8 rules for closing business quickly

My prospects become clients quickly. They rarely choose a competing editor. This post is about how I do that . . . and what that might mean for you, if you freelance.

This is typically what happens when an author is considering hiring me:

  1. They hear about me, from my blog or from another author.
  2. I do a call with them about what their book is about and where they are with it, and attempt to answer their questions.
  3. I describe what services I offer (idea development, book proposals, editing, ghost writing, indexes).
  4. They hire me. Or sometimes, they decide it’s not a good fit, and they don’t hire me.

Here’s what doesn’t happen.

  • They don’t typically ask for references. (I will provide them if needed, but they’re not often needed).
  • We don’t negotiate on price. I’m a premium service; you pay for me if what you need is exactly what I do.
  • They don’t take a month and a half to decide. Any delays happen because they’re not ready.

When I hear that a prospect is also talking to other editors, I may never hear from them again. This often means that they couldn’t afford me and weren’t concerned with quality in the same way I am. Nobody talks to me and then hires another editor for the same price.

The whole process, from “I heard about you” to “let’s get started,” is typically done in two weeks. I like this way of doing business because I don’t like pitching. I don’t have a “funnel.” I don’t have a mailing list. I don’t have a marketing assistant. I don’t have an accounting department. If you like me and want to work with me, I’ll schedule something within a week and send you an invoice I created in Microsoft Word — quick and easy.

Rules of the road for a quick closing

Here are some of the principles I developed that make my cycle so quick and efficient.

  1. Specialize. I help authors with business books. I don’t work on children’s books, non-business memoirs, or fiction. If you need a quality, experienced business book editor and advisor, I’m the right choice. If you need another kind of book editor or advisor, I am not worth the price, and you should hire somebody else — and I will likely refer you to them. (In the past I attempted to stretch into other niches; that was a mistake, and typically ended in failure.) If you want advice on how to create a speciality you can dominate, read Steve Woodruff’s book.
  2. Lay it all out up front. I never charge for the first consultation. Authors want to know about everything — publishing models, agents, writing processes, schedules, how to choose a title, you name it. I freely and unabashedly share all I know about those topics. I don’t hide anything, because there is no “secret sauce.” What I’m selling is me, not “services” or knowledge, so the best way to sell is to deliver a free sample.
  3. Be honest, not cuddly. I can get excited about a lot of business book concepts, but I am still discriminating. If your concept is weak, I will say so. If your audience is fuzzy, I will say so. If your writing is turgid, I will say so. I will also tell you how to fix all these things. I only know how to give feedback without bullshit. (My favorite compliment in the last month was an author who referred me to a fellow author by describing me as a “brutally good coach and editor.”) I am friendly, but not necessarily nice. This is just who I am, but it turns out that clients much prefer this honesty to people who just tell them they’re great and wonderful and perfect all the time. (If you’re so perfect, why would you need an editor?)
  4. Create a painless on-ramp. No one signs a five-figure ghost writing contract after one conversation. I typically start with an idea development session, which is a quick way to deliver a lot of value. We might go on from there to building a proposal. If you are looking for editing, we might start with a couple of chapters. While I get paid for these services, they also enable people to get to know me before the dollar and time commitment gets too high on both sides.
  5. Set a fixed price. When a client works with me, I nearly always charge by the job, not by the hour. This means everyone knows what they are getting and what it will cost. Sometimes it takes more time than I had planned, but I resist the urge to increase the price unless there is a lot of extra work that is clearly out of scope. Payments are linked to milestones, which means I get paid when I’ve delivered something that made the client happier and closer to getting published.
  6. Make every client a reference. I never leave people unhappy. If you know someone I worked with, they will say only good things about me. This is because I am committed to authors succeeding, but has the pleasing side effect that those clients will tell anyone who asks that I did a great job.
  7. Be there for people. Clients are my friends. If they want my help I will always be there — including well after the job is done. “My publisher asked for something weird,” “I can’t get the agent to return my calls,” “How do I deal with quotes and permissions” — whatever the question is, if you need advice and I’ve worked with you, I’ll give it. I’m never “done with you.”
  8. Cultivate a wide network of quality people. I have lots of author friends. I also have connections with ghost writing agencies, traditional publishers, custom publishers, self-publishing services, book agents, copy editors, illustrators, cover designers, book marketing consultants, and many other editors. These relationships go both ways. I’m often referring authors to these folks, but I’ve now found that, increasingly, they’re also referring potential author clients to me. If you’re in my network, I respect your work. Conversely, if you do shoddy work, I won’t have anything to do with you.

These are not really statements about editing. They statements about selling services of any kind. If you want to close business quickly — and never worry about competition — try adopting these principles. They’ll make your life a lot easier; you’ll spend more time working and less time pitching.

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