Rogue Ink

April 7, 2008

Client seeking for the rest of us.

Goes a little something like this.

Hold breath. Jump. Repeat.

I was reading the Self-Made Chick’s post on How I Made $100,000 by spending 25 minutes and $0 on Marketing (and seriously, with post titles like that, no wonder she gets all the site views), and she sounded just like me while client-seeking. A little insecure. Worried about not having a spectacular website. She even did that fun thing I do, researching potential clients and making a tidy little list of their contact information, and then never contacting them. Why? Because I’m just not good enough.

And it occurred to me that I stopped being a teenager some while ago. I am good enough. I am better than good enough. I am just damned good. My butt looks just great in these jeans, I’m totally prettier than she is, and I’m a professional writer with an excellent little portfolio, thank you.

So I sent out a bunch of emails. Ten, actually, doubling down on the five Ms. O’Kelly sent out, to SEO firms in the Boulder area. I actually CALLED the first one, because they only had a general email posted on their site, and that guy shot me down right quick. Which hurt, I have to tell you. So I’ve started to email, because rejection is easier that way. I hope. It is, right?

Oh, Ms. O’Kelly. Don’t you lead me astray, now.

If any of those emails (all based on the same template, though I jiggered it a bit for each company) get me a client, I will post the template in full on this site and let all you other newbies out there take a crack at it. And I will now commence to hyperventilate, very quietly, into this paper bag.

While finishing an assignment. Because I do actually make a living.



  1. Deep breaths, deep breaths…. Look, it’s scary if you don’t know what to say. Sure, you may still get turned down, but that’s okay. You can send them a written thank you note and move on.

    It’s hard. I’m a mamby-pamby about it, too. But try it. I promise I will if you will…

    Comment by Lori — April 7, 2008 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  2. Hey, Lori. Yeah, I knew what to say . . . they just didn’t use freelancers. And that’s fine, but I don’t want to hear that, you know?

    I will continue to try, though. Tomorrow: non-profits. Whoohoo! I’m just going to get methodical about this.

    Comment by Tei — April 7, 2008 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  3. Tei, you are my hero du jour!

    Comment by rjleaman — April 8, 2008 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  4. Yay! I love being a hero! Thanks!

    Comment by Tei — April 8, 2008 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

  5. Hey darlin’ do you want to talk to me about SEO stuff? I’m really and truly happy to help out however I can, but, as I said before “SEO” means an awful lot. If nothing else though I can give you some fun words to throw around and sound all worldly and nerdy.

    …worldly and nerdy? At once? Jesus, I must have been spending too much time in these tubes if I think the internet can accomplish that!

    Comment by Tessa — April 8, 2008 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  6. Hmmm.. I think calling is better. Well, you should call and email.

    I don’t have to do any cold prospecting anymore (hated that passionately) but when I did, I did it face to face: bearded the lions in their own den and made my pitch. Maybe less efficient than phone, but it got me work. That’s a long time back though – twenty years or more. Glad I do not have to do that any more!

    However, I do have to follow up on leads I get now and then and I always call unless the person requested that I do not. I also always ask if I can come see them – even when the opportunity really isn’t worth the trip. Nothing beats face time. Nothing.

    Obviously in the Internet age we can solicit clients that are too far to visit, and in that case phone is the best choice, even if all you get is to leave a voice mail. Still, your voice can sell so much better than email..

    If they are local, ask them if you can buy them lunch or a coffee. Go see them. You’ll do better.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 8, 2008 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

  7. Wow, thanks for the detailed advice there, Tony. I’d love to talk to people face to face, because that’s where I do my best work. Do you think that’s still applicable? The one downside I see to this is just scaring people – being overeager. Concern or no? What do you think?

    Thanks, seriously, for putting so much thought into this. I’ll be making use of it.

    Comment by Tei — April 8, 2008 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

  8. I’ve done the same thing as you in the idea of creating a simple outlined email to use and just adjust it for everyone. I actually sent it to most of the top 100 bloggers listed on and got a fair amount of replies and I believe 3-4 jobs from it. I am assuming local businesses will be a bit easier to target since my work is MUCH MUCH different from those around here. 🙂

    Awesome article. Makes me happy to know I’m not the only one doing this 🙂

    oh, theres an addon for firefox called “signature” that allows you to right click in any box and choose the title of the text you save to paste, this way you can right click > CHOOSE “New email outline” and it pastes it for you, without having to highlight a notepad/word file and copy it and then go paste it every time 🙂


    Comment by Mike Smith — April 9, 2008 @ 4:39 am | Reply

  9. Mike: Oh, no, wait, come back! That last paragraph sounded incredibly useful and helpful and yet, because I am not really a technical person, I understood not a word of it. Come back! Explain! Heeeelp!

    And, you know, thanks for coming by and commenting.

