I came from the world of fiction, and when I was starting out, it was REALLY what I wanted to do with my career. I wanted to write books. Or novellas. Or short stories. You get the idea. I’ve never thrown that away, a LOT of my ideas in fiction are relevant to my skills in copy.
But one of the big differences between writing fiction and writing copy is where you actually spend your time. You may think that a copywriter sits down in the morning, cracks their knuckles, cranks out a little masterpiece. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being a freelance copywriter is like living that skit in I Love Lucy with the conveyor belt, 24 hours a day. It’s an absolute FACT that I spend 80% of my workday shoving pieces of chocolate down my shirt.
Now in the past, I had a very large list of incoming clients, and I could barely finish one job before another came knocking down my door. Since I’ve left that world (whew), I would say I spend about 25% of my time actually producing copy, and about 80% of it trolling around for new gigs. Don’t tell me that doesn’t add up to a hundred, either. I’m not a copymather.
Anyway, there’s nothing WRONG with that. My big goal for 2017 is to grow my list of personal contacts and not be stuck with the same sorts of people and the same sorts of gigs over and over again. That requires a whole new personal routine. Let’s talk about the stuff that goes into your routine if you’re a copywriter or any other kind of service-based solopreneur.
The price’s you quote are a little like making mystery meat. Nobody’s going to actually dig their teeth into it and figure out what’s inside except for you.
First of all, you’re going to think about your personal time. That means as you work you’re timing yourself, you’re thinking about what your income targets are for the week, for the month, and for the year. You’re thinking about the value that you’re providing to your clients, and obviously, the value that you provide is going to swing upwards as you find better clients. To be clear, when I say “better client” I don’t necessarily mean temperament… although that can help.
What I mean is clients that have high stakes projects – they’re investing a lot and have a lot to gain. Obviously, we’re all different, but those are the kind of clients that I like working for. There are heavily leveraged and they’re busy. Which gives me room to do what I do best.
You’re not just looking at your own business. You’ve also got to know what your competitors are charging for similar work. Do you have the same resources they have in terms of software, connections, resume? What I think clients are looking for more than anything is a partner that has a built in advantage. That makes their business easier. That “CLICK” quite often comes from having a lot of experience. They kind of want to be part of an assembly line that understands their needs, but can still consistently earn for them.
It’s so funny – clients will rake you over the coals if you’re a couple of days late on a project, but more often than not, the clients are the bottleneck.
When you make a big change, you’ve got to show it to them.
When you’ve actually finished the work – you’ve got to wait for final approval.
If you’re making a video course, you’re going to have to show them an outline and get the thumbs up before you go ahead with it.
And once you finished all of that, you’re going to have to chase them down to get feedback and testimonials. You would be shocked at how many clients I love every single thing you do, only to literally transform into mist when you ask for the cash, let alone anything after the sale.
Fair enough, part of this is human nature. Most people can’t get anything done when the rubber meets the road. If I had a penny every time a freelancer that I hired personally suddenly got sick, got the flu, their mom was injured, whatever….the damn things would crush me to death.
The day I get in touch with ISIS and hire them to write some articles for me will be the greatest triumph in American history. Fact.
All you can do to cut down on the babysitting time is raise your prices and remember which clients are foot draggers. I mean, let’s face it, they don’t work for you.
All of the really boring, terrible stuff that goes into building a regular business also applies to online business. You’re going to be keeping track of who you’re paying, sending out invoices, chasing down people who aren’t paying the invoices, managing your tax situation so that the IRS doesn’t break your window and steal your PlayStation 4 the moment you come back from the Best Buy, everything related to bookkeeping is STILL your responsibility, Pamela from HR isn’t lifting a finger to help you.
Unless you have a lovely virtual assistant from Manilla named Pamela, I guess.\
One of my biggest mistakes in online business has been getting into the grinding mentality. I dunno, I was taught that if you want success you’ll WORK HARD and blah blah blah. So if I’m doing a big project, I’m DROPPING EVERYTHING and working on that day and night, so that I can come in ahead of deadline.
That might be good in spurts, but what happens is that you lose your income and clients because you’re not out fishing for them. You lose your social connections because you’re not talking and nurturing those people, your friends and family give you an old-fashioned passionate asswhoopin’ next time they see you because you don’t answer the phone when they call… it’s just no bueno. Part of your business is going to be making sure that you have time for everything, and having a realistic appraisal of how fast you can accomplish certain tasks without going into a “crunch time” scenario.
Speaking of which, your advertising is a big deal, even if you’re IN advertising.
Posting on your website, posting on social media, posting on high-end freelance websites, all of that is part of bringing in new business and promoting yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner that does all of that heavy lifting for you, great! But if not, you are going to have to do that grinding yourself, and it can’t stop just because you’ve run into one or two good jobs. Your value goes up the more that people see of you. And even though it’s good to have a big resume and portfolio of products that you’ve done, people like to hear from you on a more personal level too. That’s just part of your emotional overhead in terms of time.
You would be shocked at how many weird ideas and systems I have to run into and learn as I produce.
Ever so often, your clients are going to get a bug in their butts about some thousand-dollar copywriting course that they’ve invested in and you are going to have to pretend to be conversant in it. Otherwise, their monocles practically pop out of their skulls and they get the fucking vapors!
Like, I’m sure Dan-Bob is a great guy, but I’ve got ideas that work for me. You need to be semi up to date in terms of software and information. Generally, I keep my ears to the ground, if pros are talking about it, or a client that I trust, then I’m more likely to investigate it.
But even so, watching Sarah Stockholm’s Hey Baby Badass Betch, Live Your Life Totally Flawlessly Cuz You’re A Diamond Rockstar Rebel And You’re Gonna Make It 2017 Webinar Retreat Handholding Thingy For Girls can be pretty lengthy even if you’re smacking fast forward once in a while.
Boring Old Research
Personally, and don’t tell anybody this, but I spend about half of the time I spend writing copy just researching. Researching the best-performing copy in the niche, researching Amazon reviews, looking at forums and Facebook chatter. The number one thing that I do is grab that target customers experience. I want to understand how they live in relation to this topic that they’re talking about. I want to feel the things that make them feel insecure, pissed off, or humiliated. Clients generally are not going to dig with that much detail and it makes it hard for you to give quality quotes sometimes. You need to know your audience really well.
You also need to know the product. That means if there were previous sales letters, you need to read those and not necessarily know them by heart, but definitely know the emotional beats by heart and know what’s coming next in the copy.
It’s these seven things, seriously. They’ve gotta get done before you can start writing, and before you can start writing anything REALLY GOOD.
Given that, it’s a minor miracle I’ve got time to do anything else at all. Maybe I can be a #babybadassbetch and improve my technique somewhere.