My Favorite Copywriting Tools

I’ll likely make this a recurring series, but to start, here are five favorite copywriting tools to add to your content marketing toolbox.

Note: If you’d prefer watching a video about this topic, I’m embedding one below from my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

1. Zoom

I was using Zoom pre-pandemic, and I’ve loved it since the beginning. Why do I feel the need for conferencing software? Couldn’t a phone call work? Well, with Zoom, you can share screens, which comes in handy (for example, when showing a website mockup). Plus, I can record the calls on Zoom as well. I can also have multiple people join the call (which is sometimes necessary—I’ve been on calls with five or six people on the client-side).

I’m currently on the Pro plan, which works great for my needs and budget. (The reason I don’t recommend the free version: The 40-minute limit on phone calls. You WILL have calls that go over 40 minutes, and it can be embarrassing or ruin the vibe when you have to pause and send out a new invite.)

Note: I record ALL client calls. I always let them know and remind them that nothing will be used against them in a court of law. (Which always elicits a chuckle.) Recording eliminates the need for me to frantically take notes (which I can never read anyway). Instead, I can focus on the substance of the conversation.

2. Rev.com

I mentioned above that I always record my calls. From there, I upload the calls to Rev.com to get the recording transcribed. I’ve used both the manual transcription where a human listens and transcribes word-for-word and the AI (artificial intelligence) that does an automated transcription. The two biggest differences between the two? Price and accuracy. Humans are much more accurate, but I got to admit the AI is pretty close (depending on how good the recording itself is—a client on a landline vs. in the car).

I tend to use humans for complex interviews involving medical topics (I do writing for a urology practice). But the AI works great for almost everything else.

As for pricing, as I write this, the human transcription is $1.25/minute while the AI is .25 a minute. (And keep in mind that this is a legit business expense for a writer. I have a line item in my business expenses for Rev.com.)

Note: I’ve heard good things about Temi.com, another AI option.

3. Keyword research tools

As a freelance copywriter, you’ll be writing website copy and blog posts. (To name just a couple of items.) One of the goals of those two types of content is to bring people in via organic search. To accomplish this, you need to know what phrases people are searching on—and then develop a content strategy and content calendar to support those themes.

Confession: I used to bristle when it came to keyword research. I have no problem optimizing the content for search. But I preferred having the keyword phrases handed to me. Why? I didn’t always feel confident in my ability to look at numbers and stats. And earlier keyword tools (think the early to mid-aughts) weren’t as user-friendly (in my estimation) for regular folks like me. But they’ve come a long way, and in recent years, I’ve embraced doing the initial pass at the KW research.

Luckily, some good free keyword tools exist. So you can start with those if you’re just launching your freelance copywriting business. But if you find that you’re doing a lot of SEO copywriting, for example, and the free keyword tools aren’t cutting it, I recommend investing in a paid tool. My go-to is SEMRush. Some folks just starting out might find it a little on the pricy side (again, I’m on the Pro plan), but it’s something to consider as you grow.

4. Lettercount.com

Lettercount.com is quick, easy, and my favorite price: FREE. I’ve used this site for years. It’s just a box that does a quick character count. Perfect for double-checking meta descriptions, title tags, tweets, and anything else restricted by a certain number of characters.

5. Canva.com

Canva has free and premium versions. I’m currently on the free, and it works for my needs, right now. Canva has ready-made templates and designs awaiting your copy and finishing touches. I find it incredibly intuitive, too.

Got other questions about copywriting?

Be sure to browse my Ask the Copy Bitch blog and my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

 

Blogging and Copywriting: What’s the Difference?

Listen, I get it. We want things to be clear. And simple. And well-defined. But in the loosey-goosey world of writing, some things overlap. Take blogging and copywriting. What’s the difference? Are they different?

Note: If you’d prefer watching a video about this topic, I’m embedding one below from my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

As for blogging vs. copywriting, it all depends on the purpose. Someone who starts a blog as a hobby, just to share their navel-gazing thoughts? Yes, that’s blogging at its purest, the true epitome of a web log, which is where the word “blog” comes from. I’d never in a million years call that example copywriting.

But blogging can be a subset of copywriting. Refresher time! Copywriting is any writing that sells a product, service, or cause. Your grandma isn’t going to hire a copywriter to blog about her garden, but the garden store down the street might very well hire a copywriter to blog for them.

