Hello and welcome to another Mailbox Monday — the day where I answer YOUR questions here at Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
If you’d like to get your question answered, go ahead and send it to me at [email protected]… But be warned… Right now the queue is about two months long — so you’ll have to be understanding when Spring is blooming before your answer sprouts…
That said, let’s get on to our question — a particularly good one for copywriters or any other solopreneurs looking for growth…
My question is “How do I scale my business?”
I’m a marketing copywriter with 20+ years of experience. I work alone, cherry picking clients and referring to colleagues for a small referral fee those projects/clients that aren’t a fit or are beyond my capacity.
If I don’t refer excess projects/clients away, I can hire freelancers/subcontractors to do the work. However, I then become the project manager and all the headaches involved in that process.
I also worry that the client won’t be getting copy written by me, the person he or she chose to do the work based on having reviewed my portfolio or been referred by an existing client.
I’m now at a point, that I consistently operate at full capacity and am not sure how to scale my business so I can increase revenues beyond the copy I write myself (there are only so many hours in the day) and the small referral fees I generate.
Here’s my answer to “S.”
You’re in a very interesting situation. Unless you significantly change your business, it probably won’t be much different 12 months from now than it is today.
(And to all my readers who are in copywriting now or considering getting into copywriting — I want you to note this question. So many of us try so hard to make it in this industry — for good reason! — and then when we do, we try so hard to make it something else. The Buddha said, “All existence is suffering.” This is closely tied to everyone, everywhere always feeling that “the grass is greener on the other side.” I digress…)
Maybe you could work on incremental productivity improvements, etc, that may give you 10% here or there. But ultimately, you’ll only reach a new ceiling just a few months from now. One where you’re just working harder, faster — where burnout is more likely. All for a measly 10%.
And so if you want to scale your copywriting business, you have two choices to change.
1. A significant change in your compensation structure. If you’re not getting paid on performance, you need to get paid on performance. This allows you to get paid more for the same amount of work — assuming your results warrant. This may mean changing client bases to clients that will pay based on performance. But it is a way to increase your income when you can’t work more.
2. A significant change in your deliverables. In short, you need something that scales, or some way to replicate yourself. This is why so many copywriters go into the information business. But you don’t have to sell information. You could sell just about anything that doesn’t require substantial effort on your part to deliver. I’ve mentioned before that my neighbor sells gongs online. He’s not really a copywriter, but he does write copy. But he doesn’t get paid to write copy — he gets paid when gongs sell. Which is leverage of his copywriting time.
I’d like to go into more detail on #2 here… Because it’s what I’m seeing more and more of event the best copywriters do…
When Gary Bencivenga retired from the copywriting business, he and his wife launched an “olive oil of the month” business, selling fresh-pressed olive oil on a continuity basis. No more copywriting clients, but a ton more growth and revenue potential in the long run.
A client and mentor of mine was once a copywriter, who competed with the best. Then, he quit the business. And over the course of his career, he’s helped launch multiple investment newsletter businesses, an online bank, a precious metals purchasing website, a South American real estate development, an investment conference, a mutual fund, and more… And the secret he told me I should copy was to exchange your copywriting skills for a stake in projects like these. While all of the businesses I listed were successful, the online bank became huge, and I’m pretty sure his stake in that business provided a payday to ensure he’d never have to work again.
I know folks who’ve started training companies, website hosting companies, supplement companies, software businesses, and more… Each who had a reasonable amount of marketing talent, but who parlayed the advantage of a hugely-scalable business model into income and net worth that exceeds the wildest dreams of most copywriters.
The dirty little truth about “the writer’s life…”
If you’ve been dreaming of living the life of a successful copywriter, making a good income, writing all day long, that’s great…
And the reality is that this job can afford you a far better living than the average American family, and can be done mostly on your own terms.
But the truth is — even with royalties or other performance-based compensation — you’re pretty limited in where the business can go.
If you’re a copywriter, ultimately, you’re writing copy.
And as “S” has experience, ultimately it’s probably YOU writing copy.
Which — I should state — there’s nothing wrong with.
BUT you’re not building an asset. You’re not generating income that keeps coming in when you’re not working. You’re limited in your scalability.
It’s you, there, butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, exchanging hours for dollars.
If you want more, you have to think beyond the traditional freelance copywriting business. You have to think beyond “the writer’s life.”
Which brings me to a way to measure any opportunity moving forward…
The big thing to look at, the big question to answer, is, “If this business is successful, is the revenue/profit I get out of it directly proportional to the time I spend in it?” If the answer is yes, you’re largely in an hourly job. If the answer is no, then you really have a business, and you really have the scalability you’re hoping for.
If you’re looking for how to do bigger and better things with your copywriting, marketing, and business abilities — this could be your breakthrough…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets