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Kim Wilson
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Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Teaming Up with Local Printers for Freelance Work
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and Associates

Commercial printers print most of the materials that commercial freelance writers write: newsletters, brochures, ads, fliers, catalogs, direct mail packages, you name it. And printers are willing to refer their clients to you for copywriting work.

Many commercial freelance writers overlook pitching their writing services to their local printers to solicit work because they either don't know how to do it or they don't see the direct link between commercial printers and commercial freelance writers helping each other to increase business and satisfy clients' needs.

Carl Esposito, a commercial copywriter in New Brunswick, NJ, has gotten dozens of copywriting assignments from local printers, and all of them "have been profitable," he says.

The key to receiving work from local printers, says Esposito, is to "build a relationship with your printers, and this may take some time, and let them know you're available to help their clients' produce better results with their new or existing printed materials."

Soliciting work from local printers has these benefits:

  • Less money spent on promotional and marketing costs.
    Most of the work from printers can be generated by word-of-mouth or sending local printers a "soft-selling" brochure or sales letter (along with three business cards) introducing your availability as a copywriter and how you can help satisfy their clients' needs.

  • The printer will generate the clients and work for you.
    Instead of spending non-billable time marketing your services to solicit clients, you can use printers to bring clients to you. When you least expect it, a local printer may call you up and ask if you'd be available to write (or re-write) a brochure for one of its clients. Or the client himself may call you up, after being referred to you by your local printer.

  • Repeat work.
    When printers refer clients to you, the clients are yours to keep. The same client that your printer introduced to you may come back for more of your copywriting services on his own, or you may pitch your writing services to the same client to secure future assignments. In addition, you can ask the same client to refer you to other types of businesses that could use your copywriting services.

  • Compatibility.
    Commercial printers and commercial freelance writers share many identical characteristics together. Here are some of them: Both sell commercial-related services. Both solicit clients of businesses. More importantly, both have primarily the same objectives in mind: to satisfy the clients' needs; to produce the best results possible; to do the job right the first time; to save the client time and costs on the print job; and to generate repeat clients and secure future projects.

Hooking up with local printers
Printers won't come to you if they are not aware of your availability as a local commercial copywriter.

Advertising in local newspapers or the Yellow Pages isn't "that effective," says Esposito, who says commercial printers don't routinely seek out freelance writers to help them with their clients' jobs.

Esposito recommends the best marketing approach is to network or send a simple promotional package to local printers.

The selling process is as follows:

1. Identify local printers that you've done business with in the past.
"When a printer already knows you on a first name basis, they are more agreeable to refer work to you," says Esposito.

And that's what had happened to me a few years ago when my local printer began to refer their clients to me for copywriting work. Because I was one of their frequent customers, my local printer already knew me on a first name basis, knew what type of copy I was capable of producing. In addition, over the years I had given my local printer dozens of print jobs from my own clients. The printer, I believe, not only felt obligated to repay the favor to me, but also had sent work my way because I had a strong relationship with them—and they knew I'd be able to satisfy the needs of their clients.

2. Advertise your availability as a copywriter.
"Tell local printers you're available as a commercial copywriter to help their clients polish their copy or write a new brochure for them, whatever it is," says Esposito, who says commercial printers often meet clients who can use a good freelance writer to write professional copy. "...or [quite often] the client will ask the printer to recommend a freelance writer," says Esposito, who suggests you ask local printers to keep a stack of your business cards on their counters or tack a few up on their bulletin boards for clients to take.

One approach, which I have used, is to leave some brochures (or some type of promotional material) of your copywriting services with local printers to hand out when a client asks if they know of a freelance writer who could help with his next project, either for writing and/or consulting.

Another approach, which I have also used, is to establish a referral system with local printers. You can arrange an agreement with local printers to "piggyback" your promotional material that they hand out to their clients. If one of their clients contacts me, as a result of the printer piggybacking my promotional material with theirs, I reimburse them 15% of what the client pays me for the project he hires me to do. The 15% that I reimburse to the printer is out of my own good will and I use it as an incentive so they'll send me more work and I can generate repeat business.

3. Advertise your compatibility as a copywriter.
To secure work from local printers, you must not only explain to printers how you will be able to satisfy the needs of their clients, but also how you will satisfy their own needs as well. By emphasizing the benefits of your copywriting services, you can satisfy these two requirements at once.

