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Happy anniversary to me: A copywriter reflects on lessons learned

Hey peeps, this month is my anniversary!

Uh, I should clarify that.

It's my work anniversary.

That's what LinkedIn tells me, anyway, or the people who have reached out on that platform to say 'happy anniversary.'

I have been a copywriter for umpteen years.

And that is a lot.

During that time, I've learned a lot of lessons about being an independent copywriter.

So during what is likely my anniversary month, I thought I'd share a few.

For example, I learned that it really helps to have a plan when you go into business for yourself.

Even today, I still don't quite have a plan.

I tend to work more in my business than on it.

It's not exactly the best way to go at it.

And every lull feels acute because I am not working from a strategy, so I never quite know how to get that next client or project.

But in some ways, that's fine too.

It compels you to be bold.

To reach out to people you share little more than a LinkedIn connection with and introduce yourself, just to see if they might need you to write something.

That approach has worked more often than I anticipated

I also learned that one bad client experience doesn't necessarily mean your career is over.

I mean, it's rough when something doesn't work out.

But there are more clients out there.

Often better ones.

Speaking of which, I also discovered that it was often easier to get on the radar of new clients who were not in my market than it was to generate opportunities where I live.

Go figure.

Regardless, it is a good reminder that, if you are a writer, the possibilities are limitless.

You can work for anyone anywhere, so why just focus on your community or city?

But when you do pick up a new client, make sure you get the project particulars, fee, payment schedule, etc., in writing.

You can avoid a lot of heartache that way.

Trust me on that.

Meanwhile, there are things I am still learning.

For example, that a first draft is just that.

It is not supposed to be perfect.

So why agonize over it for hours when you can get something down quickly and put your energies to better use refining it.

I am also discovering I don't have to figure out the lede, or start point, of an article first.

Sometimes, it is best to start with the elements that essentially write themselves.

And sometimes, the best way to get started is by doing something else, like a walk or cleaning.

I know it seems counterproductive or counterintuitive.

But I can tell you that is enables your mind to relax and play around with ideas.

And that can open up possibilities and approaches that might not otherwise occur to you if you are intensely focused on what you are writing.

I am also still learning not to limit myself based on what I think know or don't know.

Some of the best writing experiences I've ever had were the result of clients assuming I could do more than I was actually capable of doing at the time.

That meant I gained invaluable experience in everything from developing communications strategy to media relations--expertise I might not have picked up if I only saw myself as a particular kind of copywriter.

Probably the biggest thing I am learning now is to not overextend myself.

When you are your own business, it can be hard to say no to work for a variety of reasons.

But the more you take on, the greater the likelihood you can burnout or produce lesser quality work, and that can do more harm to you and your livelihood or reputation than turning down something.

There are many more things I have learned along the way, from the importance of having a mentor in your early days to how to brand yourself, to building on your skill set.

And I know there will be more I learn as I continue my journey as an independent copywriter.

And as they say, knowing is half the battle.

I just hope I learn what the other half is.


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