Dear reader, I'll save you the preamble. Here are the facts, in the first 65 words, no less.
First off, it takes a lot of effort to create your own job. No surprise there. It takes skills in marketing, writing, and most of all, you have to do something most of us would rather die in a fire than do. You have to cold call.
Essentially, there are three components to creating your own job:
- Make up a job title
- Put up a blog
- Prospect like mad
It helps if your job title is something that people all familiar with, ie copywriter, designer, consultant, etc.
Now, let me tell you the story of how I became a marketing and innovation consultant.
His Name Is Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey is a professional copywriter who primarily resides in Australia and travels the world while working remotely. It's not an exaggeration to say that he was working remotely when many of us were still in diapers.
Shortly, I will explain how this miracle man gave me the blueprint for my latest career pivot, but first, a little background.
I was working as a video producer for Republic Property Group in Dallas, Texas. I enjoyed working for them, but at the end of my second year there, I was ready to do something else, although I couldn't say what.
Honestly, if I had my druthers, I'd be a professional singer-songwriter.
Suffice to say, that's still a work in progress. Luckily, I've always had a diverse range of interests.
I'd always liked writing, in many of it's forms. While working at RPG, I wrote, recorded the audiobook, and self-published on Amazon the book Don't Do What I Did. It's about what not to do as a video production freelancer.
It didn't sell. To date, I've made a grand total of about $96.
Honestly, I wasn't sure that the book was all that great and promoting the book online proved to be confounding. I figured it was a learning experience and moved on.
Prospect Like Mad
Along the way, I discovered Kevin Casey's book, The Jet-setting Copywriter.
In the book, Casey outlines a very effective strategy for starting your own copywriting business. You wouldn't be wrong if you guessed that this is the part in which the cold-calling factors in.
Cold-calling, often referred to as "phone prospecting" is arguably the most time- and cost-effective way to find clients as a new business. In short, Casey's strategy is simply to find this year's listing of the 5000 fastest growing American business, also known as the INC. 5000 list(although we are not yet acquainted, thank you Seth Waite for providing this resource on your website). Here's a google doc if you want to view it online.
Why call INC. 5000 businesses? Well, these businesses are the fastest-growing businesses in the country, meaning they have the case to hire you.
And now, the technical part:
In the spreadsheet, sort the businesses by number of employees, and call the businesses with 20 or employees or less. You'll have to google the phone numbers yourself.
There are two reasons to call the smaller businesses: small companies may not have a copywriter on staff and it's likely much easier to get the CEO or other buyer on the phone. Smaller companies may also have smaller networks, with employees wearing many different hats. There is a higher probability that a newbie cold-calling copywriter will have success in approaching smaller businesses on the phone.
It Worked for Me(It Actually Did)
I tell this story because Casey's cold-calling-INC.-5000-businesses method actually worked for me. Yes, I know the previous sentence reads like it's lifted from a 90's infomercial.
Full disclaimer, I receive no profits from the sale of Mr. Casey's fabulous book. In fact, I insist you purchase a copy if you freelance, copywriter or no.
In short, I called about 50 businesses over the course of two weeks. Working from the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment in Ridgewood, Queens, I found cold-calling to be extremely exhausting. I found that I had to pace myself.
Casey advocates making 40 calls a day. I've heard of salespeople making 60 calls a day. I averaged around 10-15. This counts dead-ends and messages left.
I'd estimate that over the course of 50 calls:
- I was able to speak with 8 humans. Many of these were either admin assistants or the sole proprietor of the business. The rest went to voicemail.
- I left about 30 messages.
- I had actual conversations lasting longer than 30 seconds with 4 humans.
- 3 businesses requested that I email them my website and examples of my work.
- 2 businesses followed up with me.
- 1 became a paying client.
One of the biggest surprises was that no one was actually mean or unkind. Some of the people on the other end sounded exasperated as I stumbled to explain myself and what I did, which I mostly made up on the spot, improvising my way through each call.
Casey suggests it's better to avoid a script and just present yourself as a human being, and simply ask if they have a need for copywriting(or whatever else it is that you do).
One company called me back and became a client. I've been working with them for a little bit longer than a year. Initially, I was doing content writing and blog posts for them but it's evolved to the point where I am project-managing smaller marketing projects and offering marketing strategy to help them grow from a $10-million-in-revenues company to a $100-million-in-revenues company.
As famed consulting guru, Alan Weiss, says, every consultant should aim to provide at least a 10:1 ratio on fees paid. Not that I'm so high on my abilities to believe that my efforts alone will 10x this clients revenues, but it's good to keep this metric in mind.
To be honest, I still do not enjoy cold-calling, and haven't done any phone prospecting since May or so. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a copywriter, and so I pivoted to marketing myself as a Marketing and Innovation Consultant.
Recently, I've been reading a book called Smart-Calling, by Art Sobczak, which has helped changed my attitude about phone prospecting. With an equal mixture of fear and excitement, I plan to get back to it in the next week or so.
I've been reading a lot about consulting and entrepreneurship, trying to find ways to develop marketing strategie and a compelling value proposition for my business. Another post for another time :D