When I launched my freelance editing business in 2013, I was charging $1,500 per client. My goal was to book two to four clients a month. Then I could quit my corporate job.
I had some leads coming in, but I lacked the business experience, social proof, and referrals to get more clients. Plus I was competing against other freelancers charging only $500. While I got the occasional “yes,” many times, potential clients chose to work with someone cheaper.
This was the typical response to my sales pitch. I had to chop 65% off my rates to compete.
I knew I was doing great work. My clients gave me glowing reviews. The problem was I didn’t have enough to cover the bills.
Today, my business has completely transformed. 4 out of 5 potential clients choose to work with us. Our average client value has more than tripled from $1,500 to $5,000. And we’re averaging over $10,000 a month.
From $0 a month to $15,000 – all because of three simple tweaks.
How did I do it? I used three simple tools to find out what my customers actually wanted: the rejection question, the trauma-prevention framework, and the customer journey map.
These helped us figure out how to outshine our competitors’ products, guarantee clients will be satisfied, and create a premium offering that customers couldn’t refuse.
By adding the same tools to your sales process, you can experience the same results in your business.
How hearing “no” led to a $5,000 business opportunity
Imagine you’re on the phone with a potential client. You’ve discussed their problems, outlined your solution, and then comes the moment of truth…you name your price.
And they say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.”
What do you do next? Do you follow up? Or, after a week or two has gone by, do you forget about it?
When someone decides not to work with you, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity. You can discover what your competitors are doing that you aren’t. And you can use that information to improve your services and pitch for better results next time.
When I started Grammar Factory, I never used to follow up. I just assumed that if someone hadn’t gotten back to me, they’d chosen to work with someone else.
But once I did start to follow up, I got some interesting feedback. I learned that a potential client chose another editing company because their package had a second editor review your book. When I heard the same thing from someone else, I knew it was time to change.
So what did I do? I created a three-edit package, which includes a final proofread with a separate editor.
The result? This package became our most popular offering. And it took our average client value from $1,500 to $5,000.
To do this in your business, just follow these steps:
1. Automate your follow-up process
Set a calendar reminder to follow up on individual sales calls in 7 days. If you’re selling an online product, you can set up an automatic email to go out to non-buyers once your campaign finishes.
When I send this email, I get one of two responses:
- “I’ve been meaning to contact you! Can you book me in for X date?”
- “Thanks for following up, but I’ve chosen to go with someone else.”
While I love when people want to work with us, the feedback from those who go elsewhere is usually more valuable. Which is why I don’t stop when I hear “no.”
2. Ask the rejection question
If someone has decided not to work with you or buy your product, reply to their email. Thank them for letting you know (after all, many people don’t) and then ask them why.
Try to keep this non-confrontational. You’re not angry at them because they didn’t buy; you just want to improve your services.
Here’s a script to use:
“Just for feedback, would you mind letting me know why you chose to work with them and if there’s anything we can do to improve our process or service?”
The rejection question in practice
You’ll notice Ramit does this when you don’t buy an IWT course. A few days after the course closes, you’ll receive an email asking why.
3. Perform a diagnosis
Reflect on their feedback. Is it related to your sales process or your offering?
If it’s related to your sales process, you can adjust your marketing.
I remember the first time I got Ramit’s sales emails about his IWT Fit beta program. Even though I’d bought other IWT products, I had no interest in this program and never clicked through to the sales page.
When he emailed to ask why, I replied that I didn’t see the connection between business and fitness, and my business was my main focus at the time.
What happened the next time he launched? While the course itself still focused on health, there was an email in the sales process about the impact that physical health can have on business success. I immediately clicked through to discover that the beta program had sold out.
One the other hand, if the feedback is related to your offering, you might consider changing your product or service.
In my business, I hired two more editors and started working regularly with some freelance proofreaders. Do you need to take on a staff member or engage a freelancer to offer a more comprehensive service?
Or if you have a product, can you provide additional value with extra worksheets, transcripts, or Q&As?
By finding out why people say “no,” you will discover how to ensure more of them say “yes” in future.
3 tweaks to stop nightmare client scenarios before they happen
The next framework I recommend can be used right before you start work with a client or before someone starts to use your product.
Most of the people who buy your products and services will turn into raving fans. But occasionally you’ll get someone whose response to your work is lukewarm or even flat-out negative.
While it’s easy to brush these clients off as the exception, using the trauma-prevention framework often turns an “okay” product into a stellar offering.
How does it work? In my business, we offer editing services. Unlike most editors on the market who only correct your language, we are a little more aggressive.
We move content around, combine or split up chapters, cut repetition, and make recommendations about what our clients can add. It’s a lot of work on both sides.
While most clients love the transformation they see, we had one who was frustrated with the experience. He kept saying, “I just wish I knew how much it was going to change…I had no idea how much work this was going to be.”
After getting a similar comment from a second client, we knew something had to change.
Today, to avoid these frustrations, we follow a three-step trauma-prevention framework.
1. Avoid surprises by taking clients behind the scenes
Something many businesses do really well is showing the end result they’ll help clients achieve. They share before-and-after pictures, client testimonials, and case studies.
The issue with sharing only these is that it can make the process seem easy. But that’s hardly ever the case when major transformations are involved, and this can lead to a negative client experience.
This is why we created a secret “sample edit vault.” While the general public can see our case studies and testimonials, this link is reserved for potential clients who book a consultation with me.
The vault shares before-and-after examples of our work so they can see how much their books might change and how much more writing they might have to do as a result.
It means that not only do they get a sense of the value we can provide, but they also enter the process with their eyes wide open. This manages expectations and can lead to a better experience.
