How One Writer Won Over a Wary Client With Slam Poetry

Slam poetry nightThis past October, I found a new copywriting client. They had already gone through two sub-par writers, so they were wary of hiring another freelance writer.

I did a paid trial piece, using the voice I saw on their blog.

It turns out, they didn’t like their voice and wanted to go in a different direction. They asked me how I saw myself “fitting in” — a clear sign of doubt.

So I asked for a meeting. Drawing on my background as a slam poet, I paid attention to the way the client spoke and asked questions about their desired voice. The client left the meeting hopeful and satisfied. I won their trust, and I did it using slam poetry.

Here’s how — and why — I became the one writer this client wanted to work with:

 

What is slam poetry?

Slam poetry ain’t your mama’s poetry.

Poetry is what makes English students want to light themselves on fire.

Slam poetry is hip-hop music’s eccentric cousin. It’s about wordplay and storytelling, not strict adherence to an arbitrary structure.

Find the right voice

My client’s primary concern was voice.

In copywriting, a business’ voice can impact sales. This client thought their voice was too formal, and they wanted more modern content.

Slam poetry has helped me master voice. If you’re struggling with your “writing voice,” listen to different poets. You’ll uncover the devices they use to create a distinct voice, and you can try different tactics to help you do the same.

Choose words wisely

The words you choose convey a lot of information about you.

If you want clients to identify with you, you need to talk like them. Spoken word works by using the right word in the right place at the right time. Certain words have persuasive power, and certain other words can have negative connotations.

I noticed that my client used warm and casual words. By choosing more informal language, I was able to connect with her on a personal level.

Pop-culture shortcuts build rapport

Who doesn’t love a well-placed pop culture reference? Spoken-word poetry, a performance by nature, is all about speaker-audience interaction and shared stories.

Pop culture references are a great way to quickly create solidarity with your audience.

My client said she’d send me an email, to which I replied, “awesome possum!” Unbeknownst to me, that slang term’s been around for decades. So my client, who is 20 years my senior, laughed and said that she hadn’t heard that expression in years. This one little phrase established an instant rapport!

Slam poetry might seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy. It doesn’t follow traditional rules, so you don’t need to know anything about sonnets to write it. The tools you learn from slam can even net you new clients.

In just two short weeks I’ve already earned an extra couple hundred dollars — and I owe it to slam.

Have you ever used an unusual hobby to get a new client? Let us know in the comments below.

Mike Straus is a Canadian freelance writer and slam poet who lives in Kelowna, British Columbia. He writes copy for small- and mid-sized businesses all around the world.

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10 comments on “How One Writer Won Over a Wary Client With Slam Poetry
  1. I just pitched Lil Bub last night, actually, and tried to help myself out with some Bubisms I picked up from their site and videos. I also use her Yule log video as background noise when I write (something about the purring and fire crackling just puts me at ease!).

    Unfortunately her “dude” replied saying he wanted to continue writing for her to retain her voice, but on the up side said he would be open to hiring me to write proposals, one-sheets (I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t even know what those are), and pitches, and asked for my rate. So it wasn’t a total strike out, at least.

    Sometimes I worry that I’m too formal in queries and emails, but then again I worry about coming off as unprofessional, too. I’m still really new to the freelancing world, and the whole pitching and querying thing is the scariest aspect to me so far. But I guess if Bub’s dude said he would hire me to do THEIR pitches, it couldn’t have been a total train wreck, thank God.

    Thanks for putting things in a new light! It truly gives me hope that you replied with an “Awesome, possum!” and got positive feedback. 🙂

  2. Hi Carol. Well, I wouldn’t exactly call prayer a hobby, but once some rapport is established and I get the green light to mention prayer in a conversation, I’ve noticed that several people have sort of bonded to me when I describe my personal prayer habit of stomping around my living room and talking out loud, passionately and emphatically to God. I think it’s the visual and the unabashed freedom they enjoy, but I’ve actually heard back from a couple people that they went ahead and did it, too. That was pretty neat!

    • Mike Straus says:

      That’s a fantastic story, Mia! Also a great visual. The amazing thing about being a freelance writer is that you get to inject your own personality into your business – as opposed to more conservative industries like law & finance where being a little bit too different could make you a liability, in freelance writing it makes you stand out. In our industry, being yourself makes you memorable and, more importantly, likeable.

      • Teresa Brown says:

        I do relate to this woman I have conversations with God as a way of life.I am a clairvoyant clairaudient. I do psychic photo readings and psychometry. I am writing a book of my personal experiences and of metaphysics. Do you know any publishers or agents who would be interested when I’m through? What about someone to pay me to finish it? I may make articles of it and then put it together in a book. If I didn’t write my book I would still be doing what I’m doing.I really can say I have been talking to God my whole life. I write metaphysical poetry and it will be in my book too.One of my poems is called”If Prayers Were Stars.” I have copyrighted a lot of poems and do my work and organize open mic at our local library a few years now.

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s really funny, Mia! It just shows we can bond over so many things. 😉

      • Teresa Brown says:

        I meant to get feed back from Carol Tice Thanks. I know I’m green I’m learning.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Sorry, Teresa — I’m completely unfamiliar with the publishing world for this type of niche. I’ve only done business books! I can recommend the Storyfix blog or Writer Unboxed for more book-publishing tips.

        • Mike Straus says:

          Teresa,

          I’m not a book writer (most of my work is in copywriting, blogging, and magazine editorial) but I do have friends who work in the book publishing industry. I can tell you that the best way to get your book published is to send it as far & wide as possible. Start looking for small publishing houses in your local community that may be interested in publishing your book. You can also try the big national publishing houses, although it’s notoriously difficult to get a book deal with them because they get thousands of manuscripts every year.

          There are also niche publishing houses out there that only publish titles in certain genres. For instance, there’s “Donkey Talk”, a publisher that prints books & other materials about miniature donkey farming. There’s also “By Light Unseen Media”, which only prints books about vampires.

          I think your best bet is to find a niche publisher that prints non-fiction books about spiritual, psychic, and metaphysical occurrences. Most publishers in any niche expect to see a cover letter that “sells” your book idea to them, plus the first 2 or 3 chapters of the book in proper manuscript format. You may want to start with publishers like Warwick Associates (warwickassociates.com) and Shambhala Publications (shambhala.com).

          I hope this helps.