The success of a business is 50% work quality and 50% marketing. You may do stellar writing work but still never land any clients. Unfortunately, good work doesn’t always speak for itself. You have to get someone to hire you before you can impress them with your skills. You at least have to intrigue them enough to click on your work samples.
So, how do you make your pitch stand out? How do you make yourself seem like hot stuff without boring the person to tears with your accolades? In short, how do you sell yourself and your business to clients?
Whether you’re sending a cold email pitch, responding to a job posting, or even talking on the phone with an interested customer, keep it short and sweet, and more importantly, to the point. If you hook the client, you’ll have plenty of time to go into detail, flesh out exactly what the client wants, and impress them with your never-ending talent later. For the initial contact, be direct and concise.
If you manage to get a potential client to open a blind pitch, you don’t want to assault them with a page-long message. They will put you in the trash folder faster than you can say, “Ouch, my ego!” People don’t have time for things that don’t immediately strike them as entertaining or important. If the opening line isn’t to the point and eye catching, they probably won’t continue. In about two seconds, you have to convince them that it’s not a huge burden to read this message, and make them think that perhaps even some good could come out of doing so. If they open a message from a stranger and see endless blocks of text, they’re going to think, “Gee, you creep, leave me alone! I don’t even know you! How could you possibly have this much to say unless you’re stalking me?” Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much.
All the Right Stuff
A good general rule of thumb is to keep your message at about three (short!) paragraphs: an opener (1-2 sentences), a body (3-5 sentences or maybe a bulleted list), and a call to action (1-2 sentences).
The opener is used to catch the client’s attention. In a cold pitch, it needs to make the reader start to think, “Hmm, maybe I do need a ghostwriter,” or “Hmm, maybe I do need some help generating content for my business’ blog.” If you’re responding to a job posting, the opener must set you apart from the crowd. The poster has probably received a nice pile of responses and will continue to get them. You have to be memorable. To do this, don’t waste your opener rambling about your own awesomeness. Instead, relate yourself and your awesomeness to the job at hand, and tell the poster how he can make his business or writing endeavor even better by hiring you and nobody else.
The body is where you roll out your skills and accomplishments to prove that you can actually do the things the client needs. But again, don’t ramble. You may have won a prestigious poetry contest, but unless the work you’re pitching or applying for involves writing poetry, the client does not need to know that. If you’re applying for a job as an animal blogger, no one cares if you also have a mean rigatoni recipe that got a whole bunch of traffic on Yummly. Okay, I would care and probably look it up, but the guy needing the animal blog content doesn’t need to know. Let’s keep it between us.
If you’re cold pitching, you have to assume that a few seconds ago, this person wasn’t even considering hiring an editor or a writer. You must explain to them why they need that service (to improve their blog traffic, to make sure their book stands out on Amazon, etc.) and let them know that, conveniently, you have all the skill and know-how to make it happen. If you’re replying to a job posting, only list the skills that directly apply to the job description, and take the time to explain why your particular combination of skills is the right formula to nail the desired end result. Read the posting carefully and see if the poster actually listed a few things he or she was looking for in a writer, and make sure you mention that you have those attributes in your message. If you don’t have any of those things, maybe that isn’t the right job for you.
The call to action can boost the likelihood of a response significantly. Think about it. A client opens your email and scans the first line. Bam, she’s hooked by your killer opener. With a slight smile on her face, she keeps reading. She nods her head and looks impressed at all the things you could potentially do for her. The end. Well, that was great. She thinks maybe she might get back to you … right after she finishes lunch. Well, she found a great rigatoni recipe on the internet last night, and her lunch temporarily drives everything out of her head. That read email is no longer bolded when she goes back in to check her messages later. She forgets about you. So sorry.
Now imagine it all again except that, this time, as she’s still nodding her head, she goes down to the closing line where you let her know that if she’s interested in taking her blog or book to the next level, she can shoot you an email. You’re looking forward to hearing back from her. Well, after you’ve gotten her smiling and nodding her head, she can’t really disappoint you, now, can she? You’re looking forward to her reply. It’s so simple. All she has to do is write a quick email saying she’d like to talk more. Easy peasy. Now you have an interested client on the line. If this imaginary woman actually posted a job opening, the same still applies. Without the call to action, she’ll probably just catalog you in her mind as a potential option and move on to the next response. A call to action can give her a nudge to just go ahead and shoot you an email asking for those samples you mentioned. Yes, something so small as a simple instruction to send a reply can actually help you get more replies. Life isn’t always hard unless you make it that way.
It’s All About Me … Right?
People are self-absorbed. It’s just a fact. Even the nicest folks are absorbed in their own problems and their own needs. It’s nature; we survive by looking out for our personal interests.
Swallow your need to focus on yourself and your skills, and instead stroke the client’s ego. I guarantee you an opener that mentions something about the client’s work is more likely to get a response than an opener that lists only your work. In all of my pitches to potential editing clients, I took the time to research the writer’s past and present works a bit. I mentioned their past book titles before mentioning my experience in those same genres, and if possible, mentioned the name of the book I knew they were currently working on when I told them how a copy editor could increase their ebook sales.
The body text should not just repeat, “I can” and “I have.” It should also repeat, “You need” and “You can.” Don’t just say, “I have a BA in English with emphasis in writing and can work in MLA, APA, and CMS styles.” Instead say, “My BA in English with emphasis in writing provided me with knowledge of MLA, APA, and CMS styles, so no matter what sort of citations you need, I can help make sure your content is 100% accurate.” Boom! Look at me and my bad self, Mr. Poster Man. You can’t afford not to hire me.
By letting the client know what your skills can actually do for them, you make yourself look better than someone who just lists a bunch of fancy titles that basically just say, “I’m cool, right? You should totally hire me just because I’m cool … please?”
If you can write short pitches that generate interest, speak to the clients’ personal needs, and actually prod them to do something about it, you’ve just made yourself irresistible. You’re much more likely to get a higher rate of responses, and then you can let your work do the rest of the talking.
What do you find is the hardest thing about selling yourself? Has a certain pitch technique gotten you a whole bunch of responses? Have you never sent a pitch in your life? Are you still confused about them? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.