The 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started My Copywriting Business
I let go of a client recently.
It was a little sad…
Because they were actually a great client.
Easy to work with. Paid (fairly) well. No hassle.
But I knew it was time for something different.
I had to focus more on building a brand and less on living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to leave them high-and-dry.
I didn’t say:
“Well, I’m done here. Good luck!”
“It’s time for me to move on, but I think I know someone who can help.”
And, like that, I passed one of my best clients to one of my best friends.
And unintentionally (okay — maybe intentionally) helped her make a HUGE life decision.
See, while this friend was accepting freelance projects on the side…
She still had a full-time job.
But, with the money from this client, she could quit that job and freelance full-time.
So she did.
This is her last week at work.
But this weekend, I realized something:
Even though I gave her a path out of her shitty job, I haven’t set her on a path for freelance success.
It’s a cold world out there, and if you don’t know what you’re doing…
You’ll be back in an office designing shitty brochures in MS Paint before you know it.
And I don’t want that for her.
Because I think she would make a great business owner.
And (this is the big one) —
I would feel ultra-shitty if I set her up on this path and said…
“Well, I’m done here. Good luck!”
…and then she failed.
That’s why I’m writing this.
As I was thinking about this, I asked myself:
“What would I do if I had to start all over again?”
This post is my answer.
But, before you read this, I need to warn you:
I’m not some copywriting guru.
I don’t know how to help you earn six figures per year. (I’m on the way, but I’m not there yet).
I don’t have all the copywriting knowledge in the world.
But I have been doing this for a few years now. So, by default, if you’re just getting started —
I know more than you. ;)
This isn’t a guide or a roadmap to copywriting stardom.
It’s some simple advice I would have given myself before leaving my full-time job 2.5 years ago.
And, if you’re starting from scratch…
It’s good wisdom to have in your back pocket.
How To Start A Copywriting Business From Scratch
First off —
I’ve been trying to nudge you toward this path for years, and I’m obviously glad it’s finally happening.
I think you’re more entrepreneurial than you might realize —
And this is just your first step toward becoming the mayor of [CITY].
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to vote in those elections, since I don’t live there, but maybe I’ll find a way to cheat the system.
But that’s for another day.
As you’ll notice, if you read everything above (which you better have done) —
I want to give you the little advice I have on starting and running a writing business.
Look, I’m not “crushing it” by any means…
But I’ve learned a lot since I started over 2 years ago, and I would change a lot if I could go back and do it again.
So, my hope is to save you from a few of the hard lessons I learned.
And if this were a sales letter, I’d say…
“I can shortcut your learning curve by 2.5 years! That’s over 5,000 hours of work!”
…or something like that.
But I know you’ll read this anyway. So let’s get into it.
1. You are not a freelancer.
You are a business owner.
You can tell people you’re a freelancer if that feels more comfortable (I still do), but you need to realize —
You are a business owner…
And that’s a lot different from being a freelancer.
Freelancers work for clients.
Business owners work for themselves.
Freelancers focus on getting projects.
Business owners focus on building businesses.
This isn’t just semantics. It’s a fundamental shift in the way you view your work.
Projects come and go…
So do clients.
But, if you play your cards right —
Your business will be around for a long time.
Okay, so what the hell does this mean in real life?
It means reading Tip #2 and following it.
2. Spend a SCARY amount of time on building your business.
So, you only have 1 client right now…
And I know that’s scary as shit.
But what you do when it’s scary is what will separate you from everybody else.
When you’re in a situation like that, there’s a tendency to enter “survival mode…”
Where you pick up any project you can.
“Oh, you’ll pay me money to write an instructional guide about how to brush your cat’s teeth? I’m in!”
“Oh — you need your resume polished for your McDonald’s interview? I’d love to help!”
Obviously, if you’re on the brink of homelessness —
Take what you can get.
But falling into survival mindset is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past two years.
It’s not those projects that are the problem.
The problem is what they DON’T allow you to do.
They don’t give you the time to put out authority content.
They don’t give you the space to think long-term about where your business is going.
And they don’t give you the experience you really need to get better clients…
Or the confidence to charge more money.
So, being a business owner means thinking long-term.
Everybody says this shit — and I hate that I’m about to do it — but whatever:
Where do you want to be in five years?
Do you want to be working on McDonald’s resumes?
Or do you want to be working with incredible clients who will pay you boatloads of money to do what you love?
