Maybe it’s your first client meeting ever, and you’re petrified that you don’t know what to say. And you’ll come across like a dummy.
Or maybe you’ve taken scores of client meetings as a freelance writer — but you keep shooting blanks, and walking away without an assignment.
If you’re an experienced freelance writer, perhaps you’ve left too many first client meetings with the sneaky feeling that you’ve just been milked for an hour of free consulting. You could have charged hundreds for the advice, but you just gave it away, in hopes of impressing your prospect — and still didn’t get the gig.
If you’re any of these writers, I’ve got a piece of advice that’s going to save you time and help you land more clients.
You see, there’s a balance you need to strike in first client meetings between impressing the prospect that you’re smart, and being too helpful. So helpful that they get all the info they need in the meeting, and don’t have to hire you.
How can you impress clients fast, without giving away all your secrets? Here’s my approach:
One genius tip per client meeting
My goal in first client meetings is to share one great tip, that’s going to help their business. Whether they hire me or not.
One tip, and that’s all. Beyond there, my spiel is:
“I’d love to elaborate further, on how to implement this. There’s a lot to know. Want to sign a consulting contract at $100 an hour/hire me for this writing project and write a deposit check? Happy to share more details.”
This tip should be something fairly simple to understand and execute…but ideally, it could also be built up with more marketing knowledge, to produce better results. Which is where hiring you to write comes in.
You may be thinking, “But I’m not really a genius. I don’t have genius tips to offer. How can I make this work for me?”
Here are three super-easy ways to come up with brilliant tips for a first client meeting:
1. Share best practices
I recently had one Freelance Writers Den member comment that a prospect wanted to know her price on a 20-page white paper.
The genius tip? White papers aren’t that long any more. Nobody’s got time to read such a long report. These days, 5-10 pages is about it for white papers, typically.
By simply sharing that a 10-page white paper would likely convert better than one at 20 pages — since more readers would reach the end and see the pitch — this writer stood out. She didn’t look greedy and just out for the money.
She was actually proposing a smaller project! But one that would likely get better results for the client.
Key point: She didn’t proceed from there to lay out the best ways to outline the white paper, pitch possible titles or themes for a white paper, or discuss how to get good research data for the white paper. She stopped with that one tip. The rest of her knowledge on how to put together a white paper, she saved for after the deposit check.
As a freelance writer, you’re soaking up best practices, almost by osmosis. You learn from other writers, and from current clients.
You may know more about marketing trends than your prospect will (witness the many small businesses that still ask for 300-word blog posts, when we know Google no longer rewards that). When you spot an opportunity to flash your knowledge of what’s working out there, do it.
You’ll never go wrong by showing the client you care about their bottom line — and that you’re a valuable team member, because you know and share writing best practices.
2. Find the missing piece
Often, you’ll be in a first client meeting with a prospect who’s got a laundry list of possible projects. It’s chaos! They haven’t been getting their marketing done, and now they’re hoping you can dive in and catch them up.
Your genius tip here is simply to help them prioritize. Look at their current website and marketing, and find the most glaring omission. The missing piece that stands the best chance to rapidly improve their results (and generate cash to pay for more writing projects).
Name that missing piece, and recommend that you start with an initial project to address that. It could be fresh case studies, a media kit, longer blog posts — it’ll depend on your prospect’s situation.
What’s truly beautiful here? The client doesn’t even have to agree with your genius tip! Maybe they have another idea of what’s top priority.
But the fact that you wanted to help them cut through the clutter and move forward will impress. Overwhelmed clients need someone to help them find clarity. You can be their guru simply by getting their ideas into priority order.
3. Study the industry
Different industries have different marketing approaches. There isn’t a lot of blogging in the plant-nursery industry, for instance. Retailers don’t create many white papers.
If you want to look smart, you can do a little research on what is working for your prospect’s industry — and bring them an idea on how they can take advantage of industry marketing trends.
Genius tip: Bring a competitive analysis. Take a few minutes to look up and study the marketing of the biggest competitors in their industry. Compare it with what your prospect does, and you’ll usually find marketing methods they’re not using.
Your tip flows out of that research, as in:
“I noticed that company A and B have created videos that walk you through their product’s features — but your site still relies on short, written descriptions alone. Should we maybe think about video scripting, to bring your marketing up to the industry standard?”
This is a particularly good approach with vague clients who don’t seem sure exactly what they want. Boom — now, you’ve got a first project to start on.
Another way to glean industry tips is to join LinkedIn Groups for marketing managers in your target industry. Then, ask questions about what’s working for them and what they plan to do more of in the coming year. One fresh insight out of that, and you’ve delivered insider info your prospect won’t get from any other writer they interview.
My genius tip: A case study
To sum up, the two keys to genius tips are:
- Keep them short
- Show you care about the client’s success
I recently put this into practice myself, at a first client meeting for ghostwriting a book. This prospect– a successful tech-company founder — turned out to be bursting with ideas for new businesses, websites, presentations, blog posts and more, beyond the book idea.
As we talked about his mission of reaching twenty-somethings with his ideas, a thought occurred to me.
“Are you sure this should be a book?” I asked him. “I’m not sure your target audience reads books much. What if it were an online course or an app, instead?”
From that single genius tip, this man’s entire business idea began to evolve. And I became his must-have writer.
He knew I cared about his business, because I was suggesting that perhaps a $35,000 book deal with me wasn’t his best way to go. Maybe I was nuts, but my rule is that I want to work on projects that are successful — and I worried that book idea wasn’t going to connect with his audience.
What happened? Instead, he signed me to a $200-an-hour, open-ended consulting contract to help him create an online coaching business model for delivering the information he wanted to get out. I’m in for about $1,200 of it so far, and believe there’s a ton more work to come.
Best of all, I love looking like a genius. Don’t you?
Have you given out genius tips? Let’s discuss how you came up with your tips over on Facebook.