To the hundreds of thousands of web marketers and online business owners who need you to help them make money online, you are a blessing.
Personally, I can’t imagine how any business can survive without web writers.
Which is probably why web writers are able to command such high fees.
Of course that’s assuming you meet the two most important traits, in my opinion at least, of the ideal web writer.
The first is the most obvious: writing web copy that converts. And as long as you have the skills under your belt, you’re all set there.
The second is actually often overlooked, which is a shame because it’s the one you have total control over … and doesn’t require any studying or practice!
It’s common sense, really …
You must be easy to work with. Remember, along with making your client money, your job is to make his or her life easier. If you can do that, you’re golden. And naming your price is easy.
I’ve been a copywriter for a long time, and I was once a corporate client who hired outside freelancers to help with marketing campaigns. So, I’ve seen both sides of the freelance copywriting world.
And over the years, through my own experience and by talking with clients and business owners, I’ve discovered some common boo-boos made by new freelance copywriters and even some seasoned writers. (Okay, I admit it. I’ve made a few of them myself.)
Many of these mistakes go without saying and seem perfectly logical. Yet some copywriters still continue to make them. And, rather than landing a new client, they end up annoying prospective clients and sabotaging their own success. Often never even realizing the mistake they made …
But today, I’m going to reveal these common mistakes so you can avoid them entirely and enjoy a prosperous path as a freelance copywriter.
Even though I’m experienced, I still have to impress new potential clients who don’t know anything about me, my writing abilities, or my working style. The same goes for you. “Best foot forward” is always a great motto in the freelance copywriting world.
All that being said, remember that nobody’s perfect and clients certainly know this. So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve done any of the things on the following list. Instead, use it as a roadmap as you pursue new projects.
Ready? Here goes.
1. Never shove your services at a client.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a proposal. “Ooh! I get to show the client what I can do!” But, this can be a mistake. In fact, some copywriters have annoyed clients by simply sending a generic list of services and rates without knowing exactly what the client needed.
What you really have here is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your client-service skills and set yourself apart from other copywriters.
Start by arranging a phone call with your prospective client, asking questions about his or her business, and listening. This will give you awesome insights into the major hurdles your client is facing. Plus, it shows that you care about the client’s success and sets a feel-good tone.
As a result, you can provide a thoughtful proposal that addresses the client’s specific needs. This extra effort can be quite effective.
2. Never focus on how great you are.
You know the funny line, “Enough about me. What do YOU think about me?” Sometimes copywriters can be a little too eager to talk about their work, their experience, and their background.
But, think about your client’s perspective. He or she wants to see your work and consider how you’ll help improve results. That’s one of the best ways they can determine if you’re the right freelancer for them.
Here’s a fun way to look at it. If you went to a store looking for a pair of shoes for a specific event, would you want someone to start telling you about the great craftsmanship and color choices and groovy styling? No! You’d want to just see the shoes for yourself and then decide if you like them or not. Right?
It’s pretty much the same thing with clients. Therefore, spend as little time as possible talking about yourself, and instead, show the client your copywriting work and the results it generated for other businesses. Or, if you’re fairly new to copywriting, show samples that demonstrate your writing ability. Clients will know a good thing when they see it.
3. Never insult the client.
I’ve heard this story many, many times. A new copywriter may think it’s a great marketing approach to contact a client, tell him everything that sucks about his website or advertising, and then offer to fix this “train wreck.”
I have never heard of this approach working, and here’s my opinion of why.
First, you’ve just told the client that he’s incompetent or that he made bad choices. This kind of statement goes over like a lead balloon. Imagine someone saying to you, “Gosh, your hairdo is a disaster. It’s just plain ugly. Let me fix it.” Would you feel excited about this person helping you?
Second, you never know who the client may have used to create the website or ads. It could have been a family member or even the client himself. Now he feels stupid and is already on the defensive.
Third, you may not realize this, but in a lot of cases, “ugly” websites and ads work wonders! The client may be perfectly happy with his marketing results or may feel he has good material that just needs enhancing. If you tell him it sucks without knowing the results, you end up looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I would stay far away from that approach when trying to getting work. Instead, take a tactful and winning customer-focused approach … IF and WHEN you’re asked to comment on a website or mailing.
I’ve had very good luck when I say something like, “You have some great stuff in here and I like many aspects of it. But, I’m also seeing some exciting potential to improve your results. Would you like to hear ideas about this?” This compliments the client on all the effort he already put into his business, and gives him a glimpse into improving upon it. All positive stuff.
4. Never bark at your client.
Maybe you’ll laugh when you see this and think, “I’d never do that!” But lots of copywriters have become negative when they feel frustrated with a client, especially when the client isn’t responding as quickly as they’d like. So here are a couple of “nevers” to consider in this category.
