How about a little change of pace today?
Instead of me babbling on about crackerjacks and grab bags, I’m gonna hand over the microphone to someone else.
In this case, my friend Ryan Healy.
Ryan is like some kind of “wizard” at getting clients.
And while the following Q&A interview with him is about how he got some 60 copywriting clients in less than two years, much of it applies to getting ANY kind of client — whether you’re a copywriter, a coach, a consultant, and any other kind of service-based business.
Lots of gold in these thar hills.
Let’s get diggin’…
BEN: You were basically put in a “do or die” situation and forced to figure out how to get clients for your business. Can you tell us about that?
RYAN: Sure. Basically, I had quit my job to become a financial planner. I had gotten my Series 6 license, set up a pay-for-performance deal with another successful financial planner, and had saved a bonus check to pursue my dream of being self-employed.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans often do not work out.
And such was the case with me.
After a couple of months trying to make the financial planner gig work out, I had to face reality. I had only made a measly $200 for all my hard work. I was down to the dregs of my bank account and had roughly two weeks’ of living expenses left. I needed to do something fast if I was going to be able pay my bills at the end of the month.
It was actually a very stressful time for me. My second child was only three months old. We had unpaid hospital bills. Plus, we had a mortgage payment, a car payment, and all the other expenses that go along with being a fairly typical middle class family.
But my wife hadn’t worked in a few years. In fact, she’d transitioned fully to life at home with our kids. So it was really all up to me to make something happen.
I had two choices. I could get another job, which I didn’t want to do. Or I could launch a freelance copywriting career. I had already been writing copy in my previous job, and I had completed the AWAI Six-Figure Copywriting course. So I decided to try my hand as a freelance copywriter.
Foolishness? Lunacy? Misplaced optimism?
I’m not sure what I was thinking other than that I just HAD to make it work.
Honestly, I really didn’t know what I was doing at first. But God was gracious. In spite of my lack of experience, I still managed to pick up three clients within a couple weeks of launching my freelance business.
BEN: Why do most people have such a hard time getting clients, do you think? And what’s the one thing they can do to make it easier right away?
RYAN: Reason number one is most copywriters lack confidence in their abilities. I was fortunate because I had been mentored by the owner of the last company I worked at. And I had written sales copy and gotten to see the results.
So my confidence levels were already higher than average when I got started.
That helped me immensely.
You see, you can do all the right things to get clients, but if you lack confidence, you’re going to struggle big time.
One way to develop confidence in your copywriting skills is to become an apprentice of another copywriter, marketer, or business owner. If you have a good mentor, you’ll rapidly develop the kind of mindset you need to succeed.
Another easy way to develop confidence is to do direct response things online where you get to see the immediate effects of what you write. For instance, getting comments on a blog is a form of direct response.
That’s one reason I think it makes sense for copywriters to have their own blogs. It’s a great place to experiment.
BEN: How did you get your first client, exactly?
RYAN: Here’s the short version.
I purchased a $900 course from AWAI to get access to a private “job” forum. I never went through the course, but I did use the forum right away.
Inside the forum business owners had posted projects that they needed copywriters for. Some of these guys had published their phone numbers.
Rather than apply for the projects through the web site (which is probably what every other copywriter was doing), I just picked up the phone and called.
Believe it or not, this is how I got my first two clients.
I just picked up the phone and called guys who had already said they wanted to hire a copywriter.
And I’m not some great salesman either.
I just had the guts to pitch myself to prospective clients on the phone when other copywriters were too scared.
BEN: What is the #1 most “fool proof” way to get new clients you’ve used?
RYAN: Well, I don’t know if any method is “fool proof”… fools are notorious for botching even simple procedures.
That said, I guess there are two mostly fool-proof strategies I’ve focused on from day one.
First, I’ve tried to get connected with influencers. The more connected you are, the easier it is to get referrals and attract clients to you.
Second, I’ve tried to develop a reputation as a copywriter who can be counted on — a copywriter who is reliable, over-delivers, and gets results.
Again, this second strategy dovetails with my first strategy of getting connected. People will only refer clients to you when they know you are trustworthy and will make them look good.
Trust me, there is nothing worse than giving a bad referral to a client, colleague, or friend. It’s embarrassing and humiliating because it reflects poorly on you.
BEN: What do you think of this whole “clients suck” attitude that’s been popularized on the Internet thanks to certain goo-roos?
RYAN: I go back and forth on this one. Some days, I’m in love with my clients. And other days, I’m disillusioned and ready to throw in the towel.
But here’s what I’ve discovered.
It’s not so much that “clients suck” (some of them are awesome and have my utmost respect); rather, it’s that entrepreneurial folks (like copywriters) chafe under deadlines and being at the client’s beck and call.
