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How to Start Your Own Freelance SEO Copywriting Business

Five posts on launching your own freelance copywriting business is featuredRecently, I gathered a collection of Heather’s posts about surviving in the highly competitive SEO freelance copywriting business.

Today, I’ve selected a complementary set of Heather’s posts on how to start your own freelance business – beginning at the beginning.

These posts are a mashup of both video how-to’s and Heather’s regular Thursday posts. For those of you (like me, like Heather) who prefer to read content, rest assured that the video posts included are all accompanied by narrative text.

So without further prefacing, let’s get on with Heather’s best on how to successfully start and manage freelance copywriting business…

 

Plan for SuccessLaunching your freelance copywriting business: plan for success!

Preceded by how to: define a niche market, ask for a writing deposit, deal with writing revisions, stand firm by your rates, protect yourself with a contract (no matter the size of the gig), and hone in on the services to offer your clients, in this video post Heather gets down to the nitty-gritty of how to launch your freelance copywriting business – by making a smart plan.

 

 

Dive or Wade in?Should you dive or wade into a freelance copywriting business?

Wondering whether to just take the plunge in starting your new freelance copywriting business? Or would it be a better strategy to slowly wade in? In this final installment of her How to start an SEO copywriting business video posts, Heather outlines the pros and cons of each approach.

 

 

 

31 Questions for your client52 questions to ask your new copywriting client

Asking questions is the best way to get at the answers you need to write highly effective, targeted SEO content. Meaning, content that resonates with your clients’ prospects and succeeds with conversions. Think your list of 10 questions is a bit much? Try 52 – from reporting to marketing to process/procedure questions – to drill down to the details you need to generate great conversions-driving SEO copy that best helps your new client.

 

Sales Call Success7 tips for sales call success

So this is it: you’ve the questions you need to ask (above) and have scheduled a call with your perfect prospect. No worries: with these seven business-savvy tips from Heather (backed by her five confidence-boosting tips to help your prepare for prospect calls) you will close the deal. Easily.

 

 

 

How to raise your ratesHow to raise your freelance copywriting rates

Now that you’ve some momentum in your freelance copywriting business, and have (hopefully) accumulated some case studies and killer testimonials, you’re ready to ask for a raise. This can be a very uncomfortable and somewhat scary thing to do. Here, Heather outlines six things to consider if you’re thinking about raising your freelance copywriting rates.

 

photo thanks to Steven Depolo

The Do’s & Don’ts of Partnering with Other Web Content Providers

I took a big step this week for my company – I closed its virtual doors.

But I’m far from being out of business. I’ve decided to focus on content marketing clients who are also working with a marketing company for complementary services like social media and inbound marketing strategy.

Working with partners – whether formal or informal – has helped me reach new levels in my business. And it can do the same thing for yours too. But you need to be careful you aren’t compromising yourself, your ethics, or your sanity when you strike up a partnership.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that I wish I’d had when I first started working with partners.

DO look for complimentary partners for your SEO copywriting services.

Fortunately, we’re working in a time where the demand for copywriting and content marketing is at an all time high. Anyone involved with providing web marketing services to clients – from web designers to social media consultants – needs to know great content creators. If they don’t have one they trust an email away, they are doing their clients a big disservice.

Start your search by finding complimentary providers on LinkedIn, exploring small business sites, or looking for freelancing blogs where similar, but not competing, providers might be hanging out.

DO learn about the different ways of partnering with other providers.

Partnership doesn’t have to mean going into business together.

You can work with other providers under a referral agreement or set up a deal where you provide a service as part of their company – but still retain your own clients. It all depends on what you and your potential partner decide to do.

Consider where you want to take your SEO copywriting business and then pick an option that works best for you.

DON’T jump into a partnership too soon.

Finding a good partnership is a lot like dating. You’re not going to run off to Vegas to get married the first night you go out. And if you do, you’re going to end up getting the partnership version of an annulment.

Network with other providers, but take things one project at a time until you get a good feel for how you work together. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contractual relationship with someone whose business practices you don’t respect.

DO evaluate your potential partner’s target market and marketing approach.

There are dozens of opportunities out there for working with another provider – so you can afford to be choosy.

