I think that one of the very most lucrative types of writing is... copywriting. If you develop and practice this skill, you will never worry about a paycheck again.
People are intrigued when I say I'm a writer: "Ooooh, novels? TV shows? Anything I know?"
When I explain that I have a blog and a copywriting business, they say, "Cool!" but sometimes, their eyes mist with pity. They offer to help me find work. They picture me living in a water-stained basement apartment littered with cockroach droppings and unpaid Con Ed bills.
A writer, in their minds, is either famous or dirt poor.
If you've started a creative services-based business of any kind, you've probably encountered this assumption. Or thought it yourself: that if you follow your passion instead of going to law school, you'll never "make it." That you're in for a life of instant ramen and borrowed Netflix logins; of flopped trunk shows or desperate sales calls.
The truth is, now more than ever, it's possible for creative professionals to go solo and make as much as lawyers, doctors, and engineers. Or more.
Just ask the dent in my sofa, which is witness to the $950 an hour copywriting business that I run from the comfort of my living room. One that allows me to decide what time I wake up (late) and what time I punch out (early). One that bankrolls taxis, maintenance, mortgage, overpriced raspberries, frequent dinners out, and other necessities like eyelash extensions — all priced and taxed at NYC rates.
No one is suggesting you make your rates or offerings high-ticket right out of the gate. I've spent eight years building to this stage. But whether you're looking to start a side hustle or grow a full-time entrepreneurial venture using your creative talents, here are some tips that will help you go premium. (Yes, from your couch.)
This is a matter of both self-and-public perception. I've found that saying, "I'm a freelancer" translates to some as, "I'm struggling and will take whatever crumbs you throw my way." In other words, it sounds and feels desperate and poor. Instead, try identifying as a business owner, or an independent service, or a consultant. What term feels powerful to you?
However, if people ask me, "Are you freelance?" I don't say, "No." Instead I answer, "I have my own business, yes." Or, "I'm a free agent — and yes, I'm available for projects."
Don't be in a 'cobbler's shoes' situation
So many creatives are the proverbial cobbler with no shoes. The web designer with a "coming soon" website; the social media manager with seven followers (including her pet pug's account); the copywriter who writes dynamite newsletters for everyone else's businesses while ghosting her own list. Don't be that. Let your own business be a showcase of your work. For whatever you offer, be your own best poster child.
Become an authority and 'public figure'
You might be thinking, "I'm not ready for that, I haven't done anything special yet." But remember: even if you're just starting out, most people don't know what you know. What you think is old hat or baby-level basics is news to just about everyone outside your niche. And, by sharing that expertise — or even just your personal stories — in places like popular podcasts, high-profile websites, and speaking events, you'll acquire a halo of authority and leadership. That's a fancy way of saying, people will think you're famous. And, as a result, they'll pay more to work with you. Exposure is money in the PayPal account.
I used to think testimonials were tacky — for suckers — so I reluctantly stuck three or four in an inconspicuous sidebar widget on my site. Turns out, I was the sucker. When I finally gave in and splashed big, honking testimonials with headshots around my site, that's when my business took off for real.
Social proof is powerful. So, ask your happy clients for glowing testimonials — along with a headshot. Feature them front and center on your site.
Note that the best testimonials highlight results: "After years of auditions with barely a callback, Fanny Photographer's headshots landed me a recurring role on 'This is Us' and a speaking part in an Advil commercial. Hello residuals!" Less powerful, however flattering, are testimonials that merely say you're a great person: "Loved working with Fanny Photographer. She's a doll and so much fun!"
Raise your prices
The best way to raise your prices? Raise your prices. As a business owner, you set them. When you get excellent results for your clients and demand increases, it's time to charge more. True, it can be scary. We're all afraid of people saying, "Sorry, can't afford you anymore." But you'll find that you attract better clients when you're expensive than when you're lower-priced. If you compete on price, you'll be a magnet for price shoppers — not to mention the PITAs (Pains In The A--). It's counterintuitive, but the cheaper clients are almost always the most demanding, needy types. Woe to you if they get ahold of your cell number.
Build an email list ... and dazzle them
Email is your most powerful social media tool for building a lasting, lucrative relationship with your audience. Offer an attractive freebie for signing up with you. And then, once you have those email subscribers, don't let them sit there! That's like inviting people over and not putting out any snacks — or even being home when they arrive. Email your list regularly — with compelling stories, valuable tips, thought-provoking insights, whatever you do best. They'll biz-crush on you, which leads to buying from you.
Meaning be intimately, unapologetically, outrageously YOU throughout your brand. Whatever makes you "you," pump that into everything you do and into every part of your work and your marketing (especially your copy). Not only will your unique personality distinguish you in a crowded market; the more you express who you are, the more people will know, like and trust you without ever having met you. And that bond is what gets them happily whipping out the Platinum card.
Don't try to be for everybody
"Game of Thrones." Apple products. Beyonce. Even dill pickles. Think of any brand, personality, or thing that you fiercely love, and you can easily come up with someone who says, "Not for me." So if you worry that going full-out with your personality means that you'll turn some people off, know that yes, you will. And that's a good thing. In turn, the people who are drawn to you will be that much more so. And they'll pay accordingly. Remember, no strong brand is for everyone. And you shouldn't be, either.
Laura Belgray, founder of Talking Shrimp, is an award-winning copywriting expert and unapologetic lazy person. She writes TV spots for clients like NBC, Fandango, and Bravo, and helps entrepreneurs and creatives get paid to be 100% themselves.
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