The goal of the garden store’s blog is to capture people who are already searching on relevant phrases linked to what the garden store is selling. The idea being that if you bring in someone who is already searching for, say, “best mulch for flower beds” (1900 searches a month) thanks to a kick-ass blog post on that subject, well . . . you likely see where this is heading.

The person reading the blog post might take further action—ordering something from the site, visiting the store in person if they’re local, following the store on social media, and/or subscribing to the blog (the latter actions allow the business to stay in front of the prospect).

You get the idea. The blog post was written to answer a prospective customer’s specific question—and to possibly make a sale.

And that’s precisely why I consider blogging a subset of copywriting. While a prospect might need more than one well-written blog post to convince them to buy, the blog post still provided an important first step in their journey.

Jargon alert: We call this the “top” of the sales funnel where we provide high-quality content to attract people who are just getting started on their buying quest and doing searches in Google. Once we lure them to the site via the blog—and they hopefully take another action, like subscribe to the blog or sign up for email alerts—the goal is to stay in front of them and help nudge them down the sales funnel until they are ready to come out the other end as a customer.

Hey, I warned you about the jargon, right?

Bottom line: I consider blogging an essential service that I offer as a freelance copywriter. In fact, I’d say blogging probably makes up 70 percent of my copywriting business. Today alone, I blogged about vaginal atrophy, social media screening services, how to market a senior living community, and tips for being successful in beauty school.

How do blogging and copywriting work in real life with my clients?

When I blog for clients, I will . . .

  • Do keyword research using SEMRush (I highly recommend this tool. And I recommend following the SEMrush blog.)
  • Create a blog editorial calendar, one that works in harmony with all the other marketing initiatives the company has for the quarter
  • Talk to subject matter experts, as needed
  • Research, research, research
  • Draft the blog post—and social media posts to promote it (and sometimes newsletter content to promote the blog posts as well)
  • Monitor traffic/engagement
  • Revise/refresh past blog posts, as needed, based on analytics

So kids, to recap: blogging can be an important sub-set of copywriting. And if you decide to enter the wonderful world of freelance copywriting, I can (just about) guarantee that you’ll do your fair share of blogging.

Got other questions about blogging and copywriting?

Or maybe questions related to running a copywriting business? Be sure to browse my Ask the Copy Bitch blog and my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

What Is Copywriting Anyway?

Thinking of becoming a copywriter? Let’s back up a sec and discuss what is copywriting anyway?

Note: If you’d prefer watching a video about this topic, I’m embedding one below from my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

At its simplest, copywriting is any writing that helps promote a product, service, or cause.

THAT’S A BASIC DEFINITION. I’ve made it deliberately broad. You will encounter different definitions (usually much narrower ones). And you will encounter people who disagree with mine.

Don’t get too hung up on which definition is most correct, and here’s why.

The folks who hire you are going to have different definitions, too. Especially small businesses. They might call you a website writer. Or a blogger. Some might call you a content marketer. Many will simply refer to you as a “writer.” And that’s OK.

After all, the “writing” part is the common denominator.

And yes, the writing you do has a purpose, which is to ultimately help promote and sell the client’s product, service, or cause. Think of that as the umbrella purpose. What falls underneath can be narrower.

For example, the purpose of the emails you’re writing might be to get folks to register for a client’s webinar. The purpose of the blog post you pen might be to engage people at the (jargon alert!) top of the sales funnel. The website content you write will have different purposes, depending on the page—home page, landing page, about page.

That’s why I take a broad approach when defining what copywriting is (and what copywriters do), especially for copywriters who’re just starting out.

If you freelance, you’ll likely do various types of writing, especially in the beginning. Some writing will be more conversion-centric, meaning the goal is to get people to convert into a sale (or, at least, a lead). Other writing might be about building engagement (think social media posts). If you work as a copywriter for a company, the company itself will define what you do.

If you look on job sites, titles vary:

  • Copywriter
  • Marketing writer
  • Content marketer
  • Content writer

Some titles might be incredibly specific, such as

  • SEO copywriter
  • Website copywriter
  • Email marketer
  • Direct mail copywriter
  • Radio copywriter

Oftentimes, the title “copywriter” or “content marketer” will ultimately include all the different types of writing. Why? Because today’s writers need to wear many hats. You need to write website copy, email copy, direct mail copy, advertising copy, social media copy, and long-form copy (think guides/white papers).

That’s why I opt for a broad definition when answering the question “what is copywriting”?

