During my last reflection, I felt a little down on myself because my business has grown very slowly. I’m finally reaching a lot of my goals, but over the past few years, I watched other writers come in and zoom past me.
I pondered this a while before bringing it up to my husband (otherwise known as my voice of reason). He pointed out that one of my favorite things about the writer’s life has always been the flexibility.
You can see your dreams come into reality as fast or as slow as you want. Some people choose to quit their jobs, live on their savings, and make six figures in the first year. It’s a risk, some might say a gamble, but it can be done.
In the introduction, he tells the story of Mary Kay and how she built her business the hard way. She quit her job with Stanley Home Products and invested all of her savings into a “crazy” idea. The odds were against her, and she had to overcome many obstacles to succeed …
In 2011, Mary Kay Cosmetics was the sixth-largest direct selling company in the world, with net sales of $2.9 billion. But the story could have been much different …
As Masterson points out, stories – like Mary Kay’s – are inspiring, but they also mislead us.
“They perpetuate the myth that to become hugely successful you must be willing to risk everything,” says Masterson.
When I started my first business, I didn’t have Masterson’s wisdom. I became a Mary Kay Consultant in college and went “all in.” I didn’t have a savings account, so I used my credit card to buy inventory, business cards, tote bags, cotton balls, and a million other supplies I never needed.
Finally, I decided I wasn’t cut out for that type of business, and I sold my inventory and pretty much broke even. Luckily!
While I believe the things I learned from Mary Kay about sales and marketing helped me build a foundation for my copywriting business, a lot of business owners aren’t so lucky.
Today, I know you don’t have to risk everything – and you certainly don’t have to max out a credit card to start a successful business.
Thanks to AWAI and Masterson’s approach, when I decided to become a freelance copywriter, my path was much different. I didn’t have to quit my job or invest my savings.
Instead, I did it the “reluctant entrepreneur” way. I built my business on the side, on weekends and evenings. Growing it slowly, without risking my life savings or full-time job. And you can do it too.
No matter where you are on the path to the writer’s life, freelance freedom, or business stardom, it’s okay. You can set your own goals based on your circumstances.
[tweetability]Fast risk or slow growth? The choice is yours. Don’t let anyone else make it for you.[/tweetability]
I personally chose to build my business very slowly the first several years. I had a job I liked, and while I wanted my own business, that wasn’t enough of a reason for me to take a risk.
Instead, I took small actions every day to build my business while keeping a full-time job. Some days, I just had enough mental energy to send one email or outline one article. But the small daily actions finally added up to a successful freelance business.
I’d like to leave you with one more thing to think about from The Reluctant Entrepreneur: [tweetability]”Most successful entrepreneurs got to the top by taking a very conservative approach.”[/tweetability]
Which approach are you taking? Join the discussion below.
As I mentioned it’s going to be a few days before I take my own picture …
But that shouldn’t keep you from seeing the giant check, right? :)
Here it is:
If you read any of my articles, you probably know I talk a lot about reaching goals and how thinking positive thoughts is one of the best things you can do. To help with that, I recommend creating a dream board.
Action Step: If your goal is to be next year’s $10K Challenge Winner, add it to your dream board today. I made it easy on you by removing my name and changing the date. Here are the simple steps:
Click here or on the image below to download a PDF of it.
Print it and write your name on it. (Or add your name with a computer program and print.)
Add to your dream board (or somewhere where you’ll see it often)!
Before AWAI’s Bootcamp last year, I was still struggling with knocking down some of my barriers to success.
I was worried I wasn’t cut out to be a copywriter. I was afraid of failure – and success. I was terrified to market myself. I thought I might get a big client, mess up the entire project, and be blacklisted forever.
I was a mess.
Luckily for me, I attended Bootcamp, and many of the presentations helped me get over these fears. Little by little, my barriers came down.
One of those presentations was Nick Usborne’s. And today, I want to share some of the things he told us that helped me realize I can live the writer’s life. Maybe by hearing these things, you’ll realize it, too.
Here are the three stories Nick told that eliminated my barriers.
1. You don’t need to be the best.
A lot of freelancers are afraid they’re not ready yet or not qualified enough or they don’t have enough to offer.
Nick told a story about a researcher who studied experts – particularly their predictions about what the future would bring.
He found 834 people: financial experts and political pundits. Then he followed them for several years and collated over 300,000 different judgments they made about the outcome of certain circumstances: what would happen the following week, the price of oil in three years, etc.
At the end of his research, he determined a monkey could have made better predictions with a dartboard. Some experts, the ones you never hear of and who work diligently, did slightly better than the monkey. The experts who were worse than a monkey were the people you see on TV and on the front page of magazines.