Pay close attention to your potential partner’s own marketing. Who are they working with and speaking to? This is important for two reasons. Finding a provider that works with your own target audience will make it easy for you to create client content – and easy for you to create content for the fellow provider. Everyone needs blog posts and website copy, so chances are your partner will be looking to use your content services at some point. It helps to be familiar with their target audience and know who you’re writing to.

DON’T work without a contract.

No matter how friendly you may be with another provider, you’ll want to treat them just like any other client.

There needs to be contracts in place for each project or – depending on the nature of your partnership – for the length of time you’re working together. Even if you’re working with a fellow business owner it doesn’t mean that they have your best interests in mind.

DO pay close attention to their business practices.

Finding a good fit with another provider goes beyond the leads or projects you can bring one another.

Are you truly on the same page when it comes to growing your businesses? Case in point, after a single project with a particular SEO provider I came to realize his opinion of clients (that they were stupid and deserved to be duped) didn’t jive with the way that I want to do business. This isn’t always apparent based on their website, marketing and social media usage – so keep things low on commitment until you know more about their business practices.

DON’T explore partnership unless you’re sure you can handle it.

If you’re someone who prefers to work on your own, partnership probably isn’t for you.

For me, I found the life of a solo copywriter to be sort of lonely. I always found myself conferring with SEO providers, web designers, and social media marketers so I decided to make it official. Do some soul searching and figure out what you want your business to look like in the future.

Have you worked with referral partners or other partners? What was your experience like?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. You can connect with Courtney on LinkedIn.

Hat Tip to Blog Promotion: Interview with The Social Media Hat’s Mike Allton

bullhorn_by_lemasneyIf you’re not already familiar with Mike Allton, there’s no better time to get to know him.

Mike is the CMO for SiteSell and lead “Content Marketing Practitioner” at The Social Media Hat, which only last week was voted one of the top ten social media blogs to follow in 2016 by Social Media Examiner.

For our part, we featured his article on blog promotion in the second of our series about conversions-driving content. In fact, so impressed we were with Mike’s guide – and The Social Media Hat blog – that we asked him if he’d agree to share his expertise with us.

Here, Mike offers his insights into strategies and platforms for promoting your blog, as well as for building your business with blog content.

Enjoy!

Before we delve into questions about blog promotion, would you briefly share with us why you refer to yourself as a “Content Marketing Practitioner”?

Sure! While many businesses will use content marketing as an approach to reach and educate their audience, I don’t just use content marketing. I teach it. Experiment with it. Study new tools and techniques. Therefore, I’ve come to refer to myself as a practitioner, someone who is constantly learning and evolving in the study and use of content marketing, and sharing the results with my audience.

That evolution in my thinking has been mirrored in my writing, as I’ve worked to provide more and more detailed articles that reflect my own experiments and findings.

Your relatively recent article on blog promotion describes your most thorough social media sharing process. What would you recommend as an absolute minimum, core promotion strategy?

That’s a great question. At a minimum, every business needs to have at least one social profile and an invitation for site visitors to subscribe to their email list, so that new content can be promoted to at least one social platform and email list. And of course on the content itself, visitors should be able to easily share it to whichever platforms and networks they’re active on, regardless of which network the business selects.

So you begin to drive traffic to your site through a social channel and email marketing, and you allow your readers and prospects to share to other networks, increasing your content’s reach.

Of all the social media platforms you leverage for blog promotion, you clearly favor Google+.  Could you share with us why you prefer it to the other main social networks?

First, let me say that my preference is a personal one. While there are reasons why I enjoy Google+ so much, that’s not to say that other businesses can’t find equal or greater success on different platforms. That truly depends on the business and target audience.

For myself, I found Google+ to be a refreshing place to connect with and engage with my peers. That’s not just lip service. It’s been truly amazing to grow relationships with fantastic people who have helped me and my business tremendously.

Based purely on referral traffic, Twitter is currently my top social platform, yet Google+ remains my favorite, and where I spend the most quality time. That further illustrates to me how important it is for businesses to have a presence on multiple networks, and to develop an understanding how each platform fits into their overall marketing and business plan.

Besides Google+, you’re also a strong proponent of Twitter. How effective is Twitter for blog promotion, relative to the other main social media platforms? 

