Estelle Fallon from Words That Fit
Who are you Estelle Fallon?
I’m a specialist tender and SEO copywriter for the civil construction industry, I have fun taking businesses through the procurement process and beyond; from web-ready to tender-ready to award-ready.
To balance the serious and technical, I can’t resist a good brainstorm for a clever tagline or to name a new product.
What did you do before you became a copywriter?
I wrote tenders and ran project offices for civil engineering and the construction industry.
How long have you been copywriting?
I wrote my first tender 20 years ago but only started calling myself a copywriter when I joined TCCS.
What has been your biggest copywriting career win?
Inhouse? Being asked to ‘cast my eye over’ two tenders supposedly ‘ready for submission’ on a Thursday morning. By 10 am they’d both been scrapped for non-compliance.
I then wrote 2 x tender plans, pulled the entire team together, and rewrote both submissions over the next 4 days, all while 37 weeks pregnant and with only one meltdown.
We won both projects for a total value of close to $60M from memory. It was really the first time I felt I knew what I was doing – and that people listened to what I had to say and were prepared to follow instructions!
Freelancing? After faffing around for three years, I finally launched a less than perfect website (well, landing page really).
The first enquiry was from a big name in the industry, wanting help with industry award submissions.
Got them through to the finals.
What was your worst copywriting career fail?
Mmmm…I’ve probably listened to too many business gurus’ but I don’t see any copywriting job as a fail if I’ve learned something from it, and it’s helped improve my business and process for the next client.
In the early days of WTF, it was saying yes to projects even though I knew I wasn’t a good fit because I didn’t like the industry (finance/tech).
I thought by saying no it would make me look unprofessional and I’d burn bridges with the client/agency.
Turns out dragging out deadlines because you don’t want to do the work does a much better job of killing a relationship than a simple ‘Thanks, but not my wheelhouse’.
For my business today, missing a tender deadline would be the worst copywriting career fail.
I make sure I build enough contingency into the timeline but also be very clear with boundaries and accountabilities, and I’m not afraid to get tough if need be.
What are your number one fave copywriting tools?
Xero meant it was easy to outsource bookkeeping to somebody who loves numbers as much as I love words.
I often hear people say that it’s too expensive. But then you ask them how long they’re spending on their finance admin and it’s actually costing them more than $50 a month.
Invest in the tools people and spend your time where you can make money.
Proposify streamlined the proposal and acceptance process.
Once clients have read the proposal and like the terms, it’s easy for them to accept and pay the 50% commencement fee from the one document via Stripe.
And because it integrates with Xero, the flow saves time in admin.
Asana runs my business life. It took me a while to really understand how to use it (and I’m still learning features), but it’s made a huge difference to things not falling through the cracks.
But you do need to understand your processes and you have to be prepared to take the time to document them.
And then you have to be prepared to keep tweaking the system until it works for you.
I think the biggest mistake we make when choosing a project management system is expecting it to be the miracle cure to our process ails right out of the gate.
It can’t be.
As the wonderful Leanne Woff says – just pick one and stick with it for a while, using it every day. The better you know your business, the better the system can work for you.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
I have a bloody good support network within TCCS to help when I have the wobbles.
There are at least half a dozen people I know I can drop a quick message to and say “Hey…this has happened, talk me off a ledge” and they will tell me exactly what I need to hear to get me over the hurdle. I’ll be forever grateful for their support and friendship.
What work-life balance/mental health tips do you have?
I have two tips:
1. Find what works for you. Don’t be trying to squeeze your square peg self into somebody else’s round hole #filth.
It took me nearly four years to find my happy place with work/life balance.
I tried running my business on somebody else’s schedule and it made me miserable and feel like a failure.
When I sat down and thought about how I wanted my day to look and set my own schedule, I became a much happier and more productive person.
One of the joys of freelancing is you get to choose what your work week looks like. So long as the work gets done and you’re very clear with your boundaries, how you achieve that is between you and your keyboard.
2. Find your happy place away from your desk and make sure you schedule a time for your day/week to spend there.
For me, it’s the gym. I know it’s a pain in the arse to find the time to get there, but I always feel better afterward, and my work and mindset are always better for it.
What tip would you pass onto any newbie copywriters?
Don’t be looking at somebody else’s four-year journey and think you have to be there today.
It’s your business, your journey. Follow your path.
And even the copywriters that look like they have their shizzle together have massive moments of self-doubt as they push into new territory.
Use the support of TCCS. They’re a bloody helpful bunch.
What’s next for you?
Time to see where Words That Fit can go and what it can do.
Whether that’s agency style bringing along a support team with me, or just making myself a respected name in the industry is still up for grabs.
But I look forward to seeing what’s possible and what opportunities arise.
Why do you love TCCS?
Where do I start?
I remember being a newbie, feeling like I knew nothing in this copywriting world, and being warmly welcomed and made to feel a part of a close-knit team.
My TCCS friends are now some of the dearests to me in the world.
We may only get to squeeze each other once a year at CopyCon, but those connections will last a lifetime.
And because I owe a large part of my confidence and success to TCCS, I want to help others do the same and love having the opportunity to do so.
I particularly love seeing new copywriters come through the group, watching their confidence grow and develop as they find their feet.
And hopefully, I get to offer some advice or a bit of information I’ve picked up along the way that moves them closer to their goals.