#082: Your Biggest Challenge As a New Freelance Writer or Copywriter (and What to Do About It)

Over the past three years, I’ve worked with hundreds of new freelance writers and copywriters.

I enjoy mentoring and coaching these new and ambitious freelance professionals, helping them build and grow their businesses.

But through this process, I’ve uncovered a disturbing trend.

This is not something I enjoy talking about. Mainly because it requires that I be blunt about some issues.

But it’s time to shine a light on this painful truth — and what you can do about it if you find yourself in one of these situations.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Think about your typical brick-and-mortar businesses.

The local Italian restaurant. The specialty retail store. The family-owned manufacturing business. The supplier of industrial equipment.

The founders of these businesses didn’t go about the launch haphazardly, did they?

These entrepreneurs made huge financial investments to bring their dreams to life. They might also have investors and a sizeable business loan.

With that much at stake, no entrepreneur can afford to “wing it.”

But even with all that smart planning and execution, the sad truth is that many of these businesses will fail.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 50 percent of small businesses survive five years or more.

Five years of seven-day workweeks, self-doubt, worry and fear. High stress. Decreased personal health. Maybe even a failed marriage.

And it basically boils down to a coin toss. A 50/50 chance of success or failure.

Here’s Why This Matters

Let’s look at the freelance business model.

In my experience, nine out of 10 freelance writers and copywriters don’t have a viable action plan. Instead, they hang their shingle and try a haphazard mix of ideas to drum up business.

There’s little rhyme or reason to their launch efforts. It’s a scattered approach. And too many of them are relying on their writing chops to get them through.

Unfortunately, good writing skills are not enough. Knowledge is not enough. Taking writing courses is not enough. Putting your work out there and hoping that prospects will be wowed by your writing prowess — that’s not enough either.

So here’s the question…

If half of all carefully deployed and well-planned businesses fail within their first five years, what do you think happens to most new freelance writers and copywriters?

That’s right. It’s not a pretty picture.

What Can You Do About It?

Yes, you can enjoy great success as a freelancer. It’s a very real possibility. But to get there, you can’t simply wing it.

Here’s what you need to do instead:

#1: Wake Up!
Getting a freelance business off the ground requires a tremendous amount of effort. Yet many freelancers haven’t truly accepted this fact.

Why?

For one, the low barriers to entry are deceiving. When folks see that all they need to get started is a laptop, a phone line, Internet service and some software, they automatically assume that they can hang their shingle and clients will come.

That’s rarely the case. This may have worked for Kevin Costner in A Field of Dreams. But it’s a fantasy in the freelance world.

Second, freelancing is brimming with information marketers who promise quick riches and lazy days on the beach working an hour or two between rounds of rum punches and Coronas.

I’ve yet to experience that fantasy in my 11 years as a freelancer.

#2: Focus, Commitment, Belief
Next, you need a laser focus and a heavy dose of commitment and belief. And by focus I’m talking about a concentrated effort on your freelance writing business.

You might have other sideline ideas you’d like to pursue. But if you want your freelance venture to succeed, you can’t afford to spread yourself too thin.

That means your moneymaking website idea might have to wait. Or you might have to hit “pause” on your teaching gig at the local community college. Or put your craft business on hold. Or resist the temptation to start that children’s book or sci-fi novel.

You also need full commitment. This business is not something you dabble in. You have to give it your all if you want to achieve any level of success.

It’s going to be hard — accept that. And commit to pushing past these difficult moments. Because they WILL come.

As Yoda said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

But you also have to believe this is possible for you. And I mean you have to REALLY believe it!

Here’s what worked for me during those early years. I met successful freelance writers and copywriters. I talked with them and listened to their stories about how they made it.

As I did that, one thing became very clear to me. These people weren’t any better or smarter than me.

What set them apart was they were determined to succeed. So they studied their craft more diligently than others. They did more prospecting, even when they didn’t feel like it. And they pushed past every obstacle and setback.

#3: A Roadmap to Guide Your Efforts
Just like a traditional business needs a plan, you also need a roadmap to succeed as a freelancer.

The days of making it up as you go are long gone in this business. Without a solid plan, you might as well not even try. Because you’ll get nowhere quickly.

Most of the approaches freelancers are using to launch their solo business are severely flawed. They sound good on paper. But they don’t work.

In fact there are only a few ways to do this right. And most of them are counter-intuitive. Mainly because it’s the opposite of what you’d do if you were launching a traditional brick-and-mortar business.

To succeed as a new freelancer, you have to become obsessed with getting “quick wins.” These little wins are usually not that impressive. But they provide you with the motivational fuel you need to keep moving forward.

When you get a win, you start feeling like you’re making progress. Which gives you the boost in confidence you need to keep prospecting. Which will likely yield another small win. And so the cycle goes.

You also need to make prospecting your full-time job. Whatever time you’re dedicating to your business, you need to use all (or nearly all) of that time to prospect for clients.

Not to study yet another writing course. Not to design your logo. Not to brainstorm business names.

