A few times a year, I sit down and reflect on where my business has been, where it is, and where it’s going. I do this at the beginning of the calendar year and again on my birthday in August.
This year, I realized I had a major problem that was stunting the growth of my business: I had too many goals. Because I was torn in so many directions, I wasn’t accomplishing much toward any of my goals.
What’s worse is that because I was spending so much time working, I stopped doing a lot of things I’m passionate about. That led to unhappiness with my business and feeling like my work wasn’t paying off.
For my mid-year analysis, I looked at the areas of my life and quickly saw if I didn’t take time to relax and recharge, my business would only suffer more as my creativity drained away and my passion burned out.
The first thing I decided to do was take a hard look at my goals and where my time was going. I quickly realized I had two types of goals:
1. Someone Else’s Goals.
These were goals someone else had given me – either by making them sound like something I should want to do or by asking me to help them with a project. Making six figures per year and self-publishing a business book were on this list.
2. My Goals.
These were goals that got me out of bed in the morning and kept me up late. They were the things I was truly excited about accomplishing, like being featured in Entrepreneur magazine and getting Sara Blakely (the creator of Spanx) to notice my new venture, ComfyEarrings.com.
It was hard to make progress on my goals because they were getting pushed aside to make time to work on someone else’s goals.
I decided I didn’t want to spend my time working toward a goal I wasn’t 100 percent in love with. It wasn’t easy, but within a few days, I had “resigned” from all of the goals that weren’t mine and freed up quite a bit of time.
Next, I decided to spend an hour every day doing something I used to enjoy. The only requirement was it had to be fun and get my creative juices flowing. I chose to read fiction books and get outside more. On the days when the weather is nice enough to read outside, I get a double dose of enjoyment.
So far, the results of my streamlined goals and doing more things I enjoy are:
My stress is almost completely gone.
I have more energy and passion for my projects.
I’ve read more books in two weeks than I did in the past six months.
My creativity is back and writing is much easier.
I’m not struggling for ideas because my brain isn’t exhausted or numb.
I’ve always thought reading is important, but after the past month, I truly believe reading fiction is essential to writers.
Just in case you won’t take my word for it, here is what some famous writers have to say:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King
“Be awesome! Be a book nut!” – Dr. Seuss
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Richard Steele
So what about you? How do you take time to recharge? Comment below to join the discussion …
If you’re a freelance writer – or working to become one – nothing will get you off course faster than a shiny object.
Shiny objects are tips, tricks, or techniques that distract you from your main path. They make you think there might be a better, faster way to succeed.
Many shiny objects come in the form of promised shortcuts to getting what you want.
But, it’s important to understand there are two types of shortcuts:
The first is the distraction kind. For example, you might see another niche or technique for getting to the writer’s life faster and easier. If you buy what they’re selling, you’ll likely get a plan that might work. But you’ll be distracted from your original path and likely never finish anything. Many “shortcuts” are just that – distractions.
The second is the kind of shortcut that works. They can be applied to any situation to increase your effectiveness and decrease your learning curve. Here are five shortcuts I’ve found that work:
1. Pick a Niche
It’s been said many times before, but the best shortcut you can take to the writer’s life is to pick a niche. This needs to be done before you do anything else because your niche will determine many other factors in your business, like your website, potential clients, and marketing message.
Yes, you can learn the basics without a niche. But without a niche, you don’t have a focus. And without focus, you’ll flip and flop from one plan to another without getting any real traction.
Plus, having a niche will give you a huge shortcut when it comes to learning the ropes. If you know, for instance, that you want to be a social media expert, you can ignore all the advice for B2B copywriters because it doesn’t affect you. This will cut back on the material you need to absorb and allow you to take action faster.
2. Invest in the Right Training
Once you choose your niche, you’ll need to invest in a program that will give you relevant advice for that niche. Many of AWAI’s programs tell you step by step how to get from wherever you are now to a successful freelance career – and they’ll be specific to your niche.
Decide on a program, and then make a commitment to go through the entire thing and take the recommended actions before moving on to anything else. When I first started this writer’s life journey, I didn’t know my niche. I floundered about, reading every course and wondering why I wasn’t seeing any progress. If I would have picked any of those programs and actually completed them, I would have seen results right away. Sticking to one path will give you a complete roadmap to success. Don’t discount the value in that shortcut.
3. Get Started Now
So many beginning writers think they have to know everything before they get their first client. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Fact is, you could know just one thing – how to write a great email, for example – and get more than enough clients.
This shortcut is simple – learn just enough get your very first client. Then build your business from that.
If they ask you something you don’t know, say you’ll get back to them, and then look up the answer. You don’t have to know every answer as soon as someone asks the question.
Just remind yourself that no one knows everything, and you can learn what you need to know as you go.
4. Start a Swipe File
A swipe file is a collection of sales letters, ads, and other examples of copy that are eye-catching, successful, or interesting. It’s important to have a library of these promotions to “swipe” ideas from.
Most “A-level” copywriters use swipe files so they can learn from other copywriters and gain inspiration when they experience writer’s block.
I have a virtual file saved on my computer and a physical file next to my desk. I put “direct mail” from my mailbox in the physical file and save screenshots, websites, or emails to the virtual file.
Anytime I see copy that makes me want to buy something, I save it. Later, I can look through my collection to get inspiration and trigger ideas for current projects. Because of my swipe file, I rarely have writer’s block. This alone makes having a swipe file one of my favorite shortcuts to the writer’s life.
