Sunday, August 29, 2010

5 Tips For Launching a Successful Freelance Copywriting Career Patty A. Harder

Nearly five years ago, I walked away from a well-paying marketing job to launch a freelance B2B copywriting career. Within two months, my freelance income was paying the bills. During my first year of copywriting self-employment, I learned many things that improved my business savvy and monthly income. Here are 5 tips I wish someone had given me before I launched my freelance copywriting business.

1. Expect to Succeed

When I quit my day job, freelance failure was not an option. My monthly financial needs had to be met and my family life was too challenging to continue working a standard eight-to-five shift. From the moment I made the decision to start my business, I expected to succeed.

Why this is important: I met many potential roadblocks during my first year of freelancing. Attitude from friends and family that, as a work-from-home mom, I was really a stay-at-home mom is one example. It would have been easy to put aside my work to assume the stay-at-home mom role, but my business would probably have failed. My driven expectation to succeed kept me on track.

2. Request Half Now, Half Later

I typically invoice clients for half of the approximate project cost before getting started. This provides a steady cash inflow, especially during longer jobs, and ensures that my clients have a financial investment in project completion.

Why this is important: During my first months of freelancing, I accepted an assignment and negotiated a fee to be paid upon final approval. Although I delivered first draft copy within a week, the document sat in my client's email inbox for weeks. When he finally got around to reviewing the copy, he requested minor revisions. I made the changes and returned the document. Then, I heard nothing.

I finally invoiced this client with a note to let me know if he needed additional modifications. Two weeks later I had a check. But the length of time between project start and project payment taught me to request half now, half later.

3. Get It in Writing

For most new clients, I create a quote that outlines the project scope, deliverable(s), estimated cost, what isn't included and the payment terms. The client must sign this quote and return by fax or email before I begin work.

Why this is important: I once took on a sales letter project without outlining the scope. After all, how much work could it be to write a sales letter? As it turns out, much more work than I had anticipated!

My idea of a one-page sales letter was this client's idea of a four-page direct mail piece. Because I hadn't outlined a project scope, I felt obligated to deliver his "letter" as requested. I ended up earning less than minimum wage for this job. Now, I get project details in writing.

4. Ask Clarifying Questions

In the example above, I made assumptions about the sales "letter" assignment based on my own experiences. I didn't bother to ask clarifying questions.
Why this is important: If I had asked more questions to clarify my clientís expectations and use for his sales letter, I would have had a clearer picture of his actual needs and I could have quoted a higher price.

5. Trust Your Instinct

You have an internal guide that, when heeded, will help you make wise decisions around your freelance writing business.

Why this is important: I was working on a project for a client based on a detailed discussion with written objectives. But the writing direction just didn't feel right. Acting on instinct, I veered from the original scope and created an entirely different document, knowing I might never get paid for this work. However, my client loved the end result and hired me to do additional work. Trusting my instinct paid off!

If you are considering a foray into freelance writing or have recently launched your own business, I invite you to learn from my experience. Heeding these 5 tips could pave the way to greater prosperity!

Liked these 5 freelance writing tips? Get 5 more (plus insider secrets for thriving in the world of B2B marketing copywriting) at Copywriter Confessions.