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Commercial-Writing Clients with Money vs. Ones Without: Like Night and Day…

I got an email from a recent Well-Fed Group Coaching participant that made me smile for a few reasons. She wrote:

This is all becoming less and less theoretical and more real. Which is eerie. It seems I’m beginning to live in your make-believe world!

Too funny. I swear, it’s as if, until people experience these things for themselves, they imagine I’m making all this stuff up about how the commercial copywriting business-building process unfolds. I promise, it’s far easier to share my real-world commercial freelancing experiences than to fabricate a bunch of them out of whole cloth.

But it was what she said after that that had my “Blog-Topic-Alert” meter going off. She wrote:

I’m also beginning to see how differently potential clients with money vs. those with little, behave. They’re like different species.

One simple statement with so many ramifications. For starters, it’s so true. The difference in the respective experiences of working with clients who have little money vs. those with plenty is so vast as to be almost vertiginous.

In a great blog post I recently commented on (and in which I was mentioned – yay!), freelancer Kathy Shaidle says:

The cheaper the client, the more demanding they are. My $75/hour clients tend to approve the very first version of everything I send them, thank me profusely, pay me immediately, and hire me again. Clients I’ve taken on for far less (because I’ve felt desperate — or sorry for them) ALWAYS want more changes, more words, more pages, more of my time on the phone, more everything. Eventually, I (politely) fire clients like that. Inevitably, they are replaced almost immediately by more professional ones with larger budgets (and brains).

And in our world, $75 an hour isn’t even that much; but her point is sound.

If you spend your time hanging out with low-ball writing clients, and in turn, being run ragged by them, it will very likely have you question your career decision.

But find the good clients, and your sense of the overall viability of freelancing will undergo nothing less than a radical transformation. It becomes a whole different word. Less hassle, more creative fulfillment, and, of course, more money.

Better-paying clients are almost always easier to work with than the low-ballers, as my coaching client above noticed. She observed:

The one who wants to get things moving knows the value of what a writer can offer. The one who said he was interested in having me work for him, but then took a long time getting information to me, and was antsy about pricing, didn’t seem to fully accept the cost of doing business. Or he just doesn’t have as much of a budget set aside for marketing. The folks who are hardest to negotiate with are the ones with the smallest budgets.

To her comments, I’d add that, for the kinds of clients we want to work with, money is never (within reason) the main issue. Rather, it’s a predictable superior outcome they’re seeking. And that motivation always trumps money.

But know this: if you’re in the early days of building your commercial writing business, lower-paying clients are the ones most likely to be willing to work with you when you have little to recommend you other than a few unimpressive samples and an abundance of enthusiasm.

As such, they serve a wonderful purpose: to help you build your confidence, as well as both your intangible “experience portfolio” and your real physical one.

But realize that you need to compartmentalize those early experiences with that class of client, as being a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

I say this because those coming from “writing ghettos” (i.e., the content mills, where $5 for a 500-word article is de rigeur) may feel that working with clients who actually pay $25 an hour (wow!), even if they are pains to deal with, is “died-and-gone-to-heaven” territory.

But if you indeed have writing skills far beyond the typical content-mill writer, and are eager and willing to plant and nurture those skills in greener writing pastures, then $25 an hour is only the beginning. No, it’s not easy to get to that $75-to-$125-an-hour copywriting level, and don’t believe anyone who says it is. But, it’s doable, and I hear daily from people who’ve done it.

And if you’re sadly still playing in that copywriting bargain basement, and complaining about the low-ballers who just won’t pay you what your skills are worth, then you don’t understand the dynamic at work there.

I think I did a decent job of attacking this victim mentality in a recent guest post I did (on Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog), entitled, “Why Writers Don’t ‘Deserve’ to Make More than $5 to $10 an Article.”

For most of you regular visitors to this blog, you “got” this a long time ago, but if you’re still wrestling with it, check it out. It all comes down to having copywriting skills not shared by thousands of others, and when you can stand out, you’ll start seeing firsthand, as discussed earlier, the HUGE difference between client classes.

