August 20, 2014

Get That Freelance Copywriting Business Off the Ground Already

How successful you will be as a freelance copywriter is determined by how committed you are to making it happen.  Your first priority is get that this is not a hobby.  If it is a hobby, that’s fine, and you really don’t need to read this post.  If you are freelancing for a living or to help make ends meet, you must look at this like a business . . . because that’s exactly what it is.  Lots of money can be made, but if you don’t take it seriously, and realize that your time is money, then the level of income you bank will match the level of focus you commit.

Create a Schedule

The next thing you need to recognize is that everything has the potential to take longer than you plan for it to take.  Consider this as you allot time for items in your schedule.  Whether you freelance on a part-time basis or a full-time basis, all of the necessary activities get included in your schedule, including your marketing activities.  Each of your educational or marketing activities should be represented in your calendar with specificity.  Don’t just enter “marketing.”  These activities can include article marketing, cold calling, Tweeting, Linkedin, Facebook for business, attending offline networking functions, blogging, speaking engagements, trade conferences, instructional/industry webinars,  teleconferences, etc.).

Make every effort to only deviate from your schedule if you need the time to work on a project. Monitor and measure your marketing results. If one marketing strategy is working, employ it more than the ones that are not working or that are not as effective.

Start Building Your Portfolio

Each time you finalize a piece of work for a client, grab a copy and add it to your portfolio (and you should be building a portfolio online and offline).  These are your credentials.  Show them off.  If you have nothing to put into a portfolio, create your own marketing materials and add them to your portfolio.  Your own website, if you  created it, is a credential.  Start writing and publishing articles about your niche market. This takes about one to two hours, depending on how involved you get in the subject matter.  Publish these articles to popular online article directories, e.g., goarticles.com and ezinearticles.com.  Post these articles to your own site as well.

Distribute a Press Release

The business world loves niches.  This is not to say that you can only write for your niche market, because, quite frankly, a talented copywriter can adapt, learn and write for any market.   But since niche markets are easier to leverage, let’s concentrate our efforts on them.  So, if you have chosen a niche market and you are one of the few specialist in this area, or if you uncover some unique and marketable skill in this area that you have that others do not, write an SEO press release letting your target market know that you exist and where they can find you.  Submit it online to free or for-profit press release distribution sites.

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Etc.

This is called “social” media for a reason.  Be there.  If you are going to set up automated Tweets for example, and never appear on Twitter, what’s the point of having a Twitter account for your business. That’s not marketing.  Marketing online is about being social. It’s about building relationships. It’s about building trust.  Your potential clients and potential referral sources cannot establish rapport with an automated gizmo.  If you plan to use these tools to enhance your business, but you want to do so in an automated way, you may want to rethink their function and purpose.

As to networking on Linkedin, join a few groups and initiate discussions or offer comments on discussions.  Be seen.  Be heard.  Become a familiar face on your social networks.  Success follows Trust. Trust follows familiarity . . .  It’s a process, but it won’t work if you don’t work it.

Be Easy to Find and Easy to Reach

Make sure all your information is on every marketing tool you use. It should prominently be on your website, in your email signature, on all of your social media accounts.  Also, make sure that you have a dedicated phone service, or virtual phone service to get calls that you are unable to answer when they come in.  Lastly, set up some way of automatically responding to email inquiries that come in.  Then make sure you check your emails regularly so you can respond promptly.  People are not going to wait for you forever.  Yet, they are inclined to wait a little bit, if you have some mechanism to temporarily address their inquiry in a professional (not personal) way, elements of good customer service.

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Everyone Around You Should Know This is Your Job

By “everyoneˮ I mean, your children, their friends, your neighbors, and if you work, your co-workers.  Other people tend not to take the freelancer’s time very seriously. You have to gently, but firmly, make sure they get it.  Set aside time to handle your freelance work (whether it is writing a project or handling an administrative task like repairing your hard drive with your computer geek.  Once you set this time aside, everyone has to respect it.  Your neighbors can’t drop by for coffee to chat.  Your kid’s friend can’t pick your brain about and issue he is having with his mom.  If you have a day job, but do this at lunch time, don’t coffee clutch just because a co-worker wants to share the latest gossip.  This is your time, your professional time. You would not do this (I hope) to your employer if you worked for someone else, so don’t do it to yourself.

Work Administrative Tasks Into Your Routine

There aren’t many of us out here who enjoy reconciling invoices, tracking accounts receivables, filing research printouts, cleaning our email inboxes, but it has to get done.  When you let these responsibilities pile up, they can hamper your progress, because the stress that knowing it needs to get done can weigh on your mind.  Make them a part of your regular weekly schedule and deal with them a little at a time.

Offline Networking Works Well Too

Don’t sleep on offline networking.  Very often, when people physically see the small business owner they are considering delegating their copywriting project to, the trust factor is expedited and the bond gels at a faster rate than it does online. This is especially important when you are new at this.  Once the initial word of mouth has momentum, the trust element will later transfer over to your online business which, itself, will then pick up speed.

I highly recommend joining a serious business networking groups, like BNI, or your local Chamber of Commerce or a resourceful Meetup group (not just any Meetup group). These are just some of the many, many networking groups out there.

These groups have meetings where, as a member or guest, you will have an opportunity to give do an elevator pitch or a presentation about your freelance copywriting business. Once they get to know you and your work product, members will begin hiring you and recommending you to their friends.

You Simply Need to Just Go For It

A freelance practice is within your reach. I started my business by just going for it.  I bought two books, read them cover to cover and just went for it!  And I haven’t looked back.  If you consistently work this business, success will follow, but you have to be willing to continue marketing your freelance practice, even when you have a full roster of clients.

 

Good luck!

 

Stacey Mathis

P.S.  These two books I read to start my business were: The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells and Start & Run a Copywriting Business.

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for an extremely helpful article Stacey.

    I’m an experienced professional journalist attempting to grow a budding freelance copy-writing business ‘on the side’, so to speak – with the eventual ambition of developing it into a full-time concern.

    How – in your opinion – do I best convince potential customers that my thousands of pages of published journalism translates into effective copy writing ability? (I mean, *I* know it does haha!)

    • Although copywriting is a specific skill in itself, as a journalist moving into copywriting, I’d suggest touting your solid education, training and experience in sub-editing,as well as your ability to craft punchy captions and compelling headlines.

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