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.

breathe

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.


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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7 freelancing locations to mix up your workday

I was staggered to learn recently that freelancers now make up around a third of the Australian workforce. Although, perhaps I needn’t have been so surprised. Having recently joined the ranks as a freelance copywriter, I can certainly attest to the benefits of the lifestyle. I am my own boss and the hours are more flexible which suits my young family. Things can get a little lonely though, especially when you’re used to a bustling office or workplace. You may need to mix up where you work not only to stay motivated and inspired, but to keep company with other like-minded folk. My desk is the kitchen table, which makes me very portable. When I need a change of scene, I just pack up my laptop and planner and off I go. Coworking spaces are brilliant if you’re seeking a community of freelancers and creatives to work alongside, but there are plenty of other alternative spaces that might work for you.

Need focus?

Try a library! All libraries have different vibes, with some offering lovely views and even indoor/outdoor spaces. Explore your local neighbourhood or head to your state library for an environment that is reliably calm and aids concentration.

Hunting for inspiration?

Look no further than a cafe for excellent people watching and fascinating conversation snippets. Select one where the atmosphere and playlist suit your work style and, if you’re going to settle in, try to choose a quieter time of day. Pop onto a communal table or bench and order a meal or at least a couple of drinks to maintain a good relationship with the staff.

Errands to run?

It’s a freelance work day but the errands won’t run themselves. Leave the car at home and catch a tram or train instead, using that time to work productively. If you miss out on a seat, pop on a podcast to motivate you and use your Trello board or planner to help you organise the day ahead.

Craving collaboration?

Loads of coworking spaces are popping up all over the place - pick one that suits your vibe and try it for a day. If you need to put your head down, others will understand. If you want to chat or need a break, there will be people happy to oblige!

The great outdoors your thing?

A local park might just be the thing you need if it’s a lovely day. The best part? You can stay as long as you like.

Fancy some motivation?

Remember the good old days of group school projects? Camping out at a friend’s place in the afternoon made work so much more fun and the work got done with minimal fuss. Bring nibbles or coffee and try working side by side at someone else’s house. It may just be the productivity nudge you need.

Got the travel bug?

Take a workation! On Instagram recently, I saw a snap of a bunch of freelancing creative types who took themselves off for a couple of days and rented a house to work. This idea ticks so many boxes - change of scenery, collaboration, motivation, inspiration. I’m yet to try this idea but I think it sounds fantastic.

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Why you need a Copywriter!

If I had a dollar for each time somebody said ‘Oh copywriting...what’s that?’ or confused copywriting for copyrighting, well, I wouldn’t need to write copy. I’d spend all my time reading great books, taking dance classes and binge-watching Girlboss. Actually, as a self-confessed word nerd, I’d still do it because I love it! To tell you the truth though, before I became one, I didn’t know much about copywriters either. Here are the answers to five of your burning questions:

What does a copywriter actually do?

You may be surprised at the breadth of tasks we can help you with. In simple terms, a copywriter writes advertising or marketing text or ‘copy’. I do this with the assistance of a very strong coffee. This copy can take many forms, such as website copy, brochures, ebooks, speeches, headlines, PR copy - the list goes on! The best part is, while we are writing your copy to further engage your current and prospective clients, you are doing what you do best - growing, nurturing and expanding your business. What could be better?

Can’t I just write it myself?

Being a good writer isn’t the same as being a good copywriter. It is a very particular and unique results-driven skill. It needs to generate sales of your product or brand, and get conversions from website visitors. Objectivity is important too. A great copywriter is skilled at making your biz sound all kinds of fabulous. As humans, we’re not always great at telling the world how awesome we are. Your copywriter, on the other hand, has just enough distance from your passion to highlight your best features without sounding ‘salesy’. Do you tend to procrastinate when writing about your business or get stuck ‘perfecting’ something that never seems quite right? All the while, your potential clients or customers are missing out on your message. Engage a professional copywriter for website copy and other marketing collateral that sings!

How can a copywriter help me if I don’t sell a physical product?

Even if you’re a service-based business, you are selling your brand, YOU, to your potential clients. You are creating a vibe, a feeling that draws people to you. Your copywriter can help make sure you’re branding is targeted towards the very type of clients you wish to attain.

What does a copywriter charge?

This can vary quite significantly, and many copywriters quote for each individual project, rather than by the hour. This takes into account all of the preparation and research your copywriter will do before they even begin writing your copy. It may not be as expensive as you think though. Think of good copywriting as an investment in your business. Done well, the rewards will be tangible and long-lasting. Rather than asking if you can afford it, the question should perhaps be ‘Can you afford not to?’ Your competition is, so you probably should too.

What is the process for working with a copywriter?

Any copywriter worth their salt will take steps to learn more about your business before launching into the copywriting itself. Most commonly this is done via a Creative Brief of sorts, where you have the opportunity to flesh out your expectations, goals, target market, brand voice and preferred writing style so that your copywriter can work for you more effectively. Put simply, the more we know about you and your point of difference, the more we can shout from the rooftops about the benefits of your business to clients. At the end of the day, everybody does a happy dance.

So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch - I can’t wait to work with you!

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