#013: The Printed Brochure That Kickstarted Suzanne’s Freelance Business

SUMMARY: In this episode of Smarter freelancing podcast Ed will speak with Suzanne Wesley on The Printed Brochure That Kickstarted Suzanne's Freelance Business

Suzanne Wesley was in a tight spot five years ago.

She had just lost her job and had to find a way to drum up freelance business fast.

But rather than trying the same methods other freelancers typically use (put up a website and do some cold calling, networking and email prospecting) she decided to try something different.

She designed, printed and mailed a square-shaped brochure to more than 100 prospects.

And it worked!

In this interview, Suzanne explains why she believes this strategy worked so well ... and why she's still getting leads from that printed piece she mailed out five years ago.

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 or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Suzanne works as a freelance marketing assistant for startups, nonprofits and larger businesses. She does both graphic design and copywriting for clients, although she tends to do more graphic design.

How important has it been for you to have both skill sets?

Some projects start with just graphic design, and then she ends up advising clients on how they can improve their copy. Having both skills has helped bolster her income.

How did you get into freelancing?

 Suzanne did a little bit of freelancing on the side when working full time. She had looked into freelance work because of the needs of her young children. In 2009, she was laid off from her full time job and had to quickly put together her portfolio and find clients.

She received a severance package when laid off, and she used this as a financial cushion to start her business. It would have taken her much longer to transition to freelance work if she had had to accumulate that cushion through savings.

Talk about what you did to get clients when starting out

Suzanne didn’t have a portfolio from her full time job. So instead, she created a 5”x5” print brochure with attached business card.


She ordered 250 of the brochures and initially started mailing them in batches of 20. Once work started coming in, she continued to send a few more each week. She included a personal message with each brochure.

Whom did you send this to?

She started by sending the brochure to people she’d worked with, such as colleagues, managers and directors. Later, she sent the brochure to vendors she’d worked with, such as caterers, printers and trade show people.

What were your results?

Suzanne paid around $400 for 250 copies of the brochure. She started mailing them out in June and still managed to make over $10,000 that year. The next year, she more than doubled that—all while also caring for her two young children.

Did you land most of your initial clients as a result of this piece?

During the first two years of her business, around 77-percent of her clients came from the brochure.

What other elements of this piece do you think made a difference?

Suzanne focused the brochure on the needs of potential clients. It wasn’t all about her. On the back of the brochure, she listed the benefits of working with a freelancer, and this made some clients think about using a freelancer who may not have considered it before.

In her personal message, she reminded prospects who she was, what she knew about their business and what she could do for them. She also suggested they pass the brochure along if they knew anyone who might need her services.

Her contacts did pass it along. Last summer, she had two referrals from people who’d kept her brochure.

Name a couple things you’d do differently next time

She included her pricing, and she wouldn’t do that again. Today, she bases her pricing on what clients need and what they already have on hand.

Normally, she would have a website in place before sending out a brochure. She didn’t have that the first time because she had to start her business so quickly.

She would stay with the same shape and size of brochure but would include more samples and less text. She would also make it full color and include more white space.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Suzanne’s website: http://www.suzannewesley.com

Email: suzanne@suzannewesley.com



  • Robin Patric

    Beautiful brochure Suzanne! How many pages was it? Is that a see-through envelope you're showing in the thumbnail? Did that add significantly to the $500 production cost? And what's that silver binder in the upper left corner? Another cost factor?

  • bsaunders

    What kind of clients did you approach? Were they small businesses or large corporations or both?

    • Suzanne Wesley

      All of the above. It was really a mixed bag of small businesses and larger ones. I tapped my personal network first. I sent brainstormed all of the businesses I had a personal connection to, whether that was during my own career or through a friend or family member. It included everything from restaurants to technology companies. During the first wave I actually knew the person I was sending the brochure to in some way. After that the second wave was to potential clients that were in a similar industry to ones I had helped in the past. I was able to show them examples of my work and prove that I had knowledge of doing the type of projects they might need themselves.

  • Suzanne Wesley

    I don't know about all of you, but it's becoming ever more rare to receive personal messages in the mail. I get dozens of generic e-mails a day clogging up my email inbox. And there are usually a few direct-mail flyers or postcards in my mailbox - but even those are mass mailed with no personalization to them. It takes a little investment of both money and time to create a unique and personal marketing piece, but was definitely worth it. Thanks again, Ed for the interview. 🙂

    • Guest

      Thought I'd share this picture of the piece in the fashion it was mailed out to prospects.

      • edgandia

        This is great, Suzanne -- thanks so much for sharing your experience and this level of detail! This would absolutely stand out in my business mail.

        • edgandia

          Suzanne -- I think you told me you approached a mix of businesses and people you knew, right? See bsaunders question above. Thanks!

  • Maria

    Striking brochure, beautifully designed, although I was surprised at the size! It speaks to the power of putting something real (as opposed to virtual) in a prospect's hands. I'm a great believer in it, but you forget sometimes when you're knee-deep in virtuality. Thanks so much for the reminder, Ed!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Maria. Yes, I was also surprised by the size. But I agree with Suzanne that the unusual size is part of the reason why it stood out. And I agree with you 100% on the value of adding something tangible to your marketing mix!