Five Steps for Better Writing

Let your client determine the environment, and you can dictate the terms.

By In Uncategorized 7 minutes

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Writing

Sales and marketing are closely intertwined, but they’re also separate and distinct skills. Someone who excels in marketing can effectively spread the word about their product or service. Whereas someone skilled in sales will actually sell and generate profit.

In simple terms, this translates to marking being something with a cost while sales generate profit. To be clear, this excludes the everyday expenses of paying salaries and having an office. It’s just about marketing and sales.

But as a freelance writer, you’re likely performing both sales and marketing. This is difficult because it means you’re also doing the writing. And at the end of the day, you’re wearing three hats, which can be a lot to manage. But it doesn’t have to be since writing isn’t like selling cars.

Instead, it’s a lot more like baking bread. Mixing the dough is the most difficult part of the process. The same as researching and writing professional content is the hardest part of a writer’s job.

Then, once you put the dough in the oven, it begins to bake. The smell of fresh bread draws clients to look into your shop windows. This is marketing 101. Only in this case, if you bake it, they will come. Just like if you write, they will read it.

So now you’ve got people interested in your work, and it’s time to sell your efforts. With bread, it’s a simple exchange of goods. You give me money and take the croissant or pastry of your choice. Writing is much the same process, with the addition of rights to the content and sometimes payments over time or on a recurring basis.

But since we writers aren’t running a bakery, here are five tips and tricks to support your writing and be more productive. While these four steps are far from the final word on how to go about marketing yourself and selling more effectively, they’re an excellent place to start.

Step One: Build Relationships

Professional marketing firms are very focused on what they do. As a result, the successful ones are quite good at their jobs. They usually employ both full-time and freelance writers. This enables them to quickly scale up or down depending on the needs of their clients.

By working to establish a professional relationship with a marketing firm, you may have the opportunity to write for them when they have a surge of new clients. Do good work, and it can translate into a long-term arrangement. This can be especially effective with smaller firms.

Likewise, you can build the same type of relationships with businesses. Ideally, you’ll want to start small and work with local companies. Especially those who are not in the tech field.

These clients tend to be the least knowledgeable about the different types of writing. And taking the time to work with them can result in lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. Over time this will let you start building a portfolio of clients, which is a great way to jump-start your writing career.

Step Two: Demonstrate Results

One of the easiest ways to do this is simply by working with clients. As a writer, you should have a natural ability to market yourself through the written word. This means you’ll be able to demonstrate the strengths of copywriting and writing instead of just focusing on one.

Some clients will require more marketing, while others will need more of the written word. No different than some recipes call for more or less of certain ingredients. You’re demonstrating value by showing how copywriting can build a brand and writing can reinforce that brand.

The trick is to ensure you use clear, concise, and direct communication with your clients. You’re building trust by letting them know what to expect and, sometimes more importantly, by explaining how long results may take to show. This is how you make a reputation for yourself and encourage repeat business.

Step Three: Don’t Be an Artist

Every good writer is an artist, but it takes a lot for an artist to be appreciated for art over work. This is especially true of professional organizations because they expect results. But only a few artists can meet the demands. So if you are more focused on art, wait to make that your selling point until you’re well established.

This is because artists are known to do crazy things. Leonardo Da Vinci cut off an ear, Honoré De Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee daily, and Michelangelo considered bathing a health hazard. So, unless your art immediately produces results, which translates to profits in the business world, no one wants to hear about it. Not even the person paying for it. 

Just do your work and do it well. When you’re famous, you can cut off an ear. Until then, stick to coffee (but not 50 cups a day).

Step Four: Be Professional, But Be Yourself Too

This should go without saying, but always be professional. If your client invites you out for a drink, then have one. Note the emphasis on having only one. Stay off the hard stuff, and stick to low-alcohol beverages. In other words, don’t get wasted. And don’t be shy about refusing a drink if that’s not your thing.

Also, don’t press your client into accepting favors. This can make them feel manipulated. You’re buying their time for a meeting, just like they’re buying your time for copywriting. Keep it professional and honest. Clients worth maintaining relationships with will appreciate this.

And finally, don’t cheat on your clients. What does this mean? Well, it covers several different business areas, but the main ones are this.

