Should you close your freelance copywriting business?
Have you been thinking about closing your freelance copywriting business and working in-house instead?
Ouch. Talk about a difficult decision…
You may be thinking of closing up shop for a number of reasons:
– You aren’t hitting your financial goals, and you’re in debt (or heading that way.)
– You’re burned out and your heart isn’t in it anymore.
– You realize you could go farther, faster if you worked in-house.
– You’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
I’ve gone through this myself. About 10 years ago, I was one fried woman. A number of huge life hits left me bruised and battered. I felt lonely, burned out and frustrated. Working in-house seemed like the perfect solution – it was a stable paycheck, and I could work with some great people.
(I lasted six months before I realized I made a mistake – but it was a great lesson.)
If you’re feeling this way, you are not alone. At all. I’ve talked to many freelance copywriters who dream about taking a “real job.”
But they don’t like to talk about it because they feel ashamed. Or, they may feel like they’ve failed or done something horribly wrong.
And that can’t be further from the truth.
There is no law that says you have to keep your business doors open forever. However, you’ll want to be very (very) sure that closing shop is the best thing for you.
If you’re facing this dilemma, here are some things you can do.
– Talk to someone. Don’t let this bottle up inside of you. You aren’t the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. It’s important to get this stuff OUT.
– Assess the core issue behind the urge to get a in-house copywriting job. Is it financial? Are you burned out? Are you tired of the self-employment stress?
– Be gentle with yourself. If you’re working 12-hour days, six days a week, of course you’re going to burn out. Before you make a major leap, consider if you need a little self-care first. Once you’re stuck in burnout land, finding financial opportunities is challenging.
– Are your expectations realistic? Do you keep hearing about “six-figure copywriters” and wonder why you’re only making five figures your first year? Relax. Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous slippery slope.
– Ask yourself how you can improve the situation. Do you need business-building skills or a business mentor to help you with the financial aspects? If you’re feeling particularly stuck, chatting with someone can provide insights you may not figure out on your own.
– Consider creative solutions. Do you need a stable income? Some jobs will let you freelance part time. That way, you can keep your business, and still enjoy the security of a paycheck.
– Is the opportunity too good to pass up? Take it! Sure, you may not really want to take a “real job,” but some gigs are really cool…and ones you won’t be able to land as a freelancer.
As a side note:
Beware taking a job just for the money. No matter how many Benjamins an employer throws at you, you need to like the people, the company and what you’ll be doing. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a high-paying job you hate (and you may not be able to exit easily.) Trust me. A little company research goes a long way…
Are you burned out and need some business-building help? I can help. Check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp and learn how to increase your income without working so darn hard.
So funny that you wrote this. I just applied to two jobs that seem too enticing to pass up. Also, health insurance is getting so incredibly expensive, almost unbearable. I’m sure everybody knows about http://www.freelancersunion.org/. I’ll be checking out their health insurance soon. Sigh. I love working for myself. Anyone else find decent health insurance for themselves and kids?
@Suzanne – that’s a good point about health insurance. It’s hard enough to pay for your own insurance – but if you have to insure children as well, it gets incredibly expensive. That is one “real job” benefit – free (or cheap) insurance!
Good luck with the job opportunities! Do you know if they’ll let you freelance on the side?
Keep us posted!
A very timely piece, for me anyway. After 7 years of business, I have considered knocking the copywriting on the head and just going back to plain old technical writing instead. There are several reasons for this:
*Although I like writing for different businesses, I find it draining to be creative and to write in a style that’s not always ‘mine’ (i.e. more formal, business stuff).
*I’m in far more demand as a tech writer and the money is consistently good.
* I find tech writing much easier than copywriting
* I’m sick of having to keep up-to-date with SEO. This is the biggie for me…even though I’m a technical minded person, I find keeping up-to-date with Google a real pain and a chore.
But I’m leaning towards keeping my hand-in with copywriting just to give myself more opportunities. It is tough to know what to do for the best.
@Craig – would you work in-house as a technical writer? Or would you still freelance?
I’ve found that my business focus has morphed quite a bit over the last 15+ years. Sounds like yours has morphed as well. That’s one interesting thing about being in business for awhile. You learn what you love to do, what you’d rather not do, and how to focus your energies.
You can always have copywriting as your “side gig” and focus more on technical writing. If nothing else, it’s an additional profit center – and that’s a wonderful thing!
Keep us posted! :)
I work as a contractor with the technical writing, so kind of semi-freelance – generally, I am employed by an agency to work at one of their clients’ sites. So far, it has been a mix of 4 month and 6 month contracts (I was a full time employed tech writer for 15 years before that). I have done a little bit of freelance tech writing too, where it was just me and the client and no parasitic agencies involved :)
Truth is, there is nothing I love to do so I have to make do with making a living from what I am good at. Tech writing comes easier than copywriting, but both can be draining in different ways. You’re right, having the copywriting as a “side gig” is always going to be a bonus.
And at least in the UK, I don’t have to fork out for medical insurance. :)
After many years as a freelance copywriter, I accepted a job from my biggest client, an ad agency – partly because I would no longer have been able to keep them as a client otherwise.
A mistake. The work was ok – at first. But my other clients got neglected, and I had forgotten how corrosive office politics can be, especially in an agency going downhill, as this one was. After two years I left and went back to freelancing. Much, much better in every way.
@Peter – I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Ah yes, office politics. I’m not a big fan of them. That’s the nice thing about self-employment. Your boss (you) may be dysfunctional…but at least you understand the dysfunction and can deal with it much easier!
I’m sure loads of us find a freelance career very much game of brinkmanship in the first few years. And I know I certainly feel like I’m continually teetering on the edge.
But no way would I contemplate giving up now. For a start, I think working for myself has now rendered me completely ‘unemployable’.
I particularly like your suggestion of exploring part-time options in the event that times did get tough.
A few months stabilising your financial position may actually be a good thing. With a bit more cash in your pocket and a stable background income, you may be able to bat away those low paid gigs that you might otherwise have taken in desperation.
Good point, @Kevin. Having a part time job (even one you know is temporary,) will certainly help you make different business (and client) decisions. Plus, some people like having the “best of both worlds.” They like having a stable gig – even if it’s part time. But they also get to spread their freelance wings and have fun building their business.
I completely agree with your “unemployable” statement. I think I’ve been that way for a long, long time… :)
I always wondered what I would do if someone offered me a well-paying job full time. No one ever has. It’s kind of insulting actually. ;) My issue would be job security. Even if someone offered me more than what I’m making now, how do I know if the job would last? I’ve worked hard to build up my client list (that pays 3x more than copywriter jobs in my area) and that is worth a heck of a lot! Plus I may make more in the future if I keep my business model. That said, if you truly aren’t very good at running your business even after coaching, then a regular job might be better for you. Going solo isn’t for everyone. Re. Health insurance … I’ve paid big time over the years … I used to say I would be well off if it weren’t for health insurance. I checked with a different agent and got a plan that is much lower … so do shop around.
@Katherine, be careful what you wish for. Before you know it, someone may dangle a mid six-figure job in front of you and ask if you’re interested. :) Not a bad problem to have, actually!
If you have any health insurance carrier recommendations, I’m sure that the group would LOVE to know who you are using. I’m lucky – I’m covered under my hubby’s insurance. When I was single, I used to say that my insurance covered being put in a broom closet. That’s if I was lucky…