How preparing proposals is like dating again

Ok, I’d better start with a disclaimer.

I haven’t actually dated since 2005 and, granted, things have changed a little bit. I never swiped right - or left - and those friends who dated someone they met online in the early 2000s were seriously in the minority. Rather than take the advice of a well-meaning friend to ‘go where your dream guy will be hanging out’, I figured my odds were better in a seedy club than a bookstore. I must have been on to something. In 2006 I met my husband in a Thai nightclub, and the rest is history.

Couple standing holding hands

But, I digress.

I’ve been prepping a bunch of copywriting proposals lately, and it’s all starting to feel a little bit like the dating dance. Let me explain.

You put yourself out there

You’re on the web and social media, often using big, bold shots of your face (nowhere to hide) and brand promises for people to decide, would I like to work with this person? Whether you’re in the business of business or dating, this part of the process can feel pretty confronting.

Someone shows interest

There’s a bite via your website contact page, or someone slides into your DMs - well, hello there! The vibe feels right, and you respond. From there, a phone call, coffee date or longer email eventuates.

First contact goes well

So far so good. You’re enjoying each other’s banter, and you feel you’re understanding each other and what this prospect is looking for in a copy relationship.

The second date

You were right. The stars have aligned, and your potential client has requested a proposal. Now you have the chance to really show your copy chops. What you can offer that will help boost their business, the ways you can take the pressure off them, or build their reputation as an industry authority. There’ll be a plan, proposed timeline and summary of the conversation so far. You’ll agonise over the pricing because you want to offer you as much value as you can while still valuing your time and expertise. Then you’ll take a deep breath and hit send.

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One of these three outcomes will likely eventuate:
Ghosting

Either you’ll send the proposal, then follow up once, twice and...crickets. Or, the client signs off on the proposal and then ignores the commencement invoice. You end up feeling like your date has shown up for dinner, seen you and left (awkward!) or that an ex has got back in touch. Either way, it’s pretty hard not to take personally.

Sometimes circumstances change, and we copywriters are pretty understanding types. We’d much rather get your honest feedback about a proposal so we can amend things to make sure everyone’s happy. Just shoot us an email - we won’t bite. Even better, try the phone where there can be no misinterpretation of tone!

Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen

If you wanna be my copywriter, you gotta work with my budget (sung to the tune of Spice Girls). Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it works. My rates are very competitive within the industry. You can pay more for your copy, but you can also get it much cheaper. When you work with me, you’re also investing in my years of communication experience, and my responsive manner and attuned listening skills come as standard. If you’re likely to be offended when I politely decline your request for a discount, please don’t ask.

When it comes to dating, the ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ approach is an unusual strategy. It may have worked for my first boyfriend Lachlan back in 1995 (and I use the term boyfriend VERY loosely), but I’m a little savvier these days. Here’s a thought - in business or dating, just be a nice person.

This could be true love

Sometimes, like in the Green Mango on that hot January night in 2006, the stars align, and a lasting partnership is born. As a copywriter, these are my faves. There is mutual trust, respect and understanding. Revisions are communicated clearly and in a timely fashion, and invoices are paid on time (or early, even more dreamy!). The good news is, there are plenty more clients in the sea (or something like that), so you don’t need to settle. When you finally find true client love, you’ll feel the difference.

We found Emma to be great to work with, easy to contact and responsive, understood our needs and those of Council, and has a quick turn-around on content. Emma met expectations, wrote to a high standard, completed work according to schedules and deadlines, and to our corporate style. We will use her for future writing/editing/interviewing jobs.
— Rose D'Angelis, Stonnington Council

Think we could be a match made in copywriting heaven? Come and find out.

Want to read more love letters? Find them here.


The Day I Survived Without My Laptop

If you were ever a ‘Sex and the City’ fan, you’ll no doubt remember when Carrie’s computer went to heaven and she spectacularly lost everything. Those were pre-cloud days, and she lived life on the edge, without backing up. Now, that was a huge technological fail. So, mine? Not in this league, but still enough to throw a spanner in the works.

