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Selling your Copywriting Services

9 Essential Secrets You Must Know Before You Sell Your Copywriting Services to 
Small Local Businesses This Year!
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and Associates

Doctors, accountants, lawyers, real estate brokers, veterinary hospitals, 
consultants, and many small and home-based businesses rely on the skills and 
wits of freelance copywriters to write creative and sales-clinching copy to 
increase their customer-base and boost sales. But there's one small problem: 
very few small and home-based businesses in your business community will admit 
to hiring freelance copywriters.

The majority will tell you they don't hire freelance copywriters because, well, 
they just don't! So how do freelance copywriters garner small and home-based 
businesses as long-term clients and receive steady, repeat work from them?

The answer is discreet: they fulfill this market's needs much differently than 
how freelance copywriters fulfill the needs of corporations, ad agencies, and 
businesses with sales in the multi-millions.

Here's how you can steal a piece of this proliferating and 
potentially-lucrative market and make small and home-based businesses eager to 
work with you.

Secret #1: Don't ask for freelance work
One common mistake is to ask small and home-based businesses if there's 
freelance work available of if they have use for a freelance copywriter. 
Adducing your question in this context will garner numerous no's. According to 
Paul Murray, a copywriter who writes for small businesses in the Atlanta, GA 
area, "...most small and home-based businesses don't actively seek freelance 
writers." For this reason, says Murray, "they rarely have freelance work to 
hand out." The remedy: "Asking for freelance work does not work—you must create 
it," says Murray.

Secret #2: The "secret" selling strategy you must harness
Corporations, ad agencies, manufacturers and other large businesses usually 
knock at your door with freelance work and tell you—in some cases—exactly what 
needs to be done. But selling to small and home-based businesses is different: 
they won't knock at your door with freelance work or tell you what needs to be 
done. Instead, you must knock at their door with freelance work and tell them 
how it's going to be done.

Small and home-based businesses usually rely solely on staff employees to 
produce their newsletters and brochures. Or worse, the client or owner of the 
business writes the copy himself to save money. But this is often met with 
devastating results. Their print materials contain embarrassing grammatical 
errors and boring copy that kills business and projects a negative image.

Approaching small and home-based businesses with freelance work requires you to 
create a need for your services. This can be accomplished by emphasizing the 
benefits of hiring you and showing the owner how your copywriting skills can 
exceedingly improve their existing print materials and/or create print 
materials that can boost sales.

The best way to create freelance work, says Murray, is to "look for missing 
print materials that many businesses use but [this particular] business lacks."

For instance, Murray discovered that his local veterinary hospital lacked a 
regular newsletter because the owner didn't understand how his hospital could 
benefit from one on a repeated basis. "It wasn't because the owner couldn't 
afford a copywriter or he had other print materials that substituted a 
newsletter," says Murray, "it was because he was uneducated as to how a 
newsletter could positively contribute to his business."

Murray's selling strategy is simple: he showed the owner how hiring him to 
write and produce a monthly newsletter would convert initial customers into 
repeat clients, bring in more referrals, sell more products such as flea 
control and sprays, and enhance the hospital's image.

The bottom line, says Murray, is "the newsletter would boost the hospital's 
sales...that's what the owner really wanted to hear."

Once the owner realized the need to hire a freelance copywriter to write and 
produce a regular newsletter (and many other types of promotional and 
informational material), Murray got the job.

Remember you have a benevolent advantage as a copywriter seeking freelance work 
in your business community: you're familiar with the businesses around you and 
you have a sense or can find out quickly their needs. Once you debunk these 
businesses' needs, you can create a plan to fulfill them...which leads to 
securing work.

Secret #3: Never sell your services—always sell solutions
"Boosting sales" is the magic phrase that all small and home-based business 
owners want to hear in your sales letter or over the phone when you speak 
one-on-one with the owner. They care less if you write better copy than another 
copywriter or you offer more diverse services or you brandish a bigger client 
list. If you can't help them boost sales, why should they bother hiring you?

A common mistake is to pitch yourself as a freelance writer offering 
copywriting services. According to Murray, "This is one reason why small and 
home-based businesses are hesitant to hire freelance copywriters: they don't 
just want a writer to write fancy copy. They want a writer who can write copy 
that increases sales. Period."

If you write newsletters, you better know how your newsletter can predominantly 
boost your clients' sales. You also must know how your copywriting a newsletter 
can benefit the client's business; e.g., you can tell the client your 
newsletter can increase referrals, turn first-time customers into repeat 
clients, increase product sales, enhance the company's image, etc.

When Murray discovered his local veterinary hospital lacked a newsletter, he 
saw this as a potential problem that the owner did not realize. What was the 
problem? Without a newsletter, the hospital was losing sales. The solution: 
produce a newsletter as a way to boost sales, project a positive image, 
increase referrals, and sell more products. Murray then pitched himself as a 
copywriter with the solution.

(I've hit on something that all copywriters must learn: you are in business to 
sell solutions—not services. Clients hire copywriters to solve their problems, 
whatever they are. Sales, whether low or high, are always a "problem"—or a 
potential problem—since sales can be indefinitely increased. Clients of small 
and home-based businesses are no different: they rely on sales as a major 
"emotional" concern as any business does.)