Twitter is one of the best platforms for blog promotion overall, at least in my own niche and experience. There are far more tools available to help with sharing and resharing, connecting with your targeted audience, and analyzing the success of your efforts.

That said, it’s all about your audience. If you’re targeting a demographic largely comprised of work-at-home moms, you’ll likely find that Pinterest is your best choice, followed by Facebook. Every blogger and business must do their own research and analysis to determine where their audience is active and approachable, and then develop ways to become organically part of their conversations.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Twitter expanding its character count. What do you think about it? Do you subscribe to the argument that it may “ruin” the platform?

Nope. I generally have a more open view when it comes to platform changes and development. Facebook’s newsfeed changes. Google+ going back into beta. Twitter expanding character counts… other than the occasional brief annoyance at losing a feature I found personally valuable (i.e. Google+ Ripples), I recognize the fact that platforms need to change and develop for a variety of user and business reasons. Those reasons sometimes won’t be immediately understood or universally accepted.

But with rare exception, I find it extremely unlikely that any modification to an existing platform could ruin it. A platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every month doesn’t fall out of favor overnight. It takes time and generally a series of poor decisions.

What are your thoughts about syndicating content on LinkedIn to increase its reach? 

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but tend to avoid actual syndication too often. I prefer to push visitors to my original content on my own website, and instead like to use those platforms for original content.

However, as with everything else in digital marketing, opinions can and should easily change with exceptional testing and analysis. This topic, specifically, is one I plan to test this year. However, measurement of success is going to be elusive. As Mark Schaefer has pointed out, it’s next to impossible to measure how much visibility your content gets when it’s published on external properties.

You mention that you use Pinterest (even though your content, as a rule, is primarily text-based). Does it drive significant traffic to your blog?

Pinterest is great for bloggers. And the more niche and specific you can get with your content, the better platforms like Pinterest may prove to be for you.

And while I don’t create a lot of image content, I do make sure that I have at least one branded, feature image for each and every blog post. And for those articles that are more important to me (for any number of reasons), I’ll take the time to create an image specifically for Pinterest (900 x 1100). I’ve added a custom, hidden field to my new blog post form so that I can upload a Pinterest image that the share buttons will see so that anyone can pin it.

What would you say is the more effective blog promotion strategy overall: email or social media?

Email.

Social media is outstanding for creating and developing relationships, and it’s a necessary step toward moving interested people into your email marketing.

But let’s do some basic math here:

Let’s say you’re a small business who has been working on their marketing for 6 months. You’ve created a nice lead generation resource to collect email addresses, which you’ve shared to social media and other distribution channels routinely. With all of the other content you’ve created and your marketing efforts, you’ve built up 1,000 Facebook Page fans and 1,000 email list subscribers.

The average open rate for email marketing is about 18%, with an average click rate of 1.8%, which means that out of 1,000 email subscribers, 180 will likely open the email and 18 will click through to your latest blog post.

Share the same blog post to your Facebook Page and your post will see the typical “Organic Reach” on Facebook which is about 2%. Click rates vary from 0.22% to 2% depending on the page and audience. But no matter how you slice it, it’s likely that a mere 20 of your fans will see that post, and probably half of them will click through.

Facebook is brilliant for reaching a targeted audience in a number of ways, not the least of which is paid advertising, which is the most cost effective in the world. But for promoting a blog post, email is clearly more effective.

What are the top strategies you’d recommend for building a business using blog content?

You’ll read dozens and dozens of different ideas on how to use and promote blog posts to build and promote a business. But there are two things in particular that you can do that are far more effective than anything else.

First, you have to create long-form content. That means really long blog posts… at least 1,500 words, and preferably more than 2,500. Sound like a lot? It is, but don’t let that scare you. You don’t have to write that much every week. In fact, most successful businesses will create one of these posts, what I call a “Pillar Post”,  per quarter on average.

The pillar post isn’t just long, of course, that’s just a byproduct. It’s long because it extensively and exhaustively covers a topic of particular relevance to the business, and of interest to the target audience. It has to be something that thoroughly answers a question, yet is positioned so that it’s likely readers will want more information or assistance even after they’ve read it all.

These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.

The post should, of course, have a strong call to action for readers to proceed to the next logical step (call you, read about your services, another article, whatever).

