A Simple Strategy to Overcome Inertia

Three years ago at Bootcamp, I made the decision to leave my corporate job and become a freelance copywriter. I gave myself exactly six months to get everything in order to make it happen.

The only problem was I was starting from a dead stop.

Sure, I had almost finished the Accelerated Program, and I had just been immersed in copywriting for four days. I probably knew as much about the craft as 90% of working copywriters out there.

But I didn't have a single client. I didn't have a niche. And I had no idea how to market myself, price my services, or write a proposal. I didn't even have a business card, much less a website.

I see a lot of people hesitate to get started until they have every detail in place. But I wanted to get the ball rolling, and with the enthusiasm that often goes with inexperience, that's exactly what I did.

The strategy I used is about as simple as it gets. And you can follow my example, no matter where you are in your pursuit of the writer’s life. If you want to jump-start your freelance career, focus on the familiar:

Focus on one type of prospect

Even though my goal was to work with big publishers like Agora, Phillips, and Boardroom, I knew that was a tough way to break into copywriting. So I focused on small business owners I knew.

I contacted friends and former colleagues in various areas – sales training, insurance, personal fitness, financial services, and a few others.

You could do something similar. Anybody you know who owns a business or could make a decision for their company regarding marketing is a prospect. Another approach would be to contact local businesses, perhaps places you patronize.

I didn't care how small the business was or how small the project. I just wanted to start building my portfolio and experience.

Focus on one type of marketing

Again, I stuck to what I knew. Since I was contacting people I knew, I sent a short, two-paragraph email. I briefly told them about my new career, offered them a benefit (increased sales), and included a soft call to action.

A one-page sales letter would be a good alternative.

Focus on one very general niche

I didn't have a niche yet, but I focused very broadly on business-to-consumer. I emphasized my experience in direct sales and explained how that would benefit them. I also tailored the message to their business.

A good way to figure this out is to look at your own work history. Did you deal directly with customers? Did you have contact with other businesses? Was your position internal, working with team members? Or did you work completely on your own? Chances are, your past jobs line up better in general with either business-to-business or business-to-consumer copywriting, and you can narrow your niche from there depending on your interests and experience.

I had one simple goal from this strategy: net one client with multiple projects.

It paid off. A friend of mine who owned a sales training company needed help with writing pages for their website, a new brochure, some email marketing, and even direct mail. The best part? He never asked to see my website or portfolio (good thing since I didn't have either!).

I ended up working with that very first client for about eight months. They also referred other business to me, and things grew from there. It was a big reason I was able to leave my corporate job within six months after Bootcamp, just like I planned.

More than anything, that strategy of focusing on the familiar helped me overcome the inertia of starting with nothing. It can help you, too.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap up this re-launch week with a few final tips for bringing it all together and slipping into "cruise control" mode. That's when it really gets fun!

Six-Figure Copywriting Program

The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting

Turn the ability to write a simple sales letter into a successful freelance career. Find out how you can make a six-figure income working from anywhere you want as a direct response copywriter. Learn More »

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Published: September 22, 2011

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