An Important Lesson from the World’s Best Restaurant

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Mine is Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida.

I’m not alone. John Mariani, one of America’s top food critics, has called Bern’s Steakhouse “the most remarkable restaurant in the entire world.”

Why is Bern’s so special?

There are many reasons. First, Bern’s is an institution. It’s an old-school steakhouse that’s been around since the mid-1950s. The décor is tacky and a bit overdone, which gives the place character.

Service is top-notch. Waiters train for a year before they can serve you on their own. By that time, they truly know their stuff.

Bern’s steaks are perfectly aged. And the restaurant spares no expense to bring you the best, freshest ingredients from all over the world.

And the wine … oh, boy! 6,500 different selections. Hundreds of thousands of bottles. Tons of rarities that have been perfectly stored in Bern’s private cellar for decades. Insane!

Here’s a picture of my wife and me in the Bern’s cellar during our last visit (yes, you can tour the kitchen and the cellar!)

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The row of wines you see behind us is just one of about 12 or 15 other similar rows in the cellar.

And those 12 rows represent just 15% of their total inventory (the others are in two warehouses a block away).

Dessert Is Its Own Experience

Then there’s the dessert room, which is another experience in and of itself. It takes up the entire second story of the restaurant.

Last time I visited, Bern’s had more than 30 different desserts, hundreds of dessert wines and dozens of coffees. And you get your own private, enclosed booth where you can choose from a variety of music channels — even a live piano.

It’s no surprise that the first thing you read when you go to the Bern’s Steakhouse website is “We do things differently here.”

They really do. That’s why you’ll drop $300 (or more) for dinner when you go there. It’s a lot of money. But it’s an experience you don’t soon forget!

The Lesson for Writers and Copywriters

There’s an important lesson here for freelance writers:

Bern’s truly knows what they stand for. They’re very clear about this. And they don’t make excuses.

They don’t apologize for selling red meat. Or for being expensive. Or for selling bottles of wine that cost more than a monthly car payment.

Bern’s is Bern’s. Their customers qualify themselves.

That’s the way Bern’s wants it. And that’s incredibly smart. Because any business that tries to be all things to all people will eventually fail.

That’s true whether you own a steakhouse… or a freelance business.

You see, as a freelance professional your most valuable nonrenewable resource is your time. And maximizing what you earn for your time requires you to be very, very clear about what you’re all about.

On your website. In your marketing materials. And in your conversations with prospects and referral sources.

It’s about being perfectly clear on what services you offer. Why you’re different. What kind of clients you can help. What kind of organizations you CAN’T help …

It’s about taking a stand. And about not trying to be all things to all people.

Because the clearer you are about what you’re all about, the easier it will get for you. You’ll start attracting more prospects who have prequalified themselves. Which means you won’t have to spend as much time “selling” to those who don’t get it.

And that means more time for billable work. More time to work on making your solo business more profitable. More time for fun activities outside of work.

How You Can Be Like Bern’s

How do you increase the chances that most of the prospects who contact you have prequalified themselves? Here are six ideas:

  1. Make sure that your website is written for prospects who already understand the value of hiring a freelance writer or copywriter. Don’t try to “sell” the value of your profession or your services. There are enough prospects who already hire freelancers writers and copywriters to waste time on those who don’t.
  2. Take a stand. Be clear about your positioning. Which means clearly stating your target market and the type of work you do.
  3. Be explicit about what makes you different. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
  4. Make it clear, implicitly or explicitly, that you’re not the cheapest service provider out there.
  5. Consider developing a specialty or concentration and communicating why you’re the obvious choice for that type of work or for that target market.
  6. Add credibility elements to support your claims, such as samples, testimonials, client lists, success stories, awards, professional background and so on.

Helping prospects qualify themselves before they contact you is a smart business practice. Your prospects will appreciate your clarity, honesty and professionalism.

You’ll end up with clients who are a better fit for you, don’t shop your fees and give you more work.

And you’ll almost always boost your income for every hour you work in your business.

So don’t be afraid. Take a stand. Be selective.

Be like Bern’s.

You owe it to your prospects. And you owe it to yourself!

 

 

  • Cecelia

    Hi Ed, I enjoyed this post even before you started talking about work – but thanks for the useful tips! Your way of phrasing them helps it all sink in just that little bit further:)

    • edgandia

      Awesome, thanks for checking it out and for your feedback, Cecelia!

  • Kimberly

    Love this Ed!
    By the way, I’ll mention Bern’s to my father in law who’s a wine lover as well so thank you 😉 I wonder if you could possibly shed some light in a future post on exactly how some successful freelancers have come to niche themselves down? It would be useful to see this in action and more specifically, to know if this is something they did at the start or not.

    • edgandia

      Cool! Yes, tell him about Bern’s. If he doesn’t already know about them he’ll definitely want to go. The wine list is overwhelming!

      RE: niching, check out episodes 16 and 80. I talk about this in more detail and explain why my approach is different from the standard advice out there.

      Hint: Mine is a more organic process. 🙂

      • Kimberly

        Oh yes! I’ve listened to Ep 80! I credit you with introducing me to the wonder of Ilise and have purchased a couple of her products already, so thank you! Will listen to Ep 16 as well 🙂

  • Dave Vigna

    Great post Ed. I love how you weave the lesson into the story. And it’s a lesson I learned just this week. I’d done some work for a regional salesman for a prospect right in my niche. He loved it, and recommended me to the chief business development officer. I knew after a couple of email exchanges and a phone call that they didn’t understand what copywriters do, and had never used one. My proposal was rejected out of hand. So, while I had 2-6 of your checklist, I’d missed item 1 in that I hadn’t prequalified the prospect. Your list is now on my desktop!!!! Thanks.

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Dave! Great to hear this resonated and is something you can use from now on.