What Not To Do With Your Ideal Client

Here's a guest post by Alice Watts, copywriter for pension industry

As a relatively new copywriter, it’s very exciting when your ideal client somehow finds you on LinkedIn and wants to talk about a project. That’s why I was so angry at myself for the mistakes I made in my follow up. I did learn a good lesson, though. I hope you can learn from my mistakes too.

Here’s what happened and the lessons I learned.

Introductions

The email was promising. The prospective client wanted to schedule a call to discuss my writing services.

The phone call went well. He had found me through LinkedIn, liking my profile that said “I speak pension” since that was exactly what he needed. Finding a writer who understands retirement plans is difficult he said. We discussed his project—a brochure and flyer for an upcoming conference—and time frames. However, since he was on his mobile phone in the car we didn’t go into great detail. And we didn’t discuss one important element—budget.

A few days later, after receiving copies of samples of the type of brochures he needed to be written, I responded with an email asking for additional information. That’s when I made the mistake of criticizing his previous brochure and said I didn’t do graphic designs.

I received no answer to my inquiries.

The next day I sent a service agreement with quotes for the two pieces he needed to be written. Again, no reply.

I soon realized I had made a couple of additional mistakes. I hadn’t scheduled a follow-up call to discuss the additional questions I had. And perhaps most serious, I didn’t ask about his budget before I sent the service agreement.

The silent period

I sent a couple more emails, but no response. I even semi-apologized for my negative comments. No response.

Several months went by. I was concerned that I have been “ghosted” by my prospective client, in part because of my bumbles. Plus, I knew the conference for which the items were for had been canceled due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Would I ever hear from him again?

Not knowing what to do, I sent an email to my mentor, Ilise Benun, briefly explaining the situation. She suggested I call him on the telephone to see how he was doing and if there was anything I could do for him.

I really didn’t want to call. But a couple of days later, my heart pounding, I picked up the telephone.

Not only did he answer, but he was friendly and talkative. He didn’t mention my mistakes. He even apologized for not getting back to me!

He still planned to offer the services he had told me about and would want the marketing materials once his conference was rescheduled. And he would let me know when he needed me.

Whew! I may still have a client after all.

Lessons learned

What have I learned? Some very valuable lessons.

  • The conduct. Never, never, NEVER be critical! Be professional and polite. Ask “How can I help?” I was friendly on the phone; not so much in my follow-up email. I broke several cardinal rules.
  • What I should have done…Discuss the new brochure he wanted me to write instead of making comments—especially negative ones—about his old one except to determine how closely he wanted me to mirror it. And when he inquired about design, I could offer to find a graphic designer instead of abruptly saying I didn’t offer that service. (Now I need to find a few designers to collaborate with.)
  • The conversation. Be in charge. Treat it like the interview it is.
  • What I should have done…Guide the conversation. I let the conversation get away from me. He immediately started telling me what he wanted written. And because he was driving, we cut the conversation short before I could ask him key questions.
  • The money talk. Do this right at the start of the conversation, definitely before drafting a proposed service agreement. Be specific.
  • What I should have done…Schedule a 30-40-minute follow-up call after seeing his samples to discuss budget and project questions at a time when he wasn’t driving from one place to another. Also, recognize that the telephone instead of email was the best way to communicate.

Hope prevails

I may get a second chance. And it will be because of Ilise if I do.