    Tess: Yes, darling, we shall discuss the SEO at length. I have to go do a bunch of it for my mother’s people, and I want to know all about your days at the office. Your long, drudging, weary days. We should totally get you into a rock band. This is my new plan for you.

    Band name: Zen Kitten. I’ll explain later.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 5:49 am | Reply

  10. I bought the Self-Made Chick book a few weeks ago and realised I’d been seeking work the wrong way for years. Hanging out on street corners with a pen didn’t do anything for me. Targeted quasi-cold-call emails really do pay off in time.

    And yes, Zen Kitten would be an awesome name for a band. Or a cocktail.

    Comment by Nick Cernis — April 9, 2008 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  11. Tei:

    Yes, I think face to face is still applicable. Of course it depends upon your specific situation and how much business you have. As I said above, I don’t have to cold-call anymore, but when I was starting out, well, you do what you have to do and face to face works the best. Not that it’s always easy to get the opportunity to BE face to face of course.

    I do it now when I’m selling something that will bring me residual income for years to come. I think – no, I know – that I’m more likely to keep that client longer if we have met in person.

    In case Mike doesn’t come back:

    Firefox has thousands of add-on features. Go to to see them. I think the one he’s talking about is this:

    You just click “Add to Firefox” there to get it. Usually you need to restart after adding anything like this and sometimes it can be confusing to find the darn thing after – but usually it’s all pretty obvious..

    Here, I’ll go install that myself and let you know..

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  12. OK – I installed that tool as explained above.

    Now, while I’m in here typing in your comment box, I can hit “Cntrl-space” (hold control and tap space) and a little menu pops up with “Insert Signature” at the top. Follow that and you can create signatures to use. I just created this one

    Tony Lawrence

    and pasted it in from the Cntrl-space menu.

    Got it?

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  13. Just to be fully pedantic:

    The value of the work determines the effort you should put into it. For example, in a few minutes I’m heading out on a sales call. If I make the sale, I expect to make at least $1,000.00 profit over five years. My time investment this morning will be 2-4 hours, and my additional time over five years will be another hour (once a year processing the orders, sending the invoices. So at worst I’m seeing over $300 per hour, at worst $200 – that’s worth my time.

    Because of the face time, my chance of making this sale is at 90% or better (I know this from experience). If I make the same presentation by phone, I drop to about 70% or less. If I never get to talk at all and only have email conversations, it drops to 20% or less.

    Now you might say, well, a thousand emails are better than a hundred face to face visits. That would be true, but I won’t get the opportunity for a thousand emails. I might get less than a dozen selling opportunities per year, so I want to make the most of every one.

    You might be in a similar situation: how many real opportunities are there for your services? If only a few, you need to put great effort into that small opportunity pool. If there are millions of potential buyers, you can fall back into mass marketing.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  14. I am hereby convinced. Face-to-face marketing it shall be, forthwith. Now I’m just going to have to figure out the best way to go about that without frightening people. I don’t suppose in your massive archives there are some suggestions on what makes the perfect face-to-face pitch? Bear in mind, I’m very new at selling myself. I’m good at being charming and personable, and making people aware of my intelligence and capability, but when it comes to closing the deal, as in: Buy This, I’m a little lost.

    Thanks for great advice, as always. Come around anytime and be ruthless at me. It’s good for my soul.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  15. Oooh, it’s a signature tool. Mike never said what it was. Interesting . . . I shall play with this soon. I want to figure out how to give people email updates to posts and add CommentLuv. Those are my next projects. I may have to get the good ol’ Men with Pens involved.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

  16. Advice on face to face.. well, I think you have to be what you are. You can’t really be anything else, so don’t try.

    So, I tell people straight out that I’m more of a tech guy than a sales guy and then I won’t be particularly aggressive in chasing the order, so if they think they are interested, they’ll probably need to make the initiative. I tell them that I am passionate about supporting my customers and that if they call and don’t hear from me immediately that something is very wrong: my cell phone is broken or I’m unconscious.. so they should send email, send a fax, call my home number, even send a driver to my house if they really have to (and yes, I have actually had a customer do that!).

    You need to tell them why they are better off with you than somebody without passion, without that “customer first” attitude. Be honest about your weaknesses and definite about your strengths. Be fun to be with (somehow I suspect you can do that!), be confident, be truthful, be real.

    My wife has said many times after listening to my side of a phone conversation “You just sound so honest and caring.. I know they are going to like you.”

    Well, yeah: I am honest and caring. It sounds to me like you are too and that’s not only the easiest thing to sell (because it IS you) but it’s the BEST thing to sell, because it is what the customer most needs after your competence is established.

    Finally – I don’t think you can do any better than getting MWP involved. Good people, and once again caring and honest.

    Go get ’em – I wish you all the success you can take.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

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