How to get paid to write proposals with Val Geisler

Presented live on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

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In this live Tutorial, Val Geisler will share her cure for the common proposal. Val’s an in-demand email copywriter. Last year, she worked her butt off in The 10x Freelance Copywriter and built her authority like a champ… and now she’s running a fast-growing email agency with clients like Podia and Beacon. 

In today’s live tutorial, she’ll show us:

  • How she’s “charged for proposals” by replacing proposals with paid audits
  • The steps she takes to prep for and actually conduct audits
  • How she uses her post-audit recap call to pitch her services

Val will even share how she uses audits to know if she should walk away from future work with a client. 

Check it out below – it’ll be an incredibly high-value use of 20 mins.
And check out the audit questionnaire that Val uses with her clients here.


Joanna Wiebe: So Val is going to be sharing some cool stuff with us right away. We have our 20-minute guarantee, so we’re going to hop right into that. Val, are you ready to talk about freelancing awesomeness?

Val Geisler: Yeah. For sure. I want people to make money.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah. I think that’s a good goal. Cool. And you were in the 10x Freelance Copywriter last year. You’ve been doing badass stuff before that and since then. Things are going awesome.

Val Geisler: Yeah. It was, it changed my business being in that program.

Joanna Wiebe: Awesome.

Val Geisler: Yeah. And everything I’m teaching today is like a conglomeration of everything I’ve ever been taught from different people, and how I’ve applied it into my business and how it’s been successful for me, and it’s what I teach now. So this is nothing new, or revolutionary, or life changing in the way that’s like something I came up with. But it’s something I use every day, or every week, that works all the time. So I wanted to pass it on.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah. I’m stoked to hear about it. It’s not something that we teach in the 10x Freelance Copywriter, so I think it’s going to be a really cool add-on for anybody who’s in it, or considering joining as well. So, let’s see. Take it away, Val.

Val Geisler: Okay. So, we’re going to talk about doing paid discovery. And for those of you who don’t know anything about me, I am an Email Marketing Conversion Copywriter and Strategist. I founded the Email Marketing Masters Incubator, where I teach copywriters to do exactly what I do. Because there aren’t enough people who focus on email. I’ve worked with clients most recently like Buffer, Crazy Egg, AccessAlly, a bunch of others. The reason I mention these particular clients, it’s because I’ve done this audit for them. It’s a really valuable piece of material you can add to your list of offerings.

I’m really passionate about freelancers getting paid well for their work. Too many people spend hours, and hours, and hours on proposals. I have people come into my incubator and say like, “I spent six hours on my proposal and it never works out.” That just breaks my heart, so I want to fix that for you guys.

I want you to get paid to write proposals. You shouldn’t be spending all that time without getting paid for it, and there is very little that I do in my business that I am not getting paid for. I have a pretty fierce intake process, so if you want to work with me, fill out a very long form with lots of detail, and that gives me an idea if it’s a good project or not. And from there, then I book a 20-minute call, and that’s the max that I’ll do is a 20-minute call to see if we’re a good fit. From there, it’s an audit, and the audit is how we discover what goes on for the rest of the project, or if there even is a project to be done after that.

They do have to give me a lot of information coming into the audit, so they want to be prepared. Typically audits are done, again, I’m coming at this entirely from an email perspective, but you can do this with websites, with funnels, really anything where there’s copy. Quite honestly, really any kind of freelance or business. I know videographers who do audits. I know podcast coaches who do audits. So audit, paid discovery, whatever you want to call it, they have to come into it with something in place for me to actually audit.

Some of my students work with people who are really young, or new in their business, and so they don’t have an established funnel of emails set up, and that’s what they want to work on. So there are other things you can do in paid discovery, it might not necessarily be an audit of existing emails. But maybe you’re doing a little bit of customer research, researching their brand, their competitors, things like that. But you should be paid for all of that time. You can definitely sell paid discovery and audits at a variety of price points. Yeah, Todd, paid discovery does equal audit, it just kind of depends on what your area of expertise is. I do audits, because it’s email and because I work with people who have established email typically onboarding. So they have an onboarding that’s in place, but they know it could be better. So I’ll go in and audit it, and see what needs to change, what my recommendations are, and make actual recommendations for them in the audit. Then the audit is followed up by a proposal for paid work, if that is applicable.

In the case of paid discovery, that might look like if they don’t have something in place, maybe they don’t yet have an email funnel, or they want to sell a course for the first time and they’re hiring me to write their landing page. When you still want to do some paid discovery around their brand, around their audience, their competitors, the course itself, the content of the course, to know if this is a project that you want to work on. So kind of everything that you might be doing, plus a little bit extra, if you aren’t being paid for this work. Think about all the things you do to get a proposal ready, and then add some like bonuses onto that, and that’s your paid discovery or audit.

The first thing you want to do to do these audits, that last one I was showing you is have an intake form. Have an audit questionnaire. I actually have, at the end of this I’ll share a link, where you can get the questionnaire I use. So you’re going to get a link to the type form that I send to all of my clients, you can use that as a baseline, make changes, it is pretty in depth. I’m asking a lot of questions of them upfront.

