From Rockhampton to Sydney, Melbourne and beyond
This post was written by TCCS member, Sarah Joy Pierce
This year, Joyful Communications will celebrate five years in business. I didn’t have any particular goals when I started (other than to keep myself gainfully employed/amused), but in those five years I’ve been surprised at every turn with the lessons I’ve learned and the opportunities I’ve discovered.
Being based in Rockhampton (a medium-sized regional town, smack bang in the middle of Queensland’s coastline) hasn’t limited the scope of my work. I’ve worked with Australia-wide businesses and even the odd international client. In this day and age there are no limits to what you can do and who you can work with (providing you have a decent internet connection).
So with New Year optimism I want to share five lessons I’ve learned, and how you can put them to work for your copywriting business in 2020.
1. There’s more than enough work for everyone.
This lesson is first for a reason—it’s easily the most valuable. Even in a regional town with only two or three other marketing agencies, I can promise you won’t run out of clients. If you’re in a bigger city, you have even more clients to pick from.
It’s always worth forming excellent working relationships with the people you might see as your ‘competitors’. Because unless you’re directly competing for a particular client or niche, chances are your paths won’t cross all that often. And when they do, it’s much nicer to smile at each other than be snarky.
What can you do? Take a fellow copywriter (or graphic designer or marketing agency owner) out for coffee this month. Talk about ways you might be able to work together or refer work to each other.
2. Just put your lipstick on and go to networking events.
Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t take this advice literally if you’re not female. But for me, putting on lipstick is when I mean business. I can face the world fearlessly with a decent red lip.
I can’t emphasise the value of good old face-to-face networking enough. Even if you’re an introvert, find your ‘red lip’ armour and show your face to your target audience. If you work with small businesses, head along to a Chamber of Commerce or a BNI event. If you work primarily with women, try a local women’s networking group. If you love working with startups, find the local startup club.
And if I can find all of these in little old Rockhampton, you can’t be too far away from one either.
Take your business cards and get ready to smile for an hour of your month/quarter/year. It really is the best value marketing you’ll get. Think about it this way: if you charge out your time at $90/hour, how many other leads could you get for a $90 spend? I’ve never gone to a networking event and come away without at least one decent connection.
What can you do? Check your business cards (make sure they’re looking good), find a networking group (and maybe a new red lipstick), and make a date in your diary. Who knows? You might even enjoy it.
3. Analyse what you do well and position yourself as the local expert.
This is similar advice to ‘find a niche’, but perhaps from a different perspective. Maybe I’m coming at it with a ‘big fish in a small pond’ mindset, but it’s easier for people to remember you if they have a reason to remember you. Back up your reputation with excellent attention to detail and genuine passion for what you do to help your clients, and you’ve got a winning formula.
After a while, you’ll start getting word-of-mouth recommendations. And this kind of marketing is incredibly powerful because you’re being recommended by someone they trust. This is why I haven’t spent much on marketing. I let my work (and my reputation) speak for itself.
What can you do? How much of your work comes from repeat clients or referrals? Take a minute to work it out, and then perhaps send a ‘thank you’ or a social media shout out to your best or most loyal client.
4. Always be generous.
This ties in with all of my earlier advice. If your clients remember you tracking every single minute and painstakingly invoicing them down to the last cent, will they come back for more? If you refused to chat with a client who only needed you to listen for five minutes, will they send a business buddy to you for more work?
While this may a bit of a ‘fast and loose’ approach to business, it’s certainly worked for me. I’m not saying it’s okay to let clients walk all over you, because it’s not. But when you have the right clients (and you’ve honed both your ‘freeloader’ radar and your boundaries), investing in relationships and erring on the side of generosity is always the best policy. I don’t mind giving out some of my best advice for free because the client will always remember me being generous.
What can you do? I don’t think you can really plan generosity. But if an opportunity to show it presents itself this week, grab it with both hands.
5. Don’t be afraid to use your local advantage.
Rather than thinking of a regional location (or your small business) as a disadvantage, you should think of it as one of the biggest advantages you have. I’ve won work with huge clients by emphasising how I can weave local flavour in into their copy rather than having a big, out-of-town firm get it wrong.
Being local means I know the town’s major players, the unspoken rivalries, and where the best coffee is. Being small means I’m nimble, responsive and often more cost-effective (even at my highest charge-out rates).
And being local is awesome when it comes to writing local landing pages or making sure your client has the best local SEO possible.
What can you do? If you’re a regional copywriter, why not make sure you have a local landing page that talks about all the things you love in your town? I haven’t done this yet, but it’s high on my to-do list for 2020.
Think big, not small.
Red lipsticks held high, let’s tackle 2020 together.
If you only remember one thing, let it be this: you’re not limited by your size or location. If I can mostly wing it through five years of business and make it out the other side, there’s no reason why you can’t as well.
About Sarah-Joy Pierce
Sarah-Joy Pierce is the owner of Joyful Communications in Central Queensland. She writes copy for industry, mining and service-based businesses, and drinks plenty of coffee while doing it.