Stop looking like an amateur and win more work
We all want to win more writing work, yeah? Looking like a professional and responding fast can be the difference between being booked to capacity and having an empty pipeline.
But first, we need to make sure we have all the standard documents, tools and resources that will help us look professional while responding fast to prospective clients or customers.
Even if you’re disorganised or a total rookie, you can help yourself win more work by at least looking like a pro. Fake it ’til you make it, right?
Here are ten tips to help you maintain the appearance of someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and win more writing work.
Get your standard procedures in order
I had a brilliant apprenticeship with the first digital media company I worked for back in the 1990s.
It was a small company and I was schooled in every aspect of the business, from pitching to clients to managing project budgets to designing websites and shopping for staff morning teas. I was given a lot of responsibility for someone so green, but the company could do that because they had invested in the resources and support I needed to get the job done on my own with limited supervision. They had standard procedures and processes and documents that radically cut task time. We were a slick, well-oiled corporate machine.
Documenting procedures and processes, and creating a library of reusable assets meant that I didn’t have to think up something from scratch every time a task landed on my desk. We had templates for everything. A potential client wants to see examples of our past work? No problem. Here are seven relevant pre-created project descriptions ready to go with a cover and an ‘about us’ page. A client wants a benchmarking report? We’ve got a template for one of those. Need to create a functional spec? Here’s the template for that document. Want a workshop on online accessibility? Here’s one we prepared earlier.
Document your own procedures
Do you have processes and procedures in place or are you creating everything on the fly?
Imagine if you were sick or extremely busy and needed to hand work to a subcontractor. Could you do it easily?
Take a moment to think about what you could document or template that would help you save time.
Being able to respond quickly with a quality response makes you look professional. It can also make you stand out against your competitors who are still madly scrambling to write up those seven examples of relevant, recent work.
The smart way to work is to document your processes and procedures.
If you create your own library of reusable assets, you will save you time and the need to think things up every time you need to do a repetitive task.
I need to put into practice here what I am preaching. I have a bunch of stuff documented — the big stuff — but it’s the smaller more frequent tasks that need my attention.
Prepare standard documents and correspondence
Think about all the documents and correspondence you regularly send clients (or potential clients). These could be:
- proposal follow-up emails
- project briefs
- first draft emails
- second draft emails
- final draft emails
- invoice reminder emails
- examples of recent work
- your rate card
- sub-contractor agreements
- confidentiality agreements
- evidence of insurances
- blog post outlines
- content audits
- ‘about us’ interview questions
- social media content calendars.
And this list is just a super-quick brain dump. I’m sure we could all add dozens more to this list with little effort.
Having good processes, templates and quality documents can set you apart from other copywriters.
When I started looking for copywriting work beyond agency land a few years ago, I bought a bunch of templates in a bundle from The Clever Copywriting School. I knew it would take me days of tedious work to prepare them all for myself, but here they were, all the documents I needed in the immediate future to get started. I customised them to suit my brand and my way of doing things, but the bulk of work was done and I didn’t have to think this stuff up for myself. It was a smart SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY investment. If you want to look professional but your current documents aren’t cutting it, do yourself a favour and buy a bundle.
Otherwise, during a lull in client work, spend some time creating templates from your existing documents. Get rid of non-standard text and leave only the generic text. Add instructions to remind yourself or tell subcontractors what to do.
If I were a bit smarter, I would start to create more emails templates instead of writing the bulk of my emails from scratch.
Document standard instructions
I do a lot of web work and I find clients need the same instructions for things like setting up Google Search Console or Google Analytics or how to change a setting in WordPress.
By documenting these ‘how to’ processes once (but with redacted images to preserve privacy — or use your own accounts) you’ll have a reusable asset ready for the next time someone needs the same information. I have a mix of videos and Word documents with screen grabs to document the how-tos.
I love SnagIt for capturing screenshots and Camtasia for recording my screen. If you don’t have the budget for Camtasia, you can use the free tool Loom to capture your screen recording. If you don’t have budget for screenshot software, using the ‘Print Screen’ and your current graphics package and cropping the image will be enough.
Create a beautiful proposal
Putting proposals together was something I did from my first day on my first digital job. The company had developed their own ‘Proposal assembler’ in MS Word using Visual Basic to code it. It was clunky and riddled with problems, but we made it work. As long we kept it up-to-date with project descriptions each time we finished a project, we could create a half decent proposal in a matter of minutes.
I made an embarrassing rookie error one day. When compiling and binding a printed proposal in a rush, I grabbed some sensitive legal documents off the printer at the same time and bound them into the proposal. A few days later the potential client wanted to know what the relevance of the legal documents was. We didn’t win that job. While I don’t think it was because of the legal documents sneaking their way into the proposal, but from then on, I never let a client document leave the building under my watch without first checking every page to make sure it should be there. There are some lessons you only need to learn once.
