How to keep bad prospects from bleeding you dry

My story last week about donnie smacked a raw nerve with subscriber Spencer Goldade of Monkeyslunch:


Totally understand this. I get way too many Donnies. 🙁

I’ve been sharing many of your daily newsletter pieces with the office and convincing them that when we’re ready we should ask and see if you’ll help us with our auto-responder series. I don’t know what Donnie is talking about though. It’s pretty clear what the value is. You’re a writer, and a good one. If he found you online it’s fairly easy to follow the link trail to your website or read through your various feeds. The best way for Donnie to be sold on something would be to do his own research!

I’d be curious to hear if you have any other tips to get rid of or stop attracting Donnies.


If you recall, donnie was the wannabe client who emailed and expected me to grovel for his business.

As my copywriting biz picks up more momentum, I’ve seen an uptick in these kinds of “leads.”

The tricky thing is, most of the people inquiring are less… offputting than donnie. Many times they’re nice people with good ideas. I love helping people solve business problems, so it’s really easy for me to get sucked in and spend a lot of time working with them, only to discover late in the process that they can’t afford to hire me.


(To make things worse, I enjoy this marketing stuff so much that it doesn’t take much to get me all wrapped up in a potential project. When someone contacts me about a gig, my rabbit brain will just run with it and start mapping out entire campaigns and strategies. It’s a huge distraction from the project I should be focusing on.)

To attack Spencer’s question, yes, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself from “time vampires” like donnie. I’ll cover two here.

First thing I’d suggest is to use your marketing strategically to discourage them from ever contacting you.

Look at the groups of people you hear from regularly, and see if you can spot any patterns. In my case, I get a lot of inquiries from people who have an interesting idea but don’t have an established business yet. They are starting a software company, or looking to promote their first info product.

As much as I’d like to help them, it’s just not feasible. I typically spend 2-4 solid weeks on an average project, so I only take on clients that can afford that kind of 1:1 attention.

Now in your marketing, be sure that you talk about the kinds of clients who are a good fit—and the ones who aren’t.

Second, time-wasting prospects hate having to jump through hoops.

Actually, everyone hates that, me included.

But time-wasting prospects are usually especially lazy.

So start putting more hoops in place—and then enforce them. This can be as simple as adding more fields to your online lead form.

donnie hit me up through my contact form on my site. At the time, I was just asking for a name, email and short message.

That’ll draw the donnies like flies to honey.

When I noticed how many of these leads I was getting, I decided to make things more complicated.

Now if you want to contact me about copywriting, you’ll have to fill out several additional fields with details about your project. Including, by the way, a required field for “Budget.”

You can think of this like twisting a dial to regulate your flow of leads.

Early on you’ll probably want as many leads as possible, so you make it easy for people to contact you. Then as your marketing machine fires up, you can turn the dial up and require more info, which will cut the number of leads way down—and screen out 95% of the donnies.

And speaking of hoops…

If you’d like to talk to me about your copy needs, just jump over here: