How to grow your copywriting
business — one client at a time!
I remember my first copywriting job. I had hung out my shingle as a “copywriter” for almost a year, but still hadn’t gotten anybody to hire me. I was supporting myself financially as a consultant and creating mail plans for a few companies.
It was definitely not what I wanted to do forever — but hey, it paid the bills.
Then it happened.
I got a call from Dave — a list broker I’d worked with for many years. He had a problem he thought I could help him with.
Dave had a small but growing client who produced male potency products. The client recently discovered his buyers were over 40% African-American males. This guy had the brilliant idea he needed an African-American copywriter who would be naturally in tune to his newfound niche.
Dave was at his wits end because he didn’t know any black copywriters with a track record — so out of desperation — he suggested me. (I’m ½ Haitian, ½ German but 100% FEMALE — but I was the best he could come up with in a short period of time!)
When I talked to the client, I readily agreed with him that getting the “black perspective” would help shoot his sales through the roof. He was thrilled to find a black writer so I got the job!
Ok, right now, I need to confess…
The client’s belief you have to be a black writer to identify with the black marketplace is in my professional and personal opinion…
… pure HORSE PUCKY!
Here’s proof: You’ve probably heard of ESSENCE magazine — the magazine for today’s black woman. Well, what you may not know is the copywriter who held multi-year controls for that publication for DECADES was a 60+ year-old, mild-tempered, WHITE guy!
Another proof: My mentor, Clayton Makepeace created a kick-butt control and launched a health revolution in the women’s alternative health field. Is he a 40+ year-old peri-menopausal woman?
If so, he’s a real UGLY gal!
Here’s the real truth: “You don’t have to BE your market…You have to KNOW your market.”
The majority of the people I write to are 60+year-old white guys with serious health concerns. Do you think they care that a girl of mixed ancestry wrote the copy? No!
They bought the products because my copy connected with them and I delivered sales promises that solved their immediate health problems!
Sorry… I digress… now where was I? Oh yeah…
The secret to getting and keeping good clients!
By the way, not only did I land that first copywriting job — but my package beat the pants off the current control!
What’s more, the previous control was written by a very successful, white, MALE copywriter. I felt great and my self-esteem shot through the roof!
Now — I had a story to share with other prospective clients!
Before that first job, when a potential client asked me for samples — I didn’t have any.
Now I can tell them, “Sure, let me send you my latest control…” Who cares if it was my ONLY control!
That first job quickly opened the door for me to write for other smaller clients. And eventually I had enough experience and successes to knock on the doors of the “Big Dogs” — Healthy Directions… Soundview… Health Resources… True Health… Boardroom…Rodale… Weiss, etc…
So learn these 5 lessons from my humble beginnings…
#1: Network! I didn’t get my first copywriting assignment on my own. It was a list broker from a previous job that ultimately gave me my big break.
So make sure you let EVERYONE know you’re a copywriter. If you’re smart, you’ll “niche” yourself immediately.
For example, if you’re talking to investors, tell them you write for the investment field. If you’re talking to health nuts, let them know you’re a health writer.
Eventually, you’ll really niche yourself. But right now, you’re trying to get a job — so “faux” niche-ing is ok. Remember this: If you tell them you ‘write everything,’ they’ll think, you write nothing.
#2: Don’t be a jerk! Face it, copywriting is a people field. You need people to hire you and you need people to buy what you’re selling. You’re more likely to get a job if a client likes you even if you don’t have a stellar résumé. If your personality is rough around the edges — get some sandpaper and smooth it out quickly!
If you’ve made enemies from previous employers — send them a box of chocolates and apologize. Clients don’t like to work with arrogant, self-centered or mean copywriters. This is a true story:
One major health publisher confided in me a few years ago that they refused to work with a highly successful copywriter solely because he’s a “butt hole.” Ouch!
That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of royalties that guy is missing out on — not because he’s not a talented writer — but because he can’t get along with people – a basic skill he shoulda learned in kindergarten! Don’t be like him!
#3: Learn the art of persuasion. Here’s how master copywriter-extraordinaire Gary Bencivenga defines persuasion:
Solve an Urgent Problem + Unique promise + Unquestionable proof + User-friendly proposition = Persuasion
That means to be a good copywriter, you have to know how to persuade people. You gotta identify their immediate problem… show them a viable solution… support your claims… and give them an unbeatable offer! Do that — and you’ll be successful in this biz!
