The two most common questions I get asked when I tell people I am a writer:
1) What do you write?
2) How do you find your clients?
The answer to the first question is pretty straightforward: I solve explanation problems for CEOs and founders who don’t have time to write. This can be packaged in various forms:
- Creating a long-form blog post from an audio file such as a podcast, webinar, or speaking event.
- Research briefs for think tanks, nonprofit organizations, or advocates.
- Linkable assets or gated content such as white papers or eBooks.
- Re-writing or producing new copy for websites and “About me” pages
- Turning an executive’s conversations and notes into a series of thought leadership articles.
Although there are many different forms to what I do, it is all essentially the same thing. I am a dedicated resource to help bring clarity to ideas and to save people the time (aka the pain) of writing it themselves. My clients still do the work, and must still have the ideas. Utilizing someone like me to pretty up the presentation is the difference between handing someone a gift in the store’s plastic bag versus sparkly, Extra AF, gift wrap. The gift is still great either way, but the added time spent on the presentation makes people stop and take notice.
So how do I find people who want the gift wrap service? I got you covered (writers must drop puns, or they are not real writers). There are two reasons why people wrap their offerings in plastic bags: budget and ignorance. That second category is my people. They just don’t know that meaningful well-crafted content makes a difference, or that they don’t have to go at it alone.
While I’d love to tell you that clients just show up on my doorstep, or, I waived a magic SEO wand over my website and voila! traffic is beating down my door, let’s be real… it doesn’t happen that way. Instead, the most significant improvement for how I find my clients came from being able to fully define what I do.
I had to first learn what I did not do and not sell to those people. Sounds like a no brainer, right? For me, and perhaps many of you out there, I felt a little in over my head when I first started out. I had no idea where to begin, or if there was a market for my offerings. So I did the typical freelancer thing and took everything I could find for whatever coin it came with (which wasn’t very much). I cruised job boards, freelance sites, and sent mass solicitations to local businesses.
Things really started to change for me in year two. What began to take shape was a clear definition of where I shine and the “profiles” of those people and organizations that fit those skills sets. Looking back on what projects went well became the intel I needed to start finding my meaningful clients. (Notice I didn’t say the projects I loved because I don’t think it is necessary to feel passion for everything that you do. Some projects pay the bills, others light your little creative soul on fire.) I also pay close attention to what is on the horizon in my industry and the industries I serve.
So to circle back to the question of how I find my clients, I avoid the trap of selling to clients that don’t value my service. I am not for everyone, and I am ok with that. Now that I know exactly who I am looking for, I hang out where my future clients are. This means I am reading the magazines they aspire to be in, chatting with them in the platforms where they express their pain points and connecting with them on LinkedIn and Instagram.
By the time I make contact with the sell via email or direct mail, you can be sure I come at them from a well-researched position. I also feel very fortunate that a considerable percentage of my business is repeat business. I chalk that up to working hard to get it right.
The key to finding your clients is education. This is why I can’t answer this question with a 2 cent post. Finding clients requires a lot of unsexy work. It’s about growing and perfecting your skill set, knowing your value, understanding your client’s pain points, and knowing where to turn for expert marketing advice. For me the experts I consistently turn to for insights are people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris, Marie Forleo, and Seth Godin. These are just a few of the people who taught me that everything I thought I knew about lead generation was wrong, and why being true to myself is a much better “tactic”!