Getting More Business - advice for writers on writing for a living
I’m happy to share with you what I’ve done and what I’ve learned. I wrote my first news release in 1977. I went online with my first website in 1993. I’ve built up my copy writing and publicity services company at home and online over the past 15 years. You can read the story about how I created my business in the book “Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul” published by Health Communications Nov 2006. It’s titled ‘Ripples’. Fun story.
The marketing I do is pretty nominal but it is consistent, and I take baby steps to keep it going nearly every day.
I’m of the belief that if people and companies have employees doing work that you can do and have more work that you can do than they have employees available to do that work, then getting paid is easy. You just need to present them with a very desirable alternative turnkey to hiring you as an employee. Make it attractive and make it easy and it’s a done deal.
I’ve found that if they have employees doing something, then outsourcing to you is often a very attractive option. You can normally charge four to six times the hourly rate of pay that they pay full time employees to do exactly the same work, but without them having to carry the overhead that they have to carry for an employee. So if top technical or professional employees are making $50 an hour, then you can charge $200 an hour. Most companies will not bat an eye at these rates these days. You can run the numbers and see, at these rates, it’s not hard to bill over $100,000 a year and do it part-time from home. The Internet and email can be a wonderful place.
So no matter what the employees or you do, you can create a short menu of options and fees that break both the services you will provides (just like an employee performs, or the deliverables they create), and format this into a short list of the fee based time or product deliverables that you can perform or deliver on demand or by schedule. So instead of a resume, create a one page brochure that says “menu of options”. Then itemize options so people can hire you in bite size chunks of payable time or for products or services by known typical units of performance (by the hour, by the day, by the week, by the page, by the document, or whatever).
This menu allows you and the client to select what you do and price it in advance, and build this into a one page contract or an email or even a phone call.
I’ve found that the best marketing tactics that work in this business are ones that allow you to leverage professional branding with your target audience. You should not waste time, effort and money unless it brings a professional branding message in front of someone who will potentially be amenable to doing business with you. So I recommend you experiment, test and most importantly and track and analyze what you do, to identify how you are getting clients and where the biggest income streams come from. Then apply the basic rules of systematic continuous improvement to what you are doing. Simply put, if it works, do more of it, and if it doesn’t stop and do something else.
You can use my business as an example. To this day, I get most of my new business by:
> meeting people at conferences at which I exhibit, and giving short but personal consults on the fly, and once I hear what they are all about giving them recommendations that help them a little and indicate what they can get by involving me more,
> writing and publishing articles (problem solving tips articles) in magazines, to demonstrate skills, expertise, ability, knowledge and wisdom, and create desire once they realize they want more of what I can offer
> posting articles and responding to posted questions in newsgroups and on discussion lists, to do the same
> adding more free articles and free downloads to an extensive highly educational and focused website, to educate and motivate people to do more themselves, or hire me if they can’t do it themselves,
> adding more success stories and testimonials to my portfolio, to again demonstrate and affirm
> sending really value added email introductions to prospects, to supply them with a plan of action that leads them to hire me
> doing 30 minute consultations by phone, learning what clients need and delivering strategic advice and one page action plan proposals by email
> answering prospect questions as though I was already working for them,
> carefully cultivating word of mouth off prior exceptional performance,
> speaking engagements, giving workshops and training sessions for free and for fee, but only to the right targeted company or audience
> meeting people for lunch and listening to their project needs or dreams,
> sending them one page email proposals,
> building off referrals, and speaking engagements, and seeking to leverage host beneficiary relationships.
This last one is perhaps the most crucial. As you satisfy clients, of course, you can get repeat business. If you do work for a headquarters or a home office of a company with lots of offices all over the country, your host contact can lead you directly to many other prospects. You then get to pitch them all or better still, the headquarters contact shares you and everyone in that business network then contacts you. This situation can be phenomenally beneficial. Lucrative in fact. Same thing can happen with speaking engagements at associations. The local speech or workshop travels up to the headquarters.
