Client bullies who belong on the “naughty” list

Dec 22, 2023

“Santa’s Mailbag” is back after a very busy few days. Between writing copy, endless Zoom meetings, and my annual physical yesterday…

…where my doctor told me my cholesterol numbers were the best she’s ever seen out of all her patients (yes, I’m doing a cholesterol “humble brag” — thank you, Mom, for the good genes), I’ve been itching to get this next issue out to you.

I’ve received some great questions I look forward to answering in the coming week or so, but there’s one that I got early on that I just can’t ignore any longer.

It’s on a topic that several other Copy Insiders have submitted questions about: finding clients.

This particular Copy Insider, who didn’t reveal their name (only their email), wrote the following about a heartbreaking experience that I’m sure many freelancers would consider their own worst nightmare. Here goes…

“I can’t seem to get any clients. I have tried Fiverr and Upwork but no success so far. Thinking of starting cold outreach, but I am scared to death of doing that because of how businesses treat copywriters who do that. 

“I recently saw a screenshot on twitter of a business owner who was openly mocking a copywriter who cold-DM’ed him. Also, I am brand-spanking new to copywriting and don’t have the ‘street cred’ that clients demand right off the bat when you apply for a job. How should I go about getting clients?”

Openly mocking on social media someone for simply sending a cold DM? Are you kidding me? 

That’s despicable, childish, and insecure bullying behavior. It sinks well below “Mean Girls” level or even kindergarten playground antics level.

For crying out loud, I get dozens of cold DMs and emails all the time. I either ignore them or, if they persist, politely tell them I’m not interested. If they become annoying, I simply block them and move on.

It’s not hard to be a decent human being. But I guess if you’ve got something to prove… some need to show dominance as if you’re a lion stalking prey out in the wilds of the Serengeti… well, you might think ripping one of your fellow humans to shreds and mocking them in public makes you look like a big shot.

But it just makes you look like a big d*** instead. Because we’re supposed to be more evolved than lions. (No disrespect to lions!)

In any case, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s go about the business of addressing this copywriter’s question.

First off, Upwork and Fiverr… I’ve heard it’s hard to get started there. I know very little about those platforms, aside from occasionally hiring freelance services (not copywriting, but design, etc.) And I always look at past reviews, and hesitate to take a chance on someone without a work history and ratings.

However — this is not an affiliate pitch, I don’t even know if it’s still offered — I am aware that Daniel Throssell ( has an entire course on getting started on Upwork. And there are other courses out there as well.

Or maybe you could even Google “how to get started on Upwork or Fiverr”. Or ask Chat-GPT. It’s certainly something you could make work if you learn how to go about doing so. Sorry, I’m not any help on that topic.

I do understand how challenging it is to find clients without the “street cred” of past results and successes. In my Client Badassery Secrets book, I talk about how when I started out as a freelance copywriter, I used ONE main source to get clients: referrals.

It’s one reason why in the “Santa’s Mailbag” issue this past Tuesday I said if I was starting out all over again, I’d do the same thing all over again: work for at least a few years in-house at a thriving, growing business before going freelance.

That’s because I made a ton of friends and valuable connections, plus got the instant “street cred” of having worked at a well-known company. All of which opened many doors as far as referrals to clients who were ready to hire me.

In my book, I talk about how you can leverage all sorts of connections you already have, and may not have thought about, as far as getting referrals. It’s a million-times more effective to have someone recommend you than to do cold outreach.

However, in my early days of freelancing, when I was trying to break into the bigger companies and get a shot at writing royalty-paying copy, I did try sending cold emails to my dream clients.

And all I got was this back…

So I really can’t say I’m the best person to talk to when it comes to cold-emailing or DM’ing potential clients, either.

Because once I went beyond whatever initial “street cred” I had from my company experience (including launching and building the Healthy Directions business) to actually having a few big controls under my belt, I really didn’t have to look for clients… they found me. Or I would always do well going to in-person events, too.