You want to get access to any relevant Google Docs that they have, so that looks like tone and voice documentation they might have, blog posts they’re really proud of, emails that they’ve written in the past depending on, again, what kind of copywriting you do, you’ll want to get access to any relevant information. And heads up, as we all know with Google Docs, when you’re booking these audits, make sure that you can access the Google Doc before the day of your audit starting, so that when they fill out your intake form, go ahead and click through with Google Docs, make sure you have access, so that the morning of you sit down to do the audit, especially if you’re not in the same time zone as your clients, just make sure you’re prepared, so that you’re not asking them at the last minute for access to those documents.

Get access to their ESP, their Email Service Provider, if you’re auditing emails. Get access to their Google Analytics if you’re auditing websites. So think about all those things that you would need for a project and get access to those. Funnel management tools, maybe they use Funnelytics, or Deadline Funnels. Really, those resources that you would put together for a project, get them for an audit.

I also do a full masters services agreement as far as contracts go at the time of the audit that covers any future work that we do. I do a separate smaller agreement for an actual project, but I send them a contract that covers all of our work, so that way we’re covered, we’re ready to go should they want to do a project. Then, the next step of the audit is to do a sales safari.

This is something I’m typically doing while they are gathering information in their type form, or giving me access to all those things. It’s something you can do a little bit in the background before you have a lot of those details from them. But, the details help. So you want to go into Facebook groups, or LinkedIn groups, if you have access to certain Slack teams, places where their customers are hanging out. So the sales safari is we’re looking at what their customers are talking about, how they talk about the problem that your client is trying to solve, a lot of the discovery work that we do as copywriters, you’re doing in an audit as well.

Not necessarily to turn anything over to your client, you’re not creating a huge research doc, but just using it as a good sweep of having that knowledge and background going into the audit. Look at some keyword comparison tools if you’re doing website pages, I don’t do those because there’s no such thing for email. Amazon, [inaudible 00:09:29] talks about Amazon reviews. Amazon reviews are a gold mine for information, especially if your client is an author, and you can look at book reviews. Competitors pages, existing customer research that they have. You want to do all of that, look over all of it. Give it a good sweep, it’s nothing to be in-depth.

I was watching a video I did for the incubator last time, and told them, this shouldn’t take more than an hour to go through all of these things and just get a good idea of the brand. Then you want to record your insights. I do a real quick overview in just a Google Doc. Everyone does it differently, but I like to just take notes without worrying about formatting or anything like that, throw them all into a Google Doc, and then I go back and reform it into a document later, which I’ll show you in just a second.

So, now it’s time to do the actual audit itself. As you are prepped, so you have all those insights from all the access to everything, all the sales safari, you have your notes doc started, now you’re going to dive in and do the actual audit. The audit is going to look different depending on what you’re doing. When I go into emails, I log into their ESP, I have from them the sequence that we’re going to go through. So my audits have a maximum number of emails. You might say, “I’ll audit three pages on your website.” Or, “2,000 word blog post.” Or something like that. You know, you put your limitations on it, but definitely set those limitations, because I didn’t have them, and then I was slammed with a like 30-email sequence, and wasn’t anticipating auditing 30 emails for that price point.

So definitely set your boundaries on your audits. I go into the sequence that they’ve indicated. I look through every single email. I make my notes in that document, just kind of high level, I go through, I look at subject lines, click-through rates, open rates, the actual content, what’s inside, calls to action, format, all of those things. I make overall notes for the entire sequence, then I make notes for each individual email. It’s going to look a little bit different depending on what you’re doing. But that’s how I do it through email.

Once I have all of my notes compiled, then I create an audit doc. This is a mostly complete screenshot of what a audit doc looks like. I do them in Google Slides, but you can do them however you want. I used to send an Airtable document, I do this along with a video. I’ll show you that in a second. But this is basically just laid out in a PDF, I do emails, so I take screenshots, and I highly recommend, as you do the audit, you grab some screenshots of what you’re talking about, so that they aren’t looking at your audit document and clicking back and forth through their website, or through their emails. Just make it as simple as possible for them to follow along with what you’re talking about.

So I grab screenshots of the email that I’m referring to, and I line them up on each page. You can kind of see in this bottom one that I do in-app messages too. And so sometimes I’ll group those together depending on the content and the feedback. I look at different sequences in some cases, like this was a conversion [inaudible 00:13:02] only had four emails. So I looked at those. I make recommendations on where I think they need to add, what can come out, so they had a couple of different sequences in this particular case.

I also send a video. So I use Loom to record all my videos. Everybody has different opinions about Loom, but use a video recording tool of your choice. Record a video, preferably of your face along with you walking through everything that you’re talking about. So you want to go back and forth between, in my case, their ESP, their emails, and the document that I’ve prepared. So I go back and forth, I read through every email, I explain every line item of what I’ve written into the docs.

