How My Home Remodeler Helped Me Improve My Copywriting Business…

So, I’m in the midst of renovating my townhome in Atlanta. The kitchen is done, and the upstairs bedrooms and baths are next.

The guy I’m working with was incredibly hard to nail down. He first came by to discuss the kitchen in mid-November of last year, but it wasn’t till mid-March that he finally got started. He doesn’t always return calls promptly, and his smiling “don’t-worry-it’ll-all-be-okay” responses—in broken English—to requests for specificity on time and expense were, at the outset, borderline maddening.

And, there’s no one else I want working on my house.

I’ll happily deal with the delays, the occasional radio silence and the vague, happy-face answers. Why?

Well, for starters, he’s just done an amazing job so far. The quality of his work is outstanding. Moreover, he’s got a naturally creative mind—always coming up with great ideas for this or that space—and if there’s multiple ways of doing something, he’ll always suggest the least expensive one, yet still get great results. And all that wasn’t reason enough to love him, he’s amazingly reasonable, to boot.

(By the way, if you live in the Atlanta area, no, sorry, you can’t have his name. Not till I’m done with him, anyway… :-)

All the above is great, and definitely a “best-of-all-worlds” combination one virtually never finds, but it was something else that really cemented my attachment to him…

He’s committed to delivering a superior product—even if it means more work for him (understand: he worked on a fixed labor cost, not by the hour). An example…

I brought him two samples of backsplash subway tile—one a rustic travertine, one of tinted glass. I asked him which he thought would be best. He looked at them both, looked at me, and holding up the glass tile, said, “This one would be a lot easier for me, but this one (holding up the travertine) is the one you want to go. It’s harder to work with this material, but you’ll be much happier with the outcome.”

There were plenty of other similar little examples, where his desire to have me be happy—no, scratch that, thrilled—with the outcome, trumped any clock-watching on his part.

Bottom line, he’s spoiled me terribly, and even though, as I write this, the delays in getting started on Phase 2 are giving me déjà vu, it doesn’t matter. I’ll wait.

Of course, I try to never miss opportunities to map the experiences I have in one part of my life onto the others. This guy is a living example of how to build rabidly loyal clients.

What might it do for our commercial freelancing businesses if we shifted our focus from clock-watching and making sure we didn’t get taken advantage of by clients, to looking for ways to make sure our clients are thrilled with the work we do for them?

Sure, all we have is our time, and we can’t give away the farm, but assuming we’re earning a healthy wage, and have factored into our quotes some time for “hiccups,” what could cultivating a “service” mindset do for our practices?

In addition to ensuring our work plate always stayed full, and our fees stopped being questioned, what might it do for our spirits, our souls? Because, I’m telling, this guy is a happy man. Full of joy, goodwill and sunshine. Just the kind of person people love to work with.

Have you run across people—outside of our profession—similar to my friend above, who inspired you to raise the bar on your commercial writing offering?

Have you adopted a “service” attitude in your practice, and if so, can you share specific examples of its impact on your client relationships?

And if you have developed that mindset, how do you balance it against the need to earn a fair wage?

And if you haven’t adopted that mindset yet, has this piece given you some ideas, or affirmed some feelings you’ve already had about how to run your copywriting business?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

Here’s How My First “Well-Fed Wednesday” Went (that “Six-Hours-of-Open-Phone-Calling” Thing…)

So, as you might know, I did a pretty cool and fun thing a few Wednesdays ago—my first Well-Fed Wednesday “open-call-free-for-all.” If you missed it, here’s a recap…

Calling it an “energy experiment,” and modeling it after a similar exercise I’d read about (by a master coach), I opened my phone for six hours (10-1, and 3-6) for 10-minute conversations with anyone who called wanting to talk about anything related to commercial writing or self-publishing.

As the 10:00 a.m. starting-bell approached, I had a brief moment of fear: What if no one calls? What if I’m irrelevant? But, alas, that was just my typical “insecure-writer” side talking (part of the DNA of so many of us writers, methinks…). As it turned out, I was yakking for virtually every minute of the six hours…

In those six hours, I took 29 calls, and had a ball. I had no expectations, just an intention to be helpful if I could. A sampling of the calls…

A Bay Area woman looking for help on a tagline for her business

• An author in Vermont looking for tips on landing radio interviews with his book

• A DC-area writer looking into whether expanding into e-books was a viable idea

• A Maryland mom, wanting some tips and encouragement as she revived a once-thriving copywriting practice, abandoned for several years as she fought breast cancer

• A Florida freelancer seeking guidance on pricing trade articles and diplomatically raising rates

• An NYC writer wanting to weigh the pros and cons of writing a book on his writing specialty

• An American writer in New Delhi, India (!) looking for advice on a book she was writing for women wanting to travel to India

• An Atlanta writer with a profitable writing practice based, somewhat precariously, on only two clients, and wanting tips on expanding her client base

• A British woman living in Delaware considering expanding her writing efforts into the commercial realm, and looking for a seasoned perspective

• A copywriter in Cleveland seeking help crafting a snappy title for an annual report

• An Irish writer living in Chicago and looking for ideas for breaking into a specialized field of high-tech marketing writing

• An Arkansas writer with a successful niche, looking for a device in raising rates and branching out to similar clients in other parts of the country

A few observations…

• You can cover a lot in 10 minutes. Few people felt we’d run out of time to soon.

• Everyone was so appreciative and respectful of the 10-minute time limit.

• Given that I couldn’t return calls, I was touched by how many people tried again and again to get through (according to my caller ID log). And, in my very brief lulls, I actually called some of them back.

• Trying to come up with snappy names, titles or headlines is a bit tough to do “on command.” I came through a few times but my best work takes a bit longer…. 😉

• It was really cool to get a small taste of the depth, breadth and variety of writing endeavors people everywhere were engaged in. And I was honored to be privy to the often-moving intersection of those writing ventures and their lives – whether it entailed family issues, raising kids while working, coming back from cancer, living abroad, the big step of trying to leave a job and go freelance, etc.

• Based on the gracious and grateful feedback I received, overall, I apparently delivered some good value.

• I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

Thanks to everyone who called, and especially those who didn’t get through. I’m sorry about that, but hopefully, I will catch up with you next time.

And there will be a next time. I’m not sure I have it in me to do it every month, but I’m thinking every other month could work. In fact, I’ll set the next one now, so mark your calendars for November 4th. And, of course, I’ll give you a heads-up as we get closer.

If you managed to get through and talk to me, any comments or feedback?

Any thoughts, comments, questions about this little event?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.