I didn’t need to log on to Xero on Tuesday last week and, thankfully, I’m not an accountant. Xero - my reliable, trusty accounting software - was down for the day. Eeep! But just the following day, I went into panic mode as I realised with horror that my laptop had gone into work with my husband. I had inadvertently left it in the boot while doing childcare pick up and general toddler wrangling. After letting out plenty of initial frustration, I took stock.

I had three precious work hours ahead of me, courtesy of my little one’s grandma and grandpa, and I was not going to waste them. Here’s what I did, and what I suggest you try if ever you find yourself in the same boat.

1. Go old-school!

I put pen to paper, the old-fashioned way. With a newsletter due in the next 24 hours, I had no choice but to go old school. What did I discover? How much I love the feeling of my pen running along the page. The break from staring at a screen was also pretty refreshing. Sure, I had to skip formatting, links and image placement for now. But, I quickly finished a draft that would take very little time to type up later. Dare I say, perhaps the copy flowed even quicker by hand?!

2. Prioritise

I went in to my Trello app via my phone and got my priorities in order. Yes, it meant juggling a few things around, but it also meant I used my time productively. Funnily enough, it also gave me time to focus on the tasks I’d been avoiding…

3. Go big

...Such as big picture dreaming. I’ve long had ideas brewing that I rarely make time to ‘work on’, such is the daily grind. Today, rather than see them as big day-long tasks, I spent some bite-size chunks on the big picture and goal stuff. And, you know what? It didn’t take long to get some serious clarity.

So, am I glad I left my laptop in the boot of the car? Would I do it again? Not purposefully of course, but it’s great to know there are ways I can be productive without it.

Obviously, I'm back online now! So, if you've been meaning to get in touch, you can do that here. I'd love to see if we're a good fit.

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The magic of collaboration

If the idea of working jointly on a project or activity incites hellish flashbacks of uni group projects, stick with me. Collaboration is not a dirty word. Done right, it can open up some pretty awesome opportunities, bring new people and ideas into your world and play an integral part in the future success of your business. Whether you’re a product or service-based business, you can form connections with others, and grow your business by investing in and collaborating with these connections.

One of the best things about running my own business is the opportunity to collaborate with other people. I may work for myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss interaction in the workplace. So, now I simply create it. Through collaborating with others, I can experience a feeling of connectedness. Starting out in a brand new industry in my mid 30s, I found myself totally out of the networks and loops that I had built up over 12 years in the education sector. My career had changed, but so too had the nature of networking.

Here’s why you should consider collaboration for your small business.

For inspiration:

It’s easy to get stuck doing things a particular way. Need a new perspective? Online tools and blogs can inspire you, sure, but try human connection for the ability to discuss, share and communicate inspiration and information. Who knows? You may end up with a fresh technique, tool or new content idea. Someone to bounce ideas off can trigger creativity, and also provide an objective point of view.

To grow your network:

Nothing terrified me more than networking when I started working for myself. Going along to my first networking event felt like a torturous first day at school. Each time I approach new people, my stomach does a little flip, but I do it anyway. I didn’t leave my last career with a huge list of contacts or clients. I’ve built them up from scratch. And I truly believe in the power of human connection. So, if I don’t continue to put myself out there, chatting about why I believe in my business, how can I expect it to grow? An added bonus, of course, is that I’ve met such wonderful people whose services and products I can access. The reality of being in business is that you need to consistently make connections, to encourage referrals and new work. Every time you reach out to someone, you are expanding your network, whether or not it results in collaboration.

To learn:

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I’m driven by a desire for lifelong learning. I actually hanker for it. While sometimes the breadth of what I don’t know seems overwhelming, it’s also very motivational. Collaboration brings with it the opportunity to learn from someone with a different skill set, strengths and perspective.

To problem-solve:

There is definitely power in numbers, in terms of accomplishing something or solving a problem.

