Today, I bring you hope and a plan.
Before anyone goes all Willy Loman on me, I thought I better come out with part deux. (If you missed part 1, start there.)
I exposed 11 myths about the freelance life because too many people are wearing rose-tinted 3D glasses.
You know, the ones they hand out when you pay your admission price to the latest “Live the Dream” feature at your local theater (or your friendly neighborhood Internet marketer).
Everybody wants the lifestyle, for sure.
Money, time freedom, lifestyle freedom, travel, rewarding work, recognition, and a purpose in life.
The problem is, it’s not as easy as they make it out to be. “They” being anyone who sells you on the freelance dream without also telling you about the dark side.
I’ll keep this somewhat limited, because the full details would make for way too long of a blog post (and “they” tell me that no one reads super-long blog posts anymore).
Plus, this is all a lead-in to my upcoming book. But you knew that, right?
11 ways to overcome the dark side of freelancing
Challenge #1: It’s hard to make good money
Big Idea #1: Be your own client
While you’re learning the craft of copywriting, practicing on unsuspecting clients and getting paid modest amounts, use your new-found skills to build your own information marketing business.
Essentially, become a marketer who can write your own copy, not just a copywriter who helps marketers make a ton of money. Be your own client.
The combination of both can very well produce a six-figure income (after taxes, not before) within 3-5 years.
Challenge #2: Negative cash flow
Big Idea #2: Take whatever work you can get, and work like mad
Yes, I know this goes against the grain of positioning yourself as a successful freelancer who commands top rates.
If you can get the good clients right away who pay well, go for it.
Unfortunately, I see too many freelancers with big gaps in their schedules because they’re maintaining their integrity with minimum fee requirements.
Better to be booked solid with low-paying work (to start with, not forever) than sitting around practicing your writing for free. You can always adjust your rates upward once you’re fully booked.
Challenge #3: No perks
Big Idea #3: Set up a SEP IRA
I’m not a financial adviser, so please consult with one on this. Just know that you can put up to 25% of your self-employment compensation, up to $52,000 in 2014, into a Simplified Employee Pension.
Once you start making decent money, that adds up a whole lot faster than 401k contributions, which are limited to $17,500 in 2014.
I’m not even going to touch the idea of insurance here, but I have my own, very specific contrarian ideas on that. I’ll share those details with you in a private email soon, not here on my blog for all the world to see.
Challenge #4: Freelancers are a commodity
Big Idea #4: “Brand” yourself
This is a complex idea that I’ll flesh out in numerous posts and Google Hangouts for you. Suffice it to say, it starts with figuring out who you are, and it helps to have a good business name, domain name, tagline, and title.
Until you decide, use your name. “Steve Roller” is a brand in and of itself, and your name should be, too.
Challenge #5: Freedom is elusive, especially the first few years
Big Idea #5: See Big Idea #2
Not what you wanted to hear, was it? Yes, work your butt off your first few years. Nothing less will be enough.
Challenge #6: Programs and certifications don’t mean squat
Big Idea #6: Develop a “Polished Portfolio” with proven results
Nobody cares what certifications you have or what associations you belong to. You can buy any of those, with or without real talent.
Instead, put your effort into producing top-notch work, and leverage every piece in your portfolio (especially your “Showcase Piece”) into good projects and retainer agreements.
Challenge #7: Clients don’t respect the term “freelancer” anymore
Big Idea #7: Stop calling yourself a freelancer
Build your own business with your own unique brand (see Big Idea #4 above), even taking it a step further eventually and establishing an LLC or a C-corporation.
Long-term? Consider growing a business that can run without you, or that you can sell. Much more on this to come.
Challenge #8: The program-conference-more money cycle
Big Idea #8: Develop your own “program” or system
Not to sell to other copywriters, but to carve out your own path and not look like everyone else who took the cookie-cutter approach.
Challenge #9: Playing “follow the follower” and not standing out
Big Idea #9: See Big Idea #8
Challenge #10: The conflict between writing for other copywriters or not
Big Idea #10: Set a goal to hire other copywriters yourself
Look, nothing wrong with writing for marketers who could easily write their own copy, but choose not to because it’s not as lucrative as marketing.
As long as you’re aware of it and you get good fees while you’re developing your skills, it’s a great way to learn the business and get paid.
Here’s what I’d suggest, though. While you’re writing for marketers (or other copywriters) learn from them. Study their businesses. Ask lots of questions. Partly so you can write good copy, and partly so you can eventually do what they’re doing.
It’s more fun and financially rewarding to own the business, market the products, and hire other copywriters than to be on the other side of the equation.
That’s why the Copywriter Café has changed direction, and is now about “Turning Big Ideas and Copywriting Skills into Profitable Businesses.”
Challenge #11: The laws of supply and demand are working against you
Big Idea #11: Don’t line up with all the other freelancers
Be something else. I don’t just mean calling yourself something else, although that’s a good start. “Independent Creative,” “Conversion Writer,” and “Creative Conversion Specialist” are three of mine.
Maybe create your own boutique agency. Partner with someone who has complementary skills. Offer your services to one company only as their “in-house” consultant.
In other words, get creative. Think. Do things differently than everyone else. Stand out. Let your “brand” shine, and shout it from the virtual mountain tops.
Again, my intention here wasn’t to give you all the answers.
First, I wanted to show you that the dream lifestyle of a freelancer is anything but. Second, that if you become a Big Idea thinker, you can overcome this dark side that too many freelancers languish on.
Come on over to the bright side. It’s a lot more fun and profitable.
Last thing. I could use your help.
Which two of these ideas would you like to see developed most for my book, Death of a Freelancer: 11 Big Ideas to Overcome the Dark Side of Freelancing? (I’ll flesh them all out, but will put priority on the ones you choose.)
Leave me your number one and two choices here. Thanks.