Put These In Place, and You’ll Grow Your Copywriting Business Faster and with Less Stress

So, a few days ago, I had a morning self-publishing coaching call with a client, after which I was thinking of heading over to the pool at the gym to do my laps. Now, I’m a pretty disciplined guy when it comes to exercise, but I’m also human, so, if I start getting busy, and time passes, it’s easy to say, “Heck, it’s getting late. I’ll just do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow? Maybe it’ll happen, and maybe it won’t.

So, before I got on the call, I packed my gym bag with a change of clothes, towel, etc. Put my keys, wallet and phone next to it. And changed into my bathing suit, T-shirt and flip-flops. Once the call was done, all I had to do was grab everything and go. Which, I did. Had none of that been “staged,” it’d been far easier to bail on the idea.

What I’d done was create a structure for fulfillment.

The whole point? Make something easy to do and you’re more likely to do it.

Duh, right? Well, yes it is, but I’d wager good money, a whole lot of ideas, campaigns, programs, goals, whatever, that never launched, would have if their creators had set up their own “structures for fulfillment.” The key being this:

Starting is the hardest part.

If you can make the “starting” easy, the rest of the steps are more likely to unfold.

I’ve invoked this idea in TWFW when discussing doing simple direct mail campaigns to keep in touch with commercial writing clients and prospects who are part of your database. You know, those folks, who, in the course of your various prospecting efforts for your freelance commercial writing practice, have told you that, yes, they have needs for copywriters, on an occasional or ongoing basis.

Sure, you could decide you’re going to do a really whiz-bang direct mail package, with a specially designed mail piece, maybe with a folder built in (for various copywriting samples), along with a cover letter, and a few other odds and ends. Sounds swell, but will you actually get it done?

Instead, why not create a postcard with a simple message as a reminder, leading them to your commercial copywriting web site/online portfolio? Given how much easier a postcard would be to create, you’d just be that much more likely to get it done.

So, what’s involved in making one? Well, besides creating it yourself or with the help of some graphically talented friend of yours—with whom, perhaps, you trade services— you might check out an inexpensive online printer.

Places like www.modernpostcards.com or www.overnightprints.com offer you the opportunity to pick a design from thousands available, add your copy front and back, and for probably less than $100, you’ll get 1000 cards (and about $125-ish for 2,000).

Remember one of the cardinal rules of direct mail: Frequency trumps creative. Doing it more often and simply is more effective than doing it seldom and creatively.

If you’ve built up a list of, say, 200-250 prospects you’ve gathered through prospecting, sending a postcard 3-4 times a year to that freelance commercial writing database of yours becomes a remarkably easy and inexpensive process. 250 postcards four times a year will run you roughly, $120 to $200 (depending on size of the postcard—regular or oversize), each time, including postage.

Simplifying it even more is this: You can send the same postcard every time. No need to reinvent the wheel each time. AND, the more your copywriting prospects/clients see that same card, the more they’ll associate it with you. And that’s a very good thing.

And there are countless other examples of establishing “structures” in order to ensure that you do the things you need to, to build your copywriting business.

For example, planning a cold-calling campaign, but dreading the process? If you…

1) Compiled a long list of the right kinds of prospects and phone numbers (think many 100’s, so if you screw up a few—which you likely will—you won’t worry about it)…

2) Set up your week with sizeable chunks of time, earmarked exclusively for calling…

3) Had a quiet space, protected from interruptions/distractions, and…

4) Created a brief cold-calling script modeled on the one in TWFW (p. 127)

…it’d be more likely to happen. All of which underscores an important truth:

Most of the fear surrounding many business-building activities stems from a fear of the unknown. Yet, once you set up your structures, much of that unknown becomes known. And, as such, can no longer be anywhere near as scary.

What are some of the “structures for fulfillment” you’ve put in place for your commercial freelancing business?

Have they made it easier to get things done?

Did you put them in place because you weren’t making things happen?

Any specific success stories around this idea?

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11 replies
  1. KeriLynn Engel
    KeriLynn Engel says:

    Love this! This is exactly the technique I use to make myself keep the house clean & tidy- I loathe cleaning. I make it as frictionless as possible by learning my habits and preferences and arranging everything around them. “Know thyself” and everything gets way easier 😉

  2. Nida Sea
    Nida Sea says:

    Great post! What you did with your preparation for the gym prior to your call was genius. That’s what I need to implement with tasks such as getting back into a workout routine. But, and it happens often, I use that excuse that since nothing is ready to go, I don’t have time to do it. Great eye-opener!

