5 Elements that Build a Roster of Terrific Clients

In the podcast episode I recorded recently with Seth Godin, we talked about storytelling — and he made a point I thought was fascinating.
Seth’s version of storytelling isn’t just crafting a plot in the traditional sense — the classic “The queen died, and then the king died of grief.”
He also looks at the implied stories in everything we do. We tell a business story with our tone of voice on a podcast, and the color choices on our website. Our pricing, our response time, our “Contact Me” form … they all come together to tell the story of your business.
Some businesses tell scary or ugly stories. A lot of businesses tell boring ones. Seth got me thinking about the elements that I believe tell a more inviting story for a writing business — the kind of story that attracts more clients and better revenue.
If you’re a professional writer, of course you need to write well. But it isn’t just ability that makes a writer successful — it’s also wise positioning. It’s the implied story that your business tells.
Here are my thoughts on five “story elements” that help writers attract the right clients, at the right pricing, in the right numbers.
Story element #1: your voice
For any business, but particularly for a writer, the voice of your marketing is one of the most important story elements you have.
What does that look like on your site today? Do you sound stiff and formal, or loose

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How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

You may love to write.
You may get a lot of positive feedback on your writing.
And you may have even picked up many great writing gigs over the years, solidifying your status as a professional writer.
But something is missing.
It’s difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income varies at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.
TET: the backbone of a sustainable writing business
Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, I have 15 tips that support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.
To make the advice manageable, I’ll list five tips under three important categories for anyone working for themselves: Technology, Education, Tools (TET).
The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.
Educating yourself on the business of writing and content marketing gives you a huge advantage over other (directionless) writers.
My TET Talk below — not to be confused with a TED Talk — will show you how the right knowledge combined with the unique value you offer clients can create a powerhouse business that allows you the freedom to be yourself and do work you care about.
Technology
Technology makes most modern writing businesses possible.
And getting set up with the right digital services doesn’t require a ton of technical knowledge. Instead, this section will focus on core business

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Gary Vaynerchuk on Playing the Long Game

Back in 2006, Gary Vaynerchuk started a daily video show that turned wine criticism on its head. More importantly, it took his family wine business from $3 million-a-year to a $60 million-a-year ecommerce juggernaut.
From there, Gary did something that surprised a lot of people, including me. He started a digital marketing agency called VaynerMedia.
Wait … what? Why would someone who could move that level of product want to build a service business? Isn’t that going backwards?
Not so fast. As you’ll hear in this candid interview, Gary’s plan involves what has now become familiar to Unemployable listeners — doing this thing now in order to set the stage for bigger and better things down the road.
In other words, true entrepreneurs are always playing the long game. Listen in for amazing insights from one of the most outspoken advocates for the unemployable.
Listen to this Episode Now
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4 Practical Ways to Benefit from Impostor Syndrome

So, you’ve landed a new, big-time content marketing client. Exciting times!
It’s the type of client you’ve wanted for ages, and finally, you’re getting your chance. You’ve scheduled your first meeting with her.
And that’s when the voices in your head start up:

Who are you kidding? You’re not good enough for this client.
Jane Smith — she’s a great content marketer. Maybe you should refer the client to Jane? Jane will do a better job than you.
There’s just no point to taking on this project — if you do, you’re going to be found out.

It’s impostor syndrome. Feeling like a fraud. And that’s okay.
You can actually benefit from impostor syndrome with a few smart tactics. Let me show you how.
Why impostor syndrome makes you a better service provider
Most professionals have experienced impostor syndrome at some point. We’re the most susceptible when we step outside our comfort zones (like when we’ve secured an amazing new client).
Here’s the great irony of the whole “feeling like we’re going to be found out” thing: it can actually increase as we get more competent.
Yes, that’s right.
The more we know, the more we become aware of what we don’t know and who knows more than we do.
Interestingly, this is why I believe impostor syndrome makes you a better service provider:

It indicates you’re highly competent.
Worrying that you won’t do a great job for your client shows that providing great service is important to you.

Who wouldn’t want to work with someone like you?
However, I

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The Writer Runs This Show [SlideShare]

We have the technology.
We have the business skills.
We have virtual ink by the barrel.
The writer runs this show.
We’re the ones who command the attention.
We’re the ones who create the engagement.
We’re the ones who influence what people think and do.
The writer runs this show.
We won’t toil in obscurity waiting for a green-light.
We won’t submit to “creativity” by committee.
We won’t accept meager pay while others cash in our copyright.
The writer runs this show.
If you won’t read until your eyes blur.
If you won’t write more to write well.
If you won’t invest the blood, sweat, and tears . . .
Then you’ll have to work with real writers.
And pay those writers exceptionally well.
If they have the time, that is.
Because the writer runs this show.
Your words are the foundation of all online content
The words you write form the foundation of all online content, whether those words become a blog post, podcast, or video.
Check out our SlideShare dedicated to professional writers:

WORD by Copyblogger: a new free resource for writers

At Copyblogger, we believe writers deserve to feel fulfilled — emotionally and financially — in their careers.
Get our best advice in our new WORD ebook: a smart resource we put together for our writer friends.
Click to get WORD, a free ebook for writers
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on July 2, 2010.
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3 Unexpected Ways Writers Deliver Value (So They Can Charge More)

In today’s world, the writer runs the show.
Not just any writer, of course. The pennies-a-word scribe may barely scrape by. But the quality professional writer — the writer who demonstrates high value and trust from the moment of first contact all the way through to delivery of the final word — that person writes his own ticket to success.
Quality professional writers command attention online, whether they do it for themselves or for the businesses they represent. Writers influence behavior, help form opinions, and drive people to take action.
Great writers are the modern-day stonemasons of any online presence. Our words form the very foundation of all online content, whether those words become a blog post, a podcast, or a video. Writers rule the online world!
And successful professional writers do things differently.
They don’t stop at writing with authority. That’s just where they start. They also deliver outstanding value even in the most unexpected moments in their interactions with clients.
In today’s post, we’ll cover how successful writers deliver value in all three stages of a project: before, during, and after.
Value Phase #1: Before the first project begins
Writers set the stage for a quality customer experience before they write a single word for a new project. How can you do this in your own work?
Before you begin

Listen between the lines. Tune in to your client’s underlying frustrations. Take notes on his current situation. Listen closely when you hear your client talk about long-term goals and desired results.
Be flexible.