So make sure you learn from the masters. Read…Read…READ! Devour mailing promotions you get in your mailbox. Why did they grab your attention? Why did they suck? How can you make it better?
And keep reading all the cool and FREE stuff successful copywriters are willing to GIVE you. For example…
… In every issue of CopyStar, I tell you what I’m doing RIGHT NOW as a working copywriter to create winning packages for my client…
… Megastar copywriter Clayton Makepeace gives you the equivalent of a master’s degree in copywriting when you check out all the FREE stuff he’s got on his Total Package website: www.makepeacetotalpackage.com…
… Copywriter icon Bob Bly delivers insightful and sage advice for direct marketers and internet marketers in his FREE Direct Response Letter at www.bly.com …
… And AWAI’s Golden Thread is a must read for new copywriters! Get it FREE at: http://www.awaionline.com
Man, I woulda given my right boob for that kind of info when I was starting out — but you get it all for LESS than a PENNY!
Are you taking advantage of this gold mine of information that teaches you how to make your copy easy to read… believable… full of proof elements… and impossible to say NO to? If not, DO IT!
#4: Don’t go after the “Big Dogs” while you’re still a puppy! You probably think success means getting the star clients like Healthy Directions, Peak Pure & Natural, True Health, Agora, Boardroom, Health Resources or Rodale to give you a shot at writing copy. But slow your roll, buddy! Here’s why:
When you work with these major players, you’re competing against the crème de la crème copywriters. And the competition is cut-throat, to say the least. Heck — I try to avoid it as much as possible! Here’s why:
Your odds of beating these guys are slimmer than a bikini on an anorexic model! Plus, if you get a shot and blow it, you may not get another chance for a long time. Here’s my recommendation:
Pay your dues with the smaller clients.
Search the web and your mailbox for clients who want to compete with the major players — and write for those folks. You’ll have a better shot at getting the job. After you’ve got a few controls under your belt, then go after the Big Dogs. You could say something like this:
“Well, Mr. Health Resources, I’ve got a control for one of your competitors. I can write a control for you, too.”
See? If I was Mr. Health Resources, you’d have my attention.
A success story in the same competing field — no matter how small the company — will get the attention of the big mailers.
By the way, I know Mr. Health Resources personally. This is no joke. You will get his attention — and possibly even a writing assignment!
#5: Don’t be afraid to fire a client! I know I’m supposed to help you get clients — but it’s just as important to know how to fire your clients too.
Honestly, I’ve never fired a client. Instead, I’ve done one of two things:
1) Raised my fee so high the client thinks I’m crazy and he can’t afford me…
… and if he agrees to pay my ridiculously high rate, then I adjust MY attitude and consider the additional income as combat pay. Or…
2) I make myself unavailable. A statement like, “My schedule is completely booked. You can confirm a slot for 2020 with a 50% non-refundable deposit if you like…” usually gets the message across in a tactful way.
But there is a lesson to learn from this:
Not all potential clients are a good match for your copywriting business.
If a client:
- Stresses you out…
- Prevents and stifles your creativity…
- Can’t make final decisions…
- Makes unreasonable demands…
- Is verbally abusive…
- Consistently pays his bill late or not at all…
Cut him loose and FAST! You became a freelancer to get out of the corporate crapola. Don’t get sucked back into it!
On the other hand, when you find a match — a really good client who keeps you busy and pays his bills on time — then spoil the heck out of him!
He’s a virtual “needle in a haystack” — so hold on to him!
Deliver strong copy every time… beat your deadlines… offer additional services such as consulting, copy chiefing, or critiquing other packages, etc…
And tell him you enjoy working with him and appreciate his business.
The beauty of this business is that one client can easily generate a five… six… even seven-figure income — and it doesn’t have to be one of the Big Dogs in the industry either! Here’s my secret:
My smaller companies – and start-ups – who are aggressive in the mail are delivering much fatter royalty checks than the more well-known mailers! With the kick butt work we’re doing together — these guys are soon to become the new and upcoming Big Dogs in the industry!
All you need is just 1 or 2 of these types of clients and your business will take off like a rocket!
Yours for stellar results,
Million-Dollar Copywriter & Consultant