Marketing Basics: Shameless Self-Promotion and Attracting Clients

Self-promotion: how the thought of it can strike fear into the heart of beginning copywriters. Strangely enough, it often strikes fear into the heart of experienced copywriters as well.

The irony, of course, is that as copywriters, we’re in the business of promotion. We’re professional communicators. What is copywriting if not salesmanship in print?

So you’d think, as a group, we’d be great self-promoters. Why then, is this a common stumbling block among freelancers?

Is it modesty? After all, weren’t we raised not to boast or brag? Maybe it’s the feeling that we’re not ready, or not good enough.

Maybe it’s just the idea of what we think self-promotion is. If self-promotion and attracting clients conjures up images of standing out there announcing yourself to the world, or sitting at a desk making cold calls, then I can see how that would be scary.

But in reality, self-promotion and attracting clients are much more than that.

Self-promotion is part of everything copywriters do. It starts every time you set pen to paper or finger to keyboard. The copy you write and the quality of the work you do will determine to a great extent how you will be thought of by potential clients.

With that in mind, here’s a kinder and gentler way of getting the word out about your services.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Be Ready

Invest in the proper training. I’m going to assume that you’ve taken the time to get the proper training, and that you are reasonably competent. Notice I’m talking about competency and not perfection — this is an important distinction.

If you wait until you’re perfect, you’ll be waiting a long time. If you’re 80% ready, that’s good enough to go. You’ll pick up the rest along the way. You learn, really learn, by doing. So do.

Adopt a professional attitude. Once you hang out your shingle, you are a professional. Don’t forget that, and don’t make any apologies. Always do your best work, and strive to be easy to work with (you’ll be amazed at how that last one can pay off).

Have a good answer to the following question: “So what do you do?”

And by good, I mean rehearsed, clear, concise, and to the point. This is often called your elevator speech because your answer needs to fit in about the time you’d have on the average elevator ride. Keep it short, even if you have more time. Longer, and you risk either bragging or boring your prospect. This answer may be your first impression, so take the time to cultivate and practice it and make it great!

Now that you’re ready, let’s look at some relatively painless and effective ways to get the word out.

Just tell people what you do

In my early days as a timid freelancer, no one outside of my immediate family knew I was a copywriter. The easiest first step is to just let people know what you do. Gently spread the word to family, friends, and colleagues. If you have social media profiles, list your work as a professional freelance copywriter. The simple act of being out there may generate questions, interest, and may lead to work. Don’t keep your career a secret!

Have a business card. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be in your pocket.

Have a website. This really isn’t an option anymore. The good news is that getting a domain, hosting, and putting up a freelance website is easier than ever. You can literally be up in a few hours.

The Wealthy Web Writer has a great tutorial on putting up a freelance website that you can access here. When putting up your website, remember that you’re a professional, and for people that you don’t meet face-to-face, your website will be the first impression you give to the world, so make it great.

Ask

Again, simple advice, but amazingly effective. One of the big draws of a freelance career is to get rid of the “boss,” but here’s the thing about bosses: they assign you work. So without the boss, no one is really responsible for assigning you work. Not even your clients, and not even if you’ve worked for them before.

So the trade-off is that you need to ask.

But, it’s important to ask the right question. “Do you have any writing work for me?” is a weak ask, and I wouldn’t expect much in return. A stronger approach is to suggest an idea. But the best way to ask is to offer a solution: “Would you be interested in an article on three simple steps to get your social media campaign started on the right foot?” or “I’ve noticed on your site that you don’t have much information on autoresponders. Would you consider an article on getting started with autoresponders?”

Promote indirectly

Don’t have the nerve for cold calls or speaking at seminars? There are plenty of other ways to get you and your reputation out there.

Create an e-letter and write blog posts on your site. Even better, offer to write a guest blog post or newspaper column. Share your knowledge, educate, and provide genuine value.

Find forums in your niche and answer questions with helpful information. Join LinkedIn and participate in groups using the same approach.

Share content from other sources on your own website or social media channels.

These techniques increase your reach organically and work to build your credibility, all of which will help increase your perceived value.

Another great indirect promotion technique is to shift the focus from talking about yourself, to talking about what you do. After all, isn’t that key in great copywriting? Don’t focus so much on the features (you), but on the benefits (what you can do). So it’s no longer “I’m great, I have 15 years’ experience, I’ve worked with so-and-so,” but instead “My customers have consistently doubled their response rates with proper targeting of Facebook ads.”

If all else fails

Two more tips for those who are still squeamish about self-promotion:

  • Hire yourself as your first client, and prepare as you would for any other client project. Try to detach yourself if you can.
  • Hire another copywriter to write your promotional materials. Better yet, find another copywriter in the same boat, and write each other’s promotional materials. (The WWW Forum is an ideal place to find someone to swap with.)

Hiring another copywriter works really well if you have strong editing skills. When you get the copy back, you may find it a lot easier to punch it up than writing it initially, and you may end up with copy that’s better than either one of you might have done alone.

If you’re nervous about self-promotion or attracting clients, remember that you’re doing it already, and everything you do is actually part of that process. So, embrace it, be ready, try the above techniques, and get out there and do your best work.

Have any comments, tips, or techniques that worked for you? Please share them below!

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This article is part of the Marketing Basics series.

Series Table of Contents:

  1. Marketing Basics: Shameless Self-Promotion and Attracting Clients (This Article)
  2. Marketing Basics: Generating Leads & Following Up
  3. Marketing Basics: Closing the Sale & Asking for More
  4. Marketing Basics: Generating Repeat Business and Referrals

About Jim Wright

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One Response to “Marketing Basics: Shameless Self-Promotion and Attracting Clients”

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  1. Peter J. Beck says:

    For a Brand-New Copywriter With No Samples or Experience it doesn’t make any sense to Land Paid Projects. Because it’s Shameless Self-Promotion Attracting Clients and taking money for a service I can’t provide. A copywriter who has learnt his job and really can offer professional copy can easily get samples. You only offer a company to write a mailing piece. And you offer them to only take money if the mailing piece is successful. With the successful mailing peace in hand – if it’s really successful – you’ll easily get new clients. And if it’s not successful than you have to learn and practice until you’re a professional copywriter who can produce samples.

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