- Never argue. Arguing with a client just makes you appear negative and difficult to work with.
- Never threaten. “If you don’t respond to me within three days, I’ll go to your competitor and work for them.” Ouch. This will backfire because it doesn’t make the client want to work with you.
It never pays to cop an attitude with a client. Try to take a positive, collaborative, flexible, patient, and helpful approach – at all times.
5. Never deliver a cost estimate without explaining its value to the client.
Clients get upset when they receive vendor quotes that have just a big ole price tag with no explanation of what it includes. For example, “I can fix your website for $5,000. All set to go?”
Clients like to know what they’re investing in. You may often find that your client needs to answer to a boss, a team of colleagues, or even a Board of Directors who will ask about the services you’ll be providing.
When you deliver a proposal, include an itemized list of your specific services and corresponding fees. Better yet, also use the proposal to remind them of their goals and how your work will help them succeed.
6. Never complain about the client’s methods, business, or operations.
Every client has their own system for creating websites and other materials. As a freelancer, your job is to adapt your work style to the client’s needs. No whining or arguing.
For example, let’s say you’re writing web copy for a client who uses an in house web developer with an established method for accepting copy. To make this a happy and smooth relationship, ask your client or the developer, “What’s the best way for me to get my copy to you?” and then follow that method.
You’ll be seen as an agreeable, helpful freelancer … the kind clients enjoy working with.
7. Never send an unpolished proposal.
Okay, I have to share this story with you. Recently a business owner told me, “We received a cookie-cutter web proposal with another client’s name in it! The vendor hadn’t even checked the document before sending it to us.”
Egads. Can you imagine sending a copywriting proposal to the ACME Company, but it says on it: “Thank you for this opportunity to help your company, FRED’s SERVICES, improve results.”?
It’s fine and very convenient to use a template document when creating a new estimate. But never ever send a new proposal without scrutinizing it first for mistakes, typos, formatting errors, missing details, or just wrong information in it.
If you really want to be safe, have a copy buddy or someone else read your proposal draft before you send it. It’s THAT important.
8. Never send clients to a poor-quality website, or send poor work samples.
Even if you’re just starting out and you have a bare-bones website, make sure it works perfectly.
There’s nothing worse than sending a potential client to a website full of mistakes such as broken links, awkward formatting, confusing text, or copy that’s all about how great you are. (See tip #2.) Be sure to have someone go through your website and identify any problem areas first, before you send clients there.
When you send samples as attachments to an email, make sure you send them as PDFs so they can be read by the client no matter what. If you send a Word document, you risk the chance that the client can’t open it because they have a different version.
And, one other thing. If you scan a work sample and make a PDF of it, make sure it looks like a high-quality sample that reflects your work in the best way.
If you don’t have a scanner that’s up to snuff, take your sample to a local print shop where they’ll create a great-looking PDF for you. Remember, best foot forward.
9. Never disappear.
Some copywriters have been known to neglect their clients. They either get too busy or go on vacation or put other needs first. And, they become invisible to their clients.
Yes, we all lead very busy lives. But, if you’re working on a client project or your client emails you a question, be responsive at all times. Clients expect their freelancers to be professional, dedicated, and responsive. Usually an email response is expected during normal business hours, unless you’re moonlighting and have explained that to the client.
10. “Never let them see you sweat.”
This tip is borrowed from a Dry Idea® ad slogan that’s been around for decades.
When you submit a proposal or even reply to an email inquiry, move on to other things until the client contacts you again.
Yes, you may be very anxious about your proposal. Did they like it? Do they accept it? Will this client choose me?
The problem is, while you’re itching to get hired and start working on the project, you have no idea what your client is facing back at the office. He or she may be juggling dozens of other projects, demands, customer service issues, staff problems, meetings, planning deadlines, number-crunching, and other stuff. Or, even balancing a crazy work schedule with a busy family and social life.
So, the best thing you can do is be patient and not appear to be desperate for the work.
This advice is worth repeating to yourself every time you feel the urge to send a bunch of follow-up email messages such as, “Have you read the proposal yet? What do you think? Ready to get started?”
It’s perfectly acceptable to send one follow-up email if you haven’t heard back in 7-10 days. In most cases, you’ll get a friendly reply that says something like, “Yes, we received your proposal and we’re just swamped here. We promise to get back to you as soon as possible.”
Keep this list of mistakes by your desk, and you’ll have a great chance of avoiding them as you pursue those exciting new copywriting projects.
[Ed Note: It’s a shame that some web copywriters sabotage their own success by making some simple mistakes that annoy prospective clients. Pam Foster describes those mistakes so you can avoid them and keep your clients happy during a special teleconference. Check it out here.]