Here are some of my favourite collaborations to date:

Creative Darebin Networking Breakfasts - a weekly breakfast for creatives in my hood ticks all the boxes. Casual conversation over coffee with like-minded types? Yes, please.

She Will Shine Women’s Business Network - a totally unstuffy, supportive and inspiring girl gang offering networking nights, power groups, dinners and the rest!

Hood Mama Edit - a slick photo shoot collaboration masterminded by Holly at Motherhood Melbourne and shot by legend behind the lens, Jess Worrall.

Guest blogs on other sites (psst...did you catch me on Seriously Milestones last night?) and interviews with people I admire, like my chat with author Emily Brewin.

Opportunities that have come my way only because I had the courage to reach out. I’ve had some of my freelance articles published and generated new copywriting work this way.

So, what should I consider first?

Before you reach out, think carefully about who to partner with and why. Do your goals and values align? Do you have the same target audience? What can you each bring to the table? How will the collaboration idea work? On a practical level, you can use your combined leverage to connect with more people and spread your message. Social media campaigns don’t need heaps of money or followers, but they do need a genuinely engaged following to be successful. Other ideas are to feature one another, such as by guest blogging or promoting each other’s services. Photo shoots can work too. For the Hood Mama Edit, bloggers and writers wore the products supplied, then created content. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with your ‘so-called’ competitors either. There’s power in numbers, and clearly common interests. The question may be, why wouldn’t you?

How do I get started?

I’d encourage you to begin online, via Facebook groups or networking sites. I love connecting with fellow freelancers and copywriters this way. Search your local area for IRL networking options too, or chat to your friends. They may know someone they can put you in touch with. You don’t need to meet in person if that’s too tricky. There’s always Skype for chats, Google Drive for doc sharing and Trello for project management. Keep it easy! Just enjoy the process.

What collaborations have you been a part of? Let me know. Or if you've got a great idea about how we could work together, let's chat!

 

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How I Saved My Sanity in January

School goes back next week.

Although, I’m no longer a teacher so I don’t live by the term, die by the term. And, my little rascal is still a few years off school (and his daycare largely stayed open in January - thank goodness!).

So why does it matter to me at all?

I don’t know about you, but it always feels like there’s a different energy around the place in January. Even for those of us continuing to go to work, we’re conscious of so many other people either away on holidays (sigh) or navigating the work/kids on school holidays juggle. But more than that, I’m a little bit of a (whispered) control freak. Honestly, I can’t remember what came first. The teaching term or routine addict. The chicken or the egg. But that’s how I roll.

And January is a month where routines tend to slip a little. There are occasional later bedtimes, both for adults and little ones, pushed back or skipped naps, or unusually busy days. While that allowed our family more social flexibility, we certainly paid the price some days. Okay, okay so we also have an almost-two-year-old on our hands, which probably accounts for plenty. At any rate, it’s become abundantly clear that both he and I are natural sticklers for routine (much to the chagrin of my spontaneous husband - we’re still working on finding that middle ground).

So, how did I find some structure amongst the free-fall of January to keep my inner (sometimes outer) control freak happy? And, to feel like I was having a bit of a holiday in my own city some days?

We chose activities for the whole family. By that I mean, we selected either kid activities that we were happy to do, like visit the new Ground Up exhibition at Scienceworks. Or adult activities where toddlers would be welcome, like hanging at the super-relaxed bar and eatery Tallboy and Moose in Thornbury.

We used babysitters. With parent babysitters temporarily out of action, we were happy to pay our fabulous local babysitters for the privilege of dining out for our wedding anniversary and to just have some adult time.

We took naps or had down time. Some weekends were really full, so we made sure to take the opportunity if ever the toddler slept to sleep too, or simply rest in front of the cricket. To reset, and to find some more energy for when he woke.

We socialised with other families. This gave the little ones some instant friends to play with, and made ‘another trip to the park’ loads more enjoyable.

