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Growing up in public: learning the 5 Ps of progress when you’re a freelance copywriter

Thomas Ridge

In Context Authority Content

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Starting out on your own as a freelance copywriter requires preparation and planning. But there are plenty of things you end up learning on the job.

You can’t plan for everything and, in any case, you only gain experience by doing things. You learn from your mistakes, as much from what goes wrong as when things work well.

 I’ve spent 7 years as a #copywriter and content writer. Here are 5 major factors about being in business for myself that continue to make a difference to me.

They all begin with a P (we copywriters do love a bit of alliteration):

  • positioning
  • pricing
  • pipeline
  • promotion
  • perseverance

Positioning

I’m making a clear distinction here between position and positioning. A position is something you find yourself in. It isn’t always desirable, especially if you’ve arrived at it through events out of your control.

Positioning, on the other hand, is about actively putting yourself in the best place.

It’s about understanding where your appeal is, where you’re most likely to find your target audience. Without positioning yourself strategically, you have much less control over your work or how you progress.

When I started out writing content for a living, I didn’t attempt to position myself at all. I took what work I could and prided myself on my adaptability. It did pay off after a fashion. But I realised it wasn’t how I wanted to develop my copywriting business in the longer term.

Pricing

Working out what you’ll be charging for your work is critical in growing your practice. This isn’t always easy. You’ve got to work out what prospective customers might be willing to pay while also considering what’s affordable to you.

My experience was that I focused too much on my outputs and what they’d be worth rather than the effort I input to achieve them.

Neither a 500-word blog nor a short marketing email amount to large word counts, but both require plenty of thought and research to be effective. You should always include your own expertise in the prices you charge.

Pipeline

Your pipeline is your business’s lifeline. If you can establish regular sources of work early on, this should get you on an even financial footing.

I found that establishing a pipeline became the dominant focus of my energies, to the detriment of other areas.

Validation is vital when you’re at the early stages of working for yourself. A consistent pipeline provides this validation, but it can mean you end up neglecting issues such as pricing and positioning.

At some point, you need room to breathe, take stock and see whether things are moving in the right direction, however profitable they first appear to be.

Promotion

Promoting your copywriting business should reinforce your positioning and help to develop your pipeline.

But once the work starts coming in, marketing may end up taking a back seat. This applies as much to creative as other enterprises.

Naturally, you put your customers’ needs and demands first, but without consistent and systematic promotion of your own business, you’re leaving yourself more exposed to risk.

Winning regular work is rewarding, but if you take your foot off the marketing pedal, you may find that you’re overly dependent on a few clients, or even relying on just one.

Perseverance

This final item is really about attitude rather than anything systematic. Most people running their own businesses will have their ups and downs. Some of these shifts are due to uncontrollable factors. Some are down to how you’re feeling.

Working for yourself tests your resilience and draws on your reserves of self-belief.

There have been times when I’ve been fed up with my work when rejoining the world of employees seemed a better alternative. But when I look at the bigger picture, I’d rather have the freedom I’ve got now, even with its unpredictability and pressures.

I think perseverance is its own reward. It’s that invaluable awareness of staying the course because you know your own purpose.

First published on LinkedIn

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