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Being your own boss: blessing or curse? A freelance copywriter’s view

Being your own boss can be a blessing and a curse for copywriters

Being your own boss: blessing or curse? A freelance copywriter’s view

It’s been several years since I made the decision to quit the corporate world as I’d known it and realise my ambitions of becoming a freelance writer. It was undoubtedly one of the most freeing decisions of my life but it’s certainly not been without its trials; being your own boss can be both a blessing and a curse.

After working in content marketing for more than seven years, I decided one day, quite on the spur of the moment, to hand in my notice and go it alone. It was a brave(?!) and hasty decision; I asked only my husband for his thoughts and he agreed it was the right move. So the next day, I did it. No hesitation. Bam. So, now what?

Luckily, my former boss had allowed me to do a bit of work outside my regular job and so I had one reliable client from the get-go. I was able to build up skills like web copywriting, brochure content and short script writing for YouTube videos over the next 12 months, took on some other jobs here and there and even managed to get a regular gig that paid my rent for a year.

I really felt I was on to something, that I was finally working towards my goal of being my own boss and enjoying life to the max – how typically millennial of me. Having the freedom to work around my lifestyle rather than the reverse was liberating but of course, nothing lasts forever – especially freelance projects.

Scrabbling around for work is probably one of the most difficult elements of freelancing but it’s often part and parcel of the job, so I sucked it up. Until recently, that is. Late last year, I decided to take the business to the next level, fuelled by a determination to break away from low-paying, piecemeal projects and a desire to aim bigger and better.

It’s a work in progress, I’ll admit – the freelancer’s journey is one long lesson in life – but here’s what I’ve learned in my first few years of being my own boss.

You can’t please everyone all the time

This is something I’ve only recently come to accept. What I mean by not being able to please everyone all the time is that the work of a copywriter hinges on several factors, not the ability of the writer alone.

Client satisfaction can depend on a whole host of elements, including the customer’s own knowledge and expectations, fair payment and timeframes. I used to run myself ragged taking on jobs that were sent to me with a day’s notice and that required maximum creative skill; not anymore. I’ve set some limits; now, I ask clients for two weeks’ notice, which gives me the chance to clear current projects before starting anything new.

Expectations can also be difficult to manage. It’s virtually impossible, for example, to get a ton of new likes and loads of engagement on a Facebook business page without spending a penny on ads, yet clients sometimes expect these results. You can either give them the cold, hard facts and try your best, or start aiming for customers with the budget to achieve their goals.

Know your worth

If you’re new to copywriting or don’t have much of a portfolio, you might be willing to do some work for little recompense in order to build up a book of examples. I started out working as a copywriter at the lordly rate of £15 an hour, which was fine for the first few jobs. What I didn’t do, however, was revise this figure up for a long time. Months. Maybe even years…

When you build up a great relationship with a client, raising your rates can be an unsavoury thought. It’s something I put off for as long as I could but really, I knew I was worth more than £15 an hour. I have a journalism degree, I’m a brilliant creative writer, I’d worked in the field for a decade. So many successful people told me to raise my rates, and now I have.

For a long time, though, I gave more of myself than I was paid to give, which can create feelings of worthlessness never mind the budgetary anxieties. Just know that your work is the product of experience and has the potential to generate thousands of pounds for your customers, then set your prices accordingly.

Have a plan

OK, so when I started out I had no plan. A few years later and it’s becoming really clear that having a plan of some kind is important. Even if it’s not an official, written-down plan, knowing where you want to be in a few years’ time and how you can achieve those goals is going to help keep you motivated on days when morale is low, and trust me, there will be some of those days.

Being your own boss means managing your time effectively enough to cover admin, pitch for projects, attend meetings and actually do the work set by clients. The busier you become, the harder it can be to wear all the hats, and part of my own plan for 2018 is to outsource tasks that I either can’t do or don’t enjoy as much as others, freeing up time to concentrate on bringing in business and doing more of what I love. Lofty goals indeed.

Having an overall business plan is a key element of goal-setting and progression but it’s also a good idea to make a plan for other elements of the business. A content strategy, for example, is something I often advise clients on. Yes it takes time, time spent blogging and sharing knowledge and expertise, but this is what drives engagement and, ultimately, business.

Be brave

This one is REALLY important. Being your own boss is often a bit of a slog and at times can be testing. I’m not a brave person in generic terms; I’m not thick-skinned, words hurt – I dread the day I receive some negative feedback. Growing a business and outsourcing leaves room for error, and I know it’s inevitable that the odd mistake will occur here and there.

I’m also not accustomed to being around lots of people, I work alone and often in silence – and that’s how I like it. But this year so far I’ve met dozens of businesspeople and established some great connections, just by getting out there and being brave enough to take the next step.

The point is not to let what-ifs hold you back from your goals. I work with other freelancers and pride myself on quality copy, which means I spend time checking over and editing any work I outsource. If by chance an error slips through and a client is disappointed, I will be disappointed too, but I will carry on working towards my goal.

I’ll end with this fantastic quote often misattributed to Mark Twain. Apparently, the quote is taken from a book by author H. Jackson Brown Junior. Regardless, the message is clear: be brave and move forward. No regrets.

Sail away from the safe harbour

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