So don’t get too hung up on official definitions. Just know that copywriting is a type of writing that businesses and organizations use to promote their business and organization—and the products, services, or causes they’re “selling.” And that to accomplish this goal, you’ll likely need to write various types of content.

Got more questions?

Like, how to start a copywriting business, how to get clients as a freelance copywriter, and the like? Check out my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel or read other articles on my Ask the Copy Bitch blog.

How to Get Clients as a Freelance Copywriter

Yay, you’ve done it! You’ve hung out your virtual shingle and started your own copywriting business. NOW WHAT? You need business. Here’s how to get clients as a freelance copywriter . . .

If you’d prefer watching a video about this topic, I’m embedding one below from my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

1. Reach out to family/friends who own a business (or who work in marketing).

Let them know you do freelance writing for businesses and that you can help with things like blog posts, website copy, social media posts, printed collateral (like brochures), and messaging strategy.

It’s important to give examples of the work you do because guess what? Most folks who hear the word “copywriter” don’t know what it means. Even within the world of copywriting, people have vastly different definitions. When it comes to defining copywriting, I tend to take a broad view. To me, it’s any writing that markets a product, service, or cause. Synonyms include content marketer, content writer, marketing writer, and website copywriter (to name just a few).

If the business in question has a marketing manager, ask for an introduction. That’s the person who would assign you a project. If it’s a one-person shop, the goal is to let them know how you can make their life easier with their marketing. Are they having trouble getting out a monthly newsletter? Creating an engaging website? Keeping up a lively social media presence? Let them know those are the sorts of things you can help with, either as one-off projects or ongoing monthly work.

Note: The goal is to get regular monthly work. If you can blog a couple of times a month for a client and do their email marketing newsletter, that’s a nice piece of work you can count on, month-to-month. From there, build and get other clients who give you similar work each month. Mix in one-off projects as well.

2. Network, network, network.

You have options. I did Business Networking International (BNI) when I first started out. BNI is a commitment—it costs a pretty penny to join, but the value is that you’ll be the only copywriter occupying a seat in your chapter. The idea behind BNI is to generate referrals for one another—a “givers gain” philosophy.

PRO TIP #1: Before joining a chapter, visit it (I believe you can do so two times). Every chapter is a little different. You want to get a sense of the vibe—and whether you’d be a good fit.

PRO TIP #2: Look for chapters with complementary colleagues. By that I mean:

  • Web designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Marketing specialists
  • PR consultants

Those folks need writers—and writers need them. So you create this little power “sphere” of activity where you can bond and help each other out. The web designer who is wooing a prospect can say “I have a great writer who can create SEO copy for you.”

The key to BNI success:

  • Show up. You must attend weekly meetings, often at 7 AM.
  • Do the one-to-one meetings. BNI encourages you to meet one-to-one with people in your chapter so that you can get to know them and their needs—and vice versa.
  • Be willing to serve as a substitute in other chapters. Being active on the sub-circuit means you can expand your reach and visibility even more.
  • Participate in leadership roles. I recommend holding off on this until after you get your bearings, but leadership roles can offer even more opportunities.

Other networking groups:

  • Chambers of Commerce – These often have after-hours meetups and breakfast meetups. The key with joining the Chamber is making sure you push yourself to take part in these events.
  • Women’s organizations, like Polka Dot Powerhouse
  • College alumni organizations
  • Marketing organizations
  • Meetup groups

3. Keep tabs on marketing firms/agencies.

Many of today’s marketing agencies like to have a stable of freelance copywriters. (And once you prove yourself invaluable, you will quickly rise to the top of their go-to list).

PRO TIP: Look for true firms/agencies—not one-person shops. Check out their careers section—they often list what they’re looking for (and if they’re looking for writers).

Be careful about sending a cold email—if they’re not advertising for freelancers, they might not need them. While it probably won’t hurt to send a polite email, it’s always better if you have some sort of intro. This is where LinkedIn can come in—look for connections in common and ask for direct intros whenever possible.

A good roundup of agencies that “get” content creation: the HubSpot Solutions Directory.

4. Create relevant alerts on job curation sites that promote freelance work.

The sites below are good places to create a presence and to subscribe to relevant job alerts.

Some sites have paid subscriptions, which might be worth trying when you’re starting out (or if you find you have luck with a particular service). The key with these sites? Being the first to pounce on listings. So that adage about the early bird most definitely applies.

