Winning new copywriting clients is more than selling to them.
It’s about showing the potential value you can bring to their business above and beyond the mere action of plonking words down on paper.
I recently received this glowing testimonial from a new copywriting client. I’m not sharing this because I want to blow my own trumpet (well, OK, yes I do a little bit) but because there’s a backstory attached.
TLDR – the Business owner had a bad experience with a copywriter. I won the contract for copywriting her new website via sharing some initial advice and expertise for free. The result? One delighted client plus faith in the copywriting community restored.
“I met Helen through a networking event where I was really impressed with her expertise and knowledge of SEO and copywriting.
I was in the midst of building a new website but due to a terrible experience with another copywriter, I had been procrastinating with the wording and hiring a professional.
After a free consultation with Helen, I was absolutely convinced that she could help me and alleviate my worries as well as improve my appalling SEO.
I explained my situation and she was so very kind. She held my hand through the whole process. She was thorough, professional, quick and above all, she delivered exactly what I wanted. She captured the essence of my brand, my tone and my personality perfectly to pitch to my ideal client.
I cannot wait to launch my new website so that everyone can read Helen’s amazing work. I cannot recommend her highly enough!”
We had a fairly typical post-networking 1-2-1 follow up call where we talked about our respective businesses.
It was during this call that she shared her previous poor experience with a freelance copywriter. As she described it to me, she’d handed over a lot of money and got very little in return.
She had a new website under construction but was understandably a little sceptical about dipping her toes back into outsourcing the copy again.
Yes, it was bad. Actually it was practically non-existent
I looked at her website and – as disloyal as it felt to this unknown colleague – I had to agree.
There was very little written content there, and what was there was nothing more than dull standard industry clichés and platitudes, with nothing to differentiate this lady from anyone else in a highly competitive market.
I niche as an SEO copywriter, so I shared some hints and tips about optimisation and offered to do a little keyword research for her pro bono.
A few weeks later, she called me and asked me to quote for new website copy. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate to her how copywriters should deliver and the value she could get from using our services.
It’s all about the research
When starting a new project my process is to understand 3 key things:
1. exactly what is required (e.g. number of pages)
2. who the target audience is*
3. what the client’s ultimate objectives are (e.g. what the main call to action is)
[*I am constantly amazed/dismayed by the number of business owners who cannot answer this question. HINT: saying “All men and women aged 24-55” isn’t particularly helpful.]
That gives me enough to be able to scope out the effort and quote a fixed fee. In this case, it helped that we’d already had a conversation about her plans for a new website, plus I’d already done some research.
Once the client confirms the go-ahead (via a signed contract) I ask for a detailed copy brief to be completed. My briefs are how I get “under the skin” of the client’s business, ambitions, ideal customer, brand, tone of voice etc.
Some clients are a little daunted by the briefing template because I do ask for lots of information, but I will always offer to complete the brief jointly with them via a Zoom or phone call.
Then all they need to do is read and approve it. This isn’t as time-consuming for me as it sounds since I work from these briefing documents every day and I know how to tease out the insights I need.
Once the brief is agreed, we agree on the schedule. My standard process is for three drafts, i.e. an initial draft plus two rounds of amends (I needed to add this in having been burned badly in my early freelance days).
For this lady, it took only two drafts to get it 100% right. And she was beyond delighted, as her testimonial bears out.
So how can a copywriter add value?
From a copywriter’s viewpoint there are three key takeaways from this story:
1. It’s all about value. Copywriting should never only about getting a certain number of words down in the shortest possible time (that’s what copy mills are for).
If you have particular expertise (for me it’s in SEO) then you should offer it willingly and proactively with no expectation of reward. It’s how you get a reputation for kindness and being the “go-to” person for advice, plus it’s how you get referrals.
2. Do your homework. As copywriters, we can demonstrate our ability to add value through the dialogue we have with a client long before any agreements are signed.
By all means, have a standard proposition but be prepared to offer more and ask pertinent questions. Sometimes this means making your prospective client think about their business in new ways, but that can only be a good thing for them.
It doesn’t mean giving away the family farm for nothing, it means showing that you have the ability to make your words do wonders for their business.
3. Have a process. Getting your client’s requirements documented upfront is always a good idea. I sometimes get push-back from clients when I ask them to fill in a copy brief, so I offer to complete it jointly.
Occasionally I’ll also get a comment along the lines of “Why am I having to tell you all this? It feels like I’m doing the work for you”.
So I diplomatically explain that the more effort we put in at the earliest stages, the better the end result will be. Then if they still resist at least I have a record that I tried, in case there are any issues later on.
This project was a long time in the making and I probably put more effort into it than my bank balance will attest.
BUT I have a delighted client, a detailed and flattering testimonial, and a fan for life who – in her own emailed words to me – will “sing your praises all over and wherever you want me to”.