Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Today, I'm going to let you inside my head.

I have two fears about my freelance business.

One is that copywriting will become a budget commodity and that I'll end up working for minimum wage the rest of my life.

My other fear is that I'll take on a big project and realize I'm in way over my head. I won't have a clue how to get it done. The client will realize I'm a fraud, and I'll be blacklisted from ever working as a copywriter again.

Don't laugh! I've actually had these dreams.

They're both unfounded, of course.

First of all, the demand for good copywriters is never going to go away. Products and services will always need to be sold. If you're good at what you do, you'll be compensated accordingly.

The other fear was put to rest a few weeks ago when I had a conversation with a fellow AWAI member. She's done quite well in the business, so I was relieved when she told me a secret:

"You don't have to be good at everything."

She went on to explain that top copywriters don't know it all. They focus on what they do best, make a name for themselves, and don't worry about the rest.

If you have core copywriting skills learned from the Accelerated Program, you probably know 95% of what you need to know. Those skills can be applied to writing landing pages, press releases, website copy, email marketing messages, or any other type of copy.

If you land a project and need to quickly learn something new, don't stress. You can tap the AWAI article archives, contact a fellow AWAI member, or find a free or low-cost resource online.

I've been referencing ideas from Nick Usborne's Profitable Freelancing this week because it's been instrumental in helping me take my business to the next level.

Here are three more ideas from Nick that will help you do the same:

1. Do what you do best. Nick suggests looking back over the past two years to find the job or project that gave you the most enjoyment and satisfaction. If you're brand new in the business, perhaps look back at any type of fulfilling work you've done in the past.

What was it about the work that stood out compared to other projects? When you find common elements among projects you enjoyed, use that as a benchmark for looking for future work.

I finally did this last summer.

I realized that a couple of projects I worked on with information marketers in the fitness industry were extremely rewarding. One, because I knew what I was talking about as a lifetime fitness buff. The experience showed through in my copy and cut down on my research time. Two, I felt confident in my abilities to do the projects (online video scripts and landing pages).

Deliberately go out and look for work that makes you feel good!

2. "Find the gap." This is a great Nick-ism which means: look for work where there's a high demand and low supply. Nick uses the example of a small group of software companies who develop programs for the hospitality industry. While they can find tons of copywriters who have experience writing copy for hotels and resorts, they can't find anyone who also has experience in business-to-business software sales.

That's a gap. Big demand, little supply.

You may have to do some serious research, but if you can find a gap like this and make it your own, you'll command higher fees. You'll be the expert.

3. Use the "paired approach." This goes one step beyond specializing in a niche. Instead of just focusing on an industry, say financial or healthcare, you pair it with a specialized area of expertise.

For example, you could specialize in writing landing pages for the healthcare industry. Or you could write autoresponders for the financial industry.

This accomplishes two things: it reduces your pool of competition, and once again, raises the fees you can charge (because you're more of an expert in a narrow area).

What Next?

If you've already narrowed your specialty, great. Keep focusing on your core skills, seek out work you enjoy and are good at, and watch your business continue to grow.

If you haven't yet done this, invest some time in making these important decisions.

Once you do, focus on what you do best and don't worry about the rest. You can always find help when you need it.

Do you have any copywriting "fears"? Any anxiety about something you haven't seen addressed yet? Let me know in the Comments, and I'll do my best to answer quickly.

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Published: February 15, 2012

10 Responses to “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”

  1. Steve -- great tips -- I always love Nick's advice. I think it's important to point out to people that are just starting out that sometimes they just need to start -- as you said -- as students of AWAI we HAVE the knowledge. Love the Beatles theme this week!

    Guest (Marissa)February 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

  2. I understand I can take on a project that is somewhat beyond my means because I can rely on and arrange with AWAI for help with that part of the assignment beyond my scope. How does that work? Thanks. 2-15-12

    Guest (Wordsmith626)February 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  3. One of my fears since I'm not a great negiotator, is being paid less then I ought to make. I'm getting better at asking and not being too tied into the outcome but I still usually charge less then I should.
    One solution is I've partnered up with people who've been in business longer then I have so they can write me into their proposals and figure out what to charge.

    Guest (edna)February 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

  4. Steve, great article! I have many fears. Fear that I'm not good enough, fear that at the age of 60 no one will take me serious, fear that I don't have enough knowledge of my niche, "going green", and on and on. I just feel so lost and that I'll end up letting myself and family down.

    Guest (Richard)February 16, 2012 at 8:21 am

  5. This is so timely! I'm waiting to hear back on a proposal I've submitted for work that's a little beyond my comfort zone. It's reassuring to know that even the big guns sometimes need help and advice. Just need to remember how to eat an elephant... One bite at a time. Thanks for the insight.

    Guest (Kathleen)February 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm

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