5. Make sure you connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn.

So when you reach out to those business owners, connect with them on LinkedIn. Connect with the marketing managers. Connect with the people you meet when networking. Connect with clients once they officially hire you.

PRO TIP #1: Always send a personal message along with the invite.

PRO TIP #2: Stay in touch. Every quarter, say hi through LinkedIn and remind them you’re there. You’re priming the pump so that when they do need a writer—or they’re talking to someone who needs a writer—your name is the first one that pops up. This is a longer-term strategy, but it’s important.

6. How to get clients as a freelance copywriter? Ask happy clients for referrals.

Have you just done work for a client and they loved the results? Ask them for a referral to fellow business owners they know. And/or look at their LinkedIn connections and see if anyone catches your eye. Then, ask for an intro.

7. Get friendly with other like-minded writers.

This might sound counterintuitive. Aren’t “other writers” the competition? No. There is more than enough work out there for everyone—honest. Content drives everything these days, so there’s no shortage of work. And remember, you’re just one person and there are just so many hours in a day.

I regularly have to turn down work (and this isn’t meant to sound boastful, either—I just like to eat, sleep, and play; I don’t want to work all the time). So becoming friendly with writers you can refer business to—and who can do the same for you—is another smart strategy for how to get clients as a freelance copywriter. Keep in mind that everyone brings their own specialties to the table. I’m not keen on financial writing, but I have two friends/colleagues who are awesome in this area—so I refer to them. (And they have both referred to me.)

A word about content farms/content mills . . .

I’ll be doing a longer blog post and video about this topic: Should you work for content farms? The short answer is (like so many things in life): It depends. My biggest beef with content farms and mills is the incredibly low payments they give to writers, which devalues the important work writers do.

THAT said . . .  when you’re starting out and you’re trying to drum up examples to include in your copywriting portfolio, working for a content farm can be a great way to get clips—and to learn how to work quickly without losing accuracy. My general advice: It’s OK to do it in the short term and/or to have it be one piece of your revenue mix. At some point, you’ll outgrow the farm, and that’s OK—and a good goal to strive for.

On a similar note, DON’T fall into the trap of working for only one or two clients. Diversification is critical. If one client goes silent (or worse—out of business), you’ll be in trouble and scrambling. But if you have a diverse roster of clients and one goes down, you won’t be in panic mode. Yes, you’ll look to fill the open spot, but you won’t be struggling to pay the rent.

Got more questions about how to get clients as a freelance copywriter?

Like, how to start a copywriting business, how to charge for copywriting, and the like? Check out my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel or read other articles on my Ask the Copy Bitch blog.

How to Start a Copywriting Business

OK, so you’ve figured out that copywriting is for you—and that you have the necessary skills to write effective marketing copy. Now, you’re wondering about the next step: how to start a copywriting business.

Below is my deep dive blog post, which provides simple steps for getting started. This is part of a longer series for beginning copywriters. Or you can watch the video version below from my YouTube channel: Ask The Copy Bitch.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer or an accountant. So whenever I talk about money or taxes, think of it as general info rather than specific guidance. Also! I’m based outside of Boston, Mass. I can only offer my perspective based on my experience in the U.S. Your mileage will vary depending on where you are. But the ideas below should provide a good springboard.

1. Choose a business name.

Sounds so simple, but you need a name, a brand identity, something to hang your hat on. We could go down a rabbit hole about strategies for naming a business. For your purposes, I wouldn’t overthink it. For solo professionals, like writers, using your name—or a version of it with the word “writer” or “copywriter”—is a good strategy.

EXAMPLE: Copywriting By Stewie

(For those who are new . . . Stewie is my sidekick sloth. See pic below.)

stuffed sloth looking at computer re: how to start a copywriting business

2. Register a corresponding domain name.

You’re going to need a website (more on this below). And you’ll need a custom domain for that website. The custom domain should correspond with your business name (as best it can).

EXAMPLE: www.CopywritingByStewie.com

Don’t stress too much if you can’t get a dot-com. People are used to seeing other extensions, like dot-biz or dot-us. So www.CopyWritingByStewie.biz would be perfectly OK.

3. Create a website.

I know, I know. This probably feels like the most daunting step of all! But you need a website. It serves as your storefront. Prospective clients can find you via search engines. Or they will go to your site to check out your credentials after you approach them (at a networking event, for example).

