Last time, I shared ten “little actions” with you that could double your income over the next twelve months… but only if you did it right, with all 3 C’s (care, connection and commitment) in mind.
Today, I’m digging in further. You see, while the 3 C’s might be a little abstract, woo-woo or intangible… there’s another layer to these little actions that’s much more quantifiable.
But first – storytime! The incredibly mundane origin story of how this four-part series came to be!
So as I had mentioned in my last post, one thing my clients pay me to do is recruit and hire copywriters for them. They do this when they can’t or refuse to pay freelancer fees and would prefer to have someone on full-time payroll instead.
This is a challenge because good direct response copywriters know they can make waaaaay more money per project plus royalties. They don’t want to be “kept writers”. So my job is to find “diamonds in the rough”, or copywriters that have potential… but don’t have the experience to demand higher fees (yet).
Obviously, I warn my clients that it’s most likely these copywriters I find for them will get good, and eventually leave them unless they compensate them well. Some clients listen. Some don’t. That’s life.
Anyway – someone named Jen applied for one of these years ago and made it to the final eight. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the client chose someone else.
Now, I’m not stupid. These recruiting gigs have a whack ton of auxiliary benefits… for me.
And all these “extra bonuses” is what I’m going to talk about here. I’ll start with the most obvious one for this story though: I met and vetted eight copywriters that I personally know have potential, are solid human beings and can kick ass.
What does this mean for me? Let me count the ways…
- If I come across a prospect who can’t afford my fees, I can refer said prospect to these eight copywriters, which means…
- My prospect is happy I was able to refer them to someone good… he sees me as a resourceful and helpful consultant, not just a copywriter.
- My copywriter is happy to get a job and is now indebted to me… they send me a 10% referral fee if they land the job…
- And because of that, I can close more prospects… knowing I’m not “throwing away a lead” if they’re not the right fit.
- My reputation as a resourceful person goes up, depending on the client, who may or may not talk about me…
- I don’t have to worry about my prospect getting burnt by a “bad egg” when I refer them outside copywriters… because I personally vetted these ones! (They went through multiple written tests, interviews and a phone call.)
- My network has increased. I can play matchmaker with people who need copywriters. And as I build up these copywriter careers… I can rely on them to get me jobs as they ladder up… as the good ones will inevitably get into positions with future clients, for example… which opens up opportunities for me.
So let’s talk about Jen.
Over the years, I’ve referred Jen a ton of clients… and she has reciprocated as well. And what’s more, you’re reading this blog post because years later… when Jen had landed a gig with a newsletter with a huge paying audience… she asked me to write this series for them… which gave me a lot of exposure to even more copywriters.
But here’s what’s really important…
Remember what I said about caring and gratitude in Part 1? I care about Jen. I’ve received emails from her when she got married, when she had her first child… and second as well. She wouldn’t be sharing this information if she wasn’t comfortable enough to do it.
I’ve also shared my personal life with her. In fact, this leads me to the next sidetrack with an invaluable hidden lesson…
I love board games. One of the things Jen and I connected on was board games. And no, I’m not talking about children’s games. I’m talking about modern designer board games. What the heck are those?
Quick tangential history lesson:
While most Americans only see board games as childish playthings like Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Life and Candyland… Europe never stopped innovating on board games… and they’ve quietly sparked a renaissance in this hobby that started with 1995’s “Settlers of Catan” by Klaus Teuber.
What makes these board games different? They’re complex. They have deep strategies and require intellect. You don’t just roll a die and move your pawn around. These games are meant for adults. And today, there’s a huge growing community of tabletop gamers around the world. (I’ve been in this hobby since 2003.)
OK - so now back to the lesson…
So what exactly makes these games “complex”? Well, for one thing, the luck factor is greatly reduced. Some of these games don’t even have dice. But secondly and more importantly… these games often require you to pay attention to multiple resources.
For example, in one of my favorite games by Czech designer Vlaada Chavtil, “Through the Ages”, you are building a civilization from ancient times to the modern era. In this complex 4-hour game… it’s not enough to merely track your food and mining production… you have to grow your population, make sure your military is strong enough to stop invasions… while also nurturing culture and science… and build a few wonders… all at the same time.
It’s a huge balancing act! And this relates back to your career as a freelancer, entrepreneur, artist or business-owner.
If you think projects, income and expenses are the only metrics you need to track and pay attention to… you’re basically playing Monopoly. A simple game where you’re at the whim of a dozen dice rolls.
(SIDEBAR ANALOGY: If you have a job where you do exactly what your boss tells you to do every day you punch in… you’re playing Candyland. You have no free will.)
On the other hand… as you saw with how I played the copywriter hiring job above… I’m looking at multiple tracks where I can win and score points. In fact, here are a few other benefits I didn’t mention yet…
When I’m proposing this project to clients, one of the things I tell them is that I have access to thousands of copywriters they can’t get to. And it’s true. Over the years, I’ve developed relationships with several copywriting gurus. I did this early in my career to learn from them, at first. But then, it was to get referrals and jobs from them. (All those “little actions” I talked about last time apply here.)
Anyway - this gives me the opportunity to reach out to these guys and tell them, “Hey, I’ve got an awesome opportunity for your email list." The copywriting gurus are more than happy to promote this job listing I have. They’ve just given their list value. Their list goes, “Cool, I can get jobs here."
What happens next is I get a flood of job applicants for me to sift through. My client sees my excel spreadsheet and weekly updates. The copywriters get a chance to work with a client I’ve vetted. Everyone gets value out of this.