Those are all stalling tactics.

#4: Effective Tools and Strategies
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Someone’s already created tools, strategies and techniques that work.

I’m talking about prospecting tools and techniques. Networking techniques. Call scripts. Prospect screening methods. Pricing formulas.

Learn from the pros. Do what they do. Apply their ideas exactly as taught … and then make them your own as you see what works and doesn’t work for you.

This might involve buying a training program or a set of swipe files from someone who’s achieved success in the business. Or investing in a paid workshop. Or taking a successful freelancer out to lunch.

And start adopting an entrepreneurial mindset by treating these as investments in your business, not as a “cost.”

#5: A Support System
Most of us can’t do this alone. And that’s hard to accept sometimes.

But it’s a rare thing for a new freelance writer or copywriter to do this on their own and achieve some level of success.

Most people need a support system:

  • A colleague who’s ahead of them and can provide ideas and advice.
  • A peer group of freelancers facing the same set of challenges.
  • An accountability partner who can help keep you on track.
  • A coach or mentor who can show you a faster path to success and keep you from making costly mistakes.

#6: Massive Action
Action alone will usually move you in the direction of your goals. But action alone won’t cut it. If you want to virtually guarantee your success, you need to commit to taking serious, focused and MASSIVE action.

And almost always, the intensity and frequency of that action is much greater than you think.

Whatever you think you need to do to get your business off the ground, figure on doing 2X the work.

And get to it right away!

Get Some Help 

Don’t go at it alone. It’s not worth the risk. Get some help. Find a guide, mentor or coach.

I know that sounds self-serving, but I’m telling you, it makes a world of difference.

It doesn’t have to be me. Just find someone — anyone!

And don’t think of this as a luxury. It’s a necessity if you want to give your business a fair chance

Don’t Let a Coin Dictate Your Future

clicktotweetNo matter your business, you can’t rely on your skill/expertise alone, to succeed. You need to plan. 

If you’re trying to get your commercial writing or copywriting business off the ground — or if you’ve already launched but are still struggling to break past that $1,500-per-month income ceiling — I may be able to help you.

My superpower is helping freelancers get their business off the ground quickly and with less risk.

I will work with you one-on-one and in a small-group setting to help you get results faster, land progressively better clients and gain serious momentum.

In other words, I’ll help you get to a point where your business success is not determined by a coin toss.

I don’t make these personalized coaching and training opportunities available very often. But I’ve just opened a window. So if you fit the description above, this might be something you’ll want to explore.

You can learn more about it here.

This is not for everyone. There’s an application process, which involves a phone interview.

You have to be hungry. You have to be serious, focused and determined to make this business work.

Sound like you? Visit this page to learn more before all availability is taken.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for this Ed – I personally appreciate the “tough love” technique. You and I recently had a similar phone conversation and I can tell you that I have been more motivated in the last two weeks than I have been in the last six months.
    I have complete confidence that it won’t be long before one of the several dozen prospects I’ve approached will hand me my first check.

    • edgandia

      You’re welcome, Rachel! Great to hear that you’ve had some renewed motivation and a boost in confidence. Go get ’em! 🙂

  • I do totally agree with the small wins, and constant prospecting, that’s what starting to work for me. And then repeating what seemed to work. So it’s good to hear you say that and yes the confidence rises. And yes it’s totally appealing to go work on some design tweak or little fun distraction. The sales aspect is hard for most Creatives, so I think that’s why we sort of flake out that way.

    I do wish you had given us even an outline of the actual steps- I do get you are selling your program, but an outline of the steps and then of course save the “meat” or the “tofu” 😉 for your paid course. So that’s my only feedback.

    • edgandia

      Thanks for the feedback, Vivinne! Frankly, it’s *not* an issue of wanting to save the steps for my paid program. It’s more of an issue of keeping the episode focused and not too long.

      The steps take much longer to describe — not the kind of thing you can do justice in a few minutes. I could list them, but I think most listeners would have yearned for more detail.

      I have done whole webinars on those steps. Most have been free, some paid. And the paid ones were only $7. But all of them were 2-1/2 hours or more. I’ve found that it takes at least that long to go over them at a level of detail that will add real value to listeners.

  • Elizabeth O Mahony

    Hi super article and would love to do your course but as I am living in Ireland I wonder how relevant it would be this side of the Atlantic? I am attempting to break into this business as an alternative to teaching English and am already doing an on-line course but love your down to earth approach,I can see how your course could be beneficial and wonder if maybe the skills taught could be used online for the US market?

    • edgandia

      Hi Elizabeth — Thanks for your interest in my coaching program. Both the material and coaching I’ll provide you are relevant on both sides of the pond. I’ve had coaching clients from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada … even ex-pats living in Asia.

      Not sure if you saw this, but I just opened the most affordable coaching opportunity I’ve ever offered. Here’s the info on that: http://www.b2blauncher.com/b2bprogram

      Thanks for checking out my podcast! 🙂