Your initial site can be simple. Basic. You don’t necessarily need to hire a web designer if your budget doesn’t allow for that. You can use a budget-friendly or free website builder to get the initial job done. Just make sure it allows you to have a CUSTOM domain. (Like CopywritingByStewie.com.) Most don’t. But I found a great article that lists six options, including one that was new to me: Google Sites.

What pages should your copywriting website include:

  • Home
  • About
  • Portfolio
  • Contact
  • Blog*

Regarding search engine optimization (SEO). If you’re not familiar with SEO, that’s OK, but get cozy with it SOON. Because SEO is the heart and soul of effective online marketing. Bottom line: You need to optimize your website so that Google can easily find it, index it, and serve it up for relevant searches. If you have only a four-page site, you’ll need to find four kickass phrases to focus on (one for each page). (Here’s a link that highlights free keyword tools.)

Having a blog gives you more flexibility because you can optimize each blog post for a keyword (and each post counts as a page in Google’s eyes). This gives your site more ranking opportunities.

I’ll talk about SEO copywriting in later posts, but the best place I can send you is HubSpot: The Ultimate Guide to SEO. That link will explain EVERYTHING you need to know about SEO. Bookmark it. Revisit it. Study it.

Your home page doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it personal. Keep it conversational. Keep it error-free. Make it more about the prospective client reading the site rather than about you. Talk about how you can make their life easier by supplying clear, compelling copy for all their marketing needs—from websites to blogs, social media to premium offers.

Your About should be about you (duh!). This is the place to talk about yourself. Highlight your background and skills. Let your personality shine through. Include a picture. I like keeping things fun and light. A headshot of you smiling is a must. (Using your phone to take the pic is fine. Just make sure the lighting is good.) Add candid shots to further show who you are and your personality.

Your portfolio page proves your ability as a copywriter. This is where you show off your mad copywriting skills. Link to stuff you’ve written. If a prospect lands on your site, they want to see evidence that you know what you’re doing. If you’re a new copywriter, I realize this is a chicken and egg conundrum. If you’re just starting a business, you likely don’t have a lot of client work. I’ll get into this in a future video, but there are ways to get clips quickly.

  • Got great writing examples from a previous job? Did you write anything for your previous employer’s website, social media platforms, email newsletter? Take screenshots and upload. (I recommend only showcasing public-facing items, unless you receive permission from your employer to share something else, like an internal presentation you put together.)
  • Got a friend who owns a business? Offer to write a blog post and/or web page for free and add the links to your portfolio.
  • Got a local charity you’re involved with? Many local charities need marketing help. Offer to rewrite their home page or any printed collateral.

Worst case scenario: Create your own examples. “Here’s an example of a series of emails promoting a webinar about X.” Once you start doing work for clients, you’ll swap in real clips and remove the examples.

Your contact page should offer multiple ways to get in touch. Offer an email address. And, ideally, avoid using a Gmail or Hotmail address or anything like that. You want it to be related to your domain name. So Stewie@StewartCopywritingServices.com instead of @gmail.com WHY? Perception. You’ll come across as a legit business.

In terms of what social media channels to include on your Contact page/website footer . . . unless you have an active, relevant, and professional presence on places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and so forth, you don’t need to include any links—at least, not yet. Over time, you might transition one of your accounts—like Twitter—to be more copywriting-centric. You can always add it in.

The one exception: LinkedIn. I recommend having a strong LinkedIn profile and including it on your site. It’s another place for prospective clients to check out. And LI has the benefit of showing common connections (which might help seal a deal) and endorsements. Here’s a primer on how to create a compelling LinkedIn profile.

To blog or not to blog . . . that is the question. Blogging benefits include the following:

  • You can show your writing chops.
  • You can show your marketing expertise.
  • You can optimize a blog post for a keyword phrase, which gives Google another opportunity to find you.
  • You can solidify your own understanding of marketing topics. By writing thoroughly about a topic, you’ll cement your own knowledge.

The biggest blogging con is the time commitment: You need to commit to it. This doesn’t mean publishing a blog post every day or even every week. But once or twice a month is a must—and doing so regularly over time.

Do you need a logo? No, you don’t need one. If you want one, that’s a different story. You might be able to get an acceptable logo done on a shoestring budget from a place like Fiverr. Or if you have a contact—maybe a friend/relative is a graphic designer or dabbles enough to be dangerous—you could go that route. Or if you yourself have any design chops, you could play around with making one.