Obviously, some of this is a symptom of not positioning yourself correctly and choosing clients poorly. (I know I’ve been guilty this.) So I guess the point I’m trying to make is that to say “clients suck” is really to say that “bad clients suck.”
But, hey, sometimes you’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you find a really good client.
It’s just part of the process that every freelancer has to go through.
BEN: What is the most important piece of advice you can give someone new to business who needs to get their first client yesterday, in any kind of service business (copywriting, coaching, consulting, etc), especially in these tough economic times?
RYAN: Man, this is a tough question.
Because I don’t think there’s just one thing that’s a “cure-all” for getting clients. But one of the guidelines that I think is vital for all service providers in all economic conditions is this: Do something to market yourself every single day.
If you follow this advice, it puts the law of averages in your favor. Some of the things you do to market yourself won’t work. But some will work.
Over time, you can analyze what’s working and focus on those things and drop the ineffective stuff.
If there’s one piece of advice that I could give to somebody new to business who needed to get their first client yesterday, this is what I would say:
Identify your ideal client.
Find out where your ideal clients gather as a group.
Then go to wherever they are gathered so you can engage them in a face-to-face setting.
I don’t care whether you want to stay locked up in your office and never talk to another person for the rest of your life. There’s nothing that builds trust faster than meeting a person face-to-face.
And trust is a vital ingredient in every business transaction.
BEN: What is the best free lead generation source for getting clients and can you give an example of how someone could use it?
RYAN: The best free lead generation source for getting clients is… referrals. In most cases, a referral is highly qualified and predisposed to become your client.
Plus, referrals are free in most cases, unless you have a formal relationship set up. And if you do have a formal relationship set up, you still don’t have to pay anything for the lead until that lead becomes a client.
Example: You could go to complimentary businesses and set up a referral relationship with them.
A copywriter could partner with a web designer and send clients to each other. A real estate agent could establish a relationship with a mortgage broker and send clients to each other. And so forth.
BEN: What is the best paid lead generation resource for getting clients and can you give an example of how someone could use it?
RYAN: In this case, it’s hard to know what the “best” paid method is because there are positives and negatives to different approaches. If you’re doing business online, Google Adwords can be a great source of leads, particularly if you’re running local ads.
Example: Set up a local Adwords campaign and drive people to a lead capture page — a page designed to presell prospects on your service and get them to submit their information using a web form.
Once you capture this information, you have a qualified lead you can follow up with by phone.
BEN: How important is the phone when closing new clients, and do you have any good tips for people on using it?
RYAN: The phone is extremely important because nobody in their right mind is going to send you $5,000 or $10,000 without talking to you first. So the best a web page can do is presell potential clients on doing business with you instead of a competitor.
A great tip for getting the most out of your phone “pitches” is (quite simply) to listen. Just listen. Find out where your client is coming from. Try to discern whether or not he really needs your service. Have his best interest in mind.
Then tailor your advice to the client.
I’ve never been a “hard sell” kind of guy.
But I believe being a good listener — and really understanding the client’s position — has “converted” many prospects into paying clients.
BEN: Have you ever been screwed over by a client? If so, what should people do when it happens?
RYAN: Yep, I’ve been ripped off more times than I care to count.
And while it’s never easy when it happens (especially if you were counting on the money to pay your bills), I recommend a two-step process for bouncing back.
First, try to keep the lines of communication open to increase your chances of getting paid. If the client refuses to communicate with you, you move to step two, which is to move on.
Seriously. If one of your clients screws you over, and there’s no hope of collecting what’s owed you, then it’s best to move on. Forgive and forget. It’s worked well for me.
(And, obviously, make mental notes of what went wrong so you can avoid similar situations in the future.)
BEN: Do you have any other fast, actionable tips for someone who needs to get new clients as fast as possible?
RYAN: Taking the shotgun approach is a strong temptation when you’re desperate for clients. You just want to run out there and try everything possible.
And while getting out there and hustling is a very good thing, I would recommend that you take smart action. Focus on the things that have already been proven to get good clients.
So before you start beating the bushes for clients, put together a game plan. Write down the specific strategies and techniques you’re going to use. And then follow your game plan.
This way you can work hard and smart.
BEN: Tell us about your special report on how to get clients, how it will help people get new clients fast, and where can we find it?
RYAN: The special report I wrote is called “How to Get Your First Real Copywriting Client in 14 Days or Less.” I wrote it based on my personal experience getting started as a freelance copywriter.
Obviously, it’s not the “end all, be all” when it comes to getting copywriting clients, but it will give you a solid jump-start. Many copywriters have reported back to me that it has given them just what they needed to get their first clients.
Go ahead and click this link if you’d like to learn more:
Thanks for this opportunity, Ben! I’ve really enjoyed it.
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Good stuff, eh?
And by the way, the above is NOT an affiliate link.
See ya tomorrow.