But here’s where the second top strategy kicks in.

With a post like this, let’s assume it’s 5,000 words about how to do something integral to your niche. That’s a long post, and would make for a great PDF download. You can put the entire article on your site, and then let interested readers grab a PDF copy for reference. Better yet, come up with a supplemental resource, like a checklist, that boils the topic down into a one-pager and make that available.

To get the digital download, they just complete an email subscribe form on your article and you set it up to auto respond with a link to download. They’re then part of your email marketing (which is an entire topic for discussion another day… how to leverage email automation to create a series of emails, regular newsletters, and more, to lead prospects down a sales funnel).

There are many other tactics and strategies for building and using blog content, and a lot can stem out of these two. So start there!

Connect with Mike on Twitter  & LinkedIn

Image thanks: ID 160597642 © lemasney / deviantart.com

SEO client education: It’s your most important job

Client education is an SEO professional's most important jobIt doesn’t matter if you’re an SEO consultant, SEO copywriter, content writer, or social media coordinator that reads keyword reports – if you are helping clients with SEO, client education is your most important job.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’re struggling in your business as an SEO provider, client education is the missing piece.

Client education and managing expectations go hand in hand.

What do I mean by education? It can take many different forms, but the goal is to help your client get up to speed on what you provide, why you provide it, and how they’ll benefit. It’s not a sales page or a sales call. It’s helpful information that makes them a smarter buyer.

When I’ve had a difficult client relationship in my business, nine times out of ten it’s been because of a big difference between what the client expected and what I was able to provide. For example, as a copywriter, I can’t build your backlink profile or improve your offpage SEO. But I can make it easier for search engines to understand your site – and help your site visitors get where they need to go.

Client education is important in any industry – but it’s absolutely essential with SEO. Search engine optimization is complicated – and it’s always changing. Although the core of the process is growing a bit easier and less fragmented (pick your keywords, create great content and stay social), there is still enough change from update to update and from year to year for clients to get confused.

These changes can be jumped on by less than scrupulous providers to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, when Panda and Penguin hit, questionable backlinks became the biggest problem. Unless a client has been paying someone to post backlinks to large, spammy directories there’s no reason they should be spending their time and their money on devaluing links when there aren’t many there begin with. They’d be far better off creating some great content and getting social to build genuine backlinks.

Since there are so many factors that go into SEO and some scum bags out there that are misleading their clients (either intentionally or unintentionally), your job as an educator becomes even more important.

Here’s how to do it, in three steps:

1. Always start the process with an intake call.

Do you get a lot of emails that look something like this: “Hi – I need some web copy. How much do you charge?”

Delivering a paragraph or two back with a quote isn’t going to have the impact that an official intake will. Start your relationship with a conversation so you can understand their SEO needs and determine if they need you, or another type of provider. This will also help you set the framework for how you are working together and let you explain the specific value that you provide.

2. Rather than being a service provider, think of yourself as a consultant.

It’s a subtle shift but an important one if you want to educate your client and take a more strategic role. When you’re “just a service provider” a client will expect to come to you, place an order and then get exactly what they ordered – no questions asked. These are the clients that will come to you saying “Here’s my keyword list and I want a blog article on X, Y and Z.”

But when you present yourself as a consultant, you’ll leave the door open to explain to them why jumping into blogging without a strategy is a bad idea. You can give them insight into how to make their pages better before they blog, how to create a blog strategy and how to improve their overall presence.

3. Produce lots of content – and then produce some more!

When it comes to copywriters and content, it’s often like the old story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes. If your work days are filled with work for clients, how will you find time for your own work? Make time!

If you want to provide education for your SEO clients, you need to blog, create white papers and develop newsletters. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to be there. This way, your SEO clients are prequalified and educated before they reach out. They know the difference between bad SEO and good SEO because they’ve read it on your blog.

What steps are you taking to educate your clients?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing and owner of Six Degrees Content. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

image thanks to Digital Sextant (Brendan Riley)

How to Find the Fun in Your Freelance Copywriting Business

Yesterday, during what seemed to be my 100th pushup, my trainer said something interesting…

“I know you’re beat. You don’t want to do this. It’s time to find the fun and keep going.”

