While I had a full-time job, I started two businesses: This one (Make it clear) and my online gift business Gift Boss.
Two years ago, I had no intention of running my own business, let alone businesses. So I thought it would be worthwhile going back in time and writing down how it all happened. It’s quite a detailed account, so I’ve broken it up into several parts. If you’re still with me, great. Let’s get started!
Part 2: Becoming a freelance copywriter
Quitting my secure job and heading out into the world of freelance copywriting was something that happened slowly over the course of 12 months. While I would love to say that I was that person who threw their 9 to 5 job out the window and jumped head first into full-time freelance work, I’m not. I’m a little more risk-averse than that. And I have a Sydney mortgage to pay. So this just wasn’t feasible.
To be honest, going freelance was never about money anyway. I was under no illusion that I would be able to replace my salary, or even come close, for at least the first few years after making the switch. But that didn’t matter to me. The decision to go freelance was about the freedom that came from working for myself and the flexibility that this new life would allow me to have. Go for a walk and listen to a podcast whenever I want? Don’t mind if I do!
So, with that aspiration firmly etched in my mind, I set up my first business – Make it clear – while I was still a full-time employee. Make it clear is my freelance copywriting business which I started because, put simply, I love to write. And what I love to write the most (and what I think I’ve been pretty good at over the years) is clear concise copy that helps people communicate effectively with their audiences.
I came up with a business name that speaks to exactly what I think I can do for others (make things clear), registered an ABN (surprisingly easy), bought the domain on GoDaddy and built a basic website with Weebly. All in one weekend. How pleased was I with myself? Very, until I realised that that was the easy part of starting a business. The tricky part was yet to come.
Hustle hustle hustle
When you’re running your own business or freelance gig, you need to work really hard at putting yourself out there (uncomfortable for me) and building up your online presence on Google or on social media (tough in a crowded market). So I started with the easiest approach: the ‘telling everyone you come into contact with about your new business’ method. The hairdresser, the massage therapist, the osteopath, the property manager, friends, family, neighbours, my parents’ neighbours and even work colleagues, all copped an earful of my new venture. And it paid off. My first client happened to call me about a conversation we had had months ago about property investment. I threw in a casual “Who writes your newsletter content? Because I’ve started freelance copywriting now…”, which led to us brainstorming a content series about investing in Newcastle (which his company was exploring as a new market). The articles I wrote for him resulted directly in client interest in the services his company offered. Boom. Content marketing at its finest.
Following this content series, the client engaged me to write the copy for their new website and client communications, and he also started referring me to people he knew who needed a copywriter. Winning! The timing of our initial conversation really was so fortunate, as was the courage to ask who did their content (what have you got to lose by asking?!). Securing the first client when I did gave me a little boost of confidence that I was doing the right thing, and that good work is rewarded with more work. My first copywriting client took a chance on me, had a mind open to the benefits that clever content can have on their bottom line, and for that I am forever grateful.
You rub my back…
My next clients were two sisters who ran a holistic health business and needed help with their website copy and blog articles. They didn’t have much budget so we worked out a ‘skill swap’ system where my husband and I would get free massage and osteo appointments in exchange for copywriting and copy editing services. I was happy with this arrangement. After all, I was still starting out plus the years spent at a computer had given me chronic neck and shoulder tightness and pain. So this arrangement worked nicely. And my freeloading husband thought it was pretty good too.
I fit my freelance work in on weekends and some evenings after I got home from my day job. Thankfully my 9 to 5 wasn’t exhausting or mentally draining enough to impact my ability to fit this in. If I was stressed out at work, or worked long hours (on top of my pretty significant commute), there’s no way I would have been able to start my side hustle. You really do need a certain amount of energy and mental clarity to be able to write and keep up with the business admin, such as quoting, invoicing, managing expenses and keeping the website up-to-date.
My list of copywriting clients began to grow purely through referrals which I was very thankful for, and I began to write for all sorts of industries: from artificial intelligence, to children’s toys, to financial advice, to event styling to GPS fleet tracking to Iyengar Yoga. I loved it all and I particularly loved working directly with small business owners. It was easy, agile and most of all, satisfying. I could see my work up on their websites or social media straight away, rather than having to go through the multiple rounds of stakeholder review, compliance and legal sign off and meetings that epitomised corporate life. Ah, I don’t miss that at all!
In Part 3, I reflect on what made me start another business. Stay tuned!
This is the section where I tell you a little bit more about me. Not just as a freelance copywriter, but who I am as a person. The things that I like, the things that challenge me, my small business journey, freelance life, my copywriting and marketing tips, personal stuff and more. Because if you have a clear picture of who I am, then I feel you're in a better position to decide if I’m the freelance copywriter for you. Let’s go!