Again, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds when starting out. A logo is not going to make or break your business at this point—and it might be an unnecessary expense or distraction.

At some point, once your business starts gaining traction and you’re feeling confident that this is IT and you’re going to continue, you can always revisit the logo question—and the custom web design question. I DO think there’s value in going with a professional web designer (here’s the web design firm I use) when the time is right and you have the money to invest.

One final thought on developing a copywriting website (for now): This goes without saying, but grammar and punctuation matter BIG time on your website. Sure, typos happen and are a part of life. But it’s worth having another set of competent eyes proof the main pages of your site.

4. Open a business bank account.

Don’t wait until you’re making a lot of money to do this. Open a business banking account if you’re serious about starting a copywriting business. Why? Well, you should keep business and personal expenses separate. This will make tax time much, much easier. You will likely have some clients who will want to pay you electronically as well, and it’s just much more professional to be using a business bank account.

Be aware of fees, especially minimums. Make sure you get a business debit card, and try to pay all business-related expenses with this debit card (rather than cash or check). Why? Again, it makes recordkeeping easier since you’ll get monthly itemized bank statements. Keep all receipts anyway (especially if you pay with cash). But the monthly statement will save you a lot of grief.

My business and personal accounts are with the same bank, which makes things super easy. The bank has a user-friendly online portal. I easily transfer funds from my business account to my personal account every month (when I’m paying myself; you can also set it up to do so automatically, but I like going into my accounts regularly and seeing the balance).

5. File a business certificate (or its equivalent) with your town or city, if needed.

Not everyone does this. In fact, I’m the only person I know who does it. But I suffer from Big Catholic guilt and always follow the rules, so.

My city’s website says, “Business Certificates must be filed by unincorporated businesses located in Framingham which are conducting business under a name other than one’s own.” I think it cost me $50, and it lasts for four years. You might want to google “business certificate” and your city/town’s name to see what it requires.

6. Get thee a writing machine.

Obviously, you’re going to need a computer, laptop, and/or tablet. This is where the writing happens. If you can swing it, I highly recommend having two machines and making them mirror images of each other. Meaning if you’re working on a Word doc on one machine, it will automatically sync to the other. This way, if one machine goes down—which will happen at some point—you don’t miss a beat. You simply switch to the other machine. I also recommend building in redundancies. I save things to the cloud, but I also have two external hard drives, one for each machine.

7. Invest in reliable Internet.

Along the same lines, make sure you invest in reliable Internet. This is one area where I don’t recommend skimping because you will notice the difference—and it will likely frustrate you. You need speed and reliability. Again, pay with your business bank card.

8. Get comfortable with word processing software.

I’m assuming since you want to be a copywriter that you’re already set with this, but I’m mentioning it just in case. I’m a Microsoft Word girl. I use it 90% of the time. The other 10%, I work in Google docs. But I always write in Word first before uploading to Google docs. I use Outlook for email. I use Excel/Google sheets probably 5% of the time. (Usually for editorial calendars or project plans.) I often need to read PowerPoint presentations, but I rarely create any these days. Your mileage will vary, of course.

That said, the majority of your clients will work in either Word or Google docs. (You’ll want to make sure you can read and create PDFs, too.) So make sure you’re familiar with both and that whatever machine you choose can open/work in Word.

9. Keep good records.

This ties in with the business bank account. You want to make sure you keep records/receipts for all business-related expenses. You should also have a basic profit & loss statement. This includes revenue, cost of goods sold, general expenses, other expenses (think taxes), and net income. Remember my disclaimer at the beginning of the blog post? I’m not an accountant. Here are some links:

Do you need an accountant/bookkeeper right away? Like so many things in life, it depends. I’ve used one since the beginning. You’ll want to pay quarterly estimates, too, and an accountant can help forecast the estimates, answer questions, and the like. But you need to make that decision for yourself.

One thing to keep in mind as you decide: Consider what your time is worth. Let’s say you spend 10 hours doing your taxes. But let’s say your internal hourly rate with clients is $65/hour. (Note: The word “internal” is key here—I don’t recommend giving clients hourly rates, only project quotes. I’ll be talking about hourly rates vs project quotes in a future blog post. Still, you need to have an internal sense of what an hour of your time is worth to you.) So let’s say your accountant charges you $500 to prepare your taxes. It takes you ten hours (essentially, $650 worth of your time). You can see it makes more economic sense to pay someone else to do your taxes and to use those ten hours making money.