My first reaction was something like &##$&#. But then I saw her point – and realized the application “find the fun” has to freelance copywriters.

You see, owning a business is hard work. I’ve discussed before how some people think it’s all puppies and rainbows when they first start out. And then reality hits.

You have to pay taxes – even if that money was earmarked for something “more important” like a new laptop.

You have to do the writing – even if you’re tired, stressed and want to zone out in front of the TV.

You have to invoice clients – even though you would rather stick a needle in your eye than open your QuickBooks file.

You have to deal with late vendors, flaky clients and other irritating things.

Not to mention, you may love your business 99.9 percent of the time. But that .01 percent? Well…working as a Walmart greeter sounds more enjoyable.

The reality is that your freelance copywriting business will never be perfect. You won’t love it all the time. But you can certainly find the fun and silly in every situation.

For instance:

Were you hit with a huge tax bill? A friend of mine likes to remind me that paying taxes is a good thing. It means you made so much money that the IRS wants some too. Celebrate your success! Heck, you could even have a “I have to pay taxes” party!

Worried about how you’re going to pay taxes next year? Turn a scary unknown into a fun challenge. Pencil out different ways you can prepare — like setting aside 15 percent of all income into a special “taxes” account. At the same time, you can set up a fun challenge like when you save X for taxes, you’ll take a couple days off. Or buy that laptop you really need.

Hate dealing with bookkeeping? Hire a super-fun accountant or bookkeeper to help. My ex-E.A., Eva Rosenberg, helped me most of my career. Eva has the remarkable ability to make the most grueling tax conversation fun and enjoyable. I always came away from our conversations feeling inspired – and that was worth every penny I paid her.

Are you exhausted and need a break? Build in a couple hours (or a couple days) of “just for you” time. Do whatever you feel like, whether it’s reading a book, getting a manicure or enjoying lunch without your laptop nearby. Once you’ve had some fun, your writing will flow much more easily.

Do you hate to sell? Think of ways you can reward yourself for every gig you land. Maybe you can get a massage, or purchase something that makes your heart sing. It may even make sense for you to partner with agencies or design firms that can send a continual flow of referral work. That way, you can focus on what you love without having to worry about selling to clients.

Having a bad day? Stop what you’re doing and immediately focus on the positives – even if the only positive you can think of is, “Well, I brushed my teeth today” and “My cat didn’t wake me up at 3 a.m.” Depending how deep you are in your negativity hole, it may take some time to move from cranky into happy. Stick with it. It makes a huge difference.

Some aspects of our businesses are always going to suck. There’s no way around that. What we can do is control our reaction. We can search for the silly fun hidden at the center of our serious situation. Once we master training our brains, work (and life) will seem so much easier. Really.

What about you? How can you “find the fun” in one of your current freelance copywriting challenges?

How to Raise Your Freelance Copywriting Rates

You know it’s time.

You’ve gathered some great case studies. You have fantastic testimonials. You’ve studied your craft, taken classes and honed your skills.

So, why is it so hard to tell your clients, “I’m raising my freelance copywriting rates?”

I get it. I really do. The good news is – your clients (probably) won’t tell you to jump in a lake. The bad news is – you may lose some folks, especially if you don’t raise your rates the right way.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of raising your copywriting rates.

1. Should you raise your freelance copywriting rates? Or change your target market?  Are your current small business clients paying you $75/page – and you think your rate should be closer to $400/page?  There may be a disconnect there. You may be worth every penny – but your small business clients probably won’t be able to afford you. If you’re looking at a major rate hike, carefully consider your current niche. Will it be able to generate the income you need? Or is it time to consider a new target market with deeper pockets?

2. How much more do you want to get paid? Clients tend not to care much about small, graduate rate increases. If you want to raise your rates 30-50+ percent, you may receive some kickback. That doesn’t mean that you would never get a 75 percent rate increase. It does mean that will need to clearly demonstrate your profit-driving expertise – and how you’ve made your clients’ lives easier.

3. Ask yourself – would YOU give you a raise? If you’ve missed deadlines (even if you had a good reason,) had repeating quality issues or had any weird “stuff” happen, a rate raise will be touchy. In this situation, your client will not remember all the wonderful things you’ve done for them. They will remember exactly how and when you’ve screwed up. Best case scenario, you ease into a rate raise very slowly and have a few glitch-free months under your belt first.

