The story of how I came to write for Kirsten Jordan, the first female cast member of Million Dollar Listing New York, might be just the kind of story you need to hear if you feel like you’re all work and no payoff right now. Because she is a kickass client, and kickass clients are worth working for, for reasons beyond a better paycheck.
It started the year I was writing 365 emails for the free daily word prompts, putting in 12-hour days and always feeling worried about making rent. One evening during that time, I pulled myself away from the screen to take a sunset stroll with my boyfriend at the time, and when he casually pointed out in our conversation that the software I was studying probably wasn’t the one I really needed, I broke down into exhausted sobs, leaning on the handrail of the Seattle pier against a watercolor sky, letting my hair fall around my face to hide my breakdown. Around that time, on a particular night when I didn’t feel like doing one more thing, when it felt like it was all for nothing, that nothing was working out, I pushed myself to do one more piece of outreach to leads.
From that outreach, I came to work with Victoria.
It was Victoria who asked, months later, if I knew any ghostwriters.
Kirsten is Victoria’s sister.
From there, it took me one discovery call, a single-page proposal, and a follow-up call to land the gig as Kirsten’s writer.
A few months into our work together, Kirsten and I were talking about the murky waters at the confluence of writing and sales, about how so few writers feel able or willing to dive in.
“That’s why I hired you,” she told me. “Because you followed up and sold yourself.”
Because it had taken so many years of work and study to become a person who could meet the right clients, be able to bring them the value they needed, actually follow up to make it happen, and have the guts to sell myself, I wanted to cry. This time, from an entirely different emotion.
Setting Yourself Up to Land Kickass Clients
Clients fall into the editorial realm of magazines and newspapers or the commercial realm of content marketing, web copy, white papers, etc. The commercial realm is where the majority of us writers go to pay our bills. We are told this realm has to suck, you must be bored. But hey, at least the money’s great.
What I’m actually finding is that when I work with great clients, it feels quite similar to when I’m doing my favorite editorial work. I’m learning, talking to fascinating people, and challenging myself.
My commercial clients are often brilliant people who could write their own blogs and speeches and book proposals. But when they’re running a business, focusing on project management, or high heeling around New York City with a camera crew, it’s more valuable for them to have the time back that it would have taken them to do it.
A year after starting my work with Kirsten, as I can see the changes she’s inspired in my own business, I’ve been thinking about the depth of value highly successful clients can provide (beyond funding the roof over my head and the sushi in my takeout box).
Progress in your writing career, then, can be and should be measured not just in the increase in your take-home pay, but in the quality of the experience of working with someone. It’s another way to know how far you’ve come. It’s a direction in which to dream.
The Matrix of Clients
To model my thoughts on this for one of my coaching students, I wrote out a Matrix of Clients. To my thinking, there are two axes on which to measure a client: how much they’re going to pay you, and how much you want to work for them, which I call desirability.
Desirability is a broad term, because it can take so many forms. It can be a byline you want to nab, an editor you want to work with, or a topic you want to cover. You feel it rather than see it in your bank account.
Now let’s dig into what are some of the factors that let you know when someone is a kickass client.
Here Are the 5 Major Perks of Kickass Writing Clients:
1. They inspire you to up your game
In the words of Ciara, “Level up, level up, level up, level up.” That’s what I do when I find myself on the Zoom with someone I previously thought was out of my professional league. I start to act like someone capable of serving their needs. And in acting like someone who could, I start to become someone who can. Then, before I know it, I’m simply doing it.
I once had a teacher who approached teaching as a performance. She said, “I’m Dave Letterman. I make a million dollars a year to entertain you up here.” She taught me to treat myself as though I were already making a huge sum of money. To act as if.
- What would your website look like if you knew Beyoncé’s people were going to be reviewing it while considering you to be her personal text message writer?
- What kind of pitch would you write if an editor from National Geographic personally invited you to send it?
- How would you prepare for a client discovery call if it were with Barack Obama?
When you get the chance to land a killer client, the timer dings on as if.