So Nick says, “When you worry about expertise, just pause and take a breath and think, ‘You know what? They truly don’t know more than I do.’”
If you take a couple of AWAI courses, and especially if you attend an AWAI Bootcamp, you already have a comparative advantage. Then to learn the three things you need to succeed as a copywriter, check out this article.
2. Clients like to hear from you via email.
If you’re like me, cold calling is terrifying. I was relieved to hear Nick share some research results where the question was asked to client companies, “How do you like to receive a first contact from a copywriter?”
Most of the respondents said they would like to hear first from prospective copywriters by email.
I’m sure that’s not the case for all clients, but it does remove some of the cold calling – and marketing – pressure.
3. Be friendly, approachable, and empathetic.
Another story Nick shared was about medical experts who had been researching why people choose a particular doctor over others. They determined it’s three A’s: “Affinity, Availability, Ability.”
Affinity asks whether the doctor seems friendly, approachable, empathetic, and genuinely caring. Availability takes into account how long you have to wait to see the doctor. Ability measures their skill as a doctor.
The results of the research were that ability was the least important. Availability was in the middle. And the most important thing when choosing a doctor was affability or affinity.
I’m sure this doesn’t translate directly to copywriting. But it does seem that the highest-paid copywriters are also the most friendly and approachable.
Now, if I have any doubts about my ability, I remind myself of the results of this research. I also take a deep breath, smile, and remember I have a team of people at AWAI if a client should come up with something I can’t handle.
What about you? Do these results surprise you? Or have you heard something that helps you overcome doubt? 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 …
I worry – a lot. One of my biggest fears used to be that the copywriting industry would change and there would no longer be enough good-paying work to go around.
After hearing Bob Bly speak at Bootcamp last year, my perspective completely changed. I realize now that we never need to worry about a shortage in copywriting clients or projects.
But I also realize you may still be worried about it. Bob said he gets a call or email at least once a week from a copywriter or an aspiring copywriter. They say, “I read your book Secrets of a Freelance Writer; can you really still make six figures as a copywriter in today’s market?”
Bob says you can still do it, and in fact, in some ways it’s easier to make a six-figure income as a freelance copywriter today. The freelance copywriting business is changing, but so is every other business.
Jewelers, for example, used to be consultants. You would go in and they would tell you what to look for in a diamond ring. They were relied on as the experts. Today, you can go online and you can figure out the cut, carat, and quality. Bob’s local jeweler says, “People come into my store, they know exactly what they want down to the last spec, the grade and so forth, and they’re just looking for a price.”
At Bootcamp, Bob shared how things have changed for copywriters since 1979. Today, I’ll share four of his points with you so you can see how these changes are making it easier, better, and more profitable to be a freelance copywriter today – and how the work is not going away.
1. The number of freelance copywriters.
In 1979, there were very few freelance copywriters. When a client approached Bob, he knew he was often the only copywriter they called. They just didn’t know where to get another copywriter. That’s how scarce they were.
Today, it’s safe to say, if the client is talking to you, they’re talking to at least one or two other copywriters. That’s not necessarily bad, but you need to be aware of it because it affects how you approach them, your price, and your terms. For example, your rates should be comparable with what others are charging.
However, because there are more copywriters, copywriting is more understood and more companies realize they can use a freelance copywriter. As you’ll see, more copywriters is a good thing for you …
2. Copywriting education.
In 1979, you provided your own copywriting education. There was no AWAI, and very few schools covered it. It was hard to learn copywriting, except through experience, so it took a long time. The learning curve was longer.
Today, copywriting education is plentiful, and AWAI is at the forefront of it.
3. Cost of marketing.
Marketing used to be very expensive. But today, thanks largely to the Internet, it’s much cheaper.
It’s a lot less costly to put up a website than it is to print and design an annual report. With the low cost of marketing, clients are marketing more (which means more work for us).
A client might approach you and need an autoresponder written, but they might also need other emails, a landing page, a web page, and several other things. Because of this, it’s easier than ever to turn a $1,000 assignment into a $10,000 assignment.
Also, because the cost of marketing is lower, companies can afford to create more products. Each of these products needs emails, landing pages, sales pages, etc. That’s even more available work.
4. Copywriters do more than write copy.
In 1979, the only service Bob provided was copywriting. Now, there are many related services, including copy coaching, copywriting training, copy critiques, copy editing, copy rewriting, and marketing consulting.
The options for a copywriter – and the projects they take on – are pretty much limitless.
So, yes, things are different now from how they were in 1979, but I think they are better. There is more work than ever, and it just keeps increasing. What do you think? Comment below to join the discussion …
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!