Tips for Avoiding Loser Writing Clients

Carol Tice

Loser Writing Clients Are No GoodAre you attracting the caliber of writing client you would like? Many writers complain they only seem to draw lowball-payers with drama problems.

My mentee Katherine Swarts asked this week:

Does anyone have any suggestions, when it comes to professional and social networking, for conveying an upfront image that says “Top-quality, top-pay work only”? I’m tired of fending off individuals and amateur entrepreneurs who want someone to dash off a resume, college-paper edit, self-published-book edit, or write a press release for $50-100. They usually approach me directly, so simply ignoring them as I would a content-mill ad isn’t an option.

I’m sorry to report that loser clients strike even experienced, high-earning writers… But there are some concrete steps you can take to cut down on the number of loser pitches you get and increase the number of solid leads. Here are my tips:

1.  Look at what your Web site says. Let’s travel on over to Katherine’s Web site, SpreadTheWordCommercialWriting. It’s a pretty solid site, but it could be better. I’d add a picture of Katherine right there on the home page — remember, people hire people, not faceless sites. I also recommend having at least a partial bio right on that landing page, with a few of your top client names showing, as I do on mine. Think about your site like a prospect — what do you want to know? I think primarily, it’s “Who is this writer, what types of writing do they do, and who have they written for before?” Try to get brief answers to those right on the landing page. Since Katherine’s URL has “commercial writing” in it, that helps.

Running through her tabs, her bio just has a few association and certification links, and needs beefing up. She’s got some clips (though I’d like to see markets cited with the article links), testimonials (nice!), and she does a newsletter (very nice!). So a mixed bag here, and the home page needs substantial strengthening so it screams “I’m a pro, and these are the types of writing I have experience in.”

2.  Look at the layout of your Web site. Katherine knows her bright-yellow and blue layout isn’t the most professional look, but she doesn’t know how to update it. This is a problem I hear about all the time. Two words: Solve it! Either take a class to do it yourself, or hire somebody to overhaul your layout with more professional colors. That bright-yellow reminds me of some cheesy direct-mail ad.

Cheap Web help is readily available — for about a year, I used a teen from my high school’s digital design program. They need final projects to work on! Writer sites are not that complicated, and some appropriate tones and clean organization would help. One problem I see a lot on WordPress-based writer sites is their blog about some arcane niche topic dominates the home page while their resume and clips are shunted aside. Not the best strategy for getting better-paying work. Put those white papers and feature articles front and center instead.

3.  Look at where you’re networking. When I first started actively networking for my freelance writing business back in ’08, I went to a few local events in my small town. I was a bit startled to have experienced networkers ask me, “Who’s your ideal client?” I didn’t know what to say! I hadn’t really thought about it that much. When I did, I realized my ideal clients at this point in my career weren’t going to be at these local events — they are medium- to major-sized corporations and $1-a-word magazine markets.

So I changed where I network, got off my fanny and humped it into Seattle to go to big-time networking events. What do you know — I met the editor of Costco Connection, an editor of Microsoft Office Live…way better and more appropriate clients.

If you’re not getting the caliber of clients you want networking where you are, hit a bigger market or explore some other events until you hit the right mix. Maybe consider sucking it up and joining one of the pro groups such as BNI, where people are more serious about their business and understand marketing costs. Also, plug your authority more — maybe post some articles on BizNik that display your expertise.

4.  Look at what you’re saying when you network. Do you have your elevator pitch down on what you do? Does it include a specific description of the type of writing work you’re looking for? Hone your pitch to deflect losers. “I’m a freelance writer” leaves you wide open for anything, where “I’m a freelance writer who focuses on national women’s magazines and healthcare-industry copywriting” communicates more professionalism and a sharper sense of what you want.

5.  Look at where you’re querying. If you’re thinking publications, are you taking the time to search the Writer’s Market or other databases to find top-paying markets to query? Are you crafting well-polished queries tailored to those markets? If you don’t ask $1 a word markets for assignments, you usually don’t get them.

Photo via Flickr user levaine

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