It’s a next-level test to see if you can pass. And it feels incredible when you do.
2. They are the ultimate inspiration.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and when you work with someone, you’re spending time with them. The relationship you build starts to affect your world view.
Simply by entering your life, people provide an example of how a person could be, and the more time you spend with someone, the more that example is going to magnetize your life in their direction. It’s human nature.
“You shouldn’t compare yourself to other people” is such great advice, but please someone tell me how one manages that. At least it’s better to compare yourself with people who push you to be better. Great clients do that for me.
3. There’s so much to learn from them.
Talking to incredibly talented people is just fun for me. It fuels my obsession with learning. As few years ago, I got the gig as part of Nir Eyal’s editorial team for his book Indistractable by simply picking his brain in the midst of interviewing him for a white paper from another client. His views were so fascinating, I couldn’t help but start chatting. He completely turned the interview back on me: “I have a question: why aren’t you writing for me?”
I learned so much from Nir and the research we did together in writing his book. He helped me find more focus.
The themes of Kirsten’s work have to do with success, and even though it’s in the realm of motherhood and real estate, it’s had a profound effect on my life. Every week, we have a call, and it’s like I get the Kirsten Jordan Live Show. It’s led through one of the most powerful eras of business glow-up I’ve experienced in my professional career. She gave me permission to hire a team, to believe in myself enough to invest in my future, and I now have four contractors helping me build my business. It’s been incredibly empowering.
Not only do I learn directly from my clients, but I find out who their influences are. Kirsten and I exchange book recommendations, and it’s super-powered my work life.
Landing a kickass client is actually a fantastic way to find a mentor.
4. They can connect you with their network
The six degrees of Kevin Bacon are real. Once you establish a positive working relationship with a kickass client, they can introduce you to their circle and recommend you for jobs. Even though this recommendation may be private, if it’s for ghostwriting for example, you remain top-of-mind when one of their peers needs a writer. You never know where it could lead.
What’s cool is that Kirsten is in real estate, so she understands lead generation. If I ever needed more work, I know she’d be an advocate for me, and I know she could introduce me to clients who could afford rates that will support my hours of creative work. (And Kirsten is open about using a ghostwriter because she encourages moms to outsource, which I think is so down-to-earth and very Kirsten.)
Kirsten has taught me so much about lead generation. Hint: It’s everything. The better your clients, the better your network, the better your chances of getting those amazing gigs.
5. The work is interesting and dare I say fun?
“God I’m so lazy,” I said to my friend Jason.
“Yeah, but with other stuff, you’re like a pit bull,” he said.
Having been attacked by a pit bull in my early 20s, I can attest that this is true. The question between the two is, do I really want to kill it?
If I’m not into something, it’s like the switch is off. Paperwork, busywork, memorization of grammar terms. I run on empty.
Curating, designing, researching, creating, and I can’t make myself turn off the laptop and go to bed.
When I work for kickass clients, chances are their work is pretty kickass and interesting. I’ve written about everything from international entrepreneur development to evolutionary psychology to emoji design. It’s the stuff that inspires and delights me.
When you learn to embrace marketing your skills and selling your services, when you get your reputation out there and work starts to come to you, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YES TO EVERY JOB THAT COMES YOUR WAY. You get to choose.
And yes, choose the ones that pay well and the ones you’re interested in. Not to mention, Kirsten pays me like one minute after I turn work in so God bless her soul.
You Get to Be a Kickass Client, Too
Part of the income I make from Kirsten allowed me to hire my trainer and Spanish tutor, Hamilton. I realized while repeating the Spanish word for profit, lucro, to memorize this new word I learned while telling him what I learned reading Profit First, that I am a kickass client for Hamilton. I pay him on time, I believe in him and advise him to help him grow his business, and I shout to the rooftops about what an amazing trainer he is, and do so happily, because he brings so much value to my life.
The more you go out and get for yourself, whether money, knowledge, or motivation, the more you are able to give.
5 Skills to Work on to Land Kickass Clients
- Personal Branding
- Lead generation
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