It helps to start with the end in mind. Maybe you NEED a client tomorrow. Maybe you’re not in a massive rush and would be happy to wait a bit, find the right fit and work with someone long-term. Maybe you want a whizzy full-stack paid ads to VSL autopilot system to get loads of clients on demand.
Maybe you also want a calendar full of calls with timewasters, a psyche riddled with anxiety and a debilitating relationship with Adderall. What I’m optimizing for with a one-person writing business are things like long-term cash flow, spontaneous travel, mid-week massages, no alarm clock and lunch in the sun.
Here are 4 ways to get clients.
There is a “chicken and egg” element to this. Testimonials, references and recommendations are the most powerful ways to hook clients. But in the beginning you need to acquire a client without any of this to back you up. If this is you I would focus on two things: risk reversal and samples. Risk reversal is when you say to someone, “I will ghostwrite for you and guarantee 10% month-on-month follower growth or you don’t pay me a thing.” Samples are when you do the work upfront and offer it to them. Ads, emails, landing pages, tweets, whatever it may be. Remember: people don’t care about credentials. They care about ONE thing: can you show them a piece of copy similar to what they need?
My first cold email campaign made me $13,840. You see people pitching “Build a 6-Figure Copywriting Business . . . Without Sending any Cold Outreach!” or “Inside! Why Cold Email Doesn’t Work (and what to do instead)”— but these are positioning tricks. Sleights of hand. You don’t hate cold email. You hate sucking at cold email. If you’re good at it, it’s the quickest and most direct way to get clients. But DO NOT write them one-by-one if this is your first move. Precision comes later. Technology exists to be leveraged and volume is your friend. I wrote a 4-email sequence that I plugged into Mailshake with the email addresses of 500 health business owners that I bought for $25 from a Fiverr gig. I expected a few people to bite on email 3 or 4, but a chiropractor booked themselves into my calendar for a call after the first email. We ended up working together for nearly a year. It was only 53 words long, but that email did the trick. Things that make you good: leverage tech, make them curious and include links to your calendar and LinkedIn profile in your emails. Being good is a powerful feeling.
Deals happen in the DMs, but you need game. My first client? Someone I was following announced he wanted to hire a copywriter. Anyone interested should DM him. I was in a hammock in Costa Rica when I saw the message, so I was fairly – perhaps literally – detached from the outcome. I had to stand out. I sent him a message. He was either going to block me or hire me. The reason I got it was I didn’t care if I didn’t. That was my first direct response copywriting client. The key with DMs is you have to tailor your approach and you have to be bold. Study their business. Look for flaws in the marketing. Think about what’s in it for them. “Have you considered doing this?” Fifteen minutes a day researching a perfect client will serve you much better than spamming people with, “I like the value you’re putting out there, and I’m willing to write 3 emails for you. And all I want you to do is update me on the results they get you. Sound good?” This is a DM I received last week. Less of an offer, more of a cack-handed insult. I am asking you to be better.
You can attract perfect-fit clients with competence-proving content. I call this “Hot Authority.” The antithesis to cold email. Post 3-5 tweets a day about general copywriting tidbits you’ve studied, insights, and results you’ve achieved for your clients. Check Twitter analytics. Re-post any tweet with an engagement rate > 3% on Facebook and LinkedIn. Join a couple of groups on Facebook where your vertical hangs out. Like and comment on their posts. When they like or comment on your posts, add them as friends. Make sure your calendar link is front and centre in your profile. If you do this consistently, people will start to book calls with you.
Something to think about: Most of you would be familiar with Naval Ravikant’s famous Twitter thread, How to Get Rich (without getting lucky.) The final tweet reads:
“When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place.”
I feel the same about client work.
Unless your goal is to build an agency, you don’t want to be dripping in clients.
You want to build long-term relationships with people you like and to be able to sleep at night.
Once you’ve settled on an acquisition method that suits you, the hardest part is not getting clients, it’s keeping them.
But that’s for another day.
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