Pfft. Geez. What a time to be doing a half year check in. I feel like this post should be a string of manic laughter GIFS.
It’s been an interesting six months hasn’t it? While my emotional well-being has been on a rollercoaster ride, fortunately, my business hasn’t gone completely off the rails. Here’s what’s been happening from January-June 2020, starting at the very beginning…
A great start to the year
I spent Christmas and New Year in the UK with family and friends, which was exactly the break I needed. Not just because the heat of the Australian summer was driving me mad, but it turns out I needed a nice long brain break from work.
I did some hiking in Wales, went to the pub (often) to drink proper ale and then I completely regressed on my brother’s 30th birthday when we went to Harry Potter Studios. So good. And yes, I did buy a wand. (Want to guess which character?)
By the end of the three weeks break I felt rested and positive about stepping back into my busines. There was a steady flow of work coming in from several clients.
- TotallyMoney were sending through regular press releases for writing.
- A website project from a Brisbane-based beauty company was ticking along.
- Barb at Compass Digital Strategies commissioned me to write blogs for a couple of her clients (some still ongoing with my Half Dozen blog package)
- I was in a nice rhythm with Cactus Collective Weddings in terms of a retainer agreement and the projects we were working through.
My energy levels and optimism were high. I was confident that 2020 was going to be a fucking epic year. I felt settled and positive to such a degree that I even took the leap and pitched myself as a podcast guest to discuss my freelance life. But more on that later.
We’re now at the bit where we need to talk about you know what.
When the shit hit the fan and COVID-19 broke the world
In early February I travelled to Japan for a week. I remember walking past gates at Sydney airport designated for flights to China. Everyone was wearing face masks. This might not sound unusual, but it was. It felt more. And it was an unnerving sight. For the first time I thought, “Shit, this virus thing could be really bad.”
By the time I returned there were only a few more weeks of normality in Australia and then in March everything shut down. I haven’t spoken about this much and I’m getting a touch emotional thinking back to how suddenly life changed.
A close mate cancelled his birthday drinks, my local gym closed, we were told not to travel, people were ordered to work from home and then finally the official government lockdown and social distancing laws came in. My anxiety went into overdrive with the tipping point being the grounding of all international flights and the closing of Australia’s borders. Never had I felt so far away from my family and friends. Work-wise, I sort of held it together despite difficult (and often sad) conversations with clients who had to stop projects or cancel work completely.
So yeah. It all got difficult, emotional and my productivity levels were all over the shop. But despite losing clients and having days when all I could manage was sitting and gawping at the headlines, there were some positives.
A truth that got me moving
Drayton Bird is a copywriter and speaker. And his email newsletter is one that I read daily. During the pandemic, his messages told readers to ‘act now’, ‘do something’ and ‘prepare for recession.’ His email from 3rd April, titled ‘Worried about your future? Read this’ was the rocket up my arse that got me moving. It read:
“Add to this witch’s brew of doom the apocalyptic charts and graphs the news media feed us, and no wonder so many business owners are frozen with fear. Doing nothing. Waiting to see what unfolds.
My advice? Please don’t. And here’s why.
One of my lines has held me in good stead over the decades:
“The only economy that matters is your own.””
He’s right. This is the second recession I’ve experienced in my 10 year career. The first one killed a job a love, forced me into a role I hated and put a massive dent in my confidence when it came to writing professionally. I was determined not to let it happen again. Not to sit by and wait for…well, goodness knows what?
Drayton’s challenge of, “It’s action – executed with brute force and urgency that will save the day… So what about you?” got me motoring ahead with an idea I’d been chewing over when I saw the number of industries impacted by the pandemic and individuals whose income went to zero.
Launching a free copywriting service for sex workers
My relationship with the adult industry is one that’s lasted my entire career to date. I’ve interviewed sex workers (SWs), porn stars and written copy for adult pleasure brands. Despite the adult industries being multi-billion pound industries, it’s taboo status often means those working in them are overlooked when it comes to support.
