3 business-killing freelance copywriting traps

Welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video how-to, Heather discusses the three common traps she has seen freelance copywriters – both experienced and new – repeatedly fall into, all too often bringing their copywriting businesses down with them.

Tune in to see if any of these trap scenarios resonate with you, and find out what to do instead to enjoy a more profitable, happier, and healthier freelance copywriting business…

Freelance Copywriting Trap #1:  Taking on every client you can just because “it’s money,”

This trap is not solely one that freelance copywriters often fall into – anyone with their own business is at risk for taking this tumble.  But for those freelance copywriters who are first starting out, it is especially easy to do this because it’s exciting to get that paycheck and realize that wow! you’re on your way to having your own business.

Or if you’ve been in business for awhile, you may feel like you need to take on every client you can because you’ve got expenses, and if someone wants to pay you, then you should let them pay you – right? But…

It’s important to…

  • Enjoy the work

Taking on every client possible can back fire on you, because sometimes that means you’re taking on work you don’t enjoy. And even though you can turn it around and collect, chances are you won’t enjoy the process and your work can suffer for it. You may mean to turn in quality writing, but chances are it will not be as good as it would be if you enjoyed the work.

  • Get paid what you need to earn

Another consequence of taking on every client you can is that you risk accepting less money than you’d like to make, or need to make.

This is another situation where, if you start slicing your rates figuring “All right, well it’s money in the door – I might as well take it,” then you’re not going to do that good of a job for the client in question, and you might start resenting the client – even though it was you who decided to take the gig in the first place.

So it’s always a smart idea to work with clients who are going to pay you your rates, rather than discounting your services just to get money in the door.

  • Know you can easily meet the client’s deadline

Here’s a scenario: You take on a client who requires a next-day turnaround, even though you already have five other projects on your plate. So you burn the midnight oil trying to get everything done on time, and again, the quality of the work suffers, you burn yourself out, and it isn’t a good experience for either you or the client.

So consider all of these points when taking on a new client: will you enjoy the work? will it pay what you need to earn? can you easily meet the client’s deadline? If you can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, then definitely, take the gig!

Freelance Copywriting Trap #2:  Not paying attention to taxes and contracts

The second trap common to both established and new copywriters is to ignore the business side of their business, like contracts and taxes.

If this sounds like you, then this is something to get a handle on, and fast. In fact…

  • If you want to stay in business, this is crucial.
  • You need to learn everything you can to protect yourself.

Not only will getting a handle on the business side of your business help you make more money, but it will also help you protect yourself.

For instance, suppose you have a disagreement with a client who seems to think they’re entitled to 15 revisions of a web page. If you have a solid contract you can point to it and say, “Well, I’m not going to do 15 revisions of your web page; my contract states that I will provide two.” End of argument.

  • Talking to a professional doesn’t have to be expensive…

Many folks get stuck in this trap by thinking that consulting with an attorney or CPA will be prohibitively expensive. Not so!

My attorney Bob Ellis, who teaches a class in the Copywriting Business Boot Camp, makes it clear that talking with a legal (or other) professional doesn’t have to be expensive. Attorneys are accustomed to dealing with folks who don’t necessarily have that much money, especially for drawing up a very simple client contract.

You probably don’t need a big, complex contract. So find professionals you can work with and let them know that you have a limited budget and that you are trying to grow your business. They’ll often be happy to work with you, knowing that down the road, as your business grows, you’ll likely be using their services much more – and they want to grow with you!

Freelance Copywriting Trap #3:  Using low-value referral sources as your only marketing avenue

The third common trap of freelance copywriters – which I hear about literally every day – is to rely solely on low-value referral sources such as Elance and Odesk. My advice:

  • Snap out of it!

If you’re using low-value referral sources, and if they’re not working for you – meaning, you’re not making the money you want or need to make, or you’re not finding the clients you want to find – then it’s time to do something different.

  • Get your marketing plan in order and figure out your uniqueness.

This is where you need to define your niche market, and define what it is that makes you unique. This is also where you need to figure out how to market yourself: just like you do for your clients, you need to do for yourself!

  • You shouldn’t have to apologize for making a liveable wage.

If you don’t want to make only $10 for a 500-word article, it’s okay to say no, and find those clients who will pay you what you want to be paid.

  • Figure out your rates and stick to them!

Once you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, it’s a lot easier to find the type of clients that you want to work with, and they will be more than happy to pay you the money that you need to be paid, because they understand the value.

If you’re interested in becoming (or transitioning into) a full-time freelance copywriter, or even part-time, or if you already have a business that you’re looking to make better, I’m starting the next Turn Content Into Cash Copywriting Business Boot Camp next Monday, July 16th, taught by 12 of the world’s leading experts – at a special summer rate of 30% off (a value of $300)!

Space is limited to 15 participants, so apply now to reserve your space (and please be sure to carefully follow the application process to ensure that the training will be a good fit for you).  Here are some of the highlights of the training:

  • Learn how to make much more money as a copywriter – and have a happier, healthier business, too!
  • Learn from Bob Bly, Eva Rosenberg, Sean D’Souza and other leading experts.
  • Six week program with lifetime access!

Classes are starting soon – apply today!

Thanks for tuning in! If you have a question for Heather, or a suggestion for a blog or video topic, please let her know: heather@seocopywriting.com or via Twitter @heatherlloyd.  See you next week!


image thanks to Patrick Hoesly









5 replies
  1. craig wright says:

    Great work and really relevant to my current situation…especially the bit about the rates! I am always reducing my rates and regretting it later. No more!!

    I still can’t get over how you Americans pronounce niche though :)

    • Heather says:

      LOL – niche, niche, niche :) No more reducing and regretting! You may lose some gigs because of it – but those may have been the gigs you didn’t really want, anyway… :)

  2. jun mallorca says:

    Another great article. I agree that most freelance copywriters are still taking projects from low-value referral sources and they even accept copywriting projects at $1 per 500 words article.


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