I wish I had a magic wand that would fix all the injustices of the world…
Because short of that, I don’t know what would actually fix the situation we’re about to discuss. I’ll do my best to try to offer good advice.
But at the same time, I recognize one glaring issue. The world is fundamentally unfair. That’s how reality works. Not everyone has the same opportunity. And if I try to gloss this over with some feel-good advice and tell you otherwise, I’m doing you a disservice.
So I’ll start from my best interpretation of reality, as I understand it — and in all its unfairness.
And we’ll see where we go from there.
It’s Mailbox Monday…
This is the weekly issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets where I answer YOUR questions. About marketing, copywriting, business-building, your career, sales, personal development, and more.
And as you’ll see from today’s question, yes, that includes the difficult ones.
If you have a question (difficult or otherwise) you’d like me to answer, submit it here.
I have a pressing need for getting clients online.
I am a freelancer with a current focus on Editing and proofreading, alongside Article writing.
I’ve signed on to different platforms like Upwork and freelancer.com but it s either my application gets rejected or I cannot have any access to bid for projects.
While I still study my prospective niche market for the copywriting business I intend to venture into, I hope to have a breakthrough and be financially okay with the one I already have.
Some other platforms I tried don’t accept application from someone from my country. It is frustrating. But giving up isn’t the answer.
I plead with you for guidance, or should you have the insight on how or where I can get clients, please help me with a breakthrough.
First, the genetic lottery and playing the hand you’re dealt…
I really appreciate when Warren Buffett talks about “winning the genetic lottery.” He became the world’s richest person (a title given up in part because he is now giving away so much money), he says, because of this.
He was born a white (racial majority), upper-middle-class male in a relatively connected family in a safe city in the middle of a wealthy nation near the beginning of the biggest economic expansion in history. This luck of birth led to countless opportunities he would never have had if even one of these elements had changed.
The other 7-billion-plus of us did not draw the same genetic lottery numbers of birth as Buffett, and so our life experiences are vastly different than his.
That said, there’s another factor at play here, too.
Consider a game of poker. Unlike the lottery, poker is a game of both chance and skill. At the beginning of a poker game, you’re dealt a hand. And if it comes down to it in the end, your hand will play some role in dictating your outcome.
But unlike the lottery, you can play a weak hand strong, or a strong hand weak. You can miss out on incredible opportunities that luck or fortune has provided if you squander what you’ve been given. Or you can enjoy a massive win with a weak hand, by playing it just right.
Consider the winner of a poker hand who was dealt “nothing.” If played right, they could get all opponents (with better hands) to fold through betting and other subtler “head game” strategies, and win.
No matter what you do in poker, you can’t change the hand you’re dealt. A 7-deuce off-suit in Hold ‘Em with no 7s or 2s on the table is a terrible hand. But you get to choose how you play it, and there’s still a chance of winning.
The thing is, you have to play to that hand.
If you’re dealt winning cards, you can get away with playing to not lose. That is, you simply stay in the game and you’ve got a good chance of taking the pot.
If you’re dealt losing cards, the only way you take that pot is by playing to win. And your game better be on-point.
Here’s the thing. And I know this is not news to my readers who are born in — what in PC language are called — developing nations.
If you were NOT born in the US in family where English was the primary language spoken at home, you’re at an immediate disadvantage trying to get hired by American direct response companies for language-related positions such as copywriting, editing, proofreading, etc.
You didn’t win the genetic lottery. You are not playing with the best hand on the table.
I’m not saying you lose. You’re just starting from behind.
(A similar but smaller limitation applies if you grew up speaking a heavy regional or cultural dialect or with a heavy accent, even if your primary language is English.)
I intentionally did not proofread or edit this question. Because it specifically came from someone saying they are applying for proofreading and editing positions.
Now, I’m not the best at proofreading my own work before it goes out. And there are frequently typos and other issues that show up in these quick-written daily articles.
And I’m not hiring a proofreader either, even though I know it would benefit me to get a second set of eyes on these articles before they go out.
However I can tell you that the writer of this email would NOT be my first choice for an editor or proofreader gig. Much less a writing gig. Because of certain specific errors that are likely a mix of…
— Writing quickly and not considering that every written communication will be scrutinized if you want to be a proofreader or editor.
— English is likely the author’s second language (or third, or…). This isn’t a dig — I have HUGE respect for people who can speak and write multiple languages, especially this well, as that’s something I can’t do. However it comes across as likely based on a few language choices.
— Some other factors such as learning English from people who are not native American-English speakers, or some other reason that leads to the writing feeling a little off.
Again, I have a TON of respect for the person who wrote this and the fact that they’re trying, and know what I believe is a non-native language as well as this. But if I’m in a position to hire a writer, proofreader, or editor for an American company, these elements automatically go against them. That’s the cards that have been dealt.
Even worse, this person says that they’re from a country where they can’t even get access to US freelance job sites. Which, again, reflects major challenges of the hand that was dealt.
I believe, based on a variety of factors (especially their name, which I’ve kept private), that they are from a country in Africa.
There is a natural skepticism in America against hiring people in Africa, even for freelance work. You can thank the person who started the “Nigerian Prince” scam — which has become the butt of jokes at this point.
Again, this says nothing about YOU. But in the poker game that is the American freelance market, this is yet another bad card in the hand that you were dealt. Even if you’re completely capable of doing a certain job, you will have to work twice as hard to even compete against others.
Okay, time (and this article) is running long, so let me pivot to my best advice.
You know and clients that would hire you know that you face all of these difficulties. They know the challenges of playing the hand you’ve been dealt.
You can’t hide it or pretend reality is anything different.
You must be honest.
Explain your situation. Explain that you recognize your challenges. Explain how you’re working to offset or overcome them. Explain why you’ll be successful both in spite of and because of having to work through these obstacles.
(First: if you’re going to sell your services as a proofreader and editor, every email you send should be well-proofread and edited, based on the recipient’s language and dialect.)
And then do your very best work to make sure you perform as well as or better than someone who was dealt a much better hand.
This will definitely be hard.
If you succeed, it will be worth it. But it will be hard.
Develop from within…
America has the world’s most-developed direct response market.
That means that as a whole, the opportunities are “bigger” and “better.”
But what if you could only play against people who’ve been dealt a similar hand to you?
The way you do this is to consider at least splitting your business between American and local markets, between English markets and markets where you can work in your primary language and dialect.
It may be a smaller market. But what you lose in size you can make up for in ease-of-access and ability to come out on top.
Keeping with the poker analogy, winning the small pot may actually give you more money in the end than losing the big one.
If I were to play a casual game of poker, I might win and take home a few bucks, or even a few hundred. If I were to try to compete at the World Series of Poker, I can pretty much guarantee I’d go home broke. Just because it has the bigger pot doesn’t mean it’s where I should play.
I don’t know if this is the breakthrough you were looking for, but it is the absolute best advice I can give you.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,