How can you demonstrate the potential work your clients will have to do to achieve the result your product or service will deliver? Is it asking them to commit to a certain number of hours a week? Can you let them know about any possible surprises? Whatever is, the best bet is to show them what it really takes.
By seeing real past edits, our clients get a better sense of
just how much involvement they’ll have in the process
2. Outline the work you’ll be doing
Once someone has signed up with you, how can you set their expectations for what results you will (or won’t) deliver? Write a paragraph that outlines what they should expect. Say it to every single client before you start your work.
We have a pre-edit consultation with all clients who sign with us. To prevent any surprises and manage expectation down the road, we use the following script:
“Over the next three weeks I’m going to be looking from a structure and content perspective. This means I might move chapters around, cut content and recommend adding new content to help you get your message across and to help your readers achieve their goals.”
In cases when it’s been weeks or months since they originally signed up with us, this acts as a refresher and helps ensure there won’t be any surprises.
3. Ask about their hard limits
When I first started Grammar Factory, once someone sent me their book, I would go nuts. I’d review their content and make whatever changes I felt were necessary to make it the best book possible.
However, some of these changes weren’t welcome. In fact, this led to some of our clients spending weeks undoing them. That created a lot more work for both of us.
Today this doesn’t happen. We ask about their “hard limits.” During our pre-edit consultation we ask: “Is there anything you DON’T want me to change?”
This means we can work within their requirements and, if we feel we need to make a change that they don’t want, we can call them to discuss their options.
In your business, what are your clients’ hard limits?
Maybe you’re a personal trainer with a client who hates to run. Maybe you’re a web designer whose client is attached to a certain color scheme. Or maybe you’re a dating coach with someone who hates the idea of creating an online profile.
Find a way to work within that limit. Or persuade them that the benefits of overcoming that limit far outweigh the potential cost. This way you’ve exponentially increased the likelihood that they’ll love your work and send other potential clients your way.
Figure out where you’re leaving money on the table with the customer journey map
When you start offering premium services, your clients are looking for someone who not only can deliver the results they want, but who can take away the hassle involved in getting those results. One of the ways to become that person is to offer everything they need.
This was definitely the case for Grammar Factory.
I remember one of my business coaches saying that our goal as entrepreneurs should be to provide a complete and remarkable solution.
While I felt that our editing services were remarkable, they never felt complete to me. Our clients didn’t get a book at the end. They got a publishable Word document. They would need to work with designers, printers, and more to turn that into a paperback.
All of the steps required to publish a book…and we only provided one of them!
How could we provide a more complete and remarkable solution?
For about 18 months we referred customers to other suppliers for the other parts of the process.
This worked well most of the time, but when it didn’t (like when our recommended self-publishing company filed for bankruptcy), it was a negative and expensive experience for our clients. One that reflected poorly on us, too.
But what if we brought everything in house? I contacted a number of our recommended suppliers who said they’d be happy to work under the Grammar Factory umbrella. The benefits were that:
- We’d worked with them before, so we knew they were reputable
- We had at least two options for each stage of the process. Then if one supplier couldn’t take on the work, we had a back-up
- Because we were managing the process, if anything went wrong we could sort it out internally without bothering our client
- On average, our clients were paying between $3,000 and $7,000 to have the same tasks completed elsewhere, and that could be money in our pockets instead
The steps in the customer journey, including the potential revenue we were missing out on
This April, we started offering a package that covers the publishing process from editing to printing and eBook upload. Everything you need to turn a Word document into a published book.
The result? Every client who signed up with us in April chose the end-to-end package rather than just editing. This made us $9,900 per client.
How can you do this?
Ask yourself: Who do your clients see before they come to see you? What else are they working on? Then, who do they work with after they work with you?
If you’re a website copywriter, obvious answers are web designers and developers, but there might also be SEO professionals, social media marketers, business coaches, and more involved.
If you’re a dating and relationship coach, they might also be interested in learning about how to dress better or getting professional photos for their online profile.
Use this information to map out every step your clients need to take to achieve their end result. It might be the steps they need to take to get their website up and running, to lose 20 lbs, or to find the girl of their dreams.
Then ask how your business can address more of that process. Can you partner with other businesses to fill your gaps? Do you know other entrepreneurs or freelancers who’d be happy to offer part of the process under your brand? How can you offer a complete and remarkable solution to your clients?
Double your conversions and triple your rates
It’s always exciting to get a glowing review or testimonial, but often the most valuable feedback comes from clients who aren’t happy — those who chose to work with someone else or had a negative experience with your business. You can also see where clients spend money once they’re outside your core product or service.
By using the three tools discussed in this article — the rejection question, the trauma-prevention framework, and the customer journey map — we gained insights into how to transform our offering and sales process to double our conversions and triple our rates. This ultimately meant I could leave my corporate job.
Best of all, these tweaks didn’t add any time or effort to our processes.
Once my reminder tells me to follow up on a sales call, I copy and paste a pre-written email template to follow up. After setting up the sample edit vault, all I have to do is email a link.
And we always had a pre-edit consultation — now we just include an extra paragraph in the conversation.
But the results have been disproportionate. Our average client is spending $5,000 on our services, more than triple what I used to charge.
Our average client value has more than tripled after implementing these tools
By learning the common objections/concerns of your target market, you will convert more clients in person, over the phone, or on your sales page.
By educating them about your product or service, you’ll create more positive customer experiences, rave reviews, and referrals.
And by knowing what they need before they do, you’ll have the opportunity to sell them on a more comprehensive service.
Ultimately you’ll charge higher rates and earn more revenue as a result.
Now it’s your turn: Which of these tactics would give you the biggest business win today? What kind of impact would it have?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll tell you if you’re on the right track.