Ego, Passion And Expertise: How To Find Balance And Win Clients

By Nacie Carson
35 Comments

I started freelance writing in May of 2008 with no professional portfolio or credentials to speak of. All I had in my freelancer’s toolkit were decent writing skills, a love of the written word, and a burning passion to make it as a self-employed professional.

Yet within four months, I had built up a strong enough client base to quit my full-time job and embrace my fantasy lifestyle: working when I wanted, working where I wanted, and throwing the word “commute” out of my vocabulary. It wasn’t long after that I started to earn as much freelancing as I did as a full-timer. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my share of lean seasons, but they have trended as the exception, not the rule.

Initially, I chalked the success up to a healthy dose of luck. What else could explain a novice freelancer actually getting good paying (and steady!) gigs?

But the more I connected with the true earning superstars of the freelance writing community, the more I realized that my success came from consistently utilizing two universal business-winning strategies when pursuing clients.

These two business-winning strategies have served me very well in both my freelance writing work and my entrepreneurial endeavors. Interestingly enough, I’ve been able to identify them as key success indicators (and failure indicators when not implemented) in friends who’ve gone down both tracks. I encourage you to examine how you utilize each of these strategies in your own niche or version of entrepreneurship, whether you’re a blogger, a product designer, or an information marketer like E-J’s own Dr. Mani.

Communicate Your Passion

Early in my freelancing career, I had the opportunity to pick the brain of a successful and established writer and blogger. I’ll never forget their biggest piece of advice: “Treat your service like a business, not a hobby. Too many new writers don’t take their work seriously and they never get anywhere.”

This writer meant what they said, and I could tell from the tone of their voice that they took their work very seriously. In fact, a little too seriously. When they spoke about writing, there was no passion or love of the work in their voice. It was all just business.

A few months later, when we spoke again, they confided that their clientele had begun to slip and they were struggling to win new gigs. From where I sat, it was no surprise why – with a job market flooded by eager scribes, clients were opting for individuals who communicated enthusiasm for potential opportunities, not a matter-of-fact coldness.

It is easy to confuse being businesslike with being flat, monotone, and almost somber. But handling your service or product in a businesslike manner doesn’t mean putting a lid on your passion and enthusiasm for what you do. In fact, communicating a love for what you do is an essential business-winning strategy. When a potential client sees you’re fully engaged in your business and enthusiastic about it – whether you freelance write or sell eco-friendly toilets – it sends a message to them that you value quality, high standards, and successful engagements.

Now, passion and enthusiasm doesn’t mean going bonkers with overly gregarious speech or wild body language (think Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch). But it does mean letting the client know, often in subtle way, that you believe in your product or service and find personal satisfaction in at least some element of it.

Think about your current sales pitch, long copy, or gig-responses letter…does your language communicate to the potential client your passion for your work?

Focus On The Client’s Needs

One of the biggest mistakes I used to make when writing cover letters for writing opportunities was to spend four paragraphs talking about me. I’d mention various awards or accolades I’d earned, exclusive academic societies I was a member of, areas I specialized in…on and on and on, anything I thought would make me stand out from the 800 other responses the client was getting. It wouldn’t be until the final few lines that I would mention anything about the client’s project.

I didn’t win many gigs this way. Why? Because the only thing a client cares more about than your credentials is what you can do for them. Markets for an entrepreneur’s product feel the same way… “yeah, yeah, enough about you already…but what can you and your product do for me?”

I became aware of this problem when I asked a friend to review what I thought was a particularly impressive gig pitch. “Um, Nacie…” she started slowly, “This is nice…but, who are you writing this for – your ego, or the potential client?”

Ouch.

My blunder is one that is often repeated by other newbies in a variety of entrepreneurship situations – when you are feeling insecure about your platform, portfolio, or experience, the immediate response is to overcompensate. OK, and there are a few established pros that just want to brag about how wonderful they are. But mostly, I’ve noticed this to be a rookie mistake: maybe they won’t notice I have very few writing clients if I talk a lot about other achievements? Maybe my potential sales demographic will think I’m qualified to sell this product if I spend 1,000 words talking about my story…

Savvy freelance writers (and entrepreneurs) know that one of the best ways to win business is to share just one or two words about yourself – your ultimate highlight reel – before turning the focus on the client’s needs and how you can meet and exceed them: Yes, I did have two stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul…but what I’d really like to discuss today is this fantastic opportunity. My vision was…

Think (again) about your current sales pitch, long copy, or gig-responses letter…How much time are you spending talking about yourself versus the potential client and their needs?

From Freelancing To Entrepreneurship

When I first started my freelancing career years ago, I never imagined it would lead me to where I am today: blogger, soon-to-be-published author, and entrepreneur. Freelance writing gently taught me the basics of business, including what it takes to win business and keep business. These two major strategies, simple as they may appear, have served me very well in a variety of business situations, from getting writing gigs to selling my book proposal to a major international publisher.

So as you think about building or continuing to build your own empire, consider this: passion, enthusiasm, and a genuine interest in providing a service will get you farther than you think, even when you’ve got a blank resume.

Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey!

Nacie

About Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a freelance writer and founder of The Life Uncommon, a career evolution and entrepreneurship community.
Her work on careers and authenticity have been featured in over 200 media outlets, including Portfolio.com, WalletPop, and two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nacie's first book on career "fitness" will be in stores in April 2012. You can contact her via nacie(@)TheLifeUncommon.Net

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35 Comments

  • What can you do for me..these are the magic words that all clients say..once you get around this..the rest is on your shoulders..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Great advice for writing cover letters!! And it applies to any industry/field. When I was applying for summer internships after my first year of law school, I was guilty of the same sort of mistakes (focusing on the classes I’d taken, my past experience, grades, etc). It wasn’t until my career services counselor pointed it out to me that I realized the importance of tailoring your talents/experiences to the potential employer’s needs. It’s still important to convey all the great things that you’ve done in the past, but these talents/experiences need to be framed in terms of how you will use these talents to service and improve the company you’re targeting.

