2016: my year in copywriting

Last December I blogged about my business plan for 2016. I blinked, and here I am again, reflecting on the year and over-sharing to the Pro Copywriters’ Network.

Read the original article here if you wish. But if time, or life, is too short, here are the 3 key objectives I talked about:

  • Finance (earn more)
  • Continuing Professional Development (learn more)
  • Networking (do more do some, any…)

How did I get on? Did I stick with my plan? Or did it meet the same sorry end as the post-Christmas fitness regime?

Let’s start with the interesting stuff: money.

Freelance finances

I found it easier to charge higher rates this year, so my takings increased significantly.

I also felt confident holding my nerve if a client wanted a cheaper deal, even if that resulted in a few enquiries that didn’t turn into orders. And I certainly didn’t work for free (apart from one or two exceptions, more about that later).

In the spirit of being open and honest, it’s only fair to say that my 2015 takings were modest. I worked part-time and mainly worked on projects for small business owners or start-ups.

I entered freelancing after a career break, so I wasn’t under pressure to replace a full-time salary. There are plenty of down-sides to this, but the positive spin is that I didn’t have to take on projects that felt wrong or paid rubbish fees.

In the early days I did undersell myself a few times, but this year I had the confidence to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”.

I had more enquiries from bigger companies this year and it was great, but I did hit some blocks; in particular feeling less empowered.

This was more about me than them. I didn’t feel that I had the same clout as a business owner that I felt when working with smaller clients. I fell into a bit of an employee mind-set, particularly at the important briefing stage.

That’s not to say they were bad experiences, but it wasn’t an enjoyable feeling. This hasn’t put me off working for bigger clients; it’s just something I need to work on. It was more of a confidence issue and I reckon I can push through it in 2017.

Another issue I faced was receiving too many unsuitable enquiries. I started out offering multiple services, yet some of the enquiries I received just didn’t appeal to me. I also turned down one or two projects that I didn’t feel qualified for and referred them to other copywriters.

Next year, I’m reducing the services I offer, so I can focus on quality and added value. And attract the clients and jobs that I enjoy doing.

It’s good to earn money but happiness is important too. I want both!

Continuing to develop professionally

My next key target was Continuing Professional Development. I kept this low key, stating I was planning to focus my learning on the content shared by other copywriters and books. This was an easy target and it went to plan.

If I was going to share a top tip to new freelancers, it would be:

Take advantage of all the advice and information that more experienced copywriters share.

I’ve noticed a few social media posts from freelancers getting upset about their perceived lack of success. To anyone who feels this way, I say this with kindness: get over it.

And don’t compare yourself with others. Asking for help is great, but putting yourself down isn’t the best use of social media.

With a bit of planning (beware of overload), you have a fantastic opportunity to improve your knowledge and skills by listening to experienced freelancers. This is where the real learning takes place (as well as on the job) and it can make a real difference to how you run your business. And most of it’s free.

As well as blogs and books, I’ve discovered podcasts this year and again, and benefitted from spot-on advice that I can apply to my business. I’ve enjoyed some so much that, sadly, I’m planning to revisit them during my Christmas break to give me a confidence boost for 2017.

I also made a commitment to study writing fundraising proposals for a small charity close to my heart, and while I haven’t managed to do as much as I’d hoped, I’ve written one proposal for them and plan to do more in future.

I’ve also contributed some personal blogs to a national autism charity; it’s been a pleasure and privilege to do so. I’m the first to tell people not to work for free, but this isn’t the same as wasting your talents on the carrot-danglers who promise you exposure and more work.

As a parent to an autistic child, I know there’s a long way to go with raising awareness and understanding; I’m proud to be a part of that.


So back to my plan, my final objective was networking. I openly admitted that networking is  at the top of my cringe-list and made a prediction that I would avoid it if I could.

And I did! I guess I’m just a chronic introvert, who struggles to mingle with the business community.

Is this an issue for all copywriters?

Deep down, I know that if I’m going to keep going, I need to get my head together around networking, for creating new opportunities and building stronger long-term relationships. I’ve been lucky so far that clients have found me, but I could make it a lot easier for them.

What I discovered in 2016…

That concludes my key objectives. I think it was a pretty good year, and I found out a few things about myself:

  • I’m surprisingly tenacious when it comes to chasing late payers.
  • I’m not so great at taking time out for self-care.
  • Like every other working parent, I struggled strived to get my head round juggling work and domestic crap. But let’s not go there.

Am I going to write a plan for 2017? Definitely. It’s been a great tool throughout the year.

2017’s business plan will be similar to this 2016’s, with a heavy emphasis on being more focused about what I want to achieve and attacking it with more confidence. Learning and growing will continue to be at the heart of everything.

It’s been really useful to reflect on this year; thank you Pro Copywriters for asking me to share. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017 throws at me!

I hope you all had a great Christmas break and a successful 2017.


11th January 2017

Sue Brown

Thanks for sharing these thoughts Alison.

16th January 2017

Gillian Jones

Loved that, very honest and I enjoyed reading it. I too feel the same with regards to networking, I’m also shy and a bit of an introvert. It’d be great to see how you’re doing this time next year and whether you’ve been able to network more. x

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