The hard part is learning how to operate a small business and understanding how to manage clients.
Note that I didn’t say how to get clients…
I’m talking about how to manage the clients you already have so they stick with you.
There’s a chance that in the future I’ll spell out more about how to get copywriting clients, but honestly, that’s a different discussion.
A lot of copywriters are creative introverts, not a good combo for business…or so they say
I’ve noticed that there’s a black hole when it comes to straight talk about the very real pitfalls you may encounter as a freelance copywriter in business.
The truth is…the secret is…it’s really hard work.
You probably won’t become an overnight success.
You probably won’t make 6 figures in your first few years.
You probably won’t have a hit podcast or blog or whatever media is trending.
And that’s okay.
What will happen is…
You’ll be dropped into some crazy sales funnels while you’re looking to learn and grow a network.
That’s because for copywriters, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to turn off the persuasion.
You will look to other copywriters online for insight, knowledge, and advice.
But if they’re trying to sell you something, they’re probably not telling you the whole truth, right?
So I’m here to tell you—especially new copywriters—some of the less glamorous aspects of the biz so that you don’t feel like you have to compete with big shot influencers and you can just be yourself.
I really wish that I had discovered a list like this when I was just starting out.
I’m sure they exist, I just never found them.
Probably because SEO.
It would’ve been way more beneficial than trying to find cheap copies of Breakthrough Advertising which was not the immediate need.
I’m not trying to sell you a course or coaching sessions unless you email me.
This advice stems from my copywriting experience— it’s all true, but I won’t name names.
So, here goes…
5 Business Tips for New (and Experienced) Freelance Copywriters
1. Drop the employee mindset and above all else, don’t be an order taker
Your clients know not what they do.
Service providers like to complain about their clients, but the issues usually stem from a misunderstanding rooted in one or both of these things: you’re not an employee and you’re being an order taker.
You’re not an employee.
This is a big one. This means that you have to provide an experience and service that is so completely separate from what one would expect from an employee that it is undeniable that you are in fact not an employee.
The key to working this out is to not get involved in your client’s project management tools, weekly meetings, or internal decision-making…unless they have you on a nice retainer with ironclad terms. (I’m available for those!)
If you’re slipping into employee mode, perhaps you can become an actual employee or it’s time to raise your rate.
You’re being an order taker.
This is closely related to you’re not an employee, but it’s a bit trickier.
A lot of clients don’t know what they want or how to articulate it. They treat everyone like an employee and so do their teams.
They’re busy. They’re not thinking about it. They don’t know any better. No big deal.
You have to take ownership of the relationship from the very beginning of the engagement, or you will soon find yourself backing away slowly.
Act as a consultant. Share your copywriting knowledge, expertise, and value.
There’s a reason why they hired you—you have a skill/service/offer they need.
Make it clear that you provide XYZ service, with XYZ scope and deliverables and refer to the contract if things start to go astray.
TBH, I didn’t even work with contracts in the beginning…big mistake.
From the start, set your terms, work with contracts, and get out in front of it.
2. Know the difference between content and copywriting
I’ve written every kind of content and copy you can imagine.
Blogs. Emails. Sales pages. Landing pages. Lead magnets. Bios. Press releases. Pitches.
The list goes on and on…because that’s what writers do.
But you need to know the results your copy brings.
Ask for data about it.
Find out how your contributions help the organization you’re working with.
Copywriters can be so eager to work on projects with new clients, they forget to look around.
What are the stakes?
- Writing copy for sales brochures?
- Writing B2B copy that will be repurposed and repackaged across several marketing channels?
- Writing SEO blogs for the sake of the algorithm?
You get the point.
You need to know the value of the work you bring to the table— not just the price.
Once you’re crystal clear about how these written products will be used and/or distributed, you’ll have a much better understanding of your market value as a copywriter.
Ignore the vanity metrics flying around.
Just focus on the value you know that you bring and charge accordingly.
3. Stop focusing on funnels
Here’s the thing…
Don’t spend all of your time building funnels and SOPs before you have clients.
The more complicated and difficult it is for potential clients to get on the phone or Zoom with you, the harder it will be to get them to work with you.
Don’t make them jump through hoops.
I know this might seem counter to popular advice, but when you’re small, you don’t need overly complicated onboarding and sales funnels.
You simply need to speak to your clients directly and make a good offer.
Then you need to a deliver a seamless experience, with clear value and measurable results.
I’ve noticed that a lot of new freelancers (not necessarily copywriters) get involved in building complex systems before they even build a client base.
Skip the funnel work.
Yes, still market yourself— but it doesn’t have to be that intricate.
Ask yourself if you’re building a client base or an apparatus for procrastination that’s delaying risk.
There’s plenty of time to build out all of your systems and processes once you get traction.
Keep it simple.
4. Learn how to set boundaries
As someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family…boundary setting is always a challenge.
I quickly learned all about why freelance copywriters struggle with boundaries.
(They don’t want to say no!)
The bottom line is that you need to set boundaries and stick to them.
Otherwise, you’ll be writing the brand guidebook for a startup on your Saturday night.
Here are some of the ways freelancer boundaries get crossed:
- Asking you to work on weekends
- Asking you to manage other freelancers or contractors
- Expecting you to do little extras quickly…aka scope creep
- Using hostile or aggressive communication
- Asking for you to do work that isn’t part of your offer or area of expertise
I’m sure there are many more.
I can honestly say that all of the above have happened with multiple clients on many occasions.
Having clear boundaries makes it easy to protect your professional space so you can do good work.
It’s much easier to say no when you know your boundaries, so figure them out!
Of course we help out from time to time, and step in if something is urgent.
That’s to be expected when you’re doing business in good faith.
But boundaries start to get crossed when you’re working with people who don’t have any.
Just remember this timeless piece of internet advice:
“The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefited from you having none.”
5. Raise your rates, charge your worth….do good work
I should’ve charged higher rates from the beginning.
At least double.
My advice is to double your rates immediately.
Then you will be closer to market rates.
If you’d like to know them…email me or Google around.
More internet advice:
Your focus becomes your future.
So what are you focusing on?
Small business growth is like self help.
Get paid your worth.
Raise your standards.
Change your mindset.
All of that.
Philly Copywriter Conclusion
I’m a freelance copywriter based in Philadelphia. I figure out what to write, when and where to publish it, and how to position brands for success.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org