Your first client meeting: 3 common mistakes copywriters make (and what to do instead)

Surely you’ve heard the old adage, “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

When you’re trying to land your first client, the truth of this statement is amplified.

That’s because there are things a new copywriter can do wrong in a first meeting!

I recently prepped a coaching student for an on-site meeting with his first potential client. The client is very desirable, so there’s lots of excitement.

I emailed him some pointers and promised to flesh them out in a blog post this week.

So here they are. Even “old salts” can use some of these reminders.

MEETING MISTAKE #1: Talking too much.

The tension of a high stakes encounter stirs up all kinds of “fright thoughts” and emotions in a new copywriter eager to make his first sale.

An outlet for nervous tension is talking a lot and talking too fast… as we often see in TV shows and movies portraying awkward social situations.

Most of us have found ourselves blathering on when our conversational partner fails to respond; there’s something the humanoid just can’t handle when it comes to “dead space” in a conversation.

If nervous chatter is your style, it’s really pretty easy to correct. You simply plan ahead to keep yourself in check.

Mentally rehearse thoughts like, “I’m going to let them lead.” “I’ll keep my answers short and succinct.” “I’ll visualize myself poised, in control, and confident.”

Why do I know this works? I know it because I was a Nervous Nelly when I first started out. There were times I just wanted to kick myself! 

Eventually I learned to see myself as a salesperson and not a copywriter, when pitching new clients. “What would a sales pro do?”, I’d ask myself. One obvious answer was talk less, listen more.

Talking less takes the pressure off of you and helps protect you from making newbie mistakes. Asking questions turns you into a listener and flatters your potential client.

Keep in mind that whenever two people meet for the first time, either one or both are sizing each other up. Almost without fail, the question in their mind is, “Should I spend more of my precious time with this person, or not?”

In business, where time is a highly valued commodity, a busy client can decide in the first few minutes — based upon your first impression — how much time she’s going to give you.

If you’re shown the door in say, 20 minutes, that’s not a good sign. If you came on the premise that there might be some work available, most potential clients will want to take the time to talk about the project. Almost always, this will take about an hour.

So rather than winging it, mentally rehearse your strategy. 

A lot can ride on that first impression!

MEETING MISTAKE #2: Thinking that being “new” is a stain upon your soul.

Somehow the general consensus for American workers is that being “new” or inexperienced is bad. 

But you’ll be thrilled to find out that in the marketing world, there is a whole different attitude toward “new.”

Maybe it’s because marketers are always trying new things that being “new” isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, marketing is an inexact science. We’re constantly testing copy, coming up with edgy ideas, stretching our creativity, and looking for the next big breakthrough.

Did you know that businesses sometimes hire freelance — even when they have staff copywriters — just to get what they call “a fresh perspective”?

Yes, they do it all the time. As a freelancer I’ve been hired quite a few times for this reason… and when I worked at the agency, I hired freelancers for this reason as well.

“New” in marketing is valued enough that even if you get some old fart who wants to lord it over you, you could just remind her that you’re not complacent, jaded or indoctrinated… and that skill, fresh thinking, and determination is what you bring to the table.

I’m not just blowing hot air, either. Say it to a wavering prospect and I’ll bet you notice a shift in their demeanor. 

The exception to this rule is the small business. They can’t afford to take risks and like to see proof of prior success.

But the larger businesses know what they’re doing in marketing and are much more willing to give a new writer a chance. 

In a nutshell, here’s the secret to being “new.” All you do is turn it around and make it a benefit instead of a liability. 

Tell your potential client that you might not be a veteran, but she’s getting a writer who’s enthusiastic, up-to-date with today’s marketing, and full of bright new ideas. No burnout here!

Truly, I have just shared with you one of my most powerful salesmanship secrets… no matter what your obstacle, you can always “turn it around.”

It works like a charm.

MEETING MISTAKE #3: Focusing on your needs.

Listen… it’s wholly natural to be focused on yourself when you’re on the cusp of winning your first client and becoming a real, bonafide working copywriter!

But remember the first rule of copywriting? (THINK THINK THINK, before I tell you).

The first rule of copywriting izzzzz

It’s not about you (or your boring product).

In direct marketing, we all know you never talk about how wonderful your product is.

Rather, you talk about them. Their pains. Their problems. Their needs.

When you’re in that moment with your potential client and you forget about your needs — your need to pay the rent… your need to eat — something magical happens.

First of all, you relax. All that stress melts away.

Then you may pick up on a vibe that you’re really connecting with your client because your entire vernacular has just taken a 160. Your script has completely changed!

Your client senses that vibe too… that you’re genuinely interested in solving their problem.

We all have highly evolved bullshit meters and every single day we sort the crap from the cool.

When you focus outward and not inward, you actually gain confidence. You’re going to help your client. They’re lucky to have found you!

I’ll never forget the day I discovered direct response copywriting in the advertising section of Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

I remember thinking, “OMG, if I learn how to get leads and sales from my writing, I’ll never be out of work!”

What a life-changing day that was.

Here, more than 30 years later, I’ve enjoyed equal status with the vast majority of my clients. It has always been important to me that I not feel subjugated. (Which is probably one of the reasons I was destined for the freelance life!).

So on that nerve-wracking first meeting with a potential client, remember who you are.

You’re someone who’s going to solve their problem and get them out of pain.



To learn how to land the high quality, high value clients, be sure to check out the copywriting industry’s premier client acquisition course since 2003:

The Marlow Marketing Method™ Client Acquisition Course

 P.S. — Got something to add to this post? Please leave a comment!

2017 Chris Marlow, All Rights Reserved

About Chris Marlow

The original copywriter's coach, Chris Marlow has worked with copywriters since 2003. Her acclaimed Marlow Marketing Method™ Client Acquisition Course has produced hundreds of successful copywriters. Chris' S.S. Treasure Hunt membership site not only houses this course but four more on the subjects of Copywriting, Advanced Copywriting, Productivity, and Closing Clients. The S.S. Treasure Hunt also contains the world's only statistical pricing database for about 100 copywriting jobs. Chris has put together this resource to give copywriters everything they need to succeed — and nothing they don't. Chris is committed to helping copywriters focus on what's important, saving them from the time- and money-wasting Bright Shiny Object Syndrome so prevalent on the Internet.

2 Responses to Your first client meeting: 3 common mistakes copywriters make (and what to do instead)

  1. Melissa July 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

    This is such an awesome and empowering post! I especially love the part about “turning around” your obstacles – particularly because it exhibits a skill and mindset that we need as copywriters. Thank you so much for this! It was just what I needed to hear 🙂

    • Chris Marlow July 18, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

      Thank you Melissa! It really helps to read salesmanship books… after all, copywriters are salesmen in print, as another old adage says! My latest favorite is “Pitch Anything” by Oren Klapf if you’re inclined to look it up.

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