A student, who is an upcoming copywriter, recently asked where he could find clients willing to pay higher rates for his skills.
Having built a client base through networking on Internet forums geared towards start-up business owners, he now wanted to find opportunities that would allow for upward mobility within his craft.
This is a common scenario, because local and especially start-up businesses are easy to find, and provide plenty of opportunities to practice your emerging copywriting skills.
In a previous article, I talked about three tips for aspiring copywriters. I recommend any new copywriter to follow these three tips to start building a track record and get to a level that makes them appealing to higher-paying clients.
But after your copywriting skills are developed, however, it becomes desirable if not necessary to seek out clients — better, more lucrative clients — who are established enough to pay a fair wage for your skills and, above all, your results.
Granted, making this transition to a busier, in-demand copywriter who commands higher fees requires breaking out of your comfort zone and delving into new networks to increase the likelihood of rubbing shoulders with your target market.
(As the saying goes, “If you want to become a millionaire, hang out with other millionaires.” This is true in networking as it is in developing the millionaire mindset.)
Plus, it's important to note that, if you're good, word will get around. Without any prompting from you. The very best copywriters often need not market themselves.
However, there are ways to leverage and springboard that word-of-mouth process. So to get to the next level, there are three main techniques I personally applied to getting the majority of my copywriting clients. Any copywriter will be well-served in adapting them.
These three tips are:
1. Article Marketing
I know there are staple marketing practices online, such as search engine optimization. But one of the simplest and most potent online marketing methods I've used since the beginning of my career, one I still do to this day, is simple article marketing.
Writing articles and press releases, and submitting them to websites, directories, ezines, blogs (such as guest blogging), and article repositories, is an excellent way to get examples of your work in front of your target market and establish your expertise.
You may consider hiring a Virtual Assistant to take care of the submissions. I have a publicist on retainer who submits my articles to 3,000 outlets each month, including news sites, directories, and editors/publishers, as well as offline publications and magazines.
2. Viral Marketing
This has personally been the single, greatest tool for me in attracting clients. About 12 years ago, I wrote my book, “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning,” in which I distilled my 10 most popular marketing and copywriting tips.
They key to its popularity, however, is that I offered it for free and let people pass it around. By encouraging others to distribute it freely, I've attracted a continuing stream of quote requests from people who have stumbled onto my book.
A mentor once said to me: “Don't be a speaker, be an expert who speaks. Don't be a consultant, be an expert who consults. Don't be an author, be an expert who authors books.” To that I would add, “Don't be a copywriter, be an expert who writes copy.”
Therefore, establish yourself as an expert. As the saying goes, “Publish or perish.” The moment you write your first report, white paper, ebook, or self-published book, you establish yourself as an expert, particularly in your specific niche or field.
Plus, your publication is really your salesletter in disguise. Once people get a taste of what you can offer, they will want more. In 20 years in this business, the clients, projects, and speaking engagements I landed because of that one little book are incalculable.
3. Centers-of-Influence Marketing
You can set up strategic marketing alliances, joint-venture partners, and referral systems, even automated ones, with non-competing businesses in a variety of ways.
For example, if you're a web copywriter, then with web designers you can refer clients to each other, or create “service bundles” where you do the copy and the designer does the design work in a single service package both of you promote individually.
Similar co-operative efforts are possible with printers, direct marketers, coaches, consultants, etc. The possibilities are limitless. Simply think of a non-competing business or service provider who targets your market, and how can you can partner with them.
I talked about creating strategic alliances in my other article. But to get to the next level, find centers of influence whose opinions your more lucrative target market values.
Where before you would have created strategic alliances with anyone who can refer clients to you, now the goal would be to create them with key influencers whose partners, suppliers, markets, and clients consist of prospects that fall within your target market.
Nevertheless, the key to success with the methods above is to use them to get in front of the clients you desire. If you want higher-paying clients, then go where they go.
If, like my student earlier, you already use forums and prefer this method, then the above methods are a bit more complicated than when seeking out start-ups because there are only a handful of forums for more advanced clients and businesses.
In my experience, most of my top clients have abandoned forums as they are a waste of time — obviously, they'd rather spend time making money than in forums.
However, to attract top-shelf clients, you need to pinpoint their centers of influence. Often, these are the “pick and shovel” makers. Get your foot in the door by hanging out with them, writing their copy, or getting them to promote you in some way.
By “pick and shovel” makers, I mean service providers, marketers, website owners, and suppliers who sell products and services that serve an existing base of top-shelf clients.
Target locations where they congregate — whether they are blogs, forums, social networking sites, etc — that are specifically geared at the industry of your top prospects.
Again, these locations are not where clients hang out directly, but this can be used as a way to identify, approach, and network with these pick-and-shovel makers who eventually will put you in front of, or get you in touch with, the clients you want.
I personally used this technique to get my name out there and in front of the top guns when I started online. For example, I wrote the copy for a very popular SEO software many years ago. That particular software targeted top Internet marketers.
I got the job by hanging out on search engine message boards, software discussion groups, and SEO forums. The result? My copy did fabulously well — so well, in fact, that following this one project, I was inundated with work to the point of turning clients away.
These days, social media help to make things easier.
So include blogs, social networking sites, and discussion groups (such as mastermind groups, coaching groups) to find top-shelf clients and key centers of influence. Don't forget offline groups too, like clubs, tradeshows, seminars, and associations.
Eventually, as you apply these techniques, gain visibility, and work with better clients, it will lead you to a point where clients will begin to come primarily through word of mouth.
This is the point where, for example, a top marketer who buys some marketing software will go back to the software provider and say, “Hey, your software's great, but your copy is what sold me… who wrote it for you?” And bingo! Referral.
Michel Fortin is a certified digital marketing expert and renowned copywriter who specializes in a unique combination of SEO, CRO, and UX to improve traffic, leads, and revenue for his clients. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless wins, generating in excess of $300 million in sales and results that have broken many industry records. He has worked with thousands of businesses ranging from individual entrepreneurs to enterprise-level multinational companies. He's the author of two top-selling books and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.