Once every few years I create an innovative post card and do a mailing. If you want to see the one I did for Imediafax a few years ago, send me an email request and I’ll send you the pdf file. I was using it until two years ago when we stopped using the fax to send news releases and switched totally to email.
I use email, short letters and one page business proposals extensively to close deals by email and phone. I actually don’t need or use formal contracts at all. I just take credit cards and bill them at the time of performance. I take very few checks and only in advance if the client insists upon paying that way. Client satisfaction with this arrangement is nearly 100 percent for many years now.
I spend NO money on advertising at all and do not care about search engine placement or ad words. Clients who call me have either heard about me or find me online through research or referral. They basically have decided to hire me before they call me so I actually do very little selling.
I’ve actually found that in my business, the people who search using search engines aren’t the clients I seek to work with. Most of them don’t have the products or businesses that I enjoy and can be successful with. So search engine ranking and placement mean very little to me. I can be found very quickly if people search for me nonetheless.
I’ve also found that the decision to hire is based on people having convinced themselves that you offer needed value that can be acquired no where else at the costs that you present. What you need to do is just learn how to make the product or service you give remarkable and personal, unique, and phenomenally effective. You also need to learn how to communicate this to them quickly.
Do that and your business will grow consistently with everything you do. The key to enjoying yourself along the way is to simply focus on helping the people you can help the most. You also need to know when to say no to a project that is problematic and where you know won’t be able to satisfy yourself or the client. The rule should be ‘no unhappy clients’.
I learned this business model by studying a variety of other consultants and copywriters. This model is actually very easy to operate and fairly low cost. I incorporated a few years ago as a full C Corp to take advantage of the tax structure since the business bills over six figures a year. I pay myself a salary. I also just use QuickBooks Pro 2009 to do the day to day bookkeeping myself but do hire a professional accountant to do the taxes each year.
The skills I acquired to conduct my business the way I do is mostly out of books.
I just looked over my library and I highly recommend you basically commit to reading most every business, sales and marketing book published and get whatever you can out of each and every one of them. I probably spend $100 to $200 a month on books in this area and have for years. My wife says it takes more to keep me well read than it does to keep me well fed. I have a 25 year collection and I still refer back to them constantly.
My favorite book authors and the books I can point you to for the best answers to this question the most are:
* Harry Beckwith (everything he writes is golden including: Selling the Invisible, What Clients Love, The Invisible Touch, and his new one, You, Inc.)
* Bob Bly (again, anything he writes is worth owning. The Copywriter’s Handbook, Secrets of a Freelance Writer, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Write More, Sell More, which is still one of the best books ever written on running a writing business).
* Ralph G. Riley (The One Page Business Proposal is perhaps one of the most important books you’ll ever find. It has made me tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars).
* Dan Kennedy (The Ultimate and No B.S. series)
* Seth Godin (Purple Cow, Free Prize Inside, and Unleashing the Idea Virus)
* Mark Stephens (Your Marketing Sucks)
* Jay Abraham (Getting Everything You Can Out of All You Got)
* Dr. Jeffrey Lant (this dates me! No More Cold Calls, Cash Copy, The Unabashed Self-Promoter’s Guide, and Money Making Marketing. Good luck finding these but if you do, consider yourself lucky)
* Jeffrey Fox (How to Become a Rainmaker and How to Become a Marketing Superstar).
If you need attitude and adjustment to get into the right frame of mind for running a business, then I highly recommend:
* Jack Canfield (The Success Principles)
* Napoleon Hill (Law of Success)
* Steven Scott (Mentored by a Millionaire)
* Brian Tracy (Maximum Achievement and many others)
* Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Bud Gardner)
The bottom line is that I believe that the opportunities to be a well paid writer right now are simply phenomenal. You can specialize and focus on any one or more of hundreds of markets. The country is huge. There are 300 million people in the US. There are 30,000 towns. There are simply millions of companies all of whom can be helped.
Don’t be shy. This isn’t that hard to do and you’ve got the skills. Focus and go for it.
BTW, if you want a pdf file containing the story ‘Ripples’ from Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul, just send me an email request. I’ll send it to you.