First, explain the benefits of teaming up with the printer. I have told local printers that, by referring the client to me or by contacting me to write copy for their clients print job, I could help them:

  • produce better results for their client than what they could do by themselves;

  • satisfy their clients' needs and exceed expectations by helping the printer produce a professional printed piece, done right the first time;

  • generate repeat work from the same client. Let's face it, a satisfied client will not only return to the same printer to do his next print job, but he will also be more inclined to send referrals to the printer as well;

  • earn more money—and possibly more business from new clients. Tell the printer that, by teaming up with a competent copywriter, he can now offer clients print jobs "from copy to completion"—not just graphic design and commercial printing.

4. Next, explain the benefits as to why the local printer should refer the client to you or rely on you to assist with the print job.
I have often told printers that their clients desperately want their printed materials to produce results, not showcase fancy, creative writing—but many of their clients fail to achieve this goal because they either write the copy themselves or let an inexperienced writer do the job. By hiring a competent copywriter (that's me), I can assure the printer that their client's printed material won't contain grammatical errors, awkward sentence structures or copy that fails to produce the anticipated
result(s)—otherwise, the hundreds of dollars that their client spends on the print job is totally wasted.

If you do not have any connections with local printers, you must focus on building a relationship and establishing rapport with them. You can do so by sending local printers a simple promotional package that advertises your availability and emphasizes your compatibility as a commercial copywriter who can help exceed their clients' expectations.

My simple promotional package often includes:

A personalized soft-selling sales letter that introduces who I am, what I do, what I have done for other clients, and what I can do for them and their clients. Make sure you highlight and emphasize the benefits (discussed above) in your sales letter.

B. Three business cards. One for the printer to put in his wallet; the second to tack up on the bulletin board or put in the Rolodex; the third, in case he misplaces or spills coffee on the other two—or to give to a friend.

C. A brochure that showcases my writing ability and advertises the benefits of my copywriting services, what I'm capable of writing, testimonials of clients, and so on.

D. A response device used to motivate the printer to contact me to establish a working relationship between us, or to pull a response of some sort. Because not every printer will contact you immediately, always offer a Free Consultation in which you tell printers to call you to discuss how you can increase business and satisfy their clients' needs. Otherwise, in five to ten days, make follow-up calls to the printers who have not returned a response. Ask each printer if they received your promotional material and if they have any questions. Most likely they will. Re-emphasize the benefits of teaming up with a copywriter and try to steer the conversation into establishing a working relationship between the two of you. If they say they're not interested, ask if they'd be willing to pass out or piggyback your promotional material or put a stack of your business cards on their counter in a business card holder.

Some More Marketing Lessons
Sometimes you may encounter local printers who have either never worked with a freelance writer or have never farmed out referrals to freelancers. It is your job, as a freelance writer, to encourage printers to outsource work to you, as well as to emphasize and re-emphasize the benefits of doing so.

You may do so in the following ways:

1. Educate the printer.
Not every printer is aware of how freelancers work, what they charge, what their responsibilities include, and what their objectives are. In this case, you need to educate printers as to how you work, how you bill, what you charge, and so on; also emphasize the fact that you share the same objectives as the printer. You may want to provide a fact sheet in your promotional package that answers these questions.

(Advice on billing: whenever a printer refers the client to me for copywriting work, I bill the client directly, the printer does not do it. Whenever the printer contacts me to provide a copy or assist with the print job, the printer bills the client under a single invoice. However, I usually arrange with printers to get paid within 30 days after completing the copy, not 30 days after the print job is printed.)

2. Emphasize the benefits of hiring a freelancer, such as to save the printer costs compared to hiring a staff writer; to help with a print job to meet deadlines and to keep costs within the budget; etc.

3. Offer an incentive. You can establish a referral system, as I had done, by offering a 15% "kick-back" fee for any work or clients they refer to you. And always send the printer a Thank-You note after each referral.

4. Re-emphasize the benefits of satisfying their clients' needs and boosting their business. Successful marketing is repeat marketing. The first time around a printer may not be interested in what you're offering, but keep repeating the benefits of your services by using different marketing strategies and you'll increase the value of your services and increase the chances of printers wanting to work with you.

Brian Konradt is the owner and operator of FreelanceWriting.com, a Web site dedicated to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance writing. Mr. Konradt is also the principal of BSK Communications & Associates, a communications/publishing business in New Jersey, which he established in 1992.









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