Recently, I discovered freelance writing marketing tactic that many professional freelance writers have been using for years:
I went to my local Chamber of Commerce to meet my potential clients face to face.
In this setting I had no competition. The marketing was far less frustrating than the scattershot approach, because I knew what my clients needed, and I was prepared to offer it to them.
That’s how I landed ten new clients in a month. My first client paid me $800 up front for two hours of consulting. I didn’t even write anything. I just pointed him in the right direction.
What I did wasn’t special. In fact, anyone can do it. All it takes is a little common sense and courage. Here’s the step-by-step process I used to land ten new clients in thirty days.
Step 1: Research
I Googled my local Chamber of Commerce by typing in the name of my town and state, followed by “Chamber of Commerce.” My local Chamber popped up on the first page. As soon as I was on the website, I did a little browsing around. I wasn’t just mindlessly looking though. I had an agenda:
I dug up information about the Chamber of Commerce.
I needed to answer these specific questions: How does it operate? How old is it? How many members are there? What are the fees to join? How often do you pay?
By being informed about the Commerce itself, I knew what to expect out of its members as well as the Board of Directors. It would also help me tailor my marketing.
I thoroughly searched through the list of members.
I needed to know which local businesses had joined the Chamber. The owners of these businesses know how important it is to market and get new customers, so they’d be more willing to hire a writer. Those are the people I wanted to talk to.
I went through the list carefully from A to Z. I took note of which businesses had websites, and which businesses offered discounts to other Chamber of Commerce members. I also researched the types of businesses on the list. There were dentists, gourmet popcorn shops, even movie theaters. I wanted to find out what these businesses offered to the community, how they stood out from their competition, and what I could do for them. Then I wrote down questions that I wanted to ask each owner that I met.
I had 98 businesses to research. It took me two days to go through them all.
But my local Chamber has a small members list compared to other places. If your Chamber has a really big list, here’s a tip: Narrow down who you want to talk to by searching through each category of businesses and picking out ones that can afford to pay you what you’re worth. For example, if you charge $100 for a one-page ad, you want to look at companies that make enough money so that $100 a page doesn’t seem like a big deal. You may not land them as a client, but you could get a referral to another business in the same earnings bracket — or even higher.
I found out out if non-members can attend events as guests of the Chamber.
My local Chamber of Commerce allows non-members to attend three events a year, but there’s a $10 fee to get in. To me that fee was worth it. It’s nominal compared to how much money new clients could potentially bring in.
Find out if your Chamber does something similar. If they don’t, search the schedule to see if any of the events are open house. Those types of events let potential members mingle with current members, making it a great way to network.
I looked at the list of scheduled events.
I took note of which ones are more likely to draw a bigger crowd. Those are the events I want to attend.
I chose three events, two on the weekend and one charity event. I reasoned that business owners would set aside time on a weekend to go to a Chamber of Commerce event, even if it was just for an hour or so. Of course, everyone loves supporting a charity, and in supporting a cause I would show that I’m willing to use part of what I earned as a writer to give back to the community. Everyone loves hiring a humanitarian.
Step 2: Preparation
Once I had done my research it was time for me to prepare for the events I was going to attend. The first thing I did was make a list of what I needed in order to market myself effectively. It read something like this:
- Business cards
- Letter of introduction
- Writing samples
- Reply cards
- Postage stamps
I had a website, but was — and still is — currently under construction. I didn’t want that fact to deter anyone from requesting information from me. So I put up a contact form on my landing page so that they could request an information packet from me, either through snail mail or email, and ask me questions.
Once I had my business cards made, I put together my letter of introduction and writing samples. My samples had to be diverse. I made sure to include a mock-up of a one-page ad, a newsletter, some informational articles, and a few other pieces of marketing material.
The reply cards I had were simply postcards with postage affixed to them. These are easy to use as reply cards because the person can simply fill in their information and drop it in the mail. It eliminates delayed reactions for mailing; if the postage is already there, the person doesn’t have to set aside mailing it due to a lack of postage.
The envelopes I bought were large manila envelopes. I fixed together five information packets to start out with; I wasn’t expecting a huge response. I put a letter of introduction, copies of my samples, a business card and a reply card in each envelope. I wrote my return address in the corner in the neatest, most legible handwriting I could muster. This was one of those moments I wished I had return address labels, but I made do with what I had.
The last thing I did was pick out my clothes for each event. You may think this is silly, but I wanted to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I had. I was very careful and meticulous when picking out my clothes. I made sure that I was modestly dressed: no cleavage showing, no short skirts, no tight pants, and no extremely high heels. I wanted to leave a positive impression. I wanted people to remember me, not my shoes or what I was wearing. I also made sure my accessories, makeup and hair weren’t flashy, gaudy or inappropriate.
I ran the outfits by my mother. She’s a legal secretary and office manager for a non-profit law firm. They have a set of rules at her job for clothing. She’s in charge of telling people whether their clothing is inappropriate in the workplace. By running the outfits by her, I knew that I’d be dressed to impress.
If you—ve got someone that works in an office environment, you can do the same thing. That became my rule of thumb for these events: If you can’t wear it in a law office, you can’t wear it to a client meeting.
Step 3: Take Action
I’m a natural wallflower. I don’t like to mingle at gatherings, even if the place is full of people that I’ve known for years. But I had to break out of that routine if I wanted to get some clients. For each event, I arrived ten to fifteen minutes early. As soon as I stepped into the door I took the initiative to talk to the first person I saw. I just said “Hi, my name is Kinya.” It never failed to start a conversation.
When people asked me what I did for a living, I told them, “I help businesses communicate with their current and future customers and clients.” They were always eager to learn how.
I didn’t keep the conversation focused on me; I always switched the topic back to their business. This is where the research came in handy. I was already prepared for all the members there, so I asked them questions pertaining to their individual businesses. They were impressed that I knew so much. Many of my conversations lasted ten minutes or more.
At the end of the conversations, I always asked if we could exchange information. Usually we would swap business cards, but if the other person didn’t have a business card I put their name, business name and telephone number in my cell phone.
Step 4: Follow Through
I waited a minimum of three days before I followed up with those I met. If I had their business cards, I went into their place of business to see if they were working. If they were, I told them that it was nice meeting them at the event, and I looked forward to seeing them at the next one. I also told them if they needed anything — anything at all — to just call me.
One person actually called me and asked me if I had “an epic brownie recipe” they could have for a family reunion. I passed along something spectacular with a caramel center and an ice cream topping. She was ever so grateful, and promised to pass my information along to other business owners.
If no one was there, I left a message with the manager on staff. For the ones who hadn’t given me their business cards, I followed up with them on the phone. If they didn’t answer, I left them a brief message.
The results were overwhelming to me: I’ve sent out over forty information packets and gained ten new clients. Two of these clients were referrals.
And I didn’t have to lowball my pricing for anyone. Everyone immediately thought my fees were reasonable, because they recognized how valuable my services were. And, perhaps best of all, I’m the only copywriter they know in the area. By taking these simple steps, I’ve set myself up to not only get new clients, but expand my business.
How about you — have you landed any gigs from attending Chamber events or other networking events? Do you have additional tips on how to make the most of these events? Share your insights in the Comments!
Kinya is a freelance copywriter and public speaker. She enjoys baking, writing fantasy novels , watching cartoons and brushing up on her Latin. Her blog, Nom de Plume Ink, talks about things she’s learning and discovering on the journey to reaching her career goals.