Become a freelance god in 7 (sort of) simple steps

May 26, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance copywriting godThe world is filled with dreaming writers who have heard golden stories of the great beyond (working full time as a well-paid freelance copywriter), but who have yet to make the mysterious transformation from mere mortal to freelance god.

Many of my fellow immortals would keep you in the dark, struggling to find the secret.

But I, in my infinite mercy, shall now reveal to you the 7 steps for breaking the bonds of earth and ascending in glory to the pantheon of six-figure writers who …

Okay, even I can’t continue with that silly metaphor.

The fact is, there is very little difference between you and those “godlike” writers you admire and envy. Going from struggling writer to successful freelancer isn’t effortless, but it’s not as complicated or mysterious as you might think.

Really, it’s about 7 pretty simple ideas:

Clients can’t hire you if they can’t “see” you. So you have to be visible. You can become visible by getting involved in your professional community, attending trade association meetings, entering industry contests and award shows, writing articles, giving speeches, publishing an informative blog, generating news about your business, and staying in touch with former clients.

You don’t have to be visible to everyone, just the people most likely to hire you. Remember what Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

It’s not enough to be a copywriter. There are zillions of copywriters these days, and they all claim they’re the best. You can’t tell one from the other. So, who are you?

To stand out, you have to find and fill a niche. That means specializing by industry (such as high-tech or healthcare), medium (such as websites or social media), or an area of expertise (such as education or publishing).

I write all sorts of things for my clients, for example, but I’m a direct marketing specialist. If it’s not direct marketing, I don’t write it. And even more specifically, I’m known as the direct mail guy. When prospects are doing direct mail, will they call a copywriter who does everything or the direct mail guy?

Remember, you’re selling something that is invisible. No one knows exactly what they’re buying from you until you finish it. So potential clients come to you with many doubts. Can you do the work? Will you deliver on time? Do you know what you’re talking about?

You can’t totally eliminate those doubts, but you can establish some credibility by writing how-to articles, sharing client testimonials, revealing details about your writing process, offering a free consultation, publishing a book, and showing samples of your work.

I recommend that you read Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. This book helped me understand selling a service from my clients’ point of view.

If you want to be a freelance god, you really do have to be good at what you do. There are some who claim that absolutely anyone can become a successful freelance copywriter, even those without writing skills or special expertise. That’s bunk.

You must, at the very least, be an above average writer with some selling skills and a firm grasp of your specialty. You should become an authority in your field, deliver outstanding service with every project, and stay up-to-date in your chosen specialty. If you’re not superior in some way, why would anyone seek your services or pay you more than average?

Can prospects reach you? With all the ways to connect, you’d be surprised how hard many people are to reach today. And if people can’t reach you, and reach you easily, they’ll move on to another freelancer.

You have many options: land line, cellular phone, texting, fax line (yeah, many people still fax), email, website contact form, Twitter direct message, LinkedIn message, Skype, and lots more.

The key is to respond promptly. If you’re one of those people who return messages 3 days later, you won’t build much of a freelance business. Today, people want answers 5 minutes ago. Yes, you have to manage your time and you can’t email all day, but don’t get so efficient that you become unreachable and aloof.

This is a tough one, especially if you’re in demand and routinely have a busy schedule. Clients like the idea that you have many clients because it assures them that you’re trustworthy. After all, how could all those clients be wrong? But when it comes time for their project, they want you to be ready to go today.

You should schedule and juggle your clients wisely without making a big deal of it. You can also consider working longer hours or weekends, shifting hours to accommodate clients in different time zones, or farming out overflow work to fellow freelancers to keep yourself available to major clients.

Earlier, I said you must be superior. But, surprisingly, you don’t have to actually be the best, even if that might help. What people really want is “acceptability.” That means they want you to meet certain qualifications without necessarily exceeding them. They want your fees, skills, service, knowledge, etc. to meet their needs and expectations.

The way prospects make decisions is that they get a feel for you, decide they’re willing to hire you, then try to justify that decision. They’ll actually look for a problem to “test” their decision. As long as they don’t find any reason not to hire you, they probably will. They want to be comfortable working with you, but they don’t have to be in awe of you.

Yes, there are a lot of details involved in becoming a freelance god, but they all boil down to these 7 simple ideas:

You must be visible.
You must create an identity.
You must establish credibility.
You must offer superiority.
You must be accessible.
You must be available.
You must be acceptable.

You’ll notice that I said “simple,” not “easy.”

So I might also throw in “persistence.” Doing these 7 things takes time. Not months, but years. Only if you stick with it can you hope to become a freelance god.

The great and powerful Dean has spoken!

(Cue sound of rolling thunder.)

Related posts:

  1. How to write a crowd-pleasing speech in 3 simple steps
  2. The one simple secret for earning top freelance pay
  3. 5 simple ways to become a confident copywriter
  4. Copywriting ethics: 6 steps for working with questionable clients

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Smart Comments

4 Comments on Become a freelance god in 7 (sort of) simple steps

  1. Martin Stellar on May 27th, 2011 9:15 am
  2. Almighty Dean, I prostrate myself at thy feet in reverence and adoration at your imparting such wisdom on us mere mortals.

    Good stuff. Thank you! The most poignant bit was about clients wanting me to start today and deliver instantly. Pretty dang impossible. Still, it works with some decent and patient instruction on what to expect in terms of time frame.

    When they ask me when I can start, I always like to reply: Ask me when I can finish :D

  3. Dean Rieck on May 27th, 2011 1:25 pm
  4. Martin: Good point. I ask about the date when they need to see the first draft. That’s the date I have to work from.

  5. Vladimir on Jun 6th, 2011 11:15 pm
  6. Great article!

    I’m really glad I found you through CopyBlogger blog.

    Hope to learn more of the good and useful tips from you in the time to come :)

  7. Cleo on Oct 8th, 2011 11:42 pm
  8. I’ve been working in an increadibly boring, uninspiring corporate job for ages.

    Down through those years, I’ve written two unpublished novels – the first resembles the Harry Potter series and was written just before the Potter books were published and made into movies, following which, my humble effort was quietly packed away. That ship has sailed and only one authoress will ever sail on it!!!

    The other book is about a beautiful woman, her affairs, her husbands, her marriages, and the events of her life.

    I also have an archfile full of poems, mostly unpublished, written through the years, just for my own amusement and that of family and friends, though some of them WERE published by a local rag …. which promptly fell down and died, leaving me to wonder if my poems were the cause … (ha, ha!).

    At the same time, I did the rounds, trying to (a) get into full-time journalism, and (b) have some of my other stuff published, including the book about the woman. No dice. Back then, the print media – otherwise known as The Fourth Estate, was a closed, hard-to-butt-into world peopled by a cynical, suspicious, balding, paunchy, been-there-seen-that-done-it-all lot.

    However, they rule no more, as television, and the Internet have taken over, and there ARE opportunities out there for those who can avail of them.

    Of the seven points you mentioned – I believe I have three of them. I can offer accessibility via my two email accounts, I am available, and I believe I can offer good content.

    I would be humbly grateful if you – or any other kindhearted god of freelance online writing who happens to be reading this – would guide me as to how to create Visibility, Identity, Credibility and Acceptance. I do not own a blog – as yet, but I will take your advice and start one. Any tips on how to create an effective blog, by the bye?

    Thanks a million times for the guidance and wisdom already offered to me, sincerely and free of charge, out of your own, hard-earned experience. I deeply appreciate this any any future assistance made available to me.