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As a well-established freelance copywriter I often find myself in the pleasantly uncomfortable position of having more work than I can handle on my own. My existing clients keep me pretty busy so I’m frequently forced to turn away any new business that comes in.
When that happens, I have about a half-dozen freelance copywriters to whom I regularly refer business. They’re talented and experienced. I know they will take good care of my referrals. But occasionally, they don’t handle my clients the way I would, and I don’t hesitate to let them know.
Michael is a senior-level copywriter who recently started working with me. He has a specialized expertise in writing on transportation and logistics topics. So when I had an inquiry come in from that industry, I knew exactly where to send it.
Once I introduced the client to Michael, the client requested to see some writing samples of work Michael had done in the industry. I assumed that Michael would send him some, as I know he has plenty, but instead Michael was focused on his own agenda.
Here’s what he wrote, followed by my response, which describes the approach I use to convert leads into sales.
Nice to meet you virtually.
Attached is a questionnaire for me to learn more about you, your company, and the project you are wanting. This will help me determine how I can help you and meet your expectations.
Please complete it, send it back, and we’ll get started on your project.
I didn’t like that response at all, so I quickly dashed off an email to Michael to let him know my thoughts.
The client specifically requested to writing samples of your work in the trucking industry. Instead of doing so, you asked him to fill out a questionnaire. That’s not likely to go over well. You haven’t been awarded the job yet. The client doesn’t know you. And he’s bound to resent being asked to do written work; that’s why he’s hiring a copywriter.
You’ve got to win him over, get him to trust you, give him confidence that you’re the right copywriter for him. You have to do what he asks before he’s going to be willing to do what you ask.
Do you have any samples or links you can send him?
I sent samples as you requested. But I need to learn about his business in order to write about it.
Now here’s my final response to Michael. The approach I describe has been successful for me. You may find it useful to adopt some of the principles in selling your own copywriting services.
Yes, of course you need to learn about his business in order to write about it. But first he wants to learn about you before he agrees to give you the job. Again, you have to do what he wants before he’s going to be willing to do what you want. That’s how the game is played.
I know interacting with my clients may be different than how you’ve worked in the past in your corporate jobs where work assignments just showed up at your desk. But you have to remember these people find me through a Google search. What could be more impersonal?
The jobs I send over are not done deals. The clients don’t know me, and once they finally get hold of me, they’re often not thrilled that I’m not available and instead are referring them to someone else. You’re going to need to put in some effort to win them over and get them to trust you.
A quick analogy. Think back to your dating days. Imagine someone you barely know wants to set you up with a blind date. You’re hesitant but agree to it as does the girl. You meet your date, introduce yourself and immediately ask her to have sex with you.
The answer will almost certainly be no. She doesn’t know you. She doesn’t trust you. And she hasn’t yet established any kind of emotional connection to you. There’s no way she’s saying yes.
If you want to win her over, you need to romance her a bit. Maybe go out to dinner or get drinks. I’m not saying be phony. You want to be your authentic self. I’m saying you need to talk so you two can get to know each other, find things in common, establish a connection.
If you’re successful in doing that, she may agree to have sex with you. Try skipping all those steps and not only will she refuse to have sex with you, she’ll won’t even agree to a second date.
The clients I refer are essentially blind dates. They have to get to know you, trust you and establish a connection. That can be done via email or phone. But only when that’s done will they take any steps forward, such as filling out a questionnaire or sending you a deposit.
Quick story. Another freelance copywriter who writes for my clients began working with a personal coach. He told her she needed to “assume the sale” when dealing with new client inquiries.
Suddenly, on her letters of introduction, I saw things like, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’ll be handling your project for you. Please let me know where to send the invoice for the deposit.”
Ugh! Too strong. Too pushy. Her closing rate went to zero. Literally zero. I stopped sending her referrals. She called and we had a long talk. She agreed to revamp her letters of introduction and to be much less aggressive.
She would not assume the sale, despite what her coach advised her. And she would send relevant samples to almost every client before asking them to commit. She now closes nearly every new business lead I send her. She’s amazing!
The bottom line is that if you don’t play the romance game, and by that I mean putting your heart into helping your clients and winning them over, you won’t close deals. These clients won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. There’s certainly no shortage of freelance copywriters, so arrogance and entitlement have no place in selling our services.
Granted, not every client is going to be a winner. Not every lead is going to convert. But if you’re willing to invest the time and energy in getting to know your client and letting them get to know you, you’ll have a much higher success rate.
There in a nutshell is how I get new business prospects to become clients of my copywriting services. I’m happy to say that Michael got the message and developed a different approach to dealing with my referrals and is now getting good results.