So I decided to send this question from Santa’s mailbag to Jon Buchan — founder of Charm Offensive and the undisputed King of personality- and humor-packed cold email outreach that gets clients instantly liking and wanting to hire you. I was curious what an expert like him would recommend.

Here’s what Jon wrote back:

“I’d say: Ignore folks who mock people online. It’s very rare and shouldn’t hold you back. Cold pitching is great as you can select who you’d like to work for. (Or try to, at least).”

He then went on to say, “I have a template for folks with no experience — I can send it over to you if you’d like.”

I couldn’t say, “That’d be fabulous!” fast enough.

So here’s the no-experience, cold-pitching email template, courtesy of Jon Buchan

Getting the attention of prospects when you don’t have a lot of experience

Subject: a proposition for you, {PROSPECT-NAME} 🙂

I want to work for you, {PROSPECT-NAME}… For free.

I’m a {YOUR-JOB-TITLE} – but I don’t have any “real world” experience. I have a ton of “book knowledge” – and more enthusiasm than is probably attractive, but without experience, I can never “get ahead”.

I’m trying to resolve this. Thus this message today.

Here’s my proposition:

  •  I can put together a full {YOUR-DISCIPLINE} audit for you – providing you with a range of recommendations to help achieve {SPECIFIC-RESULT}.
    •  I’ll do it for free!
    •  Well, not completely free. In exchange for my efforts, all I expect is the most impartial, gushing, five star testimonial you can muster. 😀

(I’m kidding – I only expect you to do this if/when you’re completely happy, of course!)

Your nice words have value. It will help me get paid work – which will help feed my lifelong addiction to food and shelter, which, alas, shows no sign of abating.

If you’re at all interested, hit reply – and make my day. 🙂

Have an absolutely wonderful day,


{YOUR-JOB-TITLE} / … without any experience / willing to work for you in exchange for valuable social proof.

P.S. In a pathetic attempt to influence your decision on this, I’ve attached a picture of me eagerly looking at your website while doing my best “enthusiastic and ready to go” face


P.P.S. My hope is to get my foot in the door – and if I want to work with companies I personally like the sound of, I likely have to make the first move… Which means sending an unsolicited note like this.

If my offer isn’t of interest, my apologies. I’m likely going to try and follow-up a few times. If you don’t wish to be subjected to my professional perseverance, let me know and I’ll sling my hook. I don’t want to be a nuisance.


I really love this template! It’s persuasive without being pushy, it’s entertaining without trying too hard, and it feels genuinely and authentically HUMAN (a refreshing change of pace these days).

It plays well into the idea of “lifting someone else up”… because let’s face it, many people who’ve been in the business world for at least a decade or two know that they got some breaks along the way from others who lifted them up.

So I hope this template — and words of wisdom — help all the folks out there who are studying and practicing copywriting… but are striking out at landing their first client. Hang in there, don’t be afraid to keep trying, and let me know how it goes!

And thank you, Jon, for generously sharing this client-getting email template. If this made you hungry for more Charm Offensive goodies and gems, you’ll want to get on Jon’s email list here. When you do so, you’ll get his free Magic Email Cheat Sheet for crafting cold email pitches that turn prospects into clients!

Alright, that’s it for today’s Santa’s Mailbag. I’ll be back at you next week… so in the meantime, send your questions to me at Better yet, use this simple form here, and I’ll do my best to address them in a future issue.

Now, everyone play nice so you don’t end up on Santa’s “naughty” list, okay?

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I mentioned earlier this week that I’ve been working on a new mentoring program. It’s a more affordable option that will focus on improving your copywriting skillset by getting regular feedback as well as seeing me critique other people’s copy.

Well, as of yesterday I officially opened the doors to this new program to my past mentoring students and those already on my wait list. And now, I’m ready to share it with you, Kim. Dive into all the details here.

If this is something you know you want to do, you’ll want to act quickly before it fills up and before I raise the price January 1st.