Twitter was lighting up with reports from SWs who lost all of their clients. They suddenly had zero income and no idea when they could return to business. For some, accessing financial support wasn’t an option. Not every SW is ‘out’ to family and friends about what they do, nor do they want to disclose it to authorities.
You can read more about the challenges faced by SWs during COVID-19, here.
How could I help? Apart from donating to crises funds to support this industry, I thought if people are switching their business model to generate some form of income, I could help. After discussing with a SW and activist, and with much more free time on my hands, I got an idea of how my skills could be useful to the community and launched two free copywriting services.
See the offer, which I’ve extend through to the end of July.
My COVID-19 experience in numbers
More time for my business
Free services booked
Wins and happy moments from the last six months
Apart from launching the free service and it being warmly received, here are some more business wins and highlights from the last six months.
My first podcast
One of my favourite podcasts is Steve Folland’s Being Freelance. I’m a regular listener and back in January, I plucked up the courage to pitch myself as a guest. Happily, Steve invited me on to share my being freelance story, which you can listen to here.
Three new small business clients
I’m realising more and more that single-owner, small businesses and fellow freelancers are my people. Working with these communities put me in my happy place. So I’m stoked that in the last six months I’ve established new working relationships with Expo Ease (who dropped off at the start of the pandemic but are back. Yay!), Gaia Flowers and EZ Air Park.
Huge thanks to Barb at Compass Digital Strategies for bringing me in to collaborate on these projects.
Reaching halfway on Write 52
When I started the Write 52 project in August 2019, I had serious doubts that I’d see the challenge through. Despite life’s best efforts I’m still going. I reached week 26 in early March and chose to write about 3 ways to keep your copywriting skills sharp. This article you’re reading puts me at post 41. The end is in sight!
Crappy bits from the last six months
Apart from the bleedin’ obvious, there’s not been too many other rough moments in the last six months. As I said at the start, back in January it felt like this year was going to be mega for my business. But there was this one thing…
Lots of lost work in a single month
Early May brought two new leads to my door. Both, if successful, would have been huge projects that could have seen me right in terms of workload and income for the next four to six months. Sadly, neither came good.
One failed (partly) because the cost I quoted was over the client’s budget. Despite being told there was some flexibility, I pushed too hard. That said, it felt like there was a miscommunication in terms of my rates and value I could bring.
Lesson learned: When talking ballpark figures stay close to the guidance or go under. That said, don’t feel pushed to drop rates or value. Sometimes the gap between what the client wants and what you offer is just too large.
The second failed due to a tough brief and the client not being completely clear on what they wanted. The project was to write a number of service pages and it was decided we’d trial one using my Tasting Paddle service.
Going through the usual process, I jumped on a briefing call, got all the notes, did my research and then turned in the first draft. Unfortunately, the feedback I got was that it didn’t fit the tone of voice they were looking for. This was tough, but the client admitted more internal conversations were needed to get clear on what they wanted to achieve, what they could say, and so they took the project in house.
Lesson learned: This was a good reminder about a couple of core copywriting lessons. The first is that making sure everyone involved in a project is completely clear on what they want, the final outcome and has a chance to voice their expectations. The second is understanding that I’m not the right writer for everyone. And that’s OK. Despite my best efforts to fulfil a brief, I can only work with what I’m given. And sometimes what I’m handed doesn’t compare to the insider knowledge of the employees and workers.
What’s on the horizon
Work feels like it’s starting to pick back up and settle into a new routine. Just this month two of the clients I lost, have returned (happy dance). I also managed to start building a relationship with another Australian-based digital marketing agency and the first project got positive feedback from their client. Fingers crossed more briefs roll in soon.
Around the corner: I’m planning on launching two new services. One off the back of the success of a long-form copy project I completed and the second, some iteration of the free copywriting services I offered to SWs. Either a rejig of what I can do for free for a wider number of industries, or a small fee attached to keep it running as it is currently.
With that, I’ll say cheers for reading, ta-ra for now and stay safe.