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A Simple Way Out of Your Precarious Freelance Income Problem

Freelancing. That’s the life, isn’t it? Total control. Total freedom. Abject terror.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be said for the freelance life. You’re in charge of your own time. You pick and choose the projects you’ll take on. You select your clients.
When it’s all working the way it’s supposed to, that is.
When you’re not breaking into a sweat as you open your checking account statement. When you’re not wondering how you’ll pay next month’s rent. When you’re not thinking, “Maybe a job with a salary wouldn’t be so bad …”
There’s a simple solution, though. One that will restore a feeling of stability to your freelance life.
It’s nothing you haven’t heard before. But you may not realize how important this solution can be for your freelance business. You may not be taking full advantage of the peace of mind and regular income it can provide.
Let’s get it working for you.
How to build an income foundation for your business
The solution to a freelancer’s unstable income problem is to take on a handful of retainer clients. Retainer clients pay you a set amount every month, and they provide a steady income you can count on. There are several ways to negotiate a retainer agreement, and we’ll cover them in this article.
For a freelancer, retainer clients are the closest thing to the stable income a salary provides.
The reliable income retainer clients provide is great, but if you don’t specify exactly what their retainer payments

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5 Stress-Free Steps for Pricing Your Services

Why does pricing our services provoke such fear and dread?
Even when we’re certain that we provide an exceptional service and charge what we’re worth, we still worry that clients will view our prices as unreasonable.
Of course, we don’t want to underprice our services, either.
Where does this leave us?
Most of the time, it leaves us paralyzed and stuck. So when it comes time to actually give a prospective client a price estimate, we often just take a wild guess.
That’s a huge mistake.
To help you calculate your service prices accurately, I’m going to share a step-by-step method for setting your project rates.
Let’s get started.
Step #1: Perform research and determine your hourly rate
The first step in figuring out your rate is researching the project and asking yourself critical questions (examples below). These questions help you clarify all the details of the project.
You’ll also use the information you gather to determine your hourly rate, and that’s the starting point for the entire process.
At Copyblogger, we highly recommend quoting a project rate, rather than an hourly rate — it protects you and the client.
When you carefully consider your project price, you’ll be able to work comfortably until the project is completed — and you won’t be penalized if you finish faster than anticipated.
And because freelance services are notoriously variable in cost, your client will appreciate knowing their fixed cost going into a new project.
Why, then, do you need to determine your hourly rate if you’re going

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How to Craft Winning Pitches for Your Service Business

I have an affinity for service businesses.
I love when people:

Recognize that they possess specific skills that can help others
Invest in training that will help them succeed
Offer their expertise and problem-solving abilities in exchange for money

But I don’t love when these driven individuals make a certain mistake that invites unnecessary frustrations into their workdays and weakens their reputations.
“Sure! I can do that!”
I understand that it’s exciting when a work offer sounds good.
So, when a potential client proposes a project to Joe Service Business, he’ll immediately respond with, “Sure! I can do that!” (or another phrase with a similar sentiment) before he finds out everything he needs to know about the project.
For example, more information about the project may reveal that he’s not the best person for the job or it’s not actually an assignment he’d like to work on.
When you respond to an inquiry and move ahead with a project too quickly, you operate under the assumption that you’ll figure out the details later, as issues arise.
But your service business can only become respected in your industry and a long-term source of income if you abolish the casual approach to discussing work that runs rampant in freelance culture.
If you want to have an exceptional service business, you cannot casually respond to any form of business communication or informally agree to any business transaction.
To become exceptional, you must become a master of assessing, communicating, and managing expectations.
How to rise above the

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Are You Cheap or Are You Exceptional? How to Price Your Services

The success of your service-based business will be built on the bedrock of how you answer this one simple question:
Do I want my services to be perceived as economical — or exceptional?
It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I mean, of course we want to be perceived as exceptional.
But positioning your offerings as exceptional is more difficult than it sounds. It takes guts, unwavering faith in your abilities, and an unflagging devotion to producing quality work.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat down with a fellow creative person and said, “Look, you have to start charging more money. Just do it!”
In today’s post, I’m going to have that little chat with you, right here on Copyblogger. If you’re a writer, designer, or any type of service provider, this article is for you.
Why is it so tough to charge what you’re worth?
It seems like it should be easy. You want to charge more? Just charge more!
But in reality, being more expensive than the average service provider means:

You’ll lose out on some business.
You’ll have to keep a straight face while people overreact to your prices.
You’ll have to continue to believe in yourself even when people look you in the eye and tell you you’re being unreasonable.
You’ll need to navigate through potentially uncomfortable negotiation sessions.

The first “marketing tactic” many new service providers try is, “I’ll be cheaper than everyone else!”
Bad idea.
Positioning yourself as the bargain service provider sets you up for problems that are

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