To get clients, learn how to call a moose

“Where do you find clients?”

I get the same question almost every week.

But I don’t have a ready answer.

Asking me that is like asking a hunter where he got that moose he just bagged.

What are you going to do? Run off to the very same spot in the woods, and expect to get another moose? It doesn’t work that way.

photo of moose in a woodland


I know a hunter who used to listen to moose call recordings, then go out on his deck with his birch bark horn-cone to practice grunting and groaning.

(He sounded like he was having trouble in the outhouse!)

Like this hunter, any successful copywriter has taken the time to hone their “client call.” That’s all the things you do out in the wilds of the market to attract clients you’re excited to work with.

It takes a few years to get good at calling moose… or attracting the kind of clients that are good for you.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you hone your own personal “client call.”

Get passionate about what you do

Start with the value you will deliver to others, rather than fixating on some dollar figure you want to hit this year. When you create value for others, the money flows back to you.

If all you do is ask others to do something for you, you’re less likely to get a response. Especially from marketing people already overloaded with more than they can handle.

Draw up a picture of your ideal client

This is sometimes called a “persona.”

Beginners are always best to stick to the sector or vertical market where you already have some experience.

Then go find an ideal client, and show off what you can do for them—the first time for free, if necessary.

Make a deal with this client

Get your first client to let you use the work as a sample. And get them to agree that if it turns out well, they will give you a testimonial.

As soon as you can, quit working for free

Price your work for what you think you can get, and then double it. Starting high allows you to be generous during negotiations.

Use the phone, not e-mail

Don’t send e-mails and expect to be inundated with work. Your potential clients are buried in e-mail.

I’ve spoken with many copywriters who sent out 100 e-mails and heard nothing back.

Instead, do 50 phone calls with a script to make sure you’re delivering some value to the people you call.

You will speak to some prospects, find out more about them, and maybe even land a couple of projects.

Put in an honest day’s work

If you don’t have enough clients to fill up your day, fill it up with marketing. Make phone calls, write your buzz piece, research ideal clients. Work 40 hours a week at your marketing, and you will find clients.

Keep a swipe file of examples 

Use your swipe file to inspire you, and to inspire your clients about what you might do together.

Follow your chosen field

I study at least one or two white papers every day. All told, that means I look at 500 examples of the documents I specialize in every year. Doing any less would be foolish.

Understand the reality

Even at the biggest companies, managers don’t have long lists of excellent writers ready to jump at their projects.

If you show a potential client how you can help them with their problems, you will have their attention. If you help them perform better on their jobs, they will come back.

10 years later

My moose hunter friend is tone deaf. With him doing the calling, his hunting buddies felt sure they’d never have the hard work of cleaning and lugging a truck full of moose meat out of the bush.

Then one day, after a decade of practicing, he stood in the bush, did his moose call and three bulls all came running at once. (Hunters here must have licences for each animal they shoot, so they only took one.)

So work on your client call and you’ll eventually have that same problem: choosing among all of the interesting potential clients who come running your way.

Happy hunting!

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a few pages from my book White Papers for Dummies with more tips on honing your client call.

P.P.S. Panicked about paying the bills? Have a look at this video about bridge jobs to help you reach your dreams by Marie Forleo.

About Gordon Graham

Author of 275 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients everywhere from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, for everyone from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. Reviewers call it "a must-read... fantastic... outstanding... terrific... phenomenal... the best book of its kind."

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