#188: Ross Simmonds on How to Land Fortune 500 Clients

There are many advantages to working with large corporate clients.

For one, they tend to have a ton of writing and copywriting needs. Which means just two or three of the right clients can keep you booked solid for months or years.

These clients also tend to have bigger marketing budgets and pay writers very well. And having even just one or two Fortune 500 clients under your belt can boost your confidence and give you serious street cred, making it easier to land progressively better clients.

My guest today is Ross Simmonds, a brilliant writer and marketer who’s worked with many Fortune 500 companies. In this conversation he explains:

  • How he worked his way from barely making it to landing top-shelf clients.
  • How to generate a steady stream of high-quality corporate leads.
  • What these clients look for in a writer.
  • And how you can rise above the wave of commoditization and command progressively higher fees with big-name clients.

Regardless of where you are in your freelance journey, you’re going to get a lot out of this interview.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Ross stared creating online content in college. He wrote about fantasy sports and monetized his blog.

After school he worked as a digital strategist for agencies while also retaining some freelance clients.

When he reached about $35k annually with his freelance work, he decided to do it full time. He was 22 years old.

Today, he has his own agency, called Foundation Marketing.

He also owns a number of other media properties, including Hustle and Grind.

How did you go from doing this on the side to getting Fortune 500 companies as clients?

Ross landed his first Fortune 500 client while he was still living in his parent’s basement! He had written an article about how to connect with Millennials through content, which generated interested and helped him land the client. He continued to work with that client for many years.

Landing that first big client felt like luck. But he continued to create content and started public speaking, and those unlocked new opportunities.

Public speaking didn’t come naturally to him, but he kept at it. Today, he’s spoken in front of lots and lots of groups, some of them numbering in the thousands.

How has public speaking help you land Fortune 500 clients?

When you speak from a stage — and deliver value — you’re seen as an authority. Fortune 500 companies value authority.

Speaking at a conference is completely different than attending a conference. It completely changes the dynamic. With some research, you can see who’s sponsoring a conference, who’s attending and who’s speaking. You can use that information to pick the right conferences.

You don’t have to start with a massive audience. Start small.

Use Eventbrite to find nearby business conferences where you audience might be attending.

Don’t just speak to your own industry. Ideally, you want to be the only speaker on content creation or writing or storytelling. This gives you more authority.

Public speaking can be a game changer for entrepreneurs. It gives you direct and immediate access to the people sitting right in front of you.

What are Fortune 500 clients looking for in a writer? What’s important to them?

Your process is the most important thing to them.

You can’t just wing it. You need to go beyond, “Tell me what you want and I’ll deliver it.” You need to take them through your process. What will it be like to work with you? Will you take them through a discovery process? What is the process for creating the content? Will the content be proofed before they see it? What does the revision process look like?

You need to lay out your process clearly from start to finish and have it documented.

Cost is very rarely an issue with Fortune 500 companies. They’re more concerned about whether you will manage the project smoothly and deliver on time. They also want to know that you’ve done this before.

If you haven’t done this before, that’s okay. Start with a smaller client and develop your process with them. So when you do talk to a Fortune 500 company, you will be ready.

In addition to process, what other things do they look for in a writer?

They’ll want to see samples of you’re work. They’ll want to see logos from other companies. The farther up the chain you go, the more important credibility is.

It also helps if you can show that you’ve been published on a larger site. Ross had a piece published on Forbes that helped solidify his authority as a writer.

Writing is being gradually commoditized. How do you see writers distinguishing themselves in this environment?

The riches are in the niches. If you can find something specific that you can do better than your competitors, then double down on it.

For example, if your niche is the medical field, then own that lane. Make it your sole focus and create content around it.

If you have other areas of expertise, you can layer them on top (e.g. social media, content distribution, SEO, etc.).

Are most Fortune 500 companies looking for help with strategy? Or do they just want help with execution?

It’s about 50-50. Some organizations don’t know what kind of content they want and where to put it. In those cases, Ross will start with strategy.

In other cases, companies already have a strategy in place and only need help with output. So Ross will work to understand their audience, situation and keywords, and then develop the content they need.

How’s the best way for writers to develop a strategy process if they don’t already have one?

Start by offering strategy to a smaller, local company. Offer it at a discount and use it as a test run. Get their feedback and build a case study around it that you can offer to corporate clients.

What’s the biggest mistake you see freelance writers make when pursuing these clients?

Charging too little! A low price point can trigger anxiety for them. They worry that “cheap” writers will deliver cheap work.

Fortune 500 companies worry that “cheap” writers will deliver cheap work.

Research what other writers are charging. Make sure you’re in the upper 50%, especially if you’re going after Fortune 500 companies.

Where can people learn more about you?

Hustle and Grind

The Hustle Manifesto: A Guide to Escaping the 9-5

100 Tips to Reach 100k

Ross’s website


By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Get a 1:1 strategy call with me.

Are you a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time with less stress? Let’s jump on a quick call and brainstorm some ideas for getting you there. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Brainstorm” in the subject line.