4. Consider who you’ll lose. You may have a wonderful small business client that you love with all your heart. But, their micro budget can’t pay your bills – and you honestly can’t afford to work with them anymore. It’s always hard to “fire” a client that can’t pay your new fee. But know this –  you’ll have to let them go if you want your business to grow.

5. When would the rate raise become effective? Never send a client an email that says “Just so you know, I’ll be raising my copywriting rates next month by 25 percent.”  No client likes a rate raise (even if they think you deserve it!). They’ll like it even less if you don’t give them time to plan and budget.  It’s good to give your clients three months notice before your rate change becomes effective. (Working with a new client? Why not charge them your new rate now?)

6. Keep your “I’m raising my rates” email professional.  You may have a huge IRS bill, need more money to make your bills and have tons of child-related expenses. Don’t use your personal life as the reason to raise your rates. Your clients won’t care – and bringing that stuff up makes you look extremely unprofessional. And for goodness sake – don’t beg for a rate increase or say, “I really need the money.” That’s a sure way of getting fired…for good.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, write a very straightforward and friendly email. Recap your successes, outline your new copywriting rates and when they’ll take effect. Will you lose some clients? Sure. Will it be OK? Yes.

As my father used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Isn’t it time to finally make the money you deserve to make?

Should You Quit Your Job to Start a Freelance Copywriting Business?

High Dive Video Post : 031113Greetings and welcome to the final installment of Heather’s “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series!

Last week, Heather discussed some questions you need to ask yourself if you think that you want to launch a freelance copywriting business. Today, she addresses how to make the leap!

Typically, freelance copywriters start up their businesses in one of two ways – by just taking the plunge, or by slowing easing into their new enterprise.

Here, Heather addresses the pros and cons of each approach. Tune in to learn which way makes the most sense for you!

The first way: Take the plunge

The first way that people will approach starting up their business is to just take the plunge: they quit their job one day then start their freelance copywriting business the next.

This is the big fantasy about making your new freelance copywriting lifestyle happen. I did this with my business. I was working for a company and I quit with $100 in my pocket.

I started my freelance SEO copywriting business a couple weeks later. For me, taking the plunge was successful – but I was also younger, had fewer responsibilities, and there was a lot more going on at the time to where it stacked the odds in my favor.

For you, it may be a completely different scenario.

So first let’s consider the pros and cons of diving right in…

Pros:

– You can focus 100% on building your business.

You don’t need to worry about having one foot in working at a “real job” and one foot in your business. You can focus.

Cons:

(And these are pretty heavy duty cons…)

– You probably won’t have a stable income for awhile.

Although you will read ads that claim you’ll start making $20,000 in your first month, this is not a typical experience.

In a lot of cases, people are losing money for a few month before they make a profit, because on top of losing your steady paycheck…

– You will have expenses.

You may need to buy a new computer, you will need a website, you’ll need to contact an attorney, get business cards – all of those things that cost money that were covered in the last video.

– It will take time to build your brand (unless you are already established.)

Just because you’re new on the market doesn’t mean that everyone will be thinking “Oooo! I must work with him or her!” It takes some time…and…

This can be highly risky if you don’t have a financial safety net.

If you went through the questions to ask yourself last week (on planning for a successful launch), and thought “Okay, I’ve got money in the bank and I can ride on this for awhile”  – cool!

But if you’re already feeling pretty tight, taking the plunge may not be the best way to start off. Instead, you might want to…

The second way: Have a “real job” and freelance in your free time

As with diving right in, here are some pros and cons of wading into launching your business.

Pros:

– You have a stable income while you build your business.

And that is wonderful! So even if your freelancing income goes up and down, you know that you’re getting a paycheck every couple of weeks.

– You can build your business gradually and with less stress.

One of the hardest ways to build your business is when you are scared to death that you’re going to be living under the bridge in a couple of months because you don’t have money to live.

So keeping your “real job” eliminates the stress of financial uncertainty and makes it easier for you because it is…

– Much less risky.

Now, a look at the cons…

Cons:

– You will work long hours.

