell his product.
And he wanted me to finish it.
So we ironed out the details. And before long, I got a check in the mail and was working on the project.
That lead did work. In fact, in one test, it indexed at a response rate of 230% compared to his control. In other words, the response MORE THAN DOUBLED.
I went on to do multiple other projects with Lee.
I earned tens of thousands in fees. PLUS tens of thousands in royalties.
We sold over $1 million worth of his products.
All thanks to me putting in maybe an afternoon’s worth of work to turn an idea I had into a lead, and send it off.
Here’s what you can learn from my profitable story…
First off, sending some copy for a client, for their business, is actually giving them a solution to their problem.
Every great direct response marketer realizes that one of the toughest and most important selling jobs is coming up with new big ideas to frame their sales message.
If someone doesn’t bring that to the table, they’re not going to make a very good copywriter.
Writing ability is secondary. And for some successful copywriters, it’s even a FAR second.
The ability to find and present the IDEA that will make the sale is how you move markets.
If you show them that you’re able to do that, you’re offering at least a present, one-time solution to this enduring problem.
Not only that, this approach shows them what kind of writing you can do on your own.
Samples are deceiving because the client never knows how much of the work is yours, and how much comes from someone else.
But if you write a lead for their product, it’s a pretty pure sample of your work, as it would be presented to them.
Between the compelling idea and the writing sample, you’re taking away two of the big risks of hiring a copywriter for the first time.
Not only that, you’re also establishing credibility.
If your idea is good and your writing is decent, you’re giving them a way to judge any claims you have of being a good copywriter.
Since it’s easier to say you’re a good copywriter than to actually be one, this show-don’t-tell approach will carry much more weight than even the biggest claims.
A quick note on power and positioning…
One thing you’ll run into if you tell others you’re using this approach is that they’ll tell you that you should never do work for free.
I usually don’t, these days. Because I’m established and have background and a track record and relationships to not have to.
But let’s get real…
If you’re not doing paid work right now, you should get gigs in whatever way you can.
You’re going to be working for them in some way or another.
And if your writing is good, this is an incredibly fast and powerful way to get gigs.
And unlike calls for submissions or spec assignments that can turn into a cattle call, this proactive approach can be done in a way that protects your personal power and positioning as an expert copywriter.
An expert copywriter should always be thinking in terms of how they can sell a product…
Even a product they’re not selling for a living.
And so a copywriter that’s constantly thinking in that way will naturally come across good potential clients, and have that spark an idea for copy.
If you put together a rough draft of that idea in headline and lead form and send it to them, you can do it in a way that protects your expert status.
You simply do it with the frame of offering the idea and copy as an an avenue for VOLUNTARY COLLABORATION (rather than for completion as an employee or on assignment).
That is, you’re saying, “Hey, I think this could sell a lot of your product. If you agree, we should do something together.”
There’s no desperation or neediness. It’s just like jotting off a note to a friend.
Except if they like what they see, they’re going to send you a ton of money.
Not only that, this approach maintains your power because it makes approaching the client about the idea and the copy, rather than about them hiring you and you needing money.
A handful of other thoughts in response to the question…
First off, job boards and freelance sites can be OKAY.
But they tend to be cattle calls.
There are dozens of other copywriters lining up in that client’s inbox.
The only way to win in that environment is to be so much better than everyone else that you can’t be ignored.
That’s hard to do.
It can be done, and I got my first financial publisher as a client that way.
But if they’re hiring two copywriters (let’s be generous), it’s likely they’re turning two dozen away.
I’ve done it from the client side. I know.
Cold pitches also tend not to work well, UNLESS they’re tailored like the approach above.
My approach is not the only way. I called it “one powerful way” acknowledging that.
But a cold pitch that says, “I’m a copywriter, do you have work I can do for you?” is WWFF.
And it doesn’t work.
Your client wants to see that you’re a marketer. That you’re an idea person. That you know how to sell. That you know what kind of pitches appeal. That you can put together an offer. That you can cater your message to your prospect’s needs. That you can solve problems instead of creating them.
You really have to match your pitch to the potential client.
And if you do that?
Well, if you get good at that — using my method above, or something similarly-powerful — you’ll have as much work as you can handle.
When the quality is there (the quality if your pitch, ideas, and writing), the clients will appear.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,