It is rare that a potential client interviews only ONE freelance writer for a project. If you apply for jobs posted on Internet sites, you know those contenders could number in the hundreds. And, even if you’ve been personally referred by someone to a person or company, that does not guarantee you’ll get the assignment. It is in the client’s best interest to interview, compare—and justify—his or her choice.
I don’t know a single writer who wins every project he or she applies for, but I do know this: a client’s decision is influenced by more than your resume. In fact, you will usually have three opportunities to present yourself and your talent/skill in its best light: “pre”, “during” and “post” conversation.
Here’s a look at the actions you can take at these three critical times to tip the scales in your favor to win a writing project:
Before you even connect with prospects, give them a good reason to want to work with you. You do that by having a professional presence online. Yes, I keep harping on the importance of having your own website and I’ll continue to do so because it’s just that important. In the “old” days we used brochures to present our services in a professional light; now, websites are our brochures.
Prospective clients will want to know that this is your business, not your hobby. Your website does not have to be elaborate, but it must be professional and clearly state client benefits of working with you. Prospects WILL check out your website and it will tell them a lot about you. What they learn from your website will give you an advantage, keep you in the running, or send your name to the trash bin–and you have control over which one it will be. Pay careful attention to the tone and content of your site. If you can’t even sell yourself with your writing, how the heck are you going to represent them?
If you catch a prospect’s attention with your website, the next step is the interview. Sometimes a client will send out a prepared email interview. If so, don’t just answer the questions; add something extra that identifies a benefit—something special that you bring to the partnership. Perhaps you specialize in their industry, or won an award for advertising copy, or maybe it’s as simple as reviewing THEIR website and making a complimentary or constructive (not critical) comment. Prospects will be impressed with your effort to learn about them.
Whenever possible, encourage an actual phone conversation. Be prepared with a few questions of your own. At this stage, the two of you are still figuring out if you are a good fit for the project and the partnership. And, if during the conversation, you have a recommendation to make about the scope of the project or process, say something! Clients don’t always have a clear project scope and if you can help them find clarity, your value goes up. Always identify a “next step” before the conversation ends. It’s the professional thing to do.
Remember: THEY are the expert at what they do and YOU are the expert at what you do. When you highlight differentiators about yourself and/or your work process, you make it easier for the person to give you preference over your competition.
Always send a short follow-up email no later than the following day after your initial conversation. You can make it a quick recap of the conversation, an “afterthought” recommendation or confirmation of your next step. The goal is to keep it short but also let the prospect know you were paying attention and look forward to continuing the conversation.
For added credibility, include a testimonials document, a helpful checklist or report/article you’ve written related to the topic or field. For example, if the project is to write website copy, send a “10 things you should know before you hire a website copywriter” checklist. Just make sure the checklist is one you’ve written, not one written by a competitor.
You win projects by showing more than capability. You win them by adding value. If your “pre”, “during” and “post” conversation attempts don’t win you the job, don’t give up on the prospect. Place the contact on your “stay in touch with” list and send that person high-value information every couple of months with a note that you’d like to be considered for future projects as they arise. Your expertise and value can only increase with time, and a “no” today followed by staying in contact could lead to a “yes” tomorrow.