What other differences have you seen/experienced between the clients with money and those without?

If you’re now operating in solid, higher-rate commercial writing territory, but didn’t used to, what/when was your “light bulb moment”?

And if you indeed went from low writing wages to the higher ones in our world, did you immediately notice the stark difference in client quality?

Have you moved out of the “$5-an-article” writing world, only to get stuck in the next (and still-low) level?

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

Tried These “Under-the-Radar” Marketing Tactics for Your Writing Business? (Guest Post)

Got this great guest post from busy and talented commercial writer, Lori Widmer. As important as marketing is, it’s also something that so often gets turned into this big, gnarly, scary exercise that ends up reliably but unnecessarily freaking out commercial freelancers. NOT that it’s some piece ‘o cake, but, as Lori points out, it makes sense to examine – and adjust, if necessary – some of your common perceptions about marketing. Enjoy!

Marketing is not brain surgery.

There. I said it. Too many times we hear the word “marketing” and think of complicated, time-consuming plans that have to be worked to death in order to be effective. If that’s how you’re marketing, you’re probably doing it wrong.

That’s because I spend just a few hours a week marketing and I’m usually quite busy. My plan is jotted down, not charted out like an expedition map. The simpler the better, in my view. I market every day, busy or not. If you’re looking to simplify and get more impact from less work, try mixing a few of these ideas into your current strategy:

Use invoices as sales tools. Why just send an invoice when you can send an invoice that also announces sales, recent business successes, or newsletter sign-up information? These are clients who have already bought from you. Remind them why with short pieces (under 100 words) announcing your new product, your new sale, or your latest sales success.

Engage in stealth marketing. Some of my best marketing success has come from not marketing at all. It’s what I call stealth marketing, and it’s little more than showing up, befriending, helping, and maintaining the connection. In one case, a client told me I wasn’t very good at marketing. This was as she was revamping her business in order to fit my proposal into her current business model. She never realized it, but I had marketed to her without doing more than showing up, befriending, helping, and maintaining the relationship.

Close the circle. The sale isn’t over when the client buys. It’s over when you have a satisfied client. Go back to those clients who bought from you recently. Follow up on that sale by first asking if they’re satisfied. Then send the invoice. At invoice time, ask for feedback – how can you be of further assistance? Was the product to their satisfaction? Were they happy with the overall experience?

Get caught promoting clients. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are great places to promote clients when they’re not looking. Send out that press release link, give them a congratulatory shout-out, or Retweet their message with your own praise attached.

Promote a non-client. When was the last time you helped someone you knew would never be a client? It’s something so easy to do, and yet so few of us think it’s useful or even necessary. Refer someone to a non-client or former client when possible. I surprised a client I’d fired by sending customers his way. Why? Because I believed his business was a good fit for those customers. It didn’t matter that he and I couldn’t come to terms. What mattered was that I kept it business only – nothing personal.

Ask for the referral. You’ve just finished a great project with your client. You’ve done follow up to ensure satisfaction. Now is the time to ask. “Do you know of anyone else who might need my services?” Tap into your client’s network to expand your own. By asking for a referral, you’re able to spread the word about your business by asking for an introduction from an already satisfied client. It’s word-of-mouth marketing kicked up a notch.

Rethink your view of marketing. Use marketing to meet people, not sell to people. If you must, view it as networking, but remember the result isn’t about selling. It’s about meeting and connecting. Don’t go into every conversation thinking you have to sell. You don’t. You should be building the relationship. Sales come later.

How often do you market?

Have you used any of the above, and if so, can you share a story?

What are some of your most effective marketing methods?

Which of your marketing approaches do clients respond to most?

What is the toughest part of marketing for you?

Lori Widmer veteran freelance writer and editor who specializes in business writing and marketing strategies for writers. She is co-founder and co-moderator of the About Writing Squared Five Buck Forum for writers, and author of the upcoming book, Marketing 365: Daily Strategies for Small Businesses. She blogs for writers every day at Words on the Page

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