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Would You Like Proofreading With That?

“Would you like fries with that?”

I uttered that sentence a lot as a teen. It was part of the script McDonald’s cashiers had to say to each and every customer. I wasn’t allowed to say “Would you like anything else with that?” Instead, I had to ask if the customer wanted to add something specific to their order. Fries were the most popular choice, but I could also recommend other “meal” gaps, such as a drink or dessert.

It wasn’t—and still isn’t—just McDonald’s cashiers, either. You will hear similar questions at all kinds of restaurants and retailers. It occasionally annoys customers, but more often it results in another item sold.

These merchants realize a marketing truth:

It’s easier to sell more to someone who’s already buying than it is to sell to someone who isn’t buying at all.

Depending on what’s being promoted, this is called upselling (promoting a larger size or more features) or cross-selling (promoting a product that pairs well with the one the customer is already purchasing).

What does this have to do with editing?

If you’re a freelance editor who has struggled to make income goals, it could be your own “secret sauce.”

Your clients already know your work and trust you, and you know something about their goals and hurdles to those goals. What can you upsell or cross-sell to them to help you reach your own income goals?

Consider your options carefully. In the McDonald’s scenario, we weren’t encouraged to recommend a salad. When someone orders a burger at a fast-food restaurant, they’ve likely already decided against counting calories. And in the U.S. at least, French fries naturally seem to go with burgers. We were encouraged to think about the order from the customer’s perspective and make an educated guess on what they might like with that burger.

Ask yourself what other parts of the publishing process your client might need help with. Could they benefit from a more in-depth edit to improve the copy more (upselling)? Would an additional service, such as proofreading or indexing, fill a gap in the production process (cross-selling)?

By viewing the relationship from your client’s perspective, you’ll better understand how you can help them more—and help yourself at the same time.

You’ll also strengthen the relationship with your client. It’s a sad fact that in business we’re often judged only by our last actions. We have to constantly re-win our clients with every job. Not from the beginning, certainly: good work and good interactions do build up over time. But they’re not set in stone. Solving another problem for your client adds to your “Good Will Bank” with the client.

In my own career, I’ve found this to be a very successful tactic for growing my business. When one of my client’s representatives was clearly struggling to keep up with the production process, I offered to track projects for him. Doing so not only relieved his stress but freed up time for him to work on strategy, which was a more important part of his job. 

I still work for that client today. The production volume has changed, and I no longer track projects. Yet that rep never forgot how I was willing to help out. He’s recommended me to other business units in the company, which has led to more work, some of which has paid more and all of which has increased my reputation and the potential for more recommendations.

Selling more to existing clients is a powerful way to grow your business and meet your income goals. Remember, it all starts with understanding your client’s perspective and which additional services will benefit them. This is a great way to sell yourself, support your clients, and build lasting relationships.   

 A version of this article originally published on on April 13, 2018.


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