Developing Your Two Year Plan

I've traveled 48 days so far this year, with about 15 more days scheduled the next couple of months. I've been from Seattle to Santa Fe, Boston to Delray Beach, and a lot of places in between, with an adventure to Iceland and Greenland thrown in. And I have no plans to slow down next year.

Steve Roller back with you for The Writer's Life. I got into copywriting in part for the big money, and I'm on my way. Even more important, though, I got into it for the lifestyle. The ability to work where and how I choose. I've done that from day one, and so can you.

Does it all sound a little too easy? Can you really make good money, travel at will, and call your own shots like a boss?


And can I let you in on a little secret? You don't have to make six-figures to do it. Up until this year I hadn't, and my friends and neighbors still think I live a life of intrigue and adventure.

So how do you do it? First of all, you do have to work. You don't make solid money lounging around in your pajamas, working a couple of hours a day (well, at least not the first few years).

Let me share with you my scenario through last year. If you work hard, I believe anyone can do this within two years, starting from scratch.

1. Monthly clients.

I have a handful of monthly clients that I've worked for consistently for more than three years. Nothing big, and no official retainer contract. I provide good value for what I'm paid, and they like me and my work. This adds up to about $2,500 per month, $30,000 per year.

Client acquisition tip: Look for businesses who put out an online monthly newsletter. Many of them would rather outsource this and focus on running their business. It's the easiest way to get an ongoing monthly gig.

2. One additional project per month.

Where do these come from? Either upgraded projects from smaller monthly clients, referrals from other clients, or people that find my website. Total: $12,000 per year.

Client acquisition tip: With any size project, no matter how small, always suggest marketing and copy ideas that can help the client grow. Whether they use you to implement them or not, they'll see you as a valuable resource. Busy marketers especially like idea-generators who make their jobs easier.

3. One "stretch project" every three months.

You have to get out of your comfort zone and go after these. They typically don't come to you until you're well-established. Total: Around $20,000 per year.

Client acquisition tip: These take a little more strategy. Keep a short list of maybe 5-10 prospects you'd really like to work for. Big marketers in your niche who use copywriters regularly. Study their businesses inside and out, including all their promotions.

Then, connect with them once every six months in a different way. Start with a good direct-response letter. Offer a fresh angle or Big Idea. Maybe send a FedEx envelope (that will get their attention) with an article that could help them. Meet them in person at a conference. Get a mutual friend to introduce you. Eventually you'll get noticed, and with most marketers craving good copy, you might get your shot.

These three types of clients alone, with a very modest way of working, add up to around $62,000 per year. If you could build up to that level within two years, would you be satisfied?

Stay tuned tomorrow when we'll talk about the beauty of freelancing and how it flips the traditional model of work on its head.

Which type of project do you like working on best? Small and steady, or big, longer-term ones? I'd love to hear from you in the comments, and let me know if you have a specific question on any of these three types of clients.

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Published: October 30, 2013

16 Responses to “Developing Your Two Year Plan”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Couldn't agree more with your formula for success. Month to month retainer projects have been my secret to success.

    I've discovered for me that I like having several clients with different sized projects going.

    I'm usually working on one long form sales letter and then I have another client where I do emails and space ads or 2 page direct mail letters.

    The shorter projects can be knocked out in an afternoon after I'm worn out thinking about the big long-copy project.

    Sean McCool

  2. Thanks for the timely advice. Just back from my first Bootcamp with a first client--and a short stack of specs to get out in the next few months. A good time for me to start thinking about where I want to go with my copywriting and how I want to get there.

    Guest (Carol Zakula)

  3. Sounds like a great plan. Now all I need is how to go about getting the first clients to hire me. I'm wondering if I just don't know how to go about it or I don't have a good niche. I've been in touch with some rescues, but of course none of them have any money :( I know I need to touch base with some dog trainers, but haven't figured out exactly how I want to go about that either. I should probably just do it and then adjust according to what I did and how effective it is.
    I already do a newsletter for the FFA Alumni, even though that isn't my niche, should I post it on my site anyway?

    Laurie L

  4. I like the small steady projects. I'm only interested in making $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

    My interest is in the natural health field, but I am finding it hard to narrow down to a small niche because I'm interested in so many different areas.

    Guest (Clara Mae Watrous)

  5. Hey Steve, thanks so much for this article.

    It's of help of a lot of help to those of us who are up and coming in this business.

    By the way, my website is now up:



    Guest (Daniel A Maxwell Jr)

  6. i think small and steady work would be the best starting out for me. i like your approach to building up your income you seem to be a no nonsense type of guy, very honest you dont have to make 6 figures right away to be a success thanks again for your input

    Guest (ronald)

  7. Excellent article and very practical too. I'm working at the monthly retainer level now, but I really like your stretch project idea a lot, so I'll put it into action right away. Let's see what happens. Thanks!

    Suresh Nair

  8. thanks for the plan, Steve. Its really helpful.

    I'm getting a steadier stream of projects and am working into monthly packages with some clients so I'm starting to breathe a little easier.

    Still don't have a website yet. I was going to get it done by the end of the year but it may have to wait until January.

    Now my partner wants to see how we can get pro bono flyfishing trips around the world using his writing skills, uh our combined skills since he's not the writer. :)

    Guest (horselover2 )

  9. Thanks Steve, this puts the next couple of years into perspective. I am looking forward to getting my first new client in the next couple of months and Newsletters are where I am going to start.

    Guest (Irene P)

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