Think you have what it takes to be a freelance copywriter? I wasn't so sure I knew when I first started in 1999. All I knew was I desperately wanted to work from home to raise my two sons after my divorce. It took a lot of trial and error to get to the stabile and profitable business I am running now in 2005. There are some things I learned along the way I wish I knew much earlier in the game.
One thing I learned is that writing is a very small part of being a successful freelance copywriter. Don't get me wrong. You DO need to know how to write. But your success depends largely on your savvy as a businessperson. How do I know? Because I've played it from both sides of the street. And I didn't begin to enjoy success until I started doing some very distinct things in my business.
Please let me share with you some of the mistakes I made starting out so you can avoid those pitfalls yourself…and catapult to success much faster than it took me.
Mistake #1: Don't attract new clients.
When I first started out in 1999 I had exactly one client. He kept me very busy…for awhile. Then, without warning, he suddenly shifted his business to 100% offline and began using a copywriter with more experience in that area. I floundered for 10 months before I got back on my feet again from that blow.
Solution: NEVER stop marketing yourself. Even if you have a full practice, don't stop getting the word out. Write articles and press releases. Do interviews whenever possible. Start an ezine and/or a blog so your name is always out there. Don't get caught flat-footed.
Mistake #2: Don't effectively manage your clients.
At first I was so grateful to have any clients I let them call all the shots - regardless of what was in my best interest. It took me a long time to realize every client is not a match for me. Sometimes they were unreasonable in deadlines. Other times they would call me at all hours…including 6 a. m. and even on the weekends. (Until I learned to communicate better there were even a few clients I had to fire!) Bottom line is you can never have enough communication.
Solution: Have the client fill out a detailed questionnaire to open up lines of communication. Get a feel for his or her expectations. Add an extra cushion to your deadline. If possible, get a gatekeeper (assistant) to set up schedule so you can focus on what you do best - writing.
Mistake #3: Poor time management.
Eager to please, I often did not give myself enough lead time for an assignment. I'd say, “I'll do it!" before I looked at the reality of my schedule. So I'd have to pull all nighters or miss important family events. I was incredibly stressed and not a lot of fun to be around.
Solution: Schedule your daily schedule BEFORE you go to bed at night. Turn off email until you've made some headway with your copy. And use a kitchen timer to work in increments of 35 minutes (studies show after that frame your mind craves distraction). When the ding goes off, get up, stretch and clear your head.
Mistake #4: Not getting paid enough as a copywriter.
Face it…copywriters do a lot more work than most people realize. We have to deeply research the client's business, competition and target market. Then we have to write excellent copy that crawls inside the head of the prospect and leads them to a specific action. I didn't find out until late in the game there is more than one way to structure a deal. I only recently figured out how to get paid on the front end AND the back end for my work. (There is still a ton I need to learn about this which is why I can't wait for the exclusive Dan Kennedy seminar on the business of copywriting in October!)
Solution: Value yourself enough to get paid what you're worth. Have an iron-clad contract that protects you.
Mistake #5: Don't invest in yourself.
I have read the classic “Think and Grow Rich" 14 times. Every time I read it, I learn something new. I go to seminars (even when I've heard the speakers before). Because I learn something new every time. I have a huge marketing library of books, binders, home study courses, CDs, DVDs, MP3s and I listen to them over and over. Again, every time I take in material, whether it's new or old, I learn something new.
Successful people in all walks of life invest in themselves. It's one of the keys that separates them from the less successful. (Trust me, at times it hurt to part with the massive amounts of cash I've laid out for this education. But the payoff happens every time. Just do it. )
Solution: If you're looking to attract more money into your business, start by investing in yourself. Think LONG TERM. As the old adage says, “If you're not growing, you're dying. "
International copywriting trainer, author and speaker, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 25 years. Her words have made her clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now she focuses her vast experience on teaching others the skill of copywriting. Lorrie is the author of a highly acclaimed copywriting course, creator of the Red Hot Copywriting Bootcamp and founder of Copy Campus, a unique membership resource site designed to support copywriters and entrepreneurs on all levels. Visit her site to learn more at http://www.red-hot-copy.com