Skip the Learning Curve: 9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Launching My Copywriting Business
I started copywriting and content writing before the time of smartphones. Before the online job boom. Before freelancer platforms were mainstream. WAY back in the good old days of 2010 (jeez, I made it sound like I started copywriting in 1868, didn’t I?).
Even though 2010 was only 12 years ago, SO much has changed for freelance copywriters. And, in 12 years, I, too, have changed a lot and learned even more.
Way back when I started my copywriting journey, copywriting courses and resources online weren’t as prevalent, and I didn’t have any sort of formal business training. So, I went at it bootstrap style and figured it out as I went along.
All I really knew is that I wanted to write for a living, I wanted to be able to work from ANYWHERE, and I wanted to have my own business. I knew I’d figure the rest out.
And I did. But not after a TON of trial and error.
So, today, I’m going to share with you 9 things that I really, really wish I would have known before launching my copywriting business, so that you can skip the learning curve.
1. Knowing How to Write Copy AND Content Opens Way More Doors
There’s a big difference between writing copy and writing content. If you’re new to copywriting, you might not yet understand the key differentiators, so I’ll break it down really quickly:
Copy is meant to sell, content is meant to tell.
It all comes down to the purpose of your writing. If the intention is to make the audience take an action immediately (like a sales page), it’s copy. If the intention is to educate, inform, or entertain your audience (like this blog post), it’s content.
Businesses need BOTH. If you learn copywriting AND content writing, you’ll have far more opportunities available to you.
2. Don’t Diminish the Value of Your Work to Get Clients.
I wish this one didn’t take me as long to learn as it did.
For a long time, I had a bad habit of underpricing my services, especially in the earlier days of my career. When I was a brand new copywriter, I just wanted to land clients, and to do so, I thought the best idea was to go SUPER low on my pricing (spoiler alert: bad idea).
Did I land clients this way? Yes. But then, clients assumed that my low price was the “value” of the work, or “standard pricing” for copywriters. And I ended up burnt out, working too much for too little money.
Which brings us to:
3. Copywriting is a Specialized Skill–Charge Accordingly
Copywriting is a revenue generating activity. That means what you do has a direct impact on your client making money. The better your copy is, the more money they make. Without your copy, they see lower revenue. Businesses NEED copywriting, and copywriting is NOT something everyone can do.
You aren’t just charging for the words; you’re charging for the knowledge and experience it takes to make those words WORK.
4. ALWAYS Work With a Contract
It doesn’t matter how well you know the person. It doesn’t matter how much you trust them. EVERYONE gets a contract. Having the right freelance copywriting contract in place protects you when you have a client that abruptly ends the contract, doesn’t pay, or scope creeps.
5. Setting Boundaries with Clients is Crucial
As a recovering people pleaser, this one took me a long time to learn.
I ALWAYS want to provide the best customer service to my clients. I want them to succeed. And, I work with clients that I’d totally be friends with outside of a business setting, so it’s always easy for lines to get blurred.
But, because of this, I found myself answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night, weekends, holidays, and when I was super swamped in other client work. I found myself pushing up deadlines to meet their needs, even though later deadlines had been agreed upon.
All of this left me burnt out, resentful, and working around the clock. I ended up feeling like another employee instead of a business owner––and if you feel that way, it’s a glaring sign that you need to learn to set boundaries with your clients.
Set expectations in the beginning of the project. Let them know, in your contract, when you will be available to them for questions, how often you’ll be providing them with project updates, and stay firm on your agreed upon deadlines.
It can be difficult, but it’s worth it.
6. You DON’T Need to Work 24 Hours a Day to Be Successful
Not only am I a recovering people pleaser, I’m also a recovering workaholic. And I mean that in a serious sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE owning my own business. I LOVE the work that goes into it. But, when your determination turns into obsessively working, you’ll reach the point where you’re more overwhelmed than excited for your business.
Remember: you started your copywriting business because you wanted the freedom that comes with it. Allow yourself to enjoy that freedom. Take a day off if you need it. Spend time resting. Unplug. Overworking yourself results in NOT putting your best effort into your business. Working until 3am every day won’t get you any further than allowing yourself to sleep and come back to it later.
7. You Make More Money Upselling Than New Client Acquisition
When you’re early in your career, it’s normal to feel the pressure of getting your next client. After all, as a copywriting business owner, your income is based on you finding clients. But, it’s a lot easier (and more profitable) to upsell the clients you already have than spending all your time working on getting your NEXT client.
If your current clients are happy with the work you did on their sales pages, upsell them on email sequences or weekly blogs (this comes back to knowing how to write copy AND content. See how all of this ties together?).
Your current clients already KNOW you’re a good investment. It’s far easier to continue working with them than to spend all those hours sourcing clients, sending pitches, and doing discovery calls.
8. It’s OK to Turn Down Clients, Even if You’re Brand New to Copywriting
Not every client is your perfect fit, just like you’re not every business owner’s perfect fit copywriter. And that’s ok!
When you’re a new copywriter, it’s tempting to take any client that comes your way. But, if you don’t feel that alignment, you’re not going to deliver your best work, the client experience won’t be as good as it could be, and you might end up with a less-than-positive review.
Work with clients that you feel a real connection with. It’s better for everyone involved.
9. A CRM is a Total Lifesaver
Confession time: when I first started my agency, I was tracking LITERALLY EVERYTHING in Google Sheets. Now, I *still* use Google Sheets for a lot of internal tracking, but Google Sheets is NOT a CRM, and you’re going to lose important info, miss dates, and not provide the best customer experience.
When I hired my COO, the very first thing she did was put an end to all of my Google Sheets tracking and switched the agency over to a real CRM.
IT WAS LIFE CHANGING. Things were streamlined almost immediately AND it was a more professional presentation for clients.
Learn From My Mistakes & Skip the Trial and Error
It took me a lot of years and a LOT of tears to learn these 9 lessons in operating my copywriting business. Skip the mess and learn from my mistakes!
And trust me, you’ll make your own along the way, but that’s part of owning a business, right? We live, we learn, we screw it up, and we grow. It’s part of the process. Hopefully, these tips will help you skip over my mistakes and set you on your path to copywriting success sooner.
Catch you next time!