5 years since I took part in the NEIS course and (by the end) had also written for my first client- a personal trainer who was also undertaking the course. In the time since, I've gone from start-up who knew a little bit, to established business owner who knows a little bit more. I've changed location three times, changed my website design once and even changed my major career goal (but I'll get to that)...
Looking back? These are the 5 most important things I've learned, for every year I've been in operation. Whether you're a start-up or a long established business owner, THESE are the attitudes and principles I'd encourage you to swear by:
#1: Be Specific
Starting out, I figured that the quickest way to earn a living was to maximise my possibilities for clients. So I thought of every possible service I could offer- and took a 'Yes I CAN' attitude towards any lead who came to me. The problem with this?
By spreading myself so thin, I lacked an identity. I lacked an area of speciality. And as a result, I wasted my time getting paid less to cover as many bases as I could, instead of deepening my skillset doing what I enjoyed most- and getting paid better for it!
I went into more detail about this once, here: scribecopywriting.weebly.com/notes-from-the-scribe/concentrate-your-marketing-message-and-keep-them-coming-back-heres-how
By narrowing your demographic you lose a few leads in the process- I've turned people away because looking at what they needed, I realised I couldn't help them like someone else could. But that leaves more time and energy for you to invest in your 'perfect match'- and get paid the price you can demand as a specialist!
#2: Quality Over Quantity
When I started out, I wanted to make as much money in as short a space of time as possible. But I began to realise that instead of making "the most", I should instead narrow my demographic and become "the best". Better use of my time/ energy- and better money!
Before thinking about how you can scale operations up, focus first on what you already have. Take note of your existing customers and clients, and consider how you could provide more for them- especially if it'd bring in extra money for you. It might not be what they pay you now as opposed to what they pay later- or what another client similar to them pays you because of the amazing referral you got.
When you focus first on quality over quantity? You take more pride in your work, operations run smoother because your energies are more channelled- and the numbers take care of themselves anyway, plus the financial side too. The best part is when you realise how many people are still happy to pay top dollar to be taken care of by the BEST. Quality over quantity every time!
#3: Meet And Greet
In the very beginning, I asked a copywriting mentor what my first priority should be in order to drum up business? She said networking, and to me this seemed unusual- backward even. It was 2012 after all, and wasn't modern marketing all about having an eye-catching website, a strong social media presence and plenty of videos to highlight how awesome you were?
But what did I know? I was 'green' to this business in a lot of ways- so off I headed to this networking breakfast or that evening event, loaded up with freshly printed cards and ready to chat. And You know what?
It was a great idea! Now a lot of business these days is carried out online, yes. But it hasn't changed the basic need for human interaction. We still want to connect. Who do you trust more:
a) Somebody who you've only spoken to online, or
b) Somebody you've actually met or have introduced to you from a person already know and respect?
What stands out to me, looking back, is just how many projects I've picked up through referrals- because this person I worked for knows that person and they recommended me. It's the true and tested way of connecting. I don't care how tech savvy you are, how polished and entertaining your videos are or how air-tight your online marketing is- you've gotta do the meet and greet. If business networking is good enough for Richard Branson and Bill Gates, then it's good enough for you, too.
#4: Just Turn Up
Since I began, I notice that so often I've uncovered success at a moment when I wasn't expecting it. When I wasn't expecting a call-back from a lead to green-light a proposal, or wake up sensing today was going to be a great one...
As the Scouts motto says: Be Prepared. There come times where I've felt unprepared or I've signed up to go to some event or networking occasion, then it gets to the day and I feel like I can't be bothered. But I went anyway...and on several of those occasions I either learned something new and useful, or be introduced to people or opportunities that came in very handy towards my business.
To be good? You've got to be consistent. Do the work, go to that event and be seen- even when it seems like whatever you do isn't working and it won't make a difference. Don't die wondering! The people who turn up and fail still succeed more than the ones who don't turn up because they think they'll fail. Talk is worth $0. But action (ultimately) delivers actual results into your bank account- remember that...
To wrap this all up, I want to confess something here...
When I started this gig 5 years ago, I only viewed it as a short-term career. No, my real goal was to get involved in film & television- especially television. I'd done 3 years at uni and earned a Bachelors' Degree in Animation. I had ideas for creative projects I wanted to pitch- and THAT was where I'd make a name for myself (and the real money). No, copywriting was just going to be my flexible 'side-gig', something to pay the bills in the meantime...
But then, something changed. Too long to list here, but I started to wonder if getting into film & tv was still worth it? Growing channels like YouTube awakened me to the realisation that much of what I envisaged could be achieved through this new media- without the constraints of a traditional format like television. And on top of that?
The whole copywriting thing suited me more than I'd initially thought. And in building up this business-
In turning up...
In learning time-management and self-discipline..
I was learning more about myself than I'd imagined I would.
Again, I've spoken about the power of making a decision before: scribecopywriting.weebly.com/notes-from-the-scribe/the-moment-it-all-lit-up-to-me
I remember when I did the same with Scribe. I made the decision that whatever it took to build this business the way I wanted it to be- with maximum satisfaction and pride in what I did, with a healthy balance sheet to match- I would do it. I don't want to go on too much about this because I know how many people these days refer to themselves as an 'entrepreneur' and talk themselves up.
That's not me...
I'd rather approach my response to this decision with the same attitude I take towards Scribe as a brand:
Free of smoke, mirrors or bullshit.
But whether you're a start-up or established business, whatever you want it to be when you dare to dream?
So, I look back now after 5 years and think how much I didn't realise I'd get into when I started. A website, a set of fancy business cards, a signed document from ASIC and a registered ABN and it's developed into this?
If anything I've learned helps you in your own pursuits, then it's made my own experiences that little bit more worth it.
For me, the story continues to be written. There's always more to learn...