We tried new experiences. We went for pho and pizza, mastered the art of the babycino, explored Scienceworks, found a new water play park. We mixed it up.

In a funny way, I think I need January to reset myself, to reinvigorate and re-energise, to exercise my spontaneous muscle and to just free-fall. Knowing full well that, by February, everything will be back in its place, just as it should be.

Happy end of January everyone (and to my fellow control freaks, we’re nearly there!).

P.S. If there was anything on your Jan to-do list that you didn’t get to and I can possibly help - just sing out! Copywriting, editing, proofreading, hit me up! Piles of washing, cooking, bill paying, I will politely decline.

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What I’ve learnt in my first year in business

That first year in business. Would we still do it if we knew how hard it would actually be? The fact that you’re really ‘on’ 24/7, making very little money and frantically upskilling well outside your comfort zone? I would. Because, as tough as the first year has been in many ways, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Here are 11 important things I have learnt over this past year working as a freelance copywriter.

1. Mindset matters

Your mindset and attitude go a long way to ensuring you can go the distance! Things like goal setting, staying focused and thinking positively really do make a difference. I nourished myself with exercise and yoga, fuelled my passion for learning by listening to podcasts and reading, and networked with like-minded people. Importantly too, I spent time with my family and friends who centred me.

2. A network works

Having a powerful network around you is essential, including family, friends and professionals. Nurture these relationships. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone when it comes to professional networking (even if, like me, the idea terrifies you). I hunted around to find a business networking group that felt like the ‘right fit’, sought out like-minded types on social media and learnt to talk about myself and my skillset.

3. You have value

It is important to charge what you’re worth, perhaps not in the earliest of days, but once you become more established. Some small business owners are dead-against offering mates’ rates or freebies, but I’m open to it in the right context. It can be a good way to build up your client base and gather testimonials. Just make sure you have the time for it or you’ll find yourself resenting it. You might not always make the ‘right’ decision around this - I certainly didn’t - but it’s all part of the learning process. Always ask for testimonials too. They are gold! Let your happy clients do the spruiking for you!

4. Don’t wait

Stop waiting around for the perfect moment to start - it’s not coming. The time is now.

5. Trust your gut

Don’t waste valuable time over-thinking everything. Of course you’ll be winging it at times, especially in those early days. Be kind to yourself and trust that you’ll make the best decision you can in the moment. Just a note to trust your gut (especially when it comes to more difficult clients). Nine times out of ten, you're probably right.

6. Understand your client

In the beginning, it can be tempting to want everyone as your client. Unfortunately, this broad approach may mean you end up pleasing no-one. Try to understand your ideal client or customer by getting into their head (find ‘types’ of your client on social media and stalk away!) and figuring out how you can solve their problem.  

7. Social strategy

Social media marketing is important (engagement over ‘likes’), but it is just one piece of the pie. Spend time focusing on your website, network, write great content (and have the SEO gods smile upon you) and email any potential clients to reach out. I’m personally not on every social platform and I don’t always work with a particular ‘strategy’ in mind when I post. But I’m always 100% me.

8. Good things take time

There will be days where you feel like you’re winning and other days you almost throw the towel in. Take time to acknowledge the wins, however small.

9. Say no to 24/7

It can be so tempting to work all the time, but make sure you carve out time to rest, have a break and fill your cup. You’ll become a better business owner for it. Promise.

10. Systems and processes

Putting systems and processes in place will save you time in the long run. I certainly didn’t factor in that I’d be learning accounting software, or how to create graphics, or a newsletter template. If it’s just you, you kinda need to take it on. Occasionally I will outsource, if the task is way beyond the scope of what I can do, and that’s been great too.

11. You will change

This small business journey will alter you. There will be so many new people in your world, and you yourself will grow. Embrace the changes and all of those people who choose to walk beside you.

As I prepare for my second year of freelance life, I can't wait to see what learnings lie ahead.

Want to be a part of this journey? I'd love to work some word magic with you. Say hello!

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