Wanna make more money?
Yes? Great! Especially if you’re a consultant, copywriter, or other “expert” who provides services directly to clients.
Does this lesson still apply if you run some other kind of business? Absolutely. But the lesson is especially relevant to anyone who is in an expert-consultant role, AND that’s the majority of my readers, so we’ll focus on that for today.
Let’s start with a question…
How comfortable are you exercising control over your clients?
I’ve found that the fast majority of people who want to be copywriters, are copywriters-in-training, or even have started their copywriting career are NOT comfortable taking control. They’re not comfortable taking on a leadership role in a client situation. And they’re definitely not comfortable telling clients what to do.
If that makes you uncomfortable, you better change, pronto. Either change that attitude, or change careers.
It’s your job to be the adult in the room, working with clients. It’s your job to control the situation, beginning-to-end.
What does that mean?
Well, let’s look at a common situation among copywriters. The assignment to write a sales letter. I’ve seen this so often it hurts. A fledgling copywriter is on the hunt for clients. They go around pitching their copywriting services. They finally find someone who is willing to pay them table scraps to write.
They’re so excited. And so they ask the client what they want, what will make them happy. The client says, “I want an 8-page sales letter about this, that makes this promise, and that follows all these rules. Oh and while you’re at it, I want it to talk about how awesome, I, your client, am, and to also say nice things about my mom.”
“But your mom has nothing to do with the product, the prospect, or selling the product to the prospect,” the confused copywriter replies.”
“You better talk nice about my mom!” The frustrated client shuts down the copywriter’s dissent. And then, the kicker, “And I won’t be happy unless this makes me a million dollars.”
At this point, the copywriter — who should really be a consultant with sales copy as a work product — has already lost all control.
It should come as no surprise then that the copywriter ends up having to write 15 drafts, the client isn’t happy with any of them, the final draft is a horrendous excuse for a sales letter, it doesn’t sell squat, and the client doesn’t end up paying the remainder of the project fee, or any royalties.
Here’s the saddest part. If that copywriter had exercised control in the situation, and properly played the part of expert-consultant, the results would have been better all-around, and the client may have gotten the results they wanted.
How to take control and be a true expert-consultant…
Taking control starts with attitude and action well in advance of the sale. How much you control the situation before the sale will dictate how much control you can exercise after the sale. And this is all a byproduct of how much control you exercise over YOURSELF.
I’ve broken this down into five major principles that will transform the level of control you have in every client interaction, and we’ll get to how that will increase your income.
- Be in-demand.
First and foremost, be in control of your time. Limit your time spent on social media, and in distracted activities. Also, limit your time availability. Don’t be readily available to answer emails — sometimes this means delaying answering emails even if you could do it right now. Don’t pick up the phone unless the caller pre-scheduled the call.
My favorite tool to control your time and availability is a call scheduling tool such as TimeTrade. It’s maybe only second to having a scheduling assistant who handles your appointments for you — but I actually think the online tool is more convenient for all parties (having paid an assistant to do it, for a period of time). This allows you to make time available on your calendar for scheduled calls, and gives you a place to refer people who want to know when they can talk to you.
With this, you probably also want to consider making your services available only after an application. This conveys limited access, and lets you gather information about potential clients prior to even an initial phone call.
Think: what would someone who is in-demand do to limit access to them, and to control that access? Then, do it. Sometimes putting the cart before the horse is the only way to get moving.
- Be the expert.
This is mindset and behavior.
Among the world’s top hypnosis trainers, there’s a lesson that’s frequently taught, that you must “Be the hypnotist.” If it sounds a little like Yoda, I think you’re right — but I also think the lesson is right.
If you don’t behave as if you already fill the role they want you to fill, how can you expect them to respond in the way they should, to someone who fills that role? In other words, if you’re not “the hypnotist,” why would you expect them to get hypnotized? Or, if you’re not “the expert,” why would you expect them to respond to you as if you were?
If you’re selling your skills and knowledge on a subject, you must behave as if you hold that expertise. Which makes you the expert. Again, this sounds like I’m telling you to “fake it ‘til you make it.” But if you do your homework ahead of time and have every reason to believe you should be able to get your clients the result they desire, I don’t even think you’re faking it — I think you’re doing your best, using the resources you’ve gathered.
- Be kind but firm.
This goes back to being the grown up in the room.
I try to be the nice dad in 95+% of my interactions with my kids. I’m friendly, I’m kind. I try to understand, and to take their perspective on things. But in certain moments, I make it abundantly clear who is in charge, and what needs to happen. I want to be a friendly dad. But I’m not the kind of friend-dad who will let them get away with things they shouldn’t.
This is a very healthy ratio to have with clients. If they’re hiring you to be an expert, you shouldn’t just behave as a friend would. And you certainly shouldn’t behave as you would if you were a rank-and-file employee, who keeps their job by following rules. You must be friendly and kind, and try to understand where they’re coming from. But when they’re wrong, you must be unabashedly firm in calling them on it.
- Be confident.
If this isn’t clear by now, this all requires confidence.
Sometimes it’s the kind of outside confidence that comes with an internal shaking-in-your-boots, did-I-just-say-that, freaked-out struggle. But as you go, you’ll find it’s a confidence that comes from knowing that you’re acting with integrity, providing the highest and best value you know how, basing your recommendations in your experienced best practices, and doing what you believe to be right for the client, even and especially when it’s not the path they’d choose for themselves.
(Also, consider that true confidence only comes after doing what’s uncomfortable — following Dan Sullivan’s 4 C’s that I wrote about here.)
- Charge more.
If you’re regularly applying the four other principles I’ve outline above, this one grows far easier. But, it also helps you follow the ones above.
One of my favorite phrases, that I picked up long ago, is “reassuringly expensive.” Most people don’t respect cheap consultants. A business that hires the cheap consultant will also be prone to nitpicking and micro-managing their work. (Just like they would with a minimum wage employee.)
If you want to be treated as the expert, given control, and respected, charge more.
Following every principle in this list of five creates a feedback loop that continually increases your control AND your income.
Let me provide an alternative model to the copywriter who I spoke about above, who takes an order from their client, and tries their darnedest to follow it to the letter.
The better path is to step back, and ask the client what it is they really want. Get consultative. Ask a lot of questions. More than any other consultant has ever asked them. (In most cases you should get paid for this appointment — although I will admit that with top direct response companies I’m considering working with as a copywriter that I usually do not. But that is only because they have been rigorously screened as ideal clients ahead of time.)
Then, tell them they don’t need a sales letter (because that’s never all they need). Tell them what they really need to get the result they want. Which is often a much fuller strategy. Then, create a work agreement that lays out what they need to do to get started.
This, in most cases, involves more work and a higher fee for you. But because you told them what they needed to do, instead of the other way around, they’ll give you more respect, cede more control, and pay you more.
This is a vast oversimplification of what could be a year’s worth of essays, but it’s a start, and enough for an ambitious reader to completely transform their career and life.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,