Secret #4: You must penetrate their budgets
Small and home-based businesses have calculated annual budgets that they abide 
by. Murray says, "Their budgets are often severe [i.e. small] and 
unyielding...and their budgets often don't include you"—the freelance 

Convincing prospective clients to make room in their budgets is a matter of 
identifying their problems (or potential problems), pitching yourself as the 
copywriter who has the solution(s), and then showing the decision-maker how 
you'll achieve this outcome.

Make sure you also stress the fact that you're a writer who intends to boost 
their sales with your copywriting, not just to provide professional print 

Secret #5: Educate to eliminate ambiguity
Many small and home-based businesses are unfamiliar with how freelance 
copywriters work and need to be schooled with the particulars. Take the 
initiative. Educate these small and home-based businesses with how you work, 
what they will get by hiring you, what you charge and when you demand payment, 
and what you will deliver.

Educating will eliminate the ambiguity that often shrouds the 
decision-making-process—why should the prospect hire you? When an owner 
understands what you do and what type of role you play in helping his business 
flourish and grow, he'll be more inclined to hire you.

Consider creating an "educational section" of your direct mail package or 
include an educational section of your promotional materials. For example, you 
might enclose a Q&A section that will eliminate ambiguity as to how you work 
and what your role is and answer many first-time clients' questions.

Secret #6: Charge project rates—not hourly rates
If you tell small and home-based businesses that you charge $50 an hour, they 
may balk, scream, or simply look at you drop-jawed. They'll try to persuade you 
to charge much less—but every professional copywriter knows dropping pay rates 
to accommodate low-paying "flea-market" clients is bad business practice.

Owners of small and home-based businesses are usually not educated with 
standard pay rates of commercial copywriters. Instead, they may "accidentally" 
look upon you as a typist or a writer who sells your words for pennies—"or a 
writer who is only going to write copy, not copy that's going to boost sales," 
says Murray.

The other problem is that the owner may equate what he pays a staff employer 
with what you're asking, which may be three to four times higher. Your job is 
to convince the owner otherwise.

Again, we're back to the educational process. You must educate owners so 
they're aware of your pay rate, what your role is, why hire a copywriter versus 
a staff employees, what you will provide, and emphasize the fact that you're a 
writer who intends to help them boost sales.

Another way not to have owners gape skeptically at your pay rate is to charge 
project rates, instead of hourly rates. Owners of small and home-based 
businesses seem more acceptable to paying a fixed project sum (Pay me $500 to 
produce this newsletter") instead of an hourly rate ("Pay me $50 an hour to 
produce this newsletter."). The reason is paradoxical: hourly rates seem to 
create a negative feeling in which the client will be paying you per hour while 
you work on the newsletter, whereas the project rate assures the client will be 
paying you a fixed sum and nothing more.

Besides, project rates can be profitable versus hourly rates. If you write 
faster and use your time wisely, you may be able to produce the project in less 
time, thus increasing your overall profit.

Secret #7: Copy to completion is a plus—and a must
Small and home-based businesses "don't want a writer to write a bunch of 
words," says Murray. "They want a writer who'll write the copy, get a designer 
to design it, and then take it to the printers to produce the finished piece."

If you copywrite newsletters, small businesses also expect you to do the 
layout, design it and work with a printer to print it—or hire other freelancers 
to fill in where your skills lack.

Instead of pitching yourself as a copywriter who writes newsletters, pitch 
yourself as a copywriter who produces newsletters from "copy to completion." 
This means you not only write the newsletter, but you also deliver the finished 

Small and home-based businesses usually won't settle for a copywriter who only 
provides copy.
"[Small and home-based businesses] don't have the time or knowledge to 
coordinate the project themselves, locate other freelancers to complete the 
newsletter or work with a printer to produce it," says Murray. "They'd rather 
have a single person do everything."

The other point: when you approach businesses with freelance work, it only 
makes sense that you deliver a finished product, not a piece of the product.

Besides, pairing of skills is becoming commonplace. Freelancers are teaming up 
with one another to deliver a better, finished product for their clients. Start 
you own "resource file" in which you retain background and work experience 
information on other freelancers, such as illustrators, graphic designers, 
printers, and photographers. When a small or home-based business owner relies 
on you to produce a newsletter, you can tap into your resource file and pull 
out freelancers who most qualify to assist with your newsletter project.

Becoming Project Coordinator (i.e. a copywriter who manages a project from copy 
to completion) means you may be spending more time on completing the project—so 
make sure you get compensated. Add 10-20% of your pay rate to indemnify your 
time coordinating the project and delivering a finished product.

Secret #8: Always meet with the prospective client
Writing for small and home-based businesses in your local community gives you 
an advantage: locality.

Your marketing efforts, advises Murray, should be focused on establishing an 
initial meeting with the prospective client to discuss how you can play a major 
role in boosting his sales.