    Great article, Nacie!

  • Nacie-

    I absolutely love this article. It’s a terrific distinction to remind us to have, show and balance out the topics of personal passion and client attention. I feel my passion every time I talk about my subject which is stock trading and how relatively easy it is to become a better investor. That passion pulls me through when I’m afraid of a task that requires me to step outside of my comfort zone. (I hope that passions never leaves.)

    Also, it’s true, the work I do isn’t all about me. I have to work at remembering to ask myself, “What will the retail stock trader get out of this?” and “How will this really be different for them?”

    Thank you for the reminders.

    Natalie

  • Good, well-organized piece here, Nacie. I agree that a balance of quiet confidence and showing a desire to build a relationship with your clients through the value you provide to them is extremely key.
    Thanks for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with us here!

    Peter

  • Sue

    Natalie,
    Nice article that reminds us what is of value to the marketplace:passion and service. I would add persistence, particularly when just starting out. Combined with your two rules it creates an unstoppable combination that will always add value which is the key.

    Thanks,
    Sue

  • Hi Nacie!

    Great article! I’m guilty of “flat, monotone, and almost somber.” That’s my persona but there’s a wild rebel child under the lid. I like that you have the guts to go for the glory! My wild rebel child is peeking out of the box and trying to determine if there’s sharks in that water you are swimming in? I’d like to dive in but methinks someone is going to have to throw me in.

  • I love hearing stories about when someone quits their job and goes into self-employment. It is the future of America. Working for someone else when you finish school is good for the experience, but eventually most should go onto the path of entrepreneurship.

  • what a great insight to move forward in business: many are confused not knowing why things are happening in the lives and business. This article is timely and what spreading to the millions of internet marketers all over the world.

    Nacie; would love to feature you in my blog to my audience.

    Your piece is great and informative to fellow info marketers ==> a must read! Thanks more especially to the management of this community.

  • Hi Nacie you have the same experience like me. I’ve been a wordpress design and a minisite design since 2007. I really like your article. I’ve learn a lot form your article.

  • Nacie, thanks for the 2 important points – communicating with passion and focusing on a client’s needs.

  • I think you can’t go wrong when focusing on a clients needs as it will show them you care. Great post Nacie, thank you.

    – Robert

  • Quitting a full-time job and venturing into entrepreneurship is a hard decision and risky one but we won’t know if we will succeed as our own boss if we don’t try. Excellent article Nacie! :)

  • Passion + WIIFM = Winning Formula!

    Lovely post, thanks for sharing it, Nacie.

    I also caught this: “soon-to-be-published author” – so, what’s the book, and when is it out? :)

  • Thanks Nacie for such an inspiring and informative article. You have pointed out some of the biggest mistakes that newbie freelancers must avoid. It will be beneficial to a lot. I enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to seeing more of your articles in EJ in future.

  • nacie…i completely agree with you…

  • Finding clients is easy, but managing them is very hard part in the business field. Repuation is must to have longterm relation ship with clients.

  • Hi nacie, I feel you. Freelancing has earned me more income that working full time in a company. It is very practical that you use your own time. Clients wants and needs are very important part of freelancing. You should have the attitude, love what you are doing, professional and serious about it. This way, you will gain their trust and possible get more clients.

  • Ottawa Web Design is right, it is not a big deal to find clients, but to manage them and make them to do what you want is rather difficult.

  • Thanks for motivating me.
    Balance …

  • Nacie, I love reading stories like this – congrats on your success. It takes a lot to be in the service industry and have the patience to deal with nagging clients etc.

  • Winning clients is almost difficult now a days. Once, we get clients, managing them is a hard part.

  • This is a great article and everything you say is absolutely true. Enthusiasm is contagious and hard as it may be to believe for some, Passion can pay.

  • Focusing on your client’s needs is a must as you mentioned . You are doing business for satisfying your clients, remember? :)

  • Your story inspired me Nacie.I am also a writer but not getting much success.I will follow your instructions to improve my skills.Thanks for sharing such a informative article.

  • Its true, you have to think about clients and then about yourself, i agree with your article!

  • Thanks for the reminders, Nacie. :)

    I guess it is something that we often forget…

  • Very cool story… I’m flying solo in May…

    Looking forward to it!…

    :]

  • Focusing on clients need is the key to increase your customer base and get more rewards. It’s all about how you care and not what you know. Thinking like an entrepreneur will help take your business to a greater height. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • V&A

    Such a wonderful and wise article. It’s so true – all you have to do is show that you care about your work and your future client’s goal. Sometimes we forget the “service” part of our work.

  • Ggreat post Nacie. Although I am not a writer (I’m a virtual assistant) I can see many similarities with our journey. I too have my own set of blunders along the way and I never regret making them. Cause if not for that I wouldn’t be where I am now. I particularly like what you said to highlight your strengths. Sometimes its hard to do that esp since I don’t want to come across as boastful. I just encourage the potential client to also check with my old clients =)

  • Passion has a lot to do with it; as another blogger put it, “choose a job that you have residency in”. You have to feel at home with the kind of work you do.

  • Tom

    thanks for sharing this wonderful post

  • Your blog is very sensible and inspiring. I have taken some valuable inputs from this blog.

  • Nacie, great post! Thank you for sharing these tips on how to find and keep clients. I will definitely be putting them into practice. I especially agre with the focusing on your cleint’s needs!

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