Are you a freelance writer or a business builder?
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Big Ideas

Are you a freelance writer or a business builder?



That may sound like an odd question, since most of us would consider ourselves freelancers, right?

I would maintain that not only can you be both, you may actually want to move away from the idea of being a “freelance writer” or “freelance copywriter.” It’s a matter of language, yes, but more than that a matter of mindset and positioning. In the long run, it will also make a substantial difference to your net worth.

Let me explain.

Up until now my tagline for the Copywriter Café has been “Personal Training for Aspiring Copywriting Rock Stars.” I’ve done quite a bit of that. I’ve helped a lot of writers move ahead in their business, especially at events like the Ultimate Writing Retreat™ (one of the six I’ve hosted so far is pictured above, in Santa Fe last year).

Yet it’s never been my aim to create A-level copywriters. I’m not an A-level copywriter, so I don’t claim to have the ability to help you become one.

If you want to do that, be prepared to spend the next five years immersed in it, preferably in an apprenticeship or copy cub situation with a master copywriter. It can be done, but it’s like a high school All-Star making the major leagues.

What’s wrong with being a freelancer?

You can certainly make a great living as a copywriter if you’re in the next tier or two down from the pros. I’ve done quite well for myself the past five years as a copywriter for hire, earning accolades from top copywriters and marketers like Dan Kennedy and Mark Everett Johnson, along with a slew of very satisfied clients you probably never heard of.

But here’s the thing. As soon as you stop writing for clients, that income dries up (unless you’re a top-tier writer who commands royalty and profit-sharing deals on a regular basis with your clients – a smart move if you can negotiate it).

I know some very high-level copywriters who really haven’t built a business. They get high fees for writing a promotion, but they don’t have a business they could sell to someone else. Their writing talent alone is what’s being sold.

There’s one other problem with only being a freelancer. Clients seem to have the upper hand. They’re the ones doing the hiring, and they have hundreds, if not thousands, of freelancers waiting for the chance to take on a project.

At the very least, develop a platform with a business name and strategic positioning, things I continue to cover extensively in the Ultimate Writing Retreat™. Consider dropping the word “freelancer” from your title (I’ve used Conversion Writer, Creative Conversion Specialist, and others). Offer a slightly different service than your copywriting colleagues. Sell yourself even more than your services.

Those are all topics I’ll continue to discuss here and in my twice a month Coffee Chat with Steve & Kat. Beyond all that, going forward, I’m going to take…

The copywriting path less traveled

Here’s my plan, and what I’d like to help you do. I enjoy helping businesses make more money by coming up with Big Ideas and writing good copy. I’ll continue to keep a handful of loyal clients who have a great product or service and are fun, visionary, big-thinkers like I am.

Even more, I like coming up with Big Ideas for myself, writing the copy, and building a solid business that actually builds equity.

There’s a big difference between that and being a freelance copywriter. Besides the Copywriter Café, I have two businesses I’m developing where I’m doing just that. One of them is mapped out here, my “Back of the Napkin” business plan I revealed to my Retreat VIP Members a few weeks ago:

Back of the Napkin business plan

If you can read it, it lays out a plan for one of my business ideas.

It starts with a Lead Magnet to a target audience that numbers about 20,000, offering a service that’s in demand and currently under-served (based on my research), and only requires me to capture 1% of the market. If everything plays out according to my highly scientific napkin-business method, over the next five years I’ll build up to a monthly income of $34,800, or $417,600 annually. At that point, I could keep it going or perhaps sell it for somewhere between one and two million dollars.

The beauty is, you don’t have to be an A-level copywriter to write copy for your own business. You have to be good, and develop a few other skills, but not A-level great. As a bonus – a big bonus – you’re building your business, not your client’s.

Does that idea sound appealing to you? If it does, I think you’ll like the new tagline of the Copywriter Café:

Turning Big Ideas and Copywriting Skills into Profitable Businesses

I also think you’ll like a new publication I’m launching this fall called Big Ideas Monthly.

In the meantime, start brainstorming Big Ideas that you’ve had rolling around in your head. Write them down, and let’s plan to chat about them soon.

I’d love some feedback on this idea of using your copywriting skills to build a business for yourself. Just a short “I’m in” or other confirmation would be great. Leave your brief message here.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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