From Corporate Copywriting to Freelance: Getting Your 3 Cs in Line

Drive thy business or it will drive thee.
– Benjamin Franklin

I was a corporate copywriter for several years before recently going freelance. And I’m learning a lesson that, while you read a lot about it, you still may have to learn the hard way.

You have to be your business’ best advocate.

In the corporate world, you couldn’t really say no to projects because you needed to be team player, ready and willing to help. Now, you have to put your freelancing business first and silence your corporate automatic ‘yes’ tics. I’m a caretaker by nature so for me, this really goes against the grain.

Let’s break it down into three behavior categories, the three Cs. You have: Copywriter Me (new freelancer), Corporate Me (plays office politics) and Caretaker Me (wants to help).

Rarely are they on the same page, so you have to herd them into a productive direction. My three Cs were recently tested, and we failed. Tell me if the following sounds familiar.

1. A gentleman approached me about reorganizing and rewriting the website for his startup.
Copywriter Me was intrigued, having done this many times before.

2. He’d done all this work and paid all this money, but his site wasn’t converting a single visitor.
Copywriter Me gets excited at the prospect of a client. Corporate Me gets ready to problem-solve. Caretaker Me wanted to fix this poor soul some chicken noodle soup.

3. We went through his website to assess the scope of the project.
Deep down I knew better, but Corporate Me and Caretaker Me roped Copywriter Me into giving a free consultation. Dang it!

4. When the subject of price came up, I told him that I’d take a few days and get him an estimate. But I clearly stated that I required 50% up front and 50% upon completion.
Copywriter Me felt proud and professional. Corporate Me and Caretaker Me were quiet – this was new territory.

5. He asked if I also offered pricing based on “where a company stands now.”
All three Cs: Huh…? Was this a pricing model I didn’t know about but should? I asked what he meant.

6. He wanted to pay 50% down and “the rest when [he] became profitable.” Like his financial backers agreed to do.
Ah, clarity. Copywriter Me had a hissy fit that Corporate Me stifled for fear of being rude. Caretaker Me kept his chicken noodle for herself.

7. He then tried to tempt Copywriter Me with the potential for future work.
Corporate Me and Caretaker Me: “Are you seriously trying to pull that crap?” Copywriter Me was momentarily tempted before hopping on the Indignation Bandwagon with both feet.

This guy was trying to finagle free work! He wasn’t thinking about the well-being of my business. I was on my own for protecting my own little startup, me.

If he couldn’t pay me in full for the first project, how could he pay me for any other project? I’d never before been expected to work for free. Nor am I one of his financial backers.

And yet I still spent the next week going back and forth with this guy. Why?

Fear of making a mistake. Copywriter Me was afraid of missing an opportunity. Corporate Me was afraid of being ostracized for not being a team player. Caretaker Me thought I owed him since he took the time to drive downtown to meet with me.

That kind of dysfunction will not protect your business. If anything, it will make you desperately take gigs that should be given as wide a berth as a black hole swimming with the Ebola virus.

Instead, play to your three Cs strengths by making them responsible for specific aspects of your freelance business.

  • Copywriter You: Owns overall business decisions, including client and project selection.
  • Corporate You: Owns project management, quality control, marketing/PR  and the care and feeding of current clients.
  • Caretaker You: Owns pro bono work, ergonomics, health, office parties, lunches, field trips and taking care of your own well-being.

What’s been your biggest challenge in changing from a corporate copywriter to a freelance copywriter?

Keep paddlin’,
Rubber Ducky Copywriter

Choose Your Audience Before You Choose a Client

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:
Decide what you want.
Ben Stein
American actor, writer, lawyer and political commentator

When I was looking for my first office job, I met a man with a plan. He was a job hunting guru out to make a living selling his career books and networking tools.

Mr. Job Hunting Guru was a seasoned pro who exuded empathetic authority – he’d been there, done that and could teach me how to get to the other side.

He knew his material and how to reach his target audience (I and several others met him at a job fair). To hold our attention, he hosted free seminars during which he doled out shiny pearls of wisdom. Even his sales pitch sounded like he was just trying to help.

Three months after I met him, he asked me if the company I worked for had any openings.

His plan hadn’t worked.

Mr. Job Hunting Guru needed a job.

His target audience – the entry level unemployed – could not afford what he was selling.

We wanted to. He and his seminars were undeniably impressive, and his pricing was reasonable. But we simply couldn’t afford to cough up the money for his other products.

Just like Mr. Job Hunting Guru, you are your own business in charge of your own marketing plan.

And as a business (not a writer, a business), your target audience consists of two kinds of clients: those who can afford you and those who can’t.

I’m not going to tell you how to find clients. There are as many ways to do that as there are grains of sand in the Sahara. And I don’t mean that you should only target big-bucks glossies or Fortune 500 companies.

But whatever your freelancing marketing plan is, focus your efforts on clients with more than dust bunnies in their wallets. Because like Mr. Job Hunting Guru, it doesn’t matter how good you are if your target audience can’t foot the bill.

So target those who can.