Today marks an important anniversary for me – two years ago, Nick Blatchley Copywriting was born. It had a fairly long gestation period, although (belabouring the metaphor to death) I didn’t indulge in the latest trend of going on a “babymoon” before the birth.
My business plan confidently predicted the amount of work I could get, but of course that was the plan, not the reality. Work was thin on the ground at first, and I certainly panicked a few times. Gradually, though, the contacts I gained from networking, especially 4Networking and Business Buzz, began to pay off. As did the SEO on my website (thanks to Tim from Webtexweb Design (judging from the increasing number of clients who’ve “found me on Google”.
So what have I learnt (sometimes by hard experience) from the past two years?
·Be organised. Set up all your spreadsheets and databases for keeping track of clients and jobs before you need them – not when you’re desperately trying to sort out what you need to get done by tomorrow.
·Don’t use downtime looking at cute cats on Facebook. Downtime is an opportunity to go out and look for business, tweak your website, update your blog. Cute cats aren’t normally potential customers.
·Don’t believe too rigidly in your business plan. A business plan is essential, of course, so you know where you’re intending to go, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Be ready to adapt your plan to life, not the other way round.
·Check back regularly on what your plans and documentation says, and change it if necessary. I recently discovered an item (not an essential one, thankfully) in my Terms and Conditions that must have seemed a good idea two years ago, but that hasn’t been borne out by experience. It needs to change to match reality.
·Everyone’s a potential resource. Even if they can’t offer you business, they may have experiences or knowledge that can help you. Advice comes from the strangest places – always be ready to listen. In the process, you may find yourself forming genuine friendships.
·Don’t make promises you can’t keep. When every potential job is valuable, it’s tempting to say yes to everything, but if you really don’t have time to fit the job in before the deadline, accepting it will ultimately mean you let someone down. If you say no and explain why, you haven’t shut the door against future work.
·Don’t focus so much on getting new clients that you ignore your existing ones. I don’t think I’ve done this, but it could be easy to take your regulars for granted. However loyal they are, the best mind-set is that you’re only as good as the latest job you’ve done for them.
·Look out for training. However much you know, there’s always someone who can teach you something new.
·Network, network, network. Whether that involves attending formal meetings, going to more casual “chat” networking, keeping up with contacts online, or just keeping your ears open for opportunities among your social circle, make and maintain those contacts. And be prepared for lots of breakfasts.
So what do I expect from year three, which starts now? More growth – by the time I get to the end of the third year, I aim to be doing enough work for a decent income. At least a start in offering training courses, as well as the direct copywriting work. And lots of breakfasts.