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A few years ago a newbie copywriter — I’ll call him Mike — contacted me. He told me he was just starting out and needed some advice. He asked me what he should do to legally establish his business, what insurance he should buy to protect his company, and what regulations he should be aware of. I told him to not be such a worrier and just get started.
About six months later Mike called me again. This time he asked me questions about whether he needed to obtain a license to operate his freelance writing business and whether his clients (assuming he could get some) would have to pay sales tax when he charged them. I told him to just get started already.
Another few months went by and I heard from Mike again. He wanted guidance on how to structure his freelance writing business (incorporate or be an LLC) and how to pay his income taxes (assuming he eventually earns revenue). I told him to just get started already.
When I thought I’d heard the last of him, Mike called one final time. He said he was going to get to work on his own website. He wanted to know whether he should write the website as though he specializes in writing copy for a specific niche or whether he should say on his website that he was a generalist. Keep in mind he still had no clients whether for his chosen niche nor for any other area. I told him to just get started already.
I didn’t hear from Mike again, but I kept an eye on the domain he told me he bought. To this day, there is still no website there.
Another newbie copywriter — I’ll call her Erin — contacted me through LinkedIn. She asked if I could refer to her any clients that came into me but weren’t a fit. She said, “I’ll take anything.”
Erin sent me her resume and writing samples. I could see she had skills. I said, “In order to refer you, you must have a website. Otherwise, my clients won’t trust that you’re as capable as me.” She said “Okay, no problem. I’ll be back in touch soon.”
The very next day Erin sent me her URL. She had made her website, designed it herself on a free platform (Weebly) and written all the copy within 24 hours. She had a Home, About, Services, FAQ and Contact page. And they were good!
I was amazed. And I was happy to refer clients to her that weren’t a fit for me whether because their budget was too small or they were in a subject area that didn’t interest me.
That was about three years ago. At the time, Erin was working full time as a Marketing Associate for a construction company and trying to get freelance writing work as a side hustle, both for experience and to earn some extra money.
Within one year, I’d referred enough business to Erin, and she’d acquired enough other clients on her own, that she was able to quit her full time job and freelance full time. She quit the construction company and never looked back.
A year later, after working diligently, Erin had enough money saved to be able to buy her dream home. She wrote me the nicest thank-you note saying that I was responsible in large part for her being able to freelance full time and afford her home.
That was very touching but I didn’t deserve nearly as much credit as she was giving me. Erin had worked tirelessly — days, nights, weekends, holidays — to create her freelance copywriting business. She had created her own opportunities and made the most of every one. She’d fully earned all the rewards that had come her way.
This year, just two months ago, Erin and her husband welcomed their first child, a baby girl. She is currently on maternity leave — a luxury she can now afford — but still handling some of my referrals, working around her daughter’s nap times to stay active in her field.
In the three years that she’s been full time freelancing, she’s written copy for literally hundreds of clients. She’s smart, savvy and hard working. And she’s now a senior-level copywriter with the work samples to prove it.
She has also redone her website with a professional web designer and added numerous samples to her online portfolio. To this day, she has never said “no” to any referral of mine, always looking to grow her customer base. And to her credit, so many of those referrals have become repeat clients or ongoing accounts for her.
I admire her, and I’ve learned a lot from her. She showed me the benefits of being a doer instead of a dreamer.
So, compare this woman with the copywriter in the first story. Whom should you emulate? Mike or Erin? I hope the answer is obvious.