Monday, October 10, 2011

Lessons Learned: Go For The $$$

Hey there, cold call aficionados. Sorry I haven't been posting much lately -- I'd like to say it's because I've been so busy with all the work my cold calls rustled up, but that's only part of it.

The good news: since about June 2011, I have only had a handful of days where I haven't hit my daily billing quota, which is a pretty good feeling. And when I start to run out of projects, I only need to email a couple of my "warm" prospects to refill the pipeline.

However, being busy with lots of new clients at once has definitely steepened my learning curve expo-freaking-nentially. I've found there's more to running a business than courageous marketing. And I've pinpointed a few of the flaws in my original approach that I'll be reflecting on in my next couple of posts.

So let's start with reflection #1: Quality, not quantity.

My little cold calling strategy, as outlined in this blog, is definitely designed to get you in front of a large number of prospects in a short time. In this respect, I think it works pretty well.

However ...

If I were to do it all over again, I'd be way more careful about the kinds of prospects I target -- and those I choose to work with.

When I started connecting with all of these new clients, it felt so good! Finally, I thought, I've crawled across the freelance desert. And so I said yes to just about any and every project -- even when the terms, fees and contracts offered weren't all that great.

Well, adieu to all that.

I soon found myself working for way less than my going rate. And resenting it like hell.

Generally, I was doing it for lovely, honest people who just didn't have much experience working with a writer. They were "newbies" as much as I was, and they really did not have a firm grasp of the time and money involved in producing a great piece of writing.

Then the payment issues started. Or rather the non-payment issues. One was worked out amicably. The other -- well, it's so touchy at this point I don't even dare discuss it in cyberspace.

Here's what I'd do differently -- and what I'll definitely do when I get around to making those other 550 cold calls:

* Invest in the Book of Lists. Contact only large companies that have a history of working with freelancers.

* Discuss fees early. When in doubt, quote high. Share examples of past projects you've worked on and the fees involved.

* If prospects balk at your fees, you can try some education. Remind them of the going rates for this type of work and that they're saving on payroll taxes, health insurance, benefits, etc.

* If the prospect is clearly never going to pay your fee, move on. Consider it a blessing that you've reached this sort of agreement.

Cold call pals, I know when you're a starving newbie, it can be really tempting to drop your rates. But I for one will be fighting that temptation tooth and nail from now on.

Charge what you're worth, period. That's a whole new aspect of courageous marketing for you.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah. I was just thinking about this topic recently and agree that it's smart to contact larger organizations that know and value copywriting to start. Looking forward to more of your reflections...

  2. Is the Book of Lists a real thing?

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. Carrie: Apparently it is! Recommended to me by two freelancers in the know.

    As soon as I get one, I'll be sure to post about it. Anyone else out there have experience with it?

  4. Get out your Bibles everyone - Peter Bowerman talks about it on page 99 of The Well Fed Writer. Go to, he says.
    Timely reminder, Sarah. I have yet to land my first client, but I've had a few nibbles and it's so tempting to develop client crush and pick-me-itis, to paraphrase Carol Tice. Keep us up to date, please!

  5. I went over to and you have to scroll down to find their book of lists. Then you order one for your city. The print copy only is $50, and the one for my city was $169.00. I bought that, and it opens everything in a spreadsheet. Previously, I'd been going to the Chamber of Commerce website and cutting and pasting into Excel, which meant that time for cold calling was secretarial time. I should earn back my $170 pretty quickly.

  6. Thanks for the legwork Cynthia. I should probably make more explicit in the blog that I have not yet purchased to Book of Lists. I'm keen to hear more about your experience with it.