You’ll be working at your “real job” during the day, only to come home and handle client projects at night.

– It may be hard to communicate with clients.

There may be some clients that you won’t be able to work with because they’ll need to meet with you during your “real job” work hours.

And finally…

– Some employers will not let you freelance.

This is something you’ll definitely want to ascertain, especially if you’re already writing content for your employer.

Although it may be tempting to be sneaky and freelance on the side, figuring no one will find out, and it’s in violation of company policy…well, you could be fired and that’ not a scenario you want!

Ultimately, the option you choose is up to you.

You need to evaluate how much risk you can take, how much money you have in the bank, and how long it’s realistically going to take you to get up and running before you actually start generating the income you need.

Good luck! Have a question? Leave it in the comments!

Photo thanks to cliff1066™ (Cliff)

How to Start a Freelance Copywriting Business [Video + Transcript]

Greetings! In today’s installment of the How to start an SEO copywriting business video series, Heather addresses the subject in the broadest sense. That is: how and where do you begin? What steps do you need to take?

In her preceding video posts about starting a copywriting business, Heather discussed how to: define a niche market, ask for a writing deposit, deal with writing revisions, stand firm by your rates, protect yourself with a contract (no matter the size of the gig), and hone in on the services to offer your clients.

Here, she zeroes in on the overarching question: I want to start a freelance copywriting business. What do I do now?

Developing a plan is crucial

The smartest thing that you can do if you want to launch your own business is to develop a plan before you do it.

I’ve talked to many copywriters who have literally quit their job one day and started their freelance business the next! And while many were successful eventually, it proved to be a huge struggle at the beginning because: they were trying to get income in the door, it was an expensive time as their business was brand new, and they weren’t clear about who they wanted to work with…

So by developing a plan first, you can help ensure that you’ll be more successful more quickly! Here are five questions to ask yourself:

– Do you have a financial cushion so you can pay expenses + extra?

If you’re working at a real job now and you quit that job to start your own business, cool! But where’s the money going to come from?

Be realistic in asking yourself about this. Don’t set yourself up by thinking “Well I can cut expenses and only live on $500 a month.” If that’s not possible, that’s not possible! You’ll have to figure out some other ways to generate income while you’re launching your business. (We’ll talk about that more next week).

– Do you have funds for site design, business cards and other marketing materials?

In considering this question, you’re taking into account business start-up expenses, not just living expenses.

With business essentials like your website, you want to get them done correctly the first time. You don’t want to have to go the cheap route, thinking you’re going to learn to build your own site even if you don’t know what you’re doing, or get free business cards that have “printed free by X” at the bottom of them.

You’ll want to plan on having that money set aside so you can have a really nice, integrated branding strategy in place before you start.

– Can you launch with clients, or will you start from scratch?

I know some copywriters who have quit their job and then their ex-employer became a client – so they were able to start their business with a little bit of money coming in.

Other people are starting exactly from scratch, and so they need to figure out their target market, who they want to work with, and also how long it’s going to take before they get money in the door.

Which brings us to the next question…

– How much money do you need to make?

Do you need to replace your existing income? Can you possibly bring in a little bit less, or do you need to make even more?

Really give this question careful consideration, and again, be honest with yourself.

– Do you have a business/marketing plan?

If not, this is the time to create one!

Again, it’s about not starting out cold, figuring you’re going to be able to make thousands of dollars right off the bat.

The smartest thing you can do is first figure out what your target market is, what your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.) is, what kind of services to offer – all of those dimensions covered in previous videos – and then you will know what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and really be ready to rock and roll!

photo thanks to mathewingram (Mathew Ingram)

What Copywriting Services Should You Offer Clients?

A waiter serving dinner, representing copywriting service offeringsGreetings! In this installment of her how to start an SEO copywriting business series, Heather discusses a topic that freelance copywriters struggle with all the time: what copywriting services should I offer clients?

When you first start out – and even after you’ve been in business for awhile – it is tempting to offer every service under the sun, from white papers to direct mail to web pages.

Then you end up burning out, because you’re doing a little bit of everything (some services make you more money than others), and you might not be writing the kind of content you enjoy.

