It’s been a year since I properly launched Icon Copy, so I thought I’d share some things I’ve learnt from my first year in business.
Read on to find out more!
Perfection is Procrastination.
Don’t worry about a niche if you don’t have one yet. You can spend forever trying to tick off everything on a “start your business” checklist but it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and never get going.
Obviously, if you have a niche, go for it! If you know everything about food and drinks marketing or you are THE go-to person in regards to hair scrunchie manufacture then that’s fantastic! You have a headstart on creating your website, content, social media and marketing because you already know who you are talking to.
However, if, like me, you’ve dipped your toe in many career ponds and have found copywriting through a love of communication, creativity, writing and language then it can be more tricky. My advice is just START. Try freelancer platforms to get some initial jobs and reviews. This will give you an idea of bidding processes, writing proposals and help you find out what and who you like writing for.
Over the course of the last year, I have written an enormous range of copy and content for all sorts of different companies which has been great fun and a really beneficial learning curve. The best part? I have started seeing a pattern in the types of jobs I’m getting and what I enjoy doing the most.
If you don’t believe it, who will? Imposter syndrome is a big factor for so many of us. Whether starting a business, studying, or going for a promotion our brains make us feel like a fraud! When I started out, I still had a couple of other part-time jobs on the go as well as studying for a Master’s in applied linguistics. I noticed I wasn’t telling people that I was a copywriter when they asked.
The more I’ve introduced myself as a copywriter, the more confident I’ve become. Try it!
Don’t Rush into Projects
It’s so easy to get really excited when you get a new enquiry for work. You might find yourself just saying yes to things, especially when the client says they are in a rush. The thing is, by not taking your time to do a proper discovery call, pre-start questions, or project brief you might find the project takes longer than you thought. This can be stressful for you and problematic for the client. Make sure you know exactly what the client is looking for, think about how long it will take and what to charge and don’t be afraid to walk away.
Use a Timer
This has been helpful in many ways. Pre-launch and for a lot of last year, I found I spent a lot of time tinkering on my website, writing blogs or notes for blogs, working on social media engagement, researching marketing, and so on. I felt really busy but none of that was making me money.
I started using a timer to limit how long I spend creating content and engaging on social media, freeing up more time to focus on actual work.
Now I use a timer for everything! It has been especially helpful to review how long jobs have taken when quoting for similar jobs. When you are starting out, use a timer to get to grips with how long jobs actually take you. You may be surprised how little time the writing actually takes. If you have only quoted for writing time you are going to be seriously undercharging and find you have little time for all the jobs you have taken on!
Research and editing can take as long, if not longer than the writing. The time for the whole project needs to be included in your quote and your scheduling so you can manage expectations with your clients while ensuring you have time to complete jobs with excellence.
I use Toggl as it has a Pomodoro timer feature on the phone app. (Look it up if you don’t know what it is. Hint: it ain’t a pasta sauce)
You Will Make Mistakes
Own up to them, be kind to yourself and don’t let them define you.
Try these on for size:
Waiting for potentially big clients. Most of the time that ‘sure thing’ isn’t so certain, other times, people will come back out of the woodwork and surprise you! Keep in touch, foster relationships, and let your personality shine through.
Spelling mistakes! *cringe* Yes, even copywriters make mistakes. I sent a MailChimp email out with an error in the subject heading. To be fair, I was also figuring out Mailchimp at the time and didn’t mean to send it but my god! How embarrassing right?
I wrote a LinkedIn post about it immediately. It made me feel better.
Misunderstanding the client. If you’ve taken your time at the start of a project to understand the task you can minimise this but just check anything you aren’t sure about before you start writing.
Don’t Take Too Much on
This is my biggest problem. I got very excited about working for myself and wanted to do loads of projects and volunteering and ended up totally burning out towards the end of the year. Whatever reason you started your business for, it’s no good if you don’t actually start it first! While I don’t always follow my own advice I am a big advocate for being kind to yourself. I guarantee you’ll get more done in the long run.
Get a Change of Scenery
If you are on your own at home all day every day it is mind-numbing. More of us have experienced this than ever these last two years.
I have made a promise to myself to go out to work from somewhere else once a week. Whether that’s with another friend who works from home at their house, or from a cafe somewhere nearby it is so refreshing and surprisingly productive.
It is also a fantastic way to support local independent businesses! So if you love that local cafe, get down there.
I’m Still Learning
Above all, it is important to remember to always be adaptable and responsive to new things you may learn. Industries are always changing, client needs might suddenly flip or you might find yourself writing for a niche you never dreamed of!
There is no one size fits all advice I can give, experiment and find what works for you. Don’t let anyone rush you, and be confident.
I’m still learning and long may it be so! I’m sure I’ll be back next January with seven different things I’ve learnt.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What have you learnt in your career so far? What do you wish you’d known?
Drop me a comment to let me know!
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