I have been contemplating starting my own copywriting business. I have been writing for years now but I haven’t done anything like this before. Mostly stories and poetry. I wanted to do something that was within my skill sets but outside my comfort zone. I decided that copywriting would definitely push me outside my comfort zone. I have been reading some great books on the subject including Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer and Steve Slaunwhite’s Start and Run a Copywriting Business. But reading ain’t doing. Sometimes I overfeed my mind with facts, education and learning without balancing that with real world experience. My real hesitation has to do with fear of failure, fear of looking incompetent, fearing of actually being incompetent, fear of doing it wrong i.e. not following proper protocol etc. and maybe a fear of deadlines and self discipline. (I am pretty sure I don’t have any of that). Okay, having said all that, I also know that my best and most proud moments have been doing something I was afraid to do or try and pushing past the boundaries. It was the act of the effort not the end result that gave me such a boost. So, while I am still not sure I am going to start my own copywriting business I will list here a few things that I have learned about the business that I can share.
Start on solid ground.
This means begin where you already have some experience. If you have been a nurse and understand medical jargon you might do some pro bono work for a small hospice facility or physical therapy business that doesn’t typically have the funding for in-house copywriters. Maybe you are a stay at home mom that doesn’t thinks she has any experience. Perhaps you have pets and could offer your writing skills to a groomer or doggie daycare. Child care can also help if you want to write for schools, daycare facilities or even if boys and girls clubs. Doing pro bono writing will help build a portfolio and get your feet wet. It will also build your very first contacts. Which brings me to my next topic.
Building and Maintaining Contacts
A good business (no matter what it is) is centered around service to others. This means getting out of the cave and making connections with other people. This is a bit hard for me to do. I am outgoing and social but I suddenly feel shy when asking for work. What I often forget is that I am offering a valued service, not begging someone to buy a product they don’t even want or need. Don’t worry about getting a contract for every attempt but let others know you are available should they have a need for your writing services. Keep good records of all your contacts including phone numbers, email addresses and website information. Again, start on solid ground. Make contact with people you already know and then ask for referrals.
It is easy to buy into all the hype about making a six figure income while sitting around in your pajamas typing with your pinkie finger and drinking a mai tai on the back porch. It is important to understand that any new enterprise you start will change your life. Period. And that is the idea right? The motivation is to change your life, yeah? But when change really shows up suddenly we aren’t so sure we want change. Make sure you are aware of the way your life will change. For example, because of the constraints upon your time will you have the energy and the uninterrupted time to focus several hours per day? Will you be able to meet deadlines? Like all new things, there will be a learning curve. It could last months and maybe even years depending on what you are hoping to succeed at doing. Are you willing to be in a learning curve for awhile? Think through all of the changes it will bring to your life before taking the plunge, at least you won’t be shocked when it ends up being more work, taking more time and generally being more challenging than you originally thought.
There are some great advantages to being a freelance copywriter. It is a fairly low cost business, zero overhead and you work on a flexible schedule. It has the potential to make enough money for you to live on-comfortably. It is a diverse career and will not bore you with monotony. You will always be learning new things, meeting new people and expanding your awareness of the world around you. You can work at home and balance child care and other responsibilities and still maintain your business. You have no boss, no coworkers to get along with or office politics. You don’t have to punch a time clock or work the night shift. Sounds pretty awesome huh? If it sounds too appealing reread the previous paragraph on being realistic.
I am still in the process of learning, reading and deciding. I look forward to challenging my fears and gaining the rewards of doing something new. I hope you will too.