Tune in as Heather discusses how to determine what copywriting services to offer your clients…

No, you don’t have to do everything…

The first point to remember – and one that is empowering to know – is that you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to offer every copywriting service under the sun! Instead, think about what to offer clients in terms of:

– What services are important to your target audience?

In defining this, you may find that in a lot of cases your clients might not need direct mail, but they will need an email newsletter. There you go! You can delete direct mail from your services.

I would encourage you to figure out what your clients need, and then streamline your service offerings around that.

– What do you enjoy writing and provides the highest ROI? Can you specialize?

You also want to consider what you enjoy writing and provides you the most profit, and if there’s a way you can specialize.

For example, I just spoke to a woman who loves writing e-books. She loves the detail work, she loves the fact that it takes a relatively long time, and she loves that it involves a lot of research – that’s just how her mind works. And her target market needs e-books! So she has become a go-to person for that particular target audience. It’s really pretty cool!

So this is something that you can think about for your own freelance copywriting business: is there something you do really well, like writing high-converting sales pages that you know your clients value, and that they can come to you for time and time again?

– What about partnering with another copywriter?

The third thing to consider is the option of partnering with another copywriter.

For instance, if you find out that you really enjoy writing e-books but then your clients need something else – such as an e-newsletter or a blog post – you might have someone else on your team that can handle that for you.

That way, to your client it’s still one source of services, they’re still getting all their copywriting needs met, it’s just that you’re not the one doing everything. You have other people on board who can help you, and are also writing what they love to write!

 

photo thanks to flickr4jazz (Jazz Guy)

Do You Need A Contract For A Quick Copywriting Job?

Three fountain pensGreetings and welcome to another installment of the how to start an SEO copywriting business series!

In this video, Heather builds on her previous two posts speaking to the importance of having a freelance copywriting contract. Specifically, she answers a question posed by a reader/viewer asking whether a contract is still necessary for small copywriting jobs.

This is an excellent question, and one that will come up many times in your freelance copywriting career.

A client will need some work done and after looking over the scant requirements, you’ll think “Oh, I can knock this out in a few hours.” Then you’re presented with the question of what to do about a contractual agreement, knowing that dealing with that would actually take more time than it would for you to do the work.

In this commonplace scenario, do you still need to send the client a contract? Or can you just do the work, call it a wrap, and get paid already?

Tune in as Heather outlines some options for you to consider…

Short answer: YES!

You may recognize this first slide from Heather’s original video post discussing how crucial it is for freelance copywriters to work with a legal document.

While contracts may seem like a pain and a huge hassle, they’re a necessary evil for two compelling reasons:

–  A contract spells out the terms and gets everyone on the same page.

–  A good contract protects you – and protects your client, too.

Here’s a possible option…

That said, here are some things to consider when you’re in that position…

– Is it a NEW client? Have them sign the agreement. Consider getting the money up front.

If it’s a brand new client, even if it’s a fast job, have them sign the agreement…because they’re unknown and you’ve never dealt with them before! The client is not familiar with your terms, either, so a contract gives them an opportunity to review them and determine whether they still want to work with you.

You may also want to consider getting paid before you begin work, because it is a quick job and getting 50% now and 50% two days from now may not make sense.

–  Is it an EXISTING client who has already signed your agreement? Spell out your terms in an email. Tell your client you’ll need written confirmation before you start. 

If it’s an existing client – you have a history, they pay their bills, everything’s gone fine – you may opt to just outline your terms in an email.

So while you’d still spell out your terms (i.e., what you’ll be doing, when you’ll send it to them, how much it will cost, and when payment is due), you’d simply let your client know that you’ll need written confirmation from them before you start work.

What I’ll do is write an email reiterating my terms, and then ask “is this ok?” at the end of the message. Then I wait for the client to respond with “yes, this is ok” before I’ll start the work.

–  Ask your attorney about a master services agreement.

This is another option – asking your attorney about a master services agreement.

Again, I am not an attorney and none of this constitutes legal advice. I highly recommend all freelance copywriters to work with an attorney to figure this stuff out, because it is so important!

A master services agreement is something that your clients sign once, and then you’re done with it. At that point, all the terms have been negotiated, they’re set, and then you’ll be able to work with email – or whatever paper trail you and your client prefer – for future jobs.

 

photo thanks to Keith Williamson