Helen Buttery, an experienced marketer, says, “The trick to building a big swipe file is getting your name ‘seeded’ onto mailing lists.”
5. Create Cheat Sheets
I’ve found that there is so much advice floating around that if I try to remember it all, my head might explode. Now, whenever I come across something I want to remember and use often, I write it on a “cheat sheet.” I have one for headlines, one for leads, and one for every type of copy I write. I also start one for every client.
Sometimes, the one cheat sheet turns into a few pages, but it really helps to keep all the information I need in one place. Instead of spending time searching for six articles about headlines, I can glance at my cheat sheet and have all the advice I need.
Keep in mind that your clients aren’t testing you. Just like they don’t expect you to know everything, they don’t expect you to remember everything either. If you need to have cheat sheets and note cards and write friends to ask for help, that’s completely okay and encouraged.
These five shortcuts have worked wonders for my freelance business. While there aren’t any magic pills, there are tips and tricks that make it easier and faster. I hope these shortcuts work for you, too.
What about you? Have you found any shortcuts that work? Let’s talk about it in the comments below …
Here’s some Inspiration for Freelancers (hopefully) :) …
When you see an opportunity, jump on it!
Too many of us (myself included) wait for the stars to align. We think we need more experience, better connections, more time. We’re worried people won’t like us, that they’ll ignore us, or tell us “no.”
Don’t worry about it. The timing will never be exactly right. You’ll never think you have enough experience.
You never know where an opportunity might lead. Jump now. Take a leap of faith. Sort out the details later.
[tweetability]This month I’m going to say “yes” to all opportunities that come my way. No matter how unsure, afraid, or unprepared I feel. [/tweetability]
Will you join me? Comment below and let’s get this party started!
Ask any successful freelance writer, and they’ll tell you about the fears they had when they first started: the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of not having enough experience, the fear of rejection …
In order to succeed, these writers conquered their fears – and you can, too.
Here are the five fears I hear most often from beginning copywriters – along with what you can do about them …
1. “I’m afraid I won’t succeed.”
Sadly, everyone has had this fear at one point or another. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Here’s what I think (and what I told myself when I was just getting started): If others can do it, so can you.
As an AWAI member, you are as smart, brave, worthy, and talented as at least half of the successful copywriters working today – and better than the other half. So there is absolutely no reason you can’t succeed. There is no barrier you can’t overcome. If you want the writer’s life badly enough, it will be yours.
The first step to overcoming this fear is to take it one day and one small victory at a time. Decide what type of writer you want to be and get a course that properly trains you. Then study, study, and study some more. Keep track of your progress and your victories.
You’ll be more than ready to find clients.
2. “I’m afraid I don’t have enough experience.”
There are two answers to this one.
1) You really might not have enough experience. But the good news is … you can get some quite easily! Try working for friends and family until you get the hang of it. Study and practice. Do small project with real clients. Check out this article on landing your first client for some more great tips on getting more experience. Then you’ll just have to put yourself out there …
That brings us to …
2) If you’ve been studying copywriting for a while, you probably have plenty of experience. You’re just suffering from information overload. Take a step back and evaluate your situation. Do you honestly not have enough experience? If so, get some (see answer #1). If you’ve completed AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you’re ready. If you can explain the elements of a successful direct mail piece to a friend, you’re ready to get out there and find clients.
3. “I can’t figure out my niche.”
This one held me back for a long time. Then I realized I was just using it as an excuse. I had all the tools I needed to determine my niche. My fears were holding me back.
If you’re having trouble picking your niche, don’t stress. It’s not final. You can always switch after a few months or years if you find something you like better. But for now, just pick something.
Answering the following questions should help you uncover a niche you can start with:
Which industry or industries have you worked in?
What do you do in your free time?
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
When you go to the bookstore, what section do you head to first?
In this article, Rebecca says you can probably come up with at least 50 names of potential clients just thinking about people you know, people you have worked with, or people you do business with now. She gives great advice for reaching out to them to get your first client.
Okay, back to the fear of rejection.
This is probably the most common fear among freelance writers – both beginning and advanced. Most experienced professional writers say they still fear rejection.
So you see, no matter how long you work as a writer, fear of rejection won’t simply go away. It will get smaller and smaller as you begin to contact clients. You’ll realize that even if they turn you down, it’s not the end of the world.
You can reach out to potential clients through cold calling, direct mail, live events, or by responding to job ads. The more you put yourself out there, the faster you’ll be able to get over your fear and start getting clients.
I’ll be honest; there have been many times when I’ve approached a client feeling absolutely nauseous. I’ve gone into client meetings thinking I might not be able to keep my lunch down. But you know what? They always go fine.
Sometimes I get the job and sometimes I don’t. But I’ve slowly become more confident. The important thing to remember is there are many, many potential clients out there, but they’re not all for me.
5. “I’m afraid the writer’s life isn’t real.”
Since I’m an open book this week, I’ll confess: I had this fear at first, too. But then I started thinking positively and reading the success stories of all my fellow copywriters. I became sure of its existence.
I spoke to Rebecca Matter a few weeks ago, and she put it best, “The writer’s life is real, and it’s better than you think.”
So what about you? What fears do you still have? Are you really fearful or are you just procrastinating? Comment below to join the discussion …