The written word is very persuasive in making (or breaking) your authority. It can shore up or undermine your entrepreneurial story, your sales pages, and your expertise.

I use LinkedIn ProFinder to do a lot of client prospecting. While it’s a “new” platform without the history of Upwork and Fiverr, it has a level of authority simply by affiliation with a long-established, professional networking site.

Not all prospects feel that authority, though. Many see ProFinder as just another Upwork or Fiverr. As a result, I turn down and “lose” a lot bids to potential clients who expect to pay $500 for an entire 20-page website makeover, or want me to write three 750-word blog posts a week for $75.

Go on, ask me why my prices are so high

I like it when someone asks me why my prices are so “high.” I can break free of the “eleven tweet” sized space ProFinder allows for a proposal response. I can expand on my original proposal and really write it out. I can show both my experience and the experience of other writers to support why writing “takes so long,” and a growing portfolio that shows what I can do. I even sometimes do “test writing” at my standard rates — head to head competitions don’t worry me.

But overall, I don’t mind losing “tire kickers” and folks looking to pay content mill prices. Content mill writing isn’t what I “crank out.” I take the time to learn about the prospect and project, then share my expertise and position myself as an authority with my proposals and follow-on meetings.

I didn’t sign up to be “the bad guy”

I noticed how well the well-positioned written word helps while working the carline at a local middle school. We volunteers held umbrellas on rainy days, secured and released seatbelts, opened and closed doors, hauled trombones out of trunks, and tried to keep things moving, safely.

But we also got stuck with being “the bad guys” on tardiness… until I decided I’d had enough.

Carline is organized in shifts: 2/3 of the school come through “first shift” pickup and drop off, and the remaining 1/3 use “second shift” pickup and drop off. The carline is manned by Safety Patrol volunteers (students) and parent volunteers, a couple dozen of us or so each day.

There are three school employees who help wrangle us all: A traffic manager at the school entrance, a line manager halfway down the driveway, and a crossing guard near the school entrance.

Every single day, the employees “close” the line between shifts in the morning. Once closed, the traffic is restricted to one lane. Next, they tell us parent volunteers to remind all cars it is now time to park and sign tardy students in to school.

But parents ignored us when we asked them to park and sign their students in. They honked at us, yelled at us … it got to the point that between shifts most volunteers would hide to avoid the strife, or refuse to enforce the tardy rule at all.

Outsourcing the role of “bad guy” to a simple sign

So I found a way to give the “tardy rule” more authority than reluctant volunteer parents. I asked the ops director to make a two-sided sign to post in the carline lanes. When parents are on time, the sign reads something along the lines of “Make sure your name tags are visible. Pull forward to the furthest carline spot.”

When the line is “closed”, the sign does the “dirty work”. The message turns to something along the lines of: “Students are now tardy. Please park and sign your student in.” No more crap yelled at the parent volunteers. And more parents appropriately park and sign their kid in.

Photo of a "you're late" sign in a car line
You’re late, mate

Having the “rule” written down promotes the authority of the rule. And we can enjoy the “break” between shifts scrolling through Twitter or checking our email instead of wrangling tardy parents.

Authority established in less than the space of one tweet.

Why you should hire me: A series of 11 tweets, GO!

ProFinder is pretty restrictive. I find the questions limiting, and their “response” screen I use even more so. You have to persuade a prospect to continue the conversation in 1,500 characters, the equivalent of 11 tweets. But I do what I can to persuade in a few choice words: I talk about their project, my skill set and how it fits, then usually point them to my blog or portfolio sites.

Prospective clients who look beyond my “sticker shock” prices (why is the price shown at the top?) and start a conversation have been a joy to work with. They read my proposals, have a free consultation, and find my firm, authoritative positioning professional and soothing. They can see that I understand their project and can handle it well between the combination of the written word and a call.

When I speak to prospective clients about rewriting their sites, direct mail campaigns, or email campaigns, I use myself as an example. I walk them through pertinent blog posts I write and maintain that show my skills. I demonstrate my experience with my portfolio of samples. I answer their questions directly and honestly, citing the resources I rely on further back up my expertise.

And if I don’t think the project is a good fit, I make no bones about telling them that, too, and offer to match them with a colleague who is in a better position to handle the project well.

I stopped by the middle school a few days ago, and they’re still using that “You’re now late” sign. Refreshed and reworded for the new school year, it seems to remain useful. If only I’d thought of it on my first of 20 days working carline instead of nearly my last!

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