Again, your mileage will vary—and it will change over time. Figure out what works for you. Keeping good records is smart whether you do your taxes yourself or you outsource the work.

Bonus Items for How to Start a Copywriting Business

  • Do you need a printer? I have one and hardly use it.
  • Do you need a fax machine? It isn’t 1995. You don’t need a fax machine. When I started, I used eFax (and I still have an account I keep forgetting to cancel).
  • Business cards. I do have ’em. I can’t remember the last time I handed one out. But as you start your copywriting business, you’ll likely be doing much more networking. So get some business cards. Don’t overthink it. VistaPrint and Moo offer budget-friendly options.
  • Office supplies. Basics only. One of the nice things about a copywriting business is the low overhead. If you’re going to spend money anywhere, put it towards a good chair. You’ll be spending a lot of time in it!

Note: I’m assuming you have a smartphone. But I know what they say about assumptions. You need a phone. I use my cell as my business phone. I also have a landline that I use when talking to clients/interviewing subject matter experts because I find the sound quality is better—and a landline is more reliable. This is my own preference. You don’t necessarily need a landline, but it’s worth mentioning.

Is this an exhaustive list of steps on how to start a copywriting business?

NOPE! But something the hardest part about getting started . . . is simply getting started. My goal: to provide actionable items that you can tackle. If you do all of the above, you’ll be in good shape—and then you can build/adjust from there.

Did you like this blog post? Consider subscribing to my blog and/or my YouTube channel: Ask the Copy Bitch.

Thanks for reading. Wishing you much success with your new venture!

 

 

Client Relations: Should You Give Customers What They Want or What They Need?

Dear Copy Bitch: I’d like your take on something. Lately, I’ve been dealing with clients who want to go in directions with their copy and marketing that I don’t think are in their company’s best interests. So what should I do? Take their money and do what they want? Or say no and walk away? I mean if I were in the business of building houses, and a client wanted a bay window, but I didn’t think it would work where they wanted it, well…I don’t have to live in the house, do I? So what say you, Madame Copy Bitch?

–Ed, Boston

Answer: Before you don your mercenary or martyr hat, consider another option: it’s called honest vendor.

I don’t always agree with my clients’ decisions. But that’s okay. I don’t need to as long as 1) I’ve spoken up and given my reasoning for The Other Side and 2) they listened to–and considered–my reasoning.

So, to get back to your specific question, my answer is no. You shouldn’t simply give customers what they want, at least not when it comes to copywriting and marketing advice. Nor should you ignore their desires and do what you think is right.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Listen to their wants. Let them have the floor and talk.
  2. Ask questions. Dig deeper. When a client says, “I want to create a social media plan for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a blog” he or she might be saying, “I really need to get on board with all this social media stuff because everyone else is,” or he/she might be saying, “I really need more sales and this is the way, I’ve heard.”
  3. Once you understand what’s motivating these “wants,” you can then make suggestions about what they really need in order to fulfill these desires.
  4. Keep in mind that your suggestions aren’t enough. Despite the fact they’ve hired you for your expertise, you’re just one more person in a sea of well-meaning people telling them what they need to do. I always arm myself with hard evidence, like articles by respected industry experts that supports whatever I’m recommending (I don’t make recommendations based on hunches either. I have my hunch and then I research to see if my hunch is right).
  5. Don’t overwhelm the client with too much info. Give him or her enough to gnaw on. And give the person time to digest the info.
  6. Then, let it go. It’s out of your hands. At the end of the day, the client gets the final say.

Here’s when I do what the clients wants, even if I don’t think it’s what the client needs:

  • If the particular task, in all fairness, could “go either way” in terms of results
  • If it’s simply a marketing/business decision that the client has thought about (I realize I’m not always going to agree…at some point, I need to respect my client’s need to run his or her own business and make decisions–and potential mistakes–as a result)

Here’s when I’ll walk away:

  • If the client has asked me to do something unethical (e.g. spam a list that hasn’t opted in) or, obviously, illegal (no amount of money is worth this)
  • If the client’s tactics make me feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason (listen to your gut)
  • If the client never, ever listens to my recommendations. I walk because I don’t see the point in continuing a relationship with someone who doesn’t value my expertise and recommendations. It makes me wonder why he or she is paying me to begin with.

How ’bout you, dear readers. How do you handle this scenario?