I was a human rights worker for a few years. My first book came out and I quit my job; I didn’t want to travel any more and I wanted to combine my love of writing with my passion for new media. And thus, my life as author and freelance writer was born. I’d been freelancing for seven years before I decided to quit and launch Ready Writer, a web-based copy-writing company, specialising in web content (SEO, blog/article writing and electronic publishing) for small-medium sized companies looking to maximise their online presence.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt in my journey.
Freelancing is different from running a business
As a freelancer, I was pretty business-minded and creative about generating multiple incomes from my writing. When I was in between books, I worked as a contractor, specialising in web communications. When I wasn’t contracting, I ran creative and corporate writing courses, and when I wasn’t doing those, I did freelance writing.
When I launched Ready Writer, I had to ‘grow up’. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about me meeting a deadline for commissioned projects for clients. It’s about creating a distinctive brand in a competitive industry. It’s about delivering outstanding customer service. It’s about learning new things, all the time. It’s about hard work, and here’s the but; I love it.
Processes and practices are the key to an efficient business
Running a business means having the right processes in place to help you run an effective and efficient business.
- Creating templates for documents you’ll use repeatedly, to save you time. For example, the follow up email to an initial enquiry; your client brief; your final report…
- Logging phonecalls with your customers. When I get off the phone to a client, I usually follow it up with an email to make sure that I’ve captured everything we discussed in the telephone call. Clients appreciate it because it shows them that you’re thorough. I usually start the email with: ‘Hi Jane, lovely to speak with you just now. I just want to make sure I’ve captured everything we talked about. We agreed that… Ready Writer will now…
- Your accounts. I cannot stress this often enough. You need to get your accounting processes in order. It doesn’t matter whether you operate as a sole trader or limited company. Having sound financial processes and practices will save you a whole lot of bother from HMRC. I run an online company, so it made sense for me to team up with an online accounting company (www.tempoaccounting.com) that specialises in freelancers and small-medium sized businesses. They might be online, but I can testify that it’s run by real, patient, people. You can contact them by telephone or email, and they answer, usually within a few hours. I really cannot say enough about their customer service.
Concentrate on the essentials
Some people quit their 9-5s and the next week, they set up an office in their local high street, fully decked out in the latest contemporary furniture and dolphin music playing in the background. However, when you ask them about their ideal customer, they haven’t done their research in that area. They’ve got great talent and they think there’s a market for it, but in terms of actually mapping out the ideal customer profiles for each of their products, they don’t spend enough time researching this aspect. If you don’t know your target market (who they are; where they shop; their incomes etc), how can you price and market your product effectively?
Ready Writer has different customer profiles for each service we offer. For example, our SEO content has Website Starter; Bronze; Silver and Gold packages, designed for people in various stages of their businesses; from start-ups to established companies. Researching this information has helped.
Social media is great. Ideally, it should form part of your marketing strategy. However, it’s not the most important aspect of your business; it’s one of the important aspects.
Concentrate on the essentials: knowing your customer; gaining new customers and running an efficient, productive business. Anything else is just ‘white noise’.
Having an online presence is critical
It’s rare to find a business that doesn’t require a web presence of some sort. Your website is your business’ home on the web, and the first place people will go to find out about your company. Bearing that in mind, it’s important to create the right impression.
Here are five things to bear in mind when creating your website:
- Think about your ideal customer BEFORE you start even thinking about designing your website
- Once you’ve thought about your ideal customer and their ideal journey on your website (which, ideally (that word again, sorry), should result in sales for you if you’ve done your job right), then get yourself a web designer who understands your business objectives and the customers you’re targeting. Many an unsuspecting entrepreneur has been saddled with a website that’s unsuited to their needs, simply because they were dazzled by their designer’s webspeak. Think: will that all-singing and all-dancing website really connect with your target customer, or are they more likely to leave your website because it was taking too much time to download? Or, more likely, they couldn’t find what they were looking on your website and they decided to go elsewhere, like your competitors, for instance?
- Content is king on the internet, so make sure you have good, quality content that will generate traffic to your site and increase customer loyalty (and conversion rates) to your brand. You can do this by updating your website regularly. For example, by having a blog. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways of driving traffic to your website. If you would rather not do this, save time by outsourcing it to a blog writing service
- Optimise your website for search by using Search Engine Optimisation techniques. This includes using, amongst others: metatags; page titles; and keywords that will make your website stand out in search engine results.
Establish yourself as a subject matter in your field
You can do this by writing articles and submitting them to industry directories and websites (known as linkbaiting) and also writing an ebook, which you can give away on your website as free content. People like ‘free’ on the internet.
Think about your pricing strategy
When I launched Ready Writer, I knew I couldn’t compete with so-called writers on the web, who market their writing services at USD5/h, so I didn’t. In any case, I decided that I would offer quality over quantity.
I knew my target market was small-medium sized businesses, so I created a product list that catered to all the groups in this category.
For example, my SEO content writing package:
- Website starter (5 web pages): aimed at start-ups who want a no-hassle optimised web presence
- Bronze (10 web pages): for businesses who have established for 2-3 years and want to expand their online reach
- Silver (15 web pages): established businesses (3-5 years old), who want to incorporate some element of e-commerce on their website
And this is what I’ve learnt: if you offer a quality service, people will value your product. I understand the pressure to price your product low when you start, but don’t price it so low that you devalue your product. Take a look around: how much are your competitors offering the same service or product for? If you think you can win their customer by undercutting them, how long do you think your business will survive your low prices? What happens when you decide to increase your prices to reflect the market price? Will your customers stay then?
Delegate as soon as you possibly can
You cannot do everything. Yes, at the beginning, you did. But as your business grows, you’ll find it’s beneficial for you to delegate some tasks, so you can concentrate on running your business. Time is invaluable. Think about how many hours a week you spend doing admin tasks. Then think about the hours you lose not focusing on doing the other stuff, like getting new customers or actually providing a service for your customers.
Keep on learning
I’m an author and I run a copywriting company. But even I know that I don’t know everything there is to know about writing. Early in my freelance life, I made a commitment to myself to go on at least one training course a year. That commitment hasn’t changed. If anything, the pace has increased. Things move so quickly in content writing that if I’m to retain my edge, I have to go for these courses to refresh my knowledge and find out the latest industry news.
By working on your personal and professional development, your clients get that little bit extra; you gain something over your competitors; and your personal life also improves. Because when you learn new things, you grow as a person.
Learn from others – join a network.
You’ve heard the adage; ‘No woman is an island’. Well, it is most certainly true. I cannot overstate the importance of joining a network of like-minded people to encourage and support you.
iHubbub (www.ihubbub.com) is a great new social networking site for people running a home business. The Women Unlimited network is also great. So, sign up and get connected!
About the Author: Abidemi Sanusi is an author and founder of Ready Writer (thereadywriter.co.uk). The company provides content to companies looking to maximise their online presence through SEO content, blog and article writing and also ebook publishing.
Abidemi’s book, Eyo, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.