The doc is intended to be high level overview. The video is more detailed information. I, in this particular case, because they had lots of shorter sequences, I broke it up. This would’ve been, if you add up all these video times, it would’ve been like over 35, 40 minutes in video. And that’s a lot for the client to process, and to have to go back through, so make it, again, as simple as possible for them and for you. You don’t have to rerecord if you screw something up on a shorter video. So, I send them that.

The other thing I like about Loom is that I get to see if they actually watched the video. Because we do a followup call. And so I wouldn’t know that they have watched the videos before the followup calls, so I get to see that record inside of them.

The last part of the document, after the audit, is pages are in place, is to talk about next steps. So this is where I am pitching the project. In some cases, the audit is, that’s it, they aren’t really ready for a project, or they only have so many notes that they can really handle it in house. I’m not going to waste my time, or their time and money asking for a project that they really don’t need to do. I don’t want to hard sell somebody on something they don’t need, so I will tell them that. Next steps in that case would be, “Hey, I think you can handle this in house, here’s the checklist of things you can get done. If you really want me to do it, here’s how we can work together on that. But I really think you can handle it.”

In most cases, I am pitching a next step. So next step here, and you can see this is only a couple of pages, so it’s not the majority of the document, it’s not taking up a ton of space, it’s just saying, “If you want to work together after this,” and I will say that when I have the call with them to book the audit, I do mention like I will be putting this into the document. So it’s not a surprise to them like, “Wait, what’s this pitch for a $12,000 project?” That’s not going to be a surprise to them, because they’re anticipating it. So I tell them how we work, and what the investment is, and what next steps are on their part.

In the last page, this 30th page in my case, there’s a link for them to book their followup call. So it’s another way that I know that they actually reviewed the audit, is that they got to this last page, and they clicked that link and booked the followup call. If they email me and say, “Hey, can we book our followup call.” I think that maybe they didn’t read all the way through. So always schedule a followup call, and I do this way because it gives them time to digest everything instead of live presenting the information, and them trying to think of questions in the moment. They can review everything, pass it around to their team, collate all their questions in one place, and then schedule a call. That call gets questions answered in five, 10 minutes. Then we spend the rest of the time talking about the project and the next steps, and it really becomes a sales call.

So that followup call is all about how I can help them. And I want to give you that questionnaire I mentioned earlier, so you can go to my new brand that I launched recently, it’s and you can go there, /tt, for Tutorial Tuesday, and add your name to my email list, I’ll send you the link to get that questionnaire.

Joanna Wiebe: Yay, that’s awesome. Thank you, Val. And you went through that so quickly without it feeling rushed. That’s amazing. We’ve chatted out the link to, or Tutorial Tuesdays. Awesome, people are fangirling, Val, over here. Mandy says, “That’s great.” One of the things though that I would like to ask you, I’m just going to

[inaudible 00:17:28]

in front of the line, is okay, it’s more of a comment and looking for your thoughts on it. So a lot of people will want to put together something like this, but when I look at yours, it looks really professionally done, and it’s very thorough without being overwhelming, like really thought through from the clients perspective. Like the shorter videos, so maybe they can share those videos around particular team members who need them. What level of quality should people be shooting for? Because I think a lot of people charge a small-ish amount for an audit, and then they tell themselves they don’t have to maybe do that much. So thoughts on quality, or any coaching on quality you want to give there.

Val Geisler: Yeah. When I left 10X FC, my audits were 750. I was doing them in an Excel spreadsheet, and I did the kind of one big long video. Each audit I did, I kind of refined that process, and I eventually raised my price. Audits are 1525. So I think the audit is also a really great benchmark for how much projects are with you, and that’s really important when you’re pricing. And they’re also, it’s your first presentation. I put as much work into this now as I did writing proposals. So the way that you think about, if I’m going to write a proposal for a 12K project, I want that proposal to look really professional and well done.

But I will say that jump in and do them, because the only way that you know what you want to include, what was missing from the last time, is to do them. So I’ve iterated almost every time. This one that I’ve shared with you is what been my go to for the last several months. But it really was refined every time I did an audit over the last year. And it was with that refining that I raised the price.

Joanna Wiebe: Awesome. Okay, cool. People who are struggling to get to that page, sounds like just give it some time and it loads. But it is, it’s working for some. Just a heads up, Val, that’s not working for others. It might just be a bunch of people going to that one landing page at one time. So, people are otherwise saying, “Nevermind, got it.” So it will get there.

[crosstalk 00:19:44]


Val Geisler: [crosstalk 00:19:44]. Yeah, and if you run to any problems with the website, then just ping me, I’m on Twitter, @lovevalgeisler. You can shoot an email to hello@fixmychurn and we’ll get you set up.

Joanna Wiebe: Awesome. Thank you, Val. Thanks for that. Thanks everybody for attending and participating in chat, and asking such great questions as always. Next week, we’re having Amy Posner in to talk about being a freelance copywriter. We all love Amy, so that’ll be wicked. Val, again, thank you so much. Carrie, thank you too. And we will see you guys on our next Tutorial Tuesday. [crosstalk 00:20:22] bye.

Carrie Hryniw: Thanks, everyone.

Speaker 4: It’s

[inaudible 00:20:30]


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