  • Never talk about one client’s work with another. Even if those two clients never meet, the one you share information with will assume you’ll speak to other people about their work too. So don’t do it. Loose lips sink ships. Avoid working with clients in the same industry. Suppose you’re writing advertising copy for two businesses that offer the same service. In that case, there’s a good chance of having a conflict of interest. So talk to your existing clients before accepting work from a potential competitor.
  • Avoid working with clients in the same industry. Suppose you’re writing advertising copy for two businesses that offer the same service. In that case, there’s a good chance of having a conflict of interest. So talk to your existing clients before accepting work from a potential competitor.

Step Five: Don’t Ever Talk Bad About Others

Some clients will show you work products from their previous writer or marketing firm. They’ll ask for your honest opinion. But it’s a trap, even if the client isn’t trying to trap you.

Sometimes the client may be testing your personal integrity or character, in which case you failed. Other times they’re looking for a free opinion on someone else’s work. If it’s good, then tell the client. They’ll appreciate your honesty, and you might convert them to a sale.

But maybe your client honestly didn’t like the work product of their last writer. So what? The minute you talk down someone else’s work, you lose status. Instead, look at such situations as an opportunity to sell yourself. 

Explain what you would do differently and the results it would produce. Should the client insist on your opinion, simply tell them it isn’t how you would have done the job. Highlight your skill sets, and explain why you would do things differently (not why you wouldn’t have done what the other writer or marketing agency did).

Because word gets around. And sooner or later, you might be looking for work with an agency or person you badmouthed. Or worse, you’ll paint yourself into a corner when someone else’s mistake causes your work to flop. Then you’ll take the blame, and your reputation will suffer.

An Example of Saving a Failed Sale

In 2002, I was invited to interview for a documentation position with one of the largest law firms in the world. The job was below my skill level, but the pay and benefits were outstanding. Plus, I knew the client well. My friend was working his way up to partner at the firm.

I spent an hour meeting people, and everyone I met loved me and my attitude until I met the firm’s managing partner. He and I spoke for 30 minutes. Then he stopped the conversation and asked if he could just be honest. Still trying to figure out what he would say, I agreed.

After all, let your client determine the environment, and you can dictate the terms.

To my surprise and disappointment, he told me I was overqualified and too intelligent to stay in a low-level position. He said they wanted someone to remain in the role over the long term. So we ended with him thanking me and asking if I’d like something to drink since the interview had gone on so long.

Now, at this point, I was in possession of two critical pieces of information.

  • First, I wasn’t getting the position, so I had nothing to lose. There is no better time to take a risk in business than moments like these. Keep your head straight, stay calm, and play to your strengths.
  • Second, one of the top decision-makers in an organization I wanted to work with had just told me I was intelligent and overqualified. Plus, he offered me a drink (we’ll get to that in a moment).

The most valuable thing any client can offer you is their time. And if they add something extra, however small, it’s your chance to make a bold move. Which I did.

I decided to try turning the interview into a door I could later use to establish a business relationship. It was a long shot, to be sure. But what did I have to lose?

I thanked him for being so direct and said, “Since we’re all being honest, and considering the late hour, is a rum and coke out of the question?”

His face went blank for a moment, and then he started laughing. He said no one had ever asked him that in all his years at the firm. Then the man poured me a drink, and we chatted for another ten minutes while finishing our drink.

After that, the attorney who conducted the interview took me out for a few more drinks. We got along famously and are friends to this day. While I wasn’t employed by the firm, they did recommend my services to several other high-profile clients over the years.

The lesson here is to always be professional and be yourself. Nothing sells copywriting better than honesty and sincerity. But also keep your eyes open for the chance to do something bold when you’ve got nothing to lose. You never know where opportunity will take you from there.

And You’re Off

On that note, you’ve got a basic set of tools to use in marketing yourself. You can build them into your website or display them on other copywriting platforms. The time you invest in yourself will pay off by enabling you to create an outstanding portfolio and attract the kind of clients you want to work with. Good luck with your writing!

Written by H. J. Buell

H. J. Buell is a world traveled author who writes across a broad range of topics. To learn more about his public writing, visit Amazon. For business inquiries, use the contact form on this site.