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What Freelance Writers Can Learn From the World’s Best Restaurant

Carol Tice

By Ed Gandia

Bern’s Steakhouse is by far my favorite restaurant anywhere.

I’m not alone. John Mariani, one of America’s top food critics, has called this Tampa, Fla. steakhouse “the most remarkable restaurant in the entire world.”

Why is Bern’s so special?

There are many reasons. First, Bern’s is an institution. It’s an old-school steakhouse that’s been around since the mid-1950s. The décor is tacky and a bit overdone, which gives the place some real character.

Service is top-notch. Waiters train for a year before they can serve you on their own. They truly know their stuff.

Bern’s steaks are perfectly aged. And the restaurant spares no expense to bring you the best, freshest ingredients from all over the world.

And the wine … oh, boy! 6,500 different selections. Hundreds of thousands of bottles. Tons of rarities that have been perfectly stored in Bern’s private cellar for decades. Insane.

Then there’s the dessert room, which is another experience in and of itself. Last time I visited, Bern’s had more than 50 different desserts, hundreds of dessert wines and dozens of coffees from around the world. And you get your own private, enclosed booth where you can choose from a variety of music channels or a live piano.

It’s no surprise that the first thing you read when you go to the Bern’s Steakhouse website is “We do things differently here.”

They really do. That’s why you’ll drop $300 (or more) for dinner when you go there. It’s a lot of money. But it’s a wonderful experience you don’t soon forget!

There’s an important lesson here for freelancers and all solo practitioners:

Bern’s truly knows what they stand for. They’re very clear about this – and they don’t make excuses.

They don’t apologize for selling red meat. Or for being expensive. Or for selling bottles of wine that cost more than a monthly car payment.

Bern’s is Bern’s. Their customers qualify themselves. That’s the way they want it.

And that’s incredibly smart, because ANY business that tries to be all things to all people will eventually fail.

That’s true whether you own a steakhouse … or a freelance business.

You see, as a freelance professional, your most valuable nonrenewable resource is your time. That’s why you should always strive to maximize the income you earn for every hour you put into your business.

A big part of doing this well is to be very, very clear about what you’re all about: on your website, in your marketing materials, and in your conversations with prospects and referral sources.

It’s about being perfectly clear on what services you offer. Why you’re different. What kind of clients you can help. What kind of organizations you can’t help.

It’s about taking a stand and not trying to be all things to all people.

Because the clearer you are about what you’re all about, the easier it will get for you. You’ll start attracting more prospects who have prequalified themselves. Which means you won’t have to spend as much time trying to persuade those who don’t “get it.”

And that means more time for billable work. More time to work on making your solo business more profitable. More time for fun activities outside of work.

How do you increase the chances that most of the prospects who contact you have prequalified themselves? Here are six ideas:

  1. Make sure that your marketing materials (including your website) are written for prospects who already understand the value of hiring a professional freelance writer. Don’t try to sell the value of quality copy or content. There are enough prospects who already hire freelancers in your profession to waste time on those who don’t.
  2. Take a stand — be clear about the type of work you do and don’t do, as well as the type of clients you work with (and those you can’t help).
  3. Be explicit about what makes you different. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
  4. Make it clear, implicitly or explicitly, that you’re not the cheapest service provider in town (or online).
  5. Develop a specialty and communicate why you’re the obvious choice for that type of work or for that industry. Everything else being equal, clients would rather work with someone who already “gets” their industry, customers or readership.
  6. Add credibility elements to support your claims, such as clips, testimonials, client lists, success stories, awards and so on.

Helping prospects qualify themselves before they contact you is a smart business practice. Your prospects will appreciate your clarity, honesty and professionalism. You’ll end up with clients who are a better fit for you, don’t shop your fees around and give you more work.

And you’ll almost always boost your income for every hour you invest in your business.

So don’t be afraid. Take a stand. Be selective. Be like Bern’s.

You owe it to your prospects. And you owe it to yourself!

What makes you special? Tell us in the comments below.