That doesn’t happen without the right mindset.
Believe me. I’ve tried.
So, if you have enough money for rent and groceries for the next few months:
Don’t focus on where your next client is going to come from…
Focus on where your best client is going to come from —
And find out what they want to see.
That way, when you get in front of them, you’ll have a bunch of evidence behind you that screams:
“I can help you. I know what I’m doing.”
If funds get low, take that McDonald’s resume project.
But, for as long as you can…
3. Put out content.
I’m convinced there are 2 types of people in this world:
Everyone is a Consumer. We all buy shit.
But not everyone is a Creator.
I know you create awesome stuff with [SIDE PROJECT], but you need to be that way with your own business as well.
And it might be hard at the beginning (at least it was/is for me) —
Because you don’t have a ton of experience.
But that’s just the lie we tell ourselves.
You don’t need a ton of experience. You just need a LITTLE more experience than your reader — and the guts to share your story.
As a personal example:
If I would have written one 1,000-word blog post per week since the day I officially went freelance…
That would be 88 blog posts now.
That’s a lot of words! But it’s not just the sheer volume of words that’s important…
It’s the message they communicate:
“This guy knows what he’s talking about.”
My point is —
Who is your potential client going to hire?
The girl with a decent-looking website who seems nice?
Or the girl with a decent-looking website who seems nice AND has a shit-ton of evidence that she actually knows what she’s talking about?
(There’s an obvious answer here.)
That’s why putting out content is important.
Right now, it’s scary (and I’m experiencing this too), because no one is paying you for it…
And you could be out there spending your time finding clients who actually want to pay you, right!?
And to add to that fear…
If you focus on building your brand and creating a name for yourself now…
You might miss out on some clients. But…
In a year or two, when people realize you’re legit —
You’re going to be able to land much bigger clients and charge them a lot more money.
4. You are an expert.
This was the hardest thing for me to realize —
No one is going to give you permission to be an expert.
You have to give yourself that permission.
No magic genie is going to say:
“Okay, now that you’ve written 100 blog posts and gotten positive feedback from clients, you’re an expert.”
That shit doesn’t happen.
It would be easier if it did. But it doesn’t.
So, give yourself permission to be the expert.
If you don’t, I’m doing it for you right now.
You’re an expert.
(Somebody did that for me a few weeks ago, and it was really nice. So I wanted to pass along the favor.)
As long as you continue learning and immersing yourself in the field —
You are an expert.
You may not be the #1 expert in the world, but you’re more of an expert than 99% of the population.
So don’t be afraid to put your wisdom out there.
Do be afraid. But do it anyway.
5. Ask for help.
I’ve had a cool opportunity over the past few weeks…
I’ve been able to talk to copywriters who are A LOT better than me.
In my short conversations with them —
I learned more than I could have in WEEKS by myself.
It’s always hard to admit you don’t know something…
That you’re not where you want to be…
That you have A LOT of room for improvement (very true in my case)…
But that’s the only way you’re going to get help.
And, here’s the best part —
People WANT to help!
I’ve been thinking about the idea of “self-made” people and how that’s bullshit.
Sure, some people have it harder than others…
Some have to work for literally everything they have…
But if they’re successful —
They’re not self-made.
Maybe they didn’t get much help on their path —
But without the people who buy whatever they’re selling…
They would be nothing.
They didn’t make money out of thin air, did they?
We all carve our own path, but none of us do it 100% alone.
That’s why a lot of people at the top want to help.
They got help on their way up.
So, join some Facebook groups, pay for an online course with a community, DM somebody and say:
“Hey, can you help me with this?”
More often than not —
The answer will be “yes.”
That’s It. Those Are My Best Tips For Building A Copywriting Business.
Follow those 5 tips, and you’ll be MUCH better off than I was when I started.
Oh — and one more thing:
Don’t charge by the hour.
That payment structure isn’t set up to help you build a business.
It’s set up so your client can get the most out of you with the smallest investment possible.
Employees get paid by the hour.
You’re not an employee. You’re a business owner, remember?
And — as you get better — you’ll complete projects faster. Don’t punish yourself for getting better.
Charge by the project whenever possible.
Clients will value your work more. You’ll be happier. And you’ll make more money.
Cool. I think that’s it.
I know you’re going to be a kick-ass business owner, and I’m excited to see what you accomplish.
As always, I’m here to help however I can.