Too many freelancers are making a critical mistake with how they present themselves to potential clients. And while they THINK they are standing out from the crowd…this one mistake actually means they’re “invisible” to their potential clients.
I had a stroke of inspiration this morning. And like seemingly all good ideas, it happened while I was in the shower — this time, listening to The Copywriter Club podcast.
(Don’t worry. I have an Echo Dot next to my sink that I also use as a bluetooth speaker. My phone was not in danger of getting wet.)
The guest of the episode, Jude Charles, is well-known for making business-focused documentaries. In fact, he did the documentary for my mentor, friend, and top-tier freelance copywriter Stefan Georgi.
At one point during the show, Jude mentions that he makes it clear that he is not a videographer. He calls himself a “storyteller.” And he tells his potential clients that any project he works on “is going to tell a story.”
Then a little later, the hosts Kira and Rob to think strategically about the titles we use to describe ourselves as freelancers.
And since delivering a great first impression is critical to landing new clients, it inspired me to discuss the nuances of choosing a title in this article.
To start, let’s say a potential client is looking for a freelance copywriter (like me).
If I told them I was a “persuasive storyteller,” a lot of these potential clients would get confused.
Because their brain is like a pattern-matching search engine.
So when they’re looking to hire a copywriter, it’s as if they type that keyword into their “mental search engine.”
Which means, if I call myself by a different title, I won’t show up in their mental search results. And I probably won’t get the job.
Now the counter-argument here is that — by allowing your clients to define your role — you have a higher risk for being treated like a glorified employee or “order-taker.” Where the client is just looking for a warm body to perform a relatively low-value task. Not a high-value (and highly paid) strategic partner to help them drive their business forward.
But in my experience, there are so many other ways that you can stand out as a top-tier professional (or Pro-Lancer) besides what you call yourself.
So if you work in an established industry — where your clients are looking to hire a specific freelance role — be VERY careful about using a different title for yourself.
Because if you don’t show up in your prospect’s “mental search results,” you’re effectively invisible to them. Since at face value, your title suggests you’re not a fit for the role.
Instead, I would match your title with what they’re initially looking for to get your foot in the door…
And THEN separate yourself once you’ve established a connection by doing things like:
- Using the “judo” philosophy to stand out — even if you’re in a crowded industry and don’t have any experience
- Following the counterintuitive lesson I learned from my cat to close more freelance deals
- And even sending your clients gifts during your onboarding process
Now I do think some freelancers can benefit from using a different title to stand out.
But to me, it works best once you already have a well-known reputation in your field. (Which where it sounds like Jude is, based on his interview.)
Because at that point, your clients aren’t looking for “a copywriter”…
They’re looking for YOU.
And in that case, you can call yourself whatever you want.
I won’t hurt. And if anything, it may help further separate you from the crowd.
But very few freelancers are in that situation.
So my advice would be to skip the fancy titles for now.
Instead, call yourself by whatever name will make your clients think: “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”
Then set yourself apart with all your interactions from that point forward.
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