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How to get the job and keep the client

Hold on tightI just finished reading an article by Sean Platt that left me going, ‘huh?’ The article was about the importance of freelance copywriters standing out from the crowd – a huge crowd of talented writers, cheap writers, so-so writers, bad writers, good showman and on.

Platt’s answer to the dilemma was to tie a magical red bow around all of the copy you write. How did he define the red bow? Michael Stelzner (the white paper guy) left a comment that summed it up…”…it seems like you’re being a bit vague about what this ribbon is exactly here.”

Um, yeah.

So, how do you stand out, get the client and keep them? Good writing is critical – don’t fool yourself (…though we’ve all seen bad writing and someone wrote it and got paid for it, sooo…) I could write a post about tips for writing good copy – but often I think the secret to a successful copywriting business stands outside the bounds of what you can do with your keyboard. It’s not all about the writing…

  • Be professional. Don’t whine, don’t make excuses – just do what you said you were going to do. If you make things harder for the client, you will be gone. Make working with you a delight.
  • Deliver on time or early. If you’ve done any professional copywriting, then you know that clients are rarely on time. I’ve done rush website writing jobs in the last year that have yet to go live on the digital screen. Make sure that you aren’t the hold up, the client can feel free to take as long as they want. If it’s the designer that’s stalling things, don’t worry and realize that you now look even better.
  • Create and/or adhere to fair contracts. Depending on the client, you’ll have the opportunity to be the producer of the project’s contract. Make sure that you promise things you can deliver – and then do it. Protect yourself with things like Project Creep clauses. If you feel good about the contract terms, you’ll feel better as you write the project and the deal will run smoothly. If you aren’t the contracts creator, request adjustments to make the contract fair – that’s your right.
  • Over-deliver by giving referrals, sharing info, etc. If I see an article or opportunity that would benefit my client, I send it right over. If I hear that they need a designer, I offer mine. Mind you, this is part of my personality so I kind of can’t help it…and it’s a great way to offer value.
  • Find the right mix of human. Do not, I repeat, Do NOT, under any circumstances respond to, ‘How are you?’ at the beginning of a business call with, “Well, my cat died so I’m pretty bummed out because I’ve had her since I was 14 and I can’t decide if I should get a new one or wait because we’re thinking about moving and I heard it’s hard to rent with a cat and we can’t afford to buy right now because my boyfriend lost his job and….” Keep it positive and don’t be a robot. Something like, “I’m great – the sun is finally shining after a week of rain! How are you?” Always ask back – be polite.
  • Want and invite feedback. When I send a draft to a client, I include a message to the tune of, “I look forward to your feedback as always and look forward to making this website everything you hoped for…” And I totally mean it, every time. This is about the client – you are their tool, to be honest – your feelings and ego need to move aside. It’s not personal, it’s business. Act like it.

What did I forget brilliant readers ‘o mine? Weigh in, by all means…

Image credit: San Diego Shooter

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Sean Platt says:

    Hi there!

    Michael’s point was right on. Yes, the red bow is vague, but that’s because it is different for everyone. If your red bow is sterling service, and your ability to please outshines your competitors than great. Maybe it’s pricing or delivery. For me, it’s the precise arrangement of my copy. Here’s the answer I gave to Michael:

    Michael: Hi Michael, good question and of course I’d be happy to give an example.

    Yes, doing your best job does come down to great writing, but I also believe it is more than that. Whenever I write something (for myself or for a client) I try to embed some element that could only come from me; something from my writer’s bag of tricks (ticks).

    One specific thing when it comes to my own writing is my use of alliteration. Admittedly, I tended to overuse this particular quirk, of mine in the beginning, then I totally shied away from using it at all. After a year of writing, I think I’ve found a balance, and often use it to great effect.

    I try to arrange my words in a way that allows people who know me to recognize the voice of the copy before seeing the byline. With a million voices screaming on the web, this ability is something I am exceedingly proud of. We all have our favorite writers that arrange their words in a particular way. I have chosen to build my business slowly, by attracting the types of clients who think of me not just as their hired writer, but as one of their favorite writers as well. Writing copy for a paying fan, at least for me, is more than twice as rewarding.

    Here is a brief excerpt from something I wrote about writing copy for clients.

    “Anyone should be able to organize information given enough time, but a born writer can burn brilliance from bullet points by bringing the heart and soul to the surface of any subject. If you find you can write with minimal pause, proud of the prose that spills from your pen, please move forward.”

  • Sean Platt says:

    By the way, I think all your tips are excellent!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thanks, Sean – I agree that the red bow is unique to every writer…that makes great sense. And I love that last bit about writing copy for clients, very well said!

    I appreciate you stopping by and continuing the conversation…’tis how we all learn and grow.

  • Sean Platt says:

    My pleasure Julie. It is nice to know you, I’m thrilled I saw the pingback!

  • Catherine says:

    If there is a delivery time problem, notify – and notify early. Excuses after-the-fact are not in the writer’s best interest. Notification early allows for some contingency planning.


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