Living the Writer's Life: Susan Greene
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 9 years old, I sent in a poem I wrote about the Archies (don’t judge) and won second prize, $3, making it my first paid writing job and first time being published. But that wasn’t what made me decide to become a writer.
Archie comics were widely circulated around the world. Once my poem was published, along with my full name and address, I began receiving letters from all over. They were from kids, most around my age, seeking an American pen pal. Keep in mind this was pre-Internet, pre-email.
I soon had pen pals in the Philippines, India, Australia, and dozens of other countries. The letters trickled in, a few every month, for several years, as the comic books were circulated and traded long after the original publication date.
I responded to every letter I received, and I maintained a correspondence with anyone who continued to write me. Composing those many letters was how I realized I loved to write.
And now you have 25-plus years writing marketing copy for websites. What is something you wish you had known starting out?
Take risks. Say yes even when you’re unsure of yourself. I remember turning down some writing jobs because I had limited experience and lacked confidence. They were outside my comfort zone. Later I’d see the finished project, handled by another freelance writer, and think, I could have done that. My personal motto became “Say yes now, figure it out later.”
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when building your copywriting business? How did you conquer those challenges?
The biggest challenge for me is one that most freelance copywriters have when starting out — how to get those first few clients. Because I began working in pre-Internet days, I did a lot of personal, face-to-face networking to find clients. I joined the local chamber of commerce and a Women in Business organization.
I attended meetings and participated on committees. I also did public speaking to business groups about marketing — anything to get exposure. Nowadays, you can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal with a website, email, and social networking.
What is the definition of success for your copywriting career?
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and small-business owners. So from the time I was little, my goal was to work for myself. In my early jobs for employers, I didn’t like that someone else controlled my time, my activities, and my salary. So for me, success as a freelance copywriter meant making enough money to never have to go back to working for an employer.
What’s your advice to someone just starting out?
Have a plan for getting clients. And ideally, get some of those clients to commit to you before quitting your day job. Don’t assume that once you order business cards and put up a website, customers will magically appear. They won’t. So figure out how you’re going to begin attracting clients and work. Customer acquisition should be your No. 1 priority.
Look for opportunities to create multiple revenue streams. That’s something I’ve always done. For example, early on in my freelancing career, as a side hustle, I taught an adult Career Training class. At some point, I met another instructor who taught the same class in another school. We pooled our work and turned our self-created teaching materials into a published textbook, The Ultimate Job Hunter’s Guidebook.
We filled a void in the market, and our book soon became a leading Career text adopted by colleges around the country. That book is now in its seventh edition. It’s been 25-plus years, and we still receive royalty checks every six months.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Florida?
I love the sunshine and year-round tropical temperatures. My typical workday ends with me jumping in the pool and swimming laps. You can’t beat that for stress relief. [Editor’s note: Visit Susan’s website to learn more about her.]
Susan's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.
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