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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.

That’s 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 can 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 B2B marketing people who are 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 in that sector, and show them 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 ask them to agree that if it turns out well, they will give you a testimonial on LinkedIn.

Then put that testimonial up on your website as well. (You do have a website, right?)

As soon as you can, quit working for free

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

I see beginners charging $1,500 or $2,000 for a white paper.

That’s way too low. The “average” text-only white paper was priced at $4,200 more than 5 years ago. Remember, your white paper can help pull sales of items worth $50,000 or $100,000 each, and often more.

For a startup, your white paper can make the difference between success and failure of the whole biz.

So any reasonable client will be okay with paying $2,500 and up for an effective white paper.

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 several copywriters who sent out 100 e-mails and heard nothing back. Then they got discouraged.

Instead, do 50 phone calls with a script to make sure you’re delivering some value to the people you call. Ask them what’s their biggest marketing problem. Then dream up some ways to help them solve it.

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 

As you know, a swipe file is a collection of examples you think are particularly good or poor.

Use your swipe file to inspire you. And dip into your swipe file to find an example or two you can share with a prospect to inspire them as well.

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.

Keep up with your chosen domain, and with the world of white papers and other types of content you want to write.

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 actually tone-deaf. With him calling, his hunting buddies felt sure they’d never have to do all 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 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.)

Work on your own “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 while you develop your “client call”? Have a look at this video from Marie Forleo about bridge jobs to help you reach your dreams.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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