Until recently, I was using Word to create proposals. How 2000s of me.
These days, I use Nusii to create beautiful online and PDF proposals. It’s a bit like our old proposal assembler. You can create reusable assets, ‘components’ for your proposals that you can use over and over again. You can create your own templates.
You can email a link to an online version or attach a PDF to an email. You can see how many times and when a client has opened your online proposal. It’s pretty awesome. And the proposals look great. I have customised it with my branding colours and logo.
The more proposals I create, the more reusable assets I’ll have which will make me compile proposals even faster in the future.
Answer the bloody phone
A lot of writers are introverts who hate talking on the phone more than staring at a blank page. The question, ‘What is the meaning of life’ has more chance of being successfully answered than a call from an unknown number to an introverted writer.
By answering your phone, you’ll have a jump on your competitors who are anxiously ignoring their phones.
I live in Korea, but I have an Australian number people can call me on. It’s a Skype phone number that looks like a regular Melbourne number. People can call me on this number and reach me where I am in the world when I’m connected to the internet. It’s perfect for making your business portable and look professional.
And because you’ve got your standard documents in place and processes documented you’ll be able to whip out the information you need to wow your potential new client.
Call your potential client
All those copywriters who let their phones ring out also hate making calls. They prefer to communicate by email alone. But not all clients love email. Some want to have a chat.
So, by the simple act of calling a prospective client (e.g. someone who contacts me first or a lead that gets passed to me) I know I am already ahead of other copywriters.
Having the chance to chat give me much more opportunity to build a connection with that potential client and convince them I’m the right person for the job.
Use booking software to manage your calendar
I use Calendly so clients can book a meeting time with me at a mutually convenient time. You can even receive payments for certain types of meetings, like coaching calls. It syncs to Google calendar (and a bunch of others). If I don’t want to take meetings on a particular day, I block out time in my Google calendar. Sending people a link to Calendly is so much smarter than going back and forth over email with each other’s availability. And it’s so much cheaper than hiring a PA to do it for you.
Make it easy for people to get in touch with you.
I’ve embedded the Calendly booking form into my consulting website on my writing coaching page.
Using tools like Calendly will give people a sense that you’re organised and that you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Be ready with the right response to a client’s objections
One of the biggest objections I have to counter is my location.
I do a lot of work for federal and state governments. People in government don’t want to be accused of offshoring work. As soon as I tell people I’m living in Korea, I tell them that my business is based in Australia. I reassure them that even though I am overseas, I’m still an Australian tax paying resident. I have an ABN and am registered for GST.
What are some of the standard objections potential clients have about working with you?
Their objections could be anything from price to the delivery timeframe to relevant experience or even a perceived conflict of interest.
Knowing how to respond to these objections will ensure you’re not caught off-guard when chatting to them on the phone (because you WILL be chatting with them on the phone, right?)
That person who contacted you through your website might be shopping around for a copywriter, but if you respond promptly (and you can because you’ve got your standard documents in order, right?) it might be the only edge you need.
Also, there’s a good chance that the other copywriters contacted won’t respond at all. I’ve heard copywriters say this so often — they got the job because no one else bothered to respond.
Guess who’s going to be getting the signature on the dotted line, eh?
Don’t be a fatalist. Don’t be all ‘oh they never got back to me’ and file the proposal in the lost jobs folder.
The smarter writer takes action. And just because you’re booked solid this month doesn’t mean you should ignore your project pipeline.
You don’t know what’s happening in your client’s world. Life gets in the way and suddenly that previously urgent copywriting job got bumped for some higher priority task. Maybe their kid is sick or their supplier went bankrupt and they’re dealing with a bigger crisis.
There’s a very good chance your copywriting competition won’t bother to follow up on the proposal, either (if they even bothered to submit one).
A simple email could be all it takes to get them to sign your project proposal. I might send something like this (from a template email, when I get around to creating the pesky things!)
Hi Potential Client,
I hope you’re well.
I’m following up on the proposal I sent X days (or weeks) ago. Do you have any questions about the proposal? I have the capacity to take this project on in X and I would love to talk further about how we could work together.
Use testimonials to sell yourself
The smart way to tell someone how good you are is to get someone else to say it for you.
Us Aussies loathe talking about how good we are. The tall poppy syndrome is ingrained in us. We don’t want to be perceived as being a bragger.
But what if your happy clients say all the good stuff for you? That fits much better into my comfort zone. How about you?
Getting testimonials from your past clients should be a standard part of your end-of-project process. Send them a brief email to thank them for being such a great or easy-to-work-with and interesting client (whatever adjective best fits) and tell them how important testimonials are for your business. Give them a testimonial script to follow. Turning this into an email template and send it to every client at the end of every project.
What are you doing to make sure you look like a pro? Let me know in the comments below.
Originally published at The Smarter Writer.