And of course - at the end of all this, I am sending handwritten thank you cards and an Amazon gift card to each and every one of these copywriting gurus and influencers who mailed for me.
Now – some of you reading this might be saying… I can’t do what Colin does. I don’t have connections with copywriting gurus. I don’t have access to clients who need this sort of work done.
Well guess what? I didn’t either in the beginning. I started small, with those “little actions” I talked about in my last post. I built my network little by little. I made connections. I convinced people to jump on the phone with me. I thanked them. I sent cards. I followed up. I did good work and talked about it.
There are two lessons I want you to take from this above everything else.
#1. Stop Thinking Of Yourself As Just a Copywriter (Or Whatever You Do).
That’s huge, because you’re not. You’re a consultant, a connector, a coach, trusted confidante. Be that guy. This game is about positioning and NOT being a single-skill monkey vendor I can hire for a one-time job. What else can you bring to the table??? What else can you keep bringing to the table?
#2. Wake Up And Pay Attention to Every Opportunity to Connect
This is the bigger of the two lessons and will serve you in other areas of life as well. Seriously, just shut up, listen and ask more questions. To your spouse. To your kids. To your colleagues, your peers, your clients, your vendors. Take mental or actual notes. What are they looking for? What’s their biggest need now? What can you do to help them out a little and make them feel cared for?
This isn’t about doing free work for them. You’ll burn out doing free favors. You gotta have boundaries. But would it really kill you to make an introduction, send a thank you card, or forward an article… because you’re browsing on Reddit anyway and you see something that made you think of them?
I guess that last sentence is the toughest one. Because yes, you actually have to be thinking of them. This is where the 3 C’s kick in. I do care. I do want to connect. I’m committed to things like this.
Listen - when people say, “do what you love and the money will follow”… that’s complete and utter B.S. because chances are, what you love isn’t profitable.
But if you “connect, care, give value and also let it be known what you do”… guess what? The money follows.
I’m not saying you don’t need to know how to sell, negotiate and scope out projects… you still do. But I promise you, this all gets a whole lot easier when you understand connection and gratitude at a deep level.
OK – I’m way over my word limit again. Looks like I have to talk about the three metrics next time…
Or… I can ignore my weird concept of “blog length” and keep going!
I’ll make it somewhat quick though. If you’ve been paying ANY attention at all to me so far, you’d have already picked up on these three “scoring tracks”. One is your reputation. Another is your network. The last one is opportunities… creating them, seeing them, managing them.
But you might be asking… how can you QUANTIFY these things? I mean… these are abstract gooey relationship stuff isn’t it? It’s organic! It’s luck! It’s synchronicity! You can’t break love down to some chemical equation! To which I say: Watch me.
Are you ready to geek out on Excel with me?
Let’s break down the first one. Reputation. How do you know you’ve got it? Anecdotally, you’ll be told about it. When you’re on the phone or at an event… and you’re chatting up your connections, they’ll say something like, “I was just talking to X the other day and X was saying how you blah blah blah”
In other words, you get mentioned in other people’s conversations. In fact, here’s one Jen sent me:
Of course – while this is nice for your ego, how does this turn into actual dollars in your bank?
OK - Excel time. (You can also use Google Sheets, obviously). Create a new sheet and here’s what I want you to put in the columns:
- R (for Referrals)
- E (for Endorsements)
- T (for Testimonials)
Then under columns D, E, and F… put a “X” next to the connections who have given you referrals, endorsements and testimonials. It should look something like this:
Now go down that list and ask yourself, who have I not talked to in a while and I need to reconnect? Who owes me a testimonial from a recent project? Who can endorse me to their email list? Who promised me a referral but hasn’t sent it over yet?
This will be a self-test on how shining your reputation actually is. Will these people actually follow-through and give you said referrals, testimonial or endorsement?
OK. I’m really, seriously over the word limit now. I’ll cover networking in Part 3 along with “The First Rule of Freelancing”.
But let me quickly talk about opportunities. Let me lob this back over to you. Read the story I told you at the beginning of this post again. Read the one I told in Part 1. Notice how I’m looking for, creating and increasing my opportunities to connect and build my reputation?
You can do the same thing for projects.
If you’re listening, paying attention and you’re constantly looking for ways in which you can insert yourself (as a freelancer, you pervert) into people’s lives… you will “find” work. One of the first things I teach my coaching students is…
You don’t let the client tell you what the project is. You create the projects they need.
Here’s the unvarnished truth…
Most clients – outside of the 8-to-9-figure direct response publishers who just need an endless stream of sales letters and VSLs – have no idea what they’re doing. It’s your job to be the consultant and figure out their marketing needs.
Oftentimes, they just got off some webinar by some IM biz-op guru and think they need X (because said IM biz-op guru was selling a course on X). They don’t need X. X is usually the last thing they need. Your job is to assess where they are in their business and propose projects that will actually make them money (so you’ll get repeat business from them).
I promise you - 9 times out of 10 - if you listen blindly to your client and do X for them, it will end disastrously. One day, ask me about the time I did X for a client, and he went bankrupt and moved to Southeast Asia.
OK - that’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part 3.
With warmest regards,
This is Gaia Project, a board game where you colonize planets, develop new technology and grow your space economy… currently #7 on boardgamegeek.com. If you haven’t played board games outside of Monopoly, Risk, or Scrabble… I DO NOT recommend you start with this beast. (Nor should you try Through the Ages, the game I mention in this blog post). I would recommend you start with Azul, Codenames, Lords of Waterdeep, or Pandemic first. ↩︎