10 stupid business mistakes smart writers make

Are you fearful of a business #FAIL?

Whether you’ve been in business ten days or ten years, it’s easy to make little mistakes that can have a lasting impact. Here are the 10 most common business mistakes I see smart writers make:

  • Missing deadlines. Don’t do it, unless you have an extremely good reason. It makes you look flaky and puts an undue strain on your client. If you know up front that you can’t make a deadline, express your concern or don’t take the gig. If the worst happens and you do have to miss a deadline, line up another copywriter to cover your work.
  • Forgetting to invoice clients. How much would your cash flow improve if you collected everything that’s owed you? It’s amazing how many solopreneurs forget to invoice their clients and end up in a cash crunch at the end of the month. Services like Paymo and FreshBooks can help. P.S. – Clients hate it when you send three months of invoices and say, “Oops, I’m a bit behind. Please pay this immediately.” At the same time, it’s bad form to…
  • Send an email to the client three days after the invoice was sent asking if it’s been paid. Your email will scream “I’m desperate, please pay me fast,” and totally turn off your client. Yes, definitely check in if it’s been over 30 days or if the bill is late. Otherwise, give it some time.
  • Dropping the communication ball. Your clients will love you if you send them quick status report emails and answer their emails quickly. Good customer service is so rare that this one little thing will make your service shine. Waiting days to email because “You don’t know anything yet,” will drive your client nuts and cause them to think about you in cranky ways.
  • Talking about leads/clients on social networking sites. One of the best business pieces of advice my father gave me was, “Keep your mouth shut.” Congratulate yourself if a big fish comes your way, but don’t talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. I have seen writers kicked out of the running (or fired) because they said a little too much. If you treat everything as confidential, you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. :)
  • Not having a well-optimized, compelling site. How can clients trust you to do a good job with their site if they can’t see what yours looks like? Richard Hostler, Senior SEO copywriter from Brookstone recommends that new copywriters optimize their site for their name, as well as their other top keyphrases. When clients type your name into Google or Bing – voila – your name pops up in the top spot and they can read all about you.
  • Being afraid to speak up. I’ve chatted with scads of copywriters who say, “The agency gave me these keyphrases that I know are wrong, but I’m afraid to say anything to the client.” You need to own what you do and know that you’re good. Not speaking up harms the client and the campaign – plus forces you to create sub-par work. There’s no reason to put yourself (and your client) in that position.
  • Not keeping up-to-date with the latest SEO news because you “don’t have time.” There is nothing more embarrassing than an informed client asking a question about the latest Google update – and you having no idea what they’re talking about. Make sure that at least 10 percent of your day is spent educating yourself on the latest and greatest. Yes, it sounds like a lot of time. Yes, you’ll really need to spend it.
  • Holding yourself back. Expanding your business is scary. So is taking on larger clients, asking for more money per page or taking a vacation when you know you really need it. Plan out what you want to do and do it. If you “fail” – so what? Pick yourself up and try again. This goes along with…
  • Not taking care of you. I’ve said it before – if you don’t take care of yourself, you literally put your entire business at risk. Figure out the schedule and pace that works for your lifestyle. Laugh with your friends. Eat well. Exercise (This is a great guide if you need help getting on track.) Your energy levels will skyrocket if you do. Trust me.

What about you? What stupid business mistakes do you see new and established SEO writers make?

7 replies
  1. Adrian Maynard
    Adrian Maynard says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips! I especially loved the importance you put on having a well-optimized site. Many writers simply think about what they can do externally for other companies. However, no company will go near you if your website leaves something to be desired.

  2. Amy C. Teeple
    Amy C. Teeple says:

    Heather, I had to laugh at the second mistake. It sounds like something that only a crazy person would do – forget to invoice … so I guess I’m crazy.

    I am working on a better tracking system that better prompts me to send an invoice. Look at that – it’s May already. I guess I have some invoices to send! :-)

    Thanks for all of the tips!

    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Ha! I think we’ve all made the “Oops, I forgot to invoice” mistake from time to time. So you’re not crazy. Well, at least not around the invoicing stuff…. :)

      Thanks, Amy! :)

  3. Carolyn Frith
    Carolyn Frith says:

    I agree that you absolutely have to have a good website that demonstrates your natural copywriting style. Also, you can use your website as a test lab to experiment with search engine optimization. Prospects will take note if your website is perched on the top of the search engine rankings. Oh–and on the invoice thing — I love to invoice!

  4. Damien Elsing
    Damien Elsing says:

    Great post heather – thanks for tweeting about it for those of us who missed it first time round.

    Especially liked the part about communicating with the client. Oh, and invoicing – something I think most of us put off until the last possible minute!

    • Heather
      Heather says:

      It’s funny about invoicing, isn’t it? You think that we’d do that as soon as possible…but it’s amazing how that task gets pushed out…. 😉

      Thanks for your comment!


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