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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