I’ve had a pretty good year with my copywriting business. And so far, it looks like next year is going to start off on the write, or make that, right foot.
For example, I was recently contacted by one client for whom I’ve been writing for two years. When I sent the invoice for November’s work, I was at the end of our current Editorial Calendar.
I asked if we were continuing on and the answer came back yes. And, shortly after that the topics for next year, including December of this year, arrived in my inbox.
I still have some follow-ups to do on current clients and new prospects.
Getting a plan together for next year’s outbound marketing is in the works as well. I’ve got a list of people I need to reach out to in my B2B niche.
Honestly, reaching out has been the weakest part of my marketing efforts. That needs to change if I’m going to shift my freelance copy business into a higher gear.
Let’s face it… I’m not getting any younger! My boss at work recently retired at 70. I really don’t want to wait that long. Working entirely from home would allow me to enjoy more family life, particularly with my grandkids.
Mary enjoyed going with me to AWAI’s Bootcamp in Florida this past October. Even though it was a business trip, we had a wonderful time together. Getting free of the time clock would allow more of these excursions together… maybe even extended ones!
So, pushing harder is definitely in the works for this coming year.
I was talking to one of my buddies at work the other day. We’re kind of in the same boat… wanting and waiting to leave the rat race of employment. While we’re taking different approaches to it, the goal is the same.
One remark he made gave me pause. He mentioned how much my writing business has grown since the days of the five-dollar articles. I’ve been keeping him informed of my progress and he’s been impressed.
But, it got me thinking. If I could go back to the beginning and start over, what would I change? What would I do differently?
Given what I know now seven years later, there are definitely some things I’d have avoided. And, some things I’d have done sooner, with more effort.
That’s speculation and I don’t have a time machine to go back and start over. But, if you’re just starting your B2B copywriting journey, perhaps you could benefit from my musings. Maybe you can get a better (quicker) start by learning from my mistakes.
Here’s how to avoid the mistakes I’ve made…
It’s only a business if you make it one
If you’re reading this, you’re a member of the B2B Writing Success website. And, that means you’re looking to make a business or career out of writing.
In my early days, it was anything but a business venture to me. In fact, you could call it a desperation move on my part. I’d lost a pretty good chunk of change when the company I work for went on a money-saving spree.
And so, the quest to make up that money got underway.
Honestly, writing was just a stop gap measure to stop the hemorrhaging of cash. I never really thought of it as a business venture. But, the more I got into it, the more I realized that it could become a cash machine.
So, it took on the form of a hobby… a profitable hobby. It was hard to believe I could make a business of it, however. Then, one day I woke up. Turns out there are many businesses that started small. Businesses born in garages, basements, dormitories, and living rooms.
Some “small businesses” come to mind: Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and even LinkedIn. While I might not become the powerhouse company that these are, I realized I could still start and run a profitable business… even with a full-time job.
Thing is… I had start thinking like a business owner. But, eventually the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. While some of these pieces weren’t really necessary, at least to start, adding each one made me feel like a business owner. Some of them were and still are:
- A City of Fayetteville Business Permit
- Accounting software
- A Microsoft Office 365 business account
- Real training from actual working copywriters
Another piece was added this year: a DBA checking account. Finally, Steve Maurer Freelance Writing is recognized by my bank. And, should someone sign my check with my business name instead of my given name, I now deposit it with no hassle.
Another unexpected benefit came from that DBA account. All of my freelancing money is deposited to that account. I can actually see my business grow.
My advice to you is to start thinking like a business. Discover what it takes to make it a legitimate venture. Then, start adding those features as time and money allow.
Additionally, early on in the “formative years,” I realized I needed something else to drive my income higher.
It was a pivotal step in my freelance copywriting career.
I should have focused on a niche or target market earlier
If you’ve been following me on this blog, you know how important I believe a niche is for your business. I talk a lot about the concept.
I’ve also been watching social media and other forums, and have found this a hot topic. Now, I’m not going to go into how to determine your niche. (You can find guidance on that here.)
But, I will say this.
It wasn’t until I finally gave in and chose my niche that business started to pick up more quickly. For several years, I wandered around aimlessly, taking anything and everything.
Honestly, it was mostly scraps.
As with most of what I did when starting out, I made defining my target market way too hard. It’s really not difficult, though I thought it was. I hit a wall because of that mindset.
But, I took a training program that helped. And, I reached out to someone I trusted for advice.
I really believe that a niche is a crucial part of running a business, particularly a B2B copywriting business. Once chosen, my niche guided everything I did, from the programs I studied to my marketing materials and website.
So, my advice to you is to find a niche to write for. Don’t get too obsessed, though. If you don’t have one, keep writing anyway until you do. Write for various markets and keep good notes on what you’re doing and what it takes to get it done.
It’s true that sometimes you choose your niche… but, sometimes it chooses you.
When you find the niche that’s best for you to work with, concentrate your efforts there.
This next item won’t take too long to describe. But, it stunted my growth… a lot.
I majored in the minor stuff
This really hampered me. And I see a lot of new writers getting mired in the muck of minutia like I did. My dad used to tell me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and, it’s all small stuff.”
Please don’t get offended… these things are important, for sure. But, they’ll hold you back if you spend too much time on them.
Three of the main stumbling blocks that tripped me up were:
- Website address: I changed it about five times. I see many new writers running polls on Facebook about picking just the right URL. Keep it simple. If you can get your name or some derivative of it, take it. One of the most successful copywriters I know is Bob Bly. His website? bly.com.
- Business name: Yeah, I changed that a couple of times as well. I searched high and low for just the right name. Turns out, it was very much like finding the best website address. And, the simpler the better, in my opinion.
- Logo: This is another piece often polled on Facebook. And I understand… you want something to draw attention. You want something that just oozes “you.” Hey, I did the same… and wasted about two months on it. My current and probably my forever logo? My business name with a hard hat next to it. Don’t obsess on this either. I did — and shouldn’t have.
There are a few other things that slowed my down. Things that were quite inconsequential in the long run. Had I spent less time majoring in the minors, I’d have no doubt spent more time on things that mattered, like getting through my training, marketing my business, and writing for clients.
This final mistake cost me a lot, however.
I was the Lone Ranger for too long
In 2014, I attended my first AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp. Up until that time, I’d been a loner. With little or no interaction with other copywriters, my growth was stunted quite a bit.
However, at my second Bootcamp in 2015, I connected with a few other writers. We formed a peer group called the Coast2Coast Copywriters. It’s hard to explain how much this meant for my business.
We’re scattered around the country, but meet on the phone almost every Tuesday. We discuss copywriting. But, we’ve also forged friendship where we share our lives as well.
If I had it to do all over, I’d get with a group much sooner. Sitting alone in my office in Arkansas made me isolated, almost insulated from what was going on in the world of copywriting.
Sure, there was always the online groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, and other forums. And they’re a good start. But, the camaraderie we share within our group is more personal. We can let our guards down and get real with each other.
My advice is that you seek out others to meld with as well. The friendships you make will keep your mind sane during the tough times. And in the good times, you’ll have a group to celebrate your successes with you.
In closing, I hope you found this look back on my writing career helpful. And, looking forward to the New Year ahead, I hope you take some of this advice and advance your own business, taking it to new and higher levels.
Meet me back here next week! And as always…
Here’s wishing you the very best of B2B Writing Success!