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?
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I couldn’t have scripted it better myself. A little background….
Got a call from a prospect in early November. About 18 months earlier (May 2008), the local daily, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, did a “Why I Love My Job” feature on yours truly in the Sunday paper. Following a few live seminars I’d done in March 2008 on commercial writing and self-publishing, I’d been approached by one of the attendees who turned out to be the writer of the popular weekly piece.
“You seem like someone who really enjoys what you do,” he said. “Would you be interested in being featured in WILMJ?” “Is this a trick question?” I asked. Uh, yeah. Course I would.
We got it done, the piece came out, and my new prospect, a successful local entrepreneur, saw it, tore it out and said to himself, “I may just need this guy some day.” Well that day came last month. In a nutshell, he was angling for a strategic partnership with another company and wanted a professional writer to work on the proposal. Long story short, I ended up putting in roughly 30 hours – including two back-to-back 10-hour days – over a five-day period at a most healthy hourly rate.
As we were wrapping up the thing on the second marathon day, he stopped, looked up and said (you’re going to love this…):
“It’s a amazing what a difference a professional writer makes. I think of all the times over the last 10 years (as long as he’s had his business) that I really could have used one, but tried to do it myself. It’s great to know I have a resource like this now.”
Seeing the impact a professional writer could make and seeing a proposal turn into an eloquent statement was nothing short of an epiphany for him. THIS is what we need to be communicating to people. No, not everyone will get it, so don’t waste your time beating your head against the wall trying to convince those who don’t. Just find the ones who do.
There will always be people who think writing is something anyone can do, and they’re not worth wasting your time on. But there are plenty of folks out there who, a) understand the value of a good writer, b) know they’re not one, and 3) realize good talent doesn’t come cheap.
True, it took my new client a long time to come to that realization, but I say it’s because he simply didn’t know how to go about finding one or that copywriters like us even existed. Meaning, that in 10 years, chances are excellent not one single commercial freelancer ever made contact with him.
The first time he was exposed to someone of that description, the idea resonated enough with him to have him cut out an article and set it aside. Remember, he didn’t hunt for just the right copywriter; he flagged the first and only one who’d crossed his path. But had he known HOW much a difference a good writer could make, I’d wager he wouldn’t have waited 18 months. And there are TONS of people like him out there.
Update #1: The proposal is moving along nicely, and he shared that his main contact person at the target company, someone, who according to him, is not the complimenting type, told him, “This is very well-written proposal.” Yes, I was part of a larger team, but we writers still love to hear stuff like that.
Update #2: He called me last week to jump on a crisis situation that had just cropped up in a completely different area, and in less than a week, I’d logged roughly 20 more hours. And there are three more projects on tap. With each project, I more firmly establish myself as a valued member of his team – not just a vendor.
None of this is said to toot my horn, but simply to share what’s out there and possible – even in a down economy. I’m telling you, I’m not doing anything more monumental than writing good persuasive copy for letters and proposals. That said, do I think that any $10-an-article, content-mill writer could do what I do for him? Absolutely not. But any good, strategic-minded commercial freelancer well schooled in marketing? I’d bet on it.
Have you had any similar situations?
What sorts of things have you had delighted clients say to you?
Based on these experiences, how would you describe what a good freelance copywriter brings to the right kind of client? What skills are most crucial?
How hard/easy do you feel it is to deliver those things?