When Murray set up an initial meeting with the owner of the veterinary 
hospital, his aims were to alert the owner of a "potential problem"—the 
hospital was lacking a newsletter that could effectively boost sales, while 
increasing referrals, turning initial customers into repeat clients, enhancing 
the hospital's image, and increasing product and pharmaceutical sales. Murray 
then sold himself as the copywriter who had the solution. And he got the job.

"Also use the first meeting as a networking session," says Murray. "Your aims 
should also be to find out his [the prospect's] needs, his other problems [or 
potential problems], and propose how you can solve these problems."

By actively listening and asking questions, Murray discovered several "hidden" 
events developing at the hospital. For one, the hospital was adding a new ICU 
(intensive care unit); secondly, a new echocardiogram room was being built; and 
thirdly, a Web site was being produced. Without an initial meeting with the 
owner, Murray never would have been aware of these events. Murray, of course, 
saw the opportunity to provide "future" copywriting services for these events.

An initial meeting also has the greatest potency to establish rapport and build 
a relationship with the prospective client, which increases the chances of 
getting the work.

Here's some key points to make your initial meeting with a prospect more 


Discuss how your copywriting can, essentially, boost sales. Thoroughly 
and visually show the prospect how his business can benefit from a newsletter 
(or any other service you're providing)—and also explain the disadvantages of 
not having one (this is suppose to create negative feelings of fear and pain). 
"Creating visual pictures are essential," says Murray. "You want the prospect 
to share in your vision...and your goals. You want him to be an active 
participant in your ideas."

Show some of your samples and explain how some of your samples achieved 
results for your other satisfied clients.

Show samples of what the prospect's competitors are using. "Along with my 
samples, I brought some newsletters that other hospitals were using and told 
the owner, 'This is what your competitors are using'," says Murray. "When I 
alerted the owner about what his competitors were using and he wasn't, I 
created a negative visual picture in his mind that he wasn't keeping up with 
his competition and that he was lagging behind."

Also at your initial meeting, if you can't close the sale or the owner 
needs more time to decide, give the owner three business cards (one to put in 
his wallet, the other to tack up on his bulletin board or put in his Rolodex, 
and the third, in case he loses both of them) and tell him you'll call tomorrow 
to discuss his decision.

Secret #9: Proposals are gems: Use them to multiply work
All small and home-based businesses need them—but few of these businesses will 
ask for them (because they don't know they exist): proposals.

If you can craft an effective proposal, "seven times out of ten you can get 
yourself the work...including repeat work from the same client," says Murray.

Murray began using proposals in his second year of business when he realized 
why many businesses were declining his services. "The owners did not see how I 
fit in or what type of benefits I could bring to their businesses...Even at 
meetings, I think my words went through his [the client's] ear and out the 

A proposal provides an inclusive tangible blueprint as to how you will help the 
business increase sales. It elucidates how you fit in as a copywriter, what you 
will provide, the benefits of your services and your product(s) (i.e. 
newsletters, brochure, etc.), and explains how—providing specific steps—you 
intend to increase sales.

Because Murray writes newsletters for various veterinary and dental practices, 
he has his own "Newsletter Proposal" template which he uses to secure 
newsletter projects. His Newsletter Proposal specifically outlines what his 
role is, the benefits and solutions to using a newsletter, and explains how 
hiring him to produce a monthly newsletter can increase the client's sales.

To make his meetings more productive and to procure a definite direction, 
Murray uses proposals as centerpieces for in-depth discussions, instead of 
meeting with the prospect to engage in a mundane Q&A session. "You can sit with 
the prospect and take him through all the details on how you're going to 
increase his sales, step-by-step. Instead of a listener, he suddenly becomes an 
active participant in your ideas."

Murray also uses proposals to make an impression. "Proposals make you look 
professional, resourceful and knowledgeable. Everything the prospect wants to 
know is organized and packaged for easy, quick reading [in a proposal]."

The other advantage: proposals are tangible items that allow prospects to touch 
your thoughts and ideas. "They also [continue to] sell after the meeting," says 
Murray, who recommends you leave your proposal with the prospect so he can read 
and re-read it at his leisure.

However, Murray warns: "Don't give away your secrets. Your proposal should 
explain how you're going to increase sales, not show how it's going to be 

When Murray discovered the opportunities developing at the veterinary hospital, 
he created and submitted a proposal, which essentially, laid out in detail how 
he could increase the hospital's sales by publicizing the new ICU, 
echocardiogram room, and Web site, using various forms of informational and 
promotional materials and PR and marketing strategies.

"My proposal convinced the owner that increasing his budget to hire me to write 
and produce promotional materials would, in the end, increase his sales," says 
Murray, who recommends the primary function of a proposal should convince the 
owner that "he has nothing to lose by hiring you, and so much to gain."

Armed with these nine secrets, you're now ready to locate and secure clients of 
small and home-based businesses in your local community. Take particular 
interest to new start-up businesses and businesses offering new products or 
services to the community. You can generate dozens upon dozens of ideas to 
provide copywriting services to these businesses, while showing the owners how 
you can help increase their sales.

Brian Konradt is the owner and operator of, a Web site 
dedicated to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance 
writing. Mr. Konradt is also the principal of BSK Communications & Associates, 
a communications/publishing business in New Jersey, which he established in