Quick note from 2020 Eman: I wrote this blog post back in April 2019.
It’s been 6 months since I decided to quit my full-time job and start my own copywriting business: InkHouse.
It’s been challenging, exhausting, frustrating, and scary at times. But it’s also been fulfilling, liberating, energising, inspiring and so, so exciting.
I’ve grown a lot in the past 6 months, and even though I know I’ve still got lots more growing to do, I thought this would be a great time to share 6 things I’ve learned about making a business.
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Lesson 1: Don’t be embarrassed to talk money
I used to hate talking money with clients, so much so that I’d actually feel guilty sending invoices and chasing late payments.
I guess the embarrassment came from my lack of self-esteem.
The people I was taking money from were older than me, usually more experienced than me (in business rather than copywriting), more confident than me, and much more straight-talking.
Me, on the other hand…I’d beat around the bush and mumble my rates apologetically, feeling like I shouldn’t be charging anything (especially when I was working with charities).
It took some difficult situations for me to get over my issue with money.
I realised that if I didn’t sort myself out, I wouldn’t have a business for much longer.
Two months in, I invested in a mentor (keep reading to find out more) who helped me increase my confidence, my rates and my income.
Instead of feeling like I had to give a discount to everyone who asked for one: I started saying no.
And guess what? It felt great!
Next, it was time to raise my rates so they were in line with the standard copywriting rates in the UK.
Suddenly, people who were only interested in getting me at the lowest rate possible stopped asking me to work with them.
I no longer had to deal with awkward conversations, and I spent much less time talking to people who had no intention of paying me what I asked.
Then came the serious clients; the ones who respected my craft, who understood the value I provided, and who were willing to invest in themselves and their business.
The ones who paid me on time, who accepted my 50% deposit process and who were an absolute pleasure to work with.
Eventually, I realised that you attract what you give out.
Sadly, people can smell unconfidence from a mile off – and they take advantage of it.
But if you respect yourself, you’ll get clients who respect you too.
If you respect your systems and processes, you’ll get clients who respect them too.
If you value your craft, you’ll get clients who respect your craft too.
What did I learn?
There’s no need to be embarrassed about talking money.
In fact, clients need you to be clear and confident when it comes to discussing payment. If you’re not, there will be money-related issues and misunderstandings that you could’ve easily avoided.
I also learned that if someone can’t afford your rates, you don’t have to give them a discount.
No one walks into Bentley with the budget of a Honda and asks for a discount.
A Bentley costs what it costs, and everyone accepts that – even those who want one but can’t afford one.
In the same way, your services cost what they cost.
And that’s the end of that.
Lesson 2: Invest in Yourself
It’s not a coincidence that I was binging The Hot Copy Podcast when I decided to quit my full-time job and set up InkHouse.
This podcast gave me the confidence (and the push) I needed to do the unimaginable.
So when I found myself a little unsure about how to do this business thing, I invested in a mentor: Belinda Weaver – co-host of The Hot Copy Podcast.
When I first joined Belinda’s copywriting community – Confident Copywriters – I was slightly star-struck. But I managed to get past her Rockstar copywriter status and arrange a half-hour one-on-one consultation with her.
When I told a family member in passing conversation how much I’d paid for that consultation, she was flabbergasted.
But because I understood the value of being mentored, I knew I was getting an exceptional deal. And I was – because the value I got from that half an hour was more than I could’ve hoped for.
It changed the trajectory of my entire business and, within a couple of weeks, the consultation paid for itself more than 10 times over.
What did I learn?
Sometimes, you gotta spend money to make money. Invest in yourself and your education, because that’s the only way you’ll keep getting better.
Lesson 3: Set clear boundaries
As part of my onboarding process, I send all new clients a document that tells them my opening hours.
So from the moment we start working together, they know they can email me at any time, but I’ll only be responsive between 9.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Wanna know a secret?
I actually start working at about 8am every day – and I work Every. Single. Weekend.
Even if I’m doing client work on weekends (which I try not to do because I like weekends to be about business development), I intentionally do not respond to client emails, phone calls or messages – because the only way I can expect clients to respect my personal time is if I respect my personal time too.
What did I learn?
Know your boundaries, then be clear about them. Clients follow your lead.
Lesson 4: Don’t let phone calls and meetings derail your day
When your business requires a lot of talk-time with clients, it’s easy for meetings and phone calls to take over your day.
To stop that from happening to me, I use Calendly – an online diary management system – to stay on top of things.
When someone wants to arrange a call or meeting with me, I send them the link to my online diary and they choose a time and date that works for them.
But… I only make myself available for phone calls and meetings in the afternoon.
Because I work best in the morning, which means I need to use all that good juju and creativity on the thing that requires the most time, focus and energy: writing great copy.
By the afternoon, my concentration starts to waver a little and I can’t write as well, so I spend that time catching up on client correspondence, meetings and admin that doesn’t require much thought or energy.
And because I don’t have any meetings or calls before 1pm, I can start writing knowing that nothing will disrupt my flow.
What did I learn?
My craft is what keeps my business alive, which means undisturbed writing time is a must – but keeping clients happy and staying responsive is equally important.
You have to get this balance right. Your business depends on it.
Lesson 5: Not everything is about money
Learning how to say no to people also came with the confidence of knowing when to say yes.
Unlike before, I find it really easy now to spot the difference between someone who’s trying to take advantage of me and someone who sincerely needs a bit of help.
So I spend more time on the phone with small business owners and charities, giving them pointers on how to write better copy.
I’ve even said yes to a few requests to meet for coffee, knowing that I’m not going to get a client out of it.
Now that I’m a bit more confident about making money, I’ve come to realise that not everything is about money. Sometimes, the best way to get your business out there is to just be kind and helpful.
What did I learn?
I can’t say yes to everything (because I gotta eat too!) but I now know that sometimes the best relationships, connections, and opportunities come from saying yes when you expect nothing in return.
Lesson 6: 10X everything
I’m slowly making my way through Grant Cardone’s The 10X Rule, where he argues that to be “successful”, you have to do everything with 10 times more effort than you planned.
So if you need to make £2,000 a month, aim for £20,000 a month and work as if you’re trying to reach that £20,000 goal.
When you hit £5,000 instead, you’ll be in a much better position and you’ll be grateful that you 10X’d your target.
To be honest, I don’t take this methodology too far. It’s a bit extreme for me, but I see what he’s saying.
If I want InkHouse to thrive, I need to work harder, think smarter and aim higher than I ever have.
What did I learn?
As Kanye once said: “Reach for the stars, so if you fall you land on a cloud.”
Over to you
Have you got any lessons to share with me? Leave a comment below!
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Eman Ismail is a UK-based copywriter and the founder of InkHouse. She works with businesses and non-profits across the world, writing marketing materials and content that increases their exposure and attracts their ideal audience.
When she’s not writing or delivering copywriting workshops, you’ll find her glued to a podcast in the corner of a cosy cafe.