Boost Your Confidence with these 5 Foundational Elements of Your Writing Business

By Michele Peterson


One of the biggest roadblocks to getting started and building the writer’s life of your dreams is often a lack of confidence. Specifically, a lack of confidence in talking to prospects and turning them into clients.

Even if you have a lot of confidence in your ability to do the work, we writers can tend to put the mental brakes on when it comes to talking to people about hiring us to do that work.

If you’ve experienced this yourself, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

I’ve been there. Other successful writers I know have been there, too. We’ve all gotten past it.

And I’m here to share a plan to get you past your roadblocks, too.

Step 1: Define Your Target Market

A target market, or niche, is one of the first foundational elements of the successful writing business. Everything else is built upon it. Here’s why …

Knowing exactly who your target market is means you know what they need. You can focus on what they want. You can speak their language. You know their pain and how you can eliminate it.

All this knowledge lets you be laser focused and prepared rather than winging it, which in turn gives you confidence. Plus, it presents you as a specialist to your target market … an expert. And everyone wants to work with an expert.

“The business (and person) who tries to be everything to everyone ends up being nothing to anyone.” — Robin Sharma

There are many ways to define your target market. You can pick a type of business or industry that you prefer to work with … for example, dentists. You can choose a type of writing project that you enjoy … email autoresponders, for example. Or you can combine the two … email autoresponders for dentists.

Picking a specialty, a niche, can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Check out these AWAI resources to help you define your target market:

Step 2: Craft a Succinct Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch is how you answer the “What do you do?” question. And if you’re not prepared with an answer, it’s all too easy to get the “deer in the headlights” look and stumble on your words.

On the other hand, if you already know how you’re going to answer the question, you have the confidence to sound smooth and polished. Professional. Successful.

My elevator pitch formula looks like this:

I help (insert your target market or ideal client) with (insert your writing specialty or use a descriptive statement about copywriting in general) so they (insert the results you get or the problem you solve for them).

This is what that looks like with all the blanks filled in:

I help local service businesses by telling their story and putting their marketing message in writing so they look good, attract more clients, and make more money.

Or to use our example from Step 1:

I help dentists with writing their email autoresponders so they get more new patients and retain more of the ones they currently have.

A good elevator pitch stresses the benefits your clients get from working with you and makes your listener curious to learn more. The response you’re trying to get is along the lines of “Wow! How do you do that? Tell me more.”

Write several versions. Read each out loud. Revise until you have a statement that sounds natural and that you’ll be comfortable saying in response to “What do you do?”

Then practice. A lot. Say it over and over until you don’t have to think about it, and it rolls off your tongue.

Say it to your reflection in the bathroom mirror before and after you brush your teeth. Say it in the car every time you’re stopped at a red light. Say it every time you sit down to write something.

Say it with confidence in practice, and you’ll feel confident when you say it to an actual prospect.

Step 3: Develop a Price List

What you charge for the services you provide is another foundational element of your writing business. And knowing what you’re going to charge gives you the confidence to discuss your fees in a professional manner.

It’s completely up to you whether you publish your price list anywhere or even show it to anyone. Nobody ever has to see it. The simple fact that you’ve thought it all out in advance, and put it in writing, will give you the confidence to talk to people about what you charge.

When you have a structured range of fees ready, you can avoid the anxiety that strikes new writers when a prospect says, “What do you charge?”

Yet, figuring out what to charge can seem like Goldilocks in the house of the three bears … you don’t want to set your prices too high or too low, you want them to be just right. So how do you figure out pricing that’s appropriate?

Review AWAI’s 2019 Copywriting Pricing Guide. This free resource will help take the guesswork out of setting your own pricing. And knowing what’s standard in our industry will give you confidence in the fees you choose to charge.

Plus, here are a few resources that can help you create a fee list that works for you as you’re starting out:

Step 4: Gather Samples

Not every prospect will ask to see samples of your writing, but a good majority of them will. So don’t skip this step. But don’t let it become a roadblock, either.

You don’t need samples of every kind of copywriting project out there. You DO need samples that match your target market and the projects on your price list that you’ll be discussing with potential clients.

So if you’re going to be writing email autoresponders for dentists, write some! The samples you show a prospect don’t have to have been published or even written for an actual client. As long as they were written by you, they’re samples of your work.

I save the Word document of my writing sample as a PDF. Then I put the PDFs of my samples in a folder on my computer named SAMPLES. (Keep it simple. This isn’t rocket science!) Then when someone asks for samples, it’s easy for me to find the appropriate samples to send them.

Knowing you have samples readily available to send on request is a huge boost to your confidence. You’ve got tangible proof that you know what you’re doing.

For more help, check out How to Create a Winning Portfolio of Samples If You’re Just Starting a Freelance Writing Career (Even If You’ve Never Had Any Clients!).

Step 5: Decide How You’ll Ask for the Sale

To land a client, you’re going to need to ask for the sale. You don’t need to be a sales superstar. You just need to have the confidence to ask.

And just like with your elevator pitch, knowing in advance what you’re going to say gives you that confidence.

So write a closing-the-sale script for yourself. Write several. Then read them out loud until you find something that’s comfortable and sounds natural.

Keep it simple. A single question will do. Here are a few examples of questions I use to close the sale:

  • “Would you like my help with this?”
  • “When would you like to get started?”
  • “How would you like to proceed?”

When you practice your closing question, take it one step further and visualize your prospect saying yes and hiring you. Imagine yourself confidently saying, “Great! Let’s do it!”

It can and will happen if you’re prepared for it.

A Solid Foundation for Success

It all boils down to being prepared.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln

The time you spend on these foundational elements of the target market, elevator pitch, pricing, samples, and closing the sale is time well-spent because it will make everything else easier. It’s you sharpening the axe. It’s building a foundation of confidence.

Your foundation doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. It just needs to be solid so you can start building your writing business. So take the time now to lay a strong foundation, and you’ll be rewarded with the confidence to be a success.


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