  3. Melzetta "Mele" Williams
    Melzetta "Mele" Williams says:

    Peter, great thoughts, a coaching session in one post! I hate starting a project and I procrastinate in doing so. So I look forward to hearing some of the great ideas from the others!

  4. Cathy Miller
    Cathy Miller says:

    A very simple method I use for keeping in touch with both existing clients and prospects is to email them articles/reports or items of interests. I’ll add how I think the article or report connects to their business. I may suggest related projects. It’s a good way to get over my aversion to “cold-calling” and offers the client/prospect something of value.

  5. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks to all – great comments!

    Yes, KeriLynn, we indeed have to know ourselves, and what we’ll try to get away with if given the chance! AND, make sure our structures make that as unlikely as possible.

    Thanks, Nida, and yes, it’s ideal for getting back into working out. I’ve even thought a good idea would be to have two sets of everything (perhaps even down to the bags!), so that once you come back from one workout, the next one is staged and ready to go as well. Or at the very least, a second set of clothes (probably easier and more feasible for most people).

    But, it really can apply to all aspects of life, and certainly business.

    Thanks, Mele. And yes, starting is the hardest part. Why? Because again, typically, there’s a lot of unknown involved, and if you can quantify the different parts of the process and know exactly how you’re going to get them done, the fear will evaporate.

    And what will replace it will be the potential benefits that will accrue to you when you finally take that action. Those benefits were always there, but they were overshadowed by the fear and uncertainty until you shed some light on the issue.

    @ Katherine – yes, there IS that! But, in my experience, as noted above, once you have structures in place, action is just more likely to happen. And when it doesn’t, there’s often a lack of urgency. Are you in a situation where there are no real consequences to not taking action? In the case of business, sure, you don’t want to set up things so you’re desperate, and have to make money to, say, pay your utility bill, but being a little bit hungry never hurts.

    Thanks Cathy – always good to hear from you! And thanks for this, always a good idea. AND, is there a way you actually set this up so it’s more likely that you actually DO make it happen?

    Anyone else?


  6. Cathy Miller
    Cathy Miller says:

    Hi Peter: yes, I do. I have a spreadsheet for various marketing activities. I adapted the marketing plan from C.J. Hayden’s Get Clients Now book.

    The tracking worksheet provides me with the structure (and the accountability) to give me a kick in the pants to stick with it. But to be honest, the sharing of articles/reports, etc. has become second nature so I usually do it without thinking about it. By recording my activities, it helps overcome my boomer brain so that sharing and other marketing tasks don’t fall off my radar. 🙂

  7. William Reynolds
    William Reynolds says:

    I find it useful to take the emotion out of starting. If I have to “build myself up” to that writing job, I’m really magnifying the intimidation I feel by depicting the project as some impossible summit that must be climbed. It’s far less stressful to sit down at the appointed time and just start clicking keys. Worry about quality later.

    The other thing that helps me is to start in the middle, toward the end, or anywhere OTHER than the beginning. When you start at the beginning, you’ve got the whole blank expanse of the rest of the article in front of you, and you’re forced to approach this or section in order, whether you’re ready to write them or not. I’d rather write the parts that are already clear in my mind, regardless of where they may lie on the page, and then fill in the other bits.

  8. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Cathy, for the added detail! What service/entity do you use to get feeds? Google Alerts? Something else?

    Thanks, William! What you say is SO crucial (i.e., to take the emotion out of the task). Not always the easiest thing to do if you’re talking about, say, making cold calls (especially for the first time), but emotions (and all the mind-churning that typically accompanies, that can keep one immobilized) are best kept in check.

    And good for you for starting anywhere but the beginning. I think that’s very wise, AND I have a hard time proceeding without knowing how it’s starting!


  9. Teshaw K Robinson
    Teshaw K Robinson says:

    I was worried about “how to market” my inbound marketing company. But your words of wisdom, advice, and techniques really mapped out my next 5-10 years in the consumption of 2 days. I’ve research LLC compared to sole proprietor entities trying finding the right move. I analyzed what has worked for me as a freelance writer finding clients and more. Im about ready to put a kickstarter up hand I’m really grateful to have found your articles/site. I may have missed it but can you educate me on how you market your copywriting company?

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