What I've learnt in my first year of being a freelance copywriter
Who you know, what you know and what other people don’t know.
I recently surpassed the 1 year anniversary of becoming self-employed.
A small, slightly scary but ultimately liberating, one-man mission to write stuff and get paid for it.
What a year it’s been! I’ve come a long way, earnt some money (emphasis on some) and learnt a heck of a lot. It certainly feels like Goodfellow Content is on an upward trajectory and I’m enjoying the ride.
Here’s some of the things I’ve learnt:
It really is ‘who you know’.
Never was there a truer truism. One of the main ways I’ve got work this year was through a personal connection. Whether they’ve put me in touch with the right people, given me some great tips or even got me to do work for them, it’s all been a huge help. And it’s often some of the best work too.
As any business mentor will no doubt tell you, knowing, liking and trusting comes before buying. A recommendation from a mutual connection is 10x more powerful than anything you can say.
People trust people so even if you don’t know a potential client, knowing their friend is only going to put you in good stead.
If you don’t know people, that’s ok. Go and get to know some…
Networking is worth it.
I may do a whole post on the art of networking but for now here are a couple of thoughts:
You’ve got to dive in. Mingling with a load of strangers in the hope that they will buy from you isn’t most writer’s idea of a fun day out. But nonetheless I soon had an urge to do it. It’s definitely one of the most effective ways of making business connections, fast.
I found that biting the bullet and getting that regular face to face contact ultimately improved my confidence anyway and once you’ve done it for a bit, it becomes easier.
Be savvy. Most networking organisations are businesses too. They’re not just doing it out of the good of their heart and it pays to be wary of quite how much time, money and energy you are putting into it.
Having said that, don’t be overly cautious. Networking groups are as good as the people in them and only work when there’s more people so you’ll be very welcome. Newbies are very popular and my experience has been that most people are pretty friendly.
Think of the network. At the end of the day everyone’s priority is to get business out of it. Cold hard cash. And that has happened for me. But solely focusing on this can be stressful. As time’s gone on, I’ve come to appreciate the value of just growing my network. After all the more people you know…
Everybody’s thinking the same thing.
Or they’ve been there. That little voice in your head saying, ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re doing it wrong’, ‘you may as well quit’ is often accompanied by another sneaky little voice saying, ‘and you’re all on your own.’
That first voice, otherwise known as imposter syndrome, is an ugly exaggeration of real life that plays on your mistakes and failures and causes you to forget all the wonderful things you have done and are capable of. The second voice is a complete lie.
Finding out that everybody experiences imposter syndrome at some point, no matter the success they achieve is a huge relief. Shay Rowbottom a ‘big’ LinkedIn content creator I follow and enjoy, posted just this week about experiencing it. If it happens to other people producing great work, earning a living and generally just doing fine, then you’re probably alright too.
The reality is there’s always going to be room for improvement but making mistakes isn’t a sign that you should give up. It means you’re learning. And you’re probably doing much better than you think you are! In fact, imposter syndrome can be a sign of genuine humility and shows that your head isn’t weighing you down too much.
A lot of people don’t know what Copywriting is.
Some people literally don’t know what copywriting is. Some people think they know but actually don’t really get what it’s for and as such don’t value it highly. Which in some ways is worse.
If you still don’t know what it is, check out this post I wrote almost a year ago!
Navigating other people’s forgivable ignorance about this industry related role is something I’ve had to get used to. In a lot of contexts I’ll just say I’m a freelance writer (which sort of sounds cooler anyway) to be on the safe side and to avoid the common misconception that it’s got something to do with this - ©.
Friends and family (bless ’em) are often the worst culprits and their misunderstanding can be the hardest to detect. Just because they’re 100% behind what you’re doing doesn’t mean they actually know what it is. ‘That’s awesome!’, ‘Well done you!’, ‘You go get those clients!’, ‘You’ll smash it!’………… ‘So, what is it you actually do?’
I’m happy to educate people about copywriting and the benefits of good copy and content. If that leads to a fruitful business relationship then great. But finding the people/companies who not only know what copywriting is but also value it highly is definitely a priority for year 2.
Know your value.
Deciding rates is one of the trickiest things about going self-employed. See imposter syndrome. The reality is you probably value yourself far less than you should.
It’s difficult of course. No two situations are completely the same and depending on your location and how much you want the job, it may be advisable to play fast and loose with the rules. But without a doubt the rules seem pretty clear.
Understand the value you offer and charge accordingly.
There are many good reasons to do this but one thing that really sticks out is that it may actually be hurting your business if you charge too little. If you as the service provider are charging a small amount and the client already values what you do, they’re going to have some concerns about the quality of that service.
Yes, there’s plenty of people who will be swayed by a lower price but there’s plenty more that are swayed by quality and confidence. I want to work with clients that value what I do and as such are willing to pay for it.
When you really believe in the value you provide, it shows and other people will believe it too.
Speak up. Be heard.
In the world of business, there’s a lot of noise. People are busy and don’t have a superhuman capacity for remembering everything you’ve said. This is fine. If it’s important, most people aren’t intentionally ignoring you, they just forget. Don’t be afraid to follow up.
In fact it’s actively encouraged. You can be too pushy but there’s no better way of getting a response and potentially getting business than following up and following up again. Until they say no, it’s a maybe.
Equally it’s important to always be as clear as you can when beginning a project and working out a brief, prices, terms etc. I’ve definitely walked away from a meeting without asking all the right questions and it’s led to misunderstanding. Don’t leave without making sure you’re both on the same page about what exactly it is you’re being asked to do.
You’re well within you’re rights to take control. After all you are your own boss and people respect assertiveness and confidence.
And finally, another thing that gets you a long way…