3 pitfalls to avoid when you're building a freelance business

3 pitfalls to avoid when you’re building a freelance business

Recently I joined the B2B Writing Institute as a panelist on Client Experience, which was awesome! After the live event concluded, a woman named Iyabo Oyawale reached out to me and asked me about three mistakes I had made in the early days of my company. Then she compiled a list and made a fabulous LinkedIn post.

As I got to thinking about the three mistakes I shared with her, I realized I have a lot more to say. So I shared my thoughts on a live video, which I’m linking here.

TL;DR: The three mistakes I made before starting my company:

  1. Thinking too small
  2. Not networking with other copywriters and writers
  3. Failing to prioritize visibility 🙂

But, of course, there’s more to share.


When I started CopySnacks

The name CopySnacks didn’t actually exist. I incorporated EP Marketing Services… which may seem obvious. I’m EP, and I was offering marketing services. From a clarity standpoint, it rocked. The fun factor, however, was missing.

True story, I didn’t actually know that I was a copywriter or that I had been doing it for years. Instead, I searched for what people needed and where I could help. In retrospect, this was a really solid path. However, I probably could have gone further faster had I known the three things that I’m sharing in a moment.

Before I dive in, CopySnacks, the company was truly born when I was hangry one day, running all over Green Bay to different AT&T stores on a wild goose chase until one manager kindly shared I needed to call corporate to solve my problem. My business hadn’t taken off yet, so instead of diving into a bowl of chips and salsa (and guac, of course) at a Mexican restaurant, I decided to be responsible and go home and cook dinner.

Then an idea struck…except it was half-baked (maybe even a quarter-baked), and I knew something was there. It just took some time to crystalize in my head. I sat down to tease it out…then at midnight, no joke, CopySnacks as a business name jumped out at me. 

“Appetizers aren’t overrated, and neither are you,” became a key talking point.


The three mistakes I made

When I started out as EP Marketing Services, I didn’t have a full idea of what I wanted. Just to make money for my family and have control over the projects I took and clients I served. And while that’s absolutely fine, it meant that I didn’t have a serious cohesive vision. It may sound crazy to you if you’ve been following me for a while. But it’s the truth. Even though everything I do is built on what I’ve learned over the last twenty years, when I started out, I didn’t understand the possibility. And that leads me to the first mistake I made:


Mistake #1: Not thinking big enough

A vision is important, but so are goals. And my goal, when first starting, was to not live paycheck to paycheck anymore. That’s a great goal, and I didn’t know what was possible, so it took me a long time to think beyond that. 

If I had thought or dreamed bigger, I would have quickly realized that I could bring so much more to the table…and do so much more. 

I want to offer a caveat—there is nothing wrong with starting small. But if you accomplish your small goals quickly, you need to scramble to identify bigger goals so you have something to work towards. Without those, it’s easy to flounder. Knowing what actions will further goals that don’t exist is tough. 

So if you’re starting small, great. Do that. However, I want to encourage you to raise the bar regularly. Or at least evaluate if this is where you want to be or if it’s a stepping stone on the way to something else. And if it’s just a stepping stone, it’s time to dream bigger so that you can be making decisions that move the needle towards those goals.

Let me give an example: You might say, “I want to have a million-dollar business.” So how are you going to get there? What benchmarks, realistic targets, etc. will show you that you’re succeeding? 

And every time along that you’re faced with a decision along the way, you can decide if it actually serves that goal. 


Mistake #2: Not networking with other writers and copywriters

When I first started out, I thought the only people I should be talking to were prospective clients or referral partners. I didn’t understand the value of connecting with people who were also building businesses, whether at my level or several steps ahead.

It wasn’t until I joined The Copywriter Club Accelerator and we were encouraged to connect with one another that I understood the true value of a community of peers. It was after that that things took off for me. 

So for me, that was other writers. If you’re a designer, then that’s who you should connect with. And so on and so forth.

And it’s not just about LinkedIn connections or following each other on Twitter. It’s about having conversations over Zoom or phone. It’s about following up and building relationships. And yep, it’s also about getting your butt to conferences, at least occasionally. 

Regarding those conversations, think of it as having coffee together. 15-30 minutes tops just to get to know people. Choose a cadence that works for you — for me, I max out at 2-3 per week, and they often book up several weeks in advance because I have to limit what that looks like.

What’s more, that cadence gives me plenty of space to hold space for client calls, consults, and the actual work I need to do. I actually have 2 types of calendar appointments that I send out based on the conversation: consults and coffee chats. That way, if there’s someone I REALLY want or need to speak with, I can push them to the front of the line.

Getting started can be intimidating here. However, if you show up and have the conversation, you might just be surprised at what you bring to the table.


Mistake #3: Failing to prioritize visibility 

This is one of the mistakes that a lot of people make, and for several reasons that often boil down to impostor syndrome. Some of the things I hear — and have said myself — include:

  • “If I’m new, how do I have the authority to step out there and say this thing that I know is true?”
  • “This is it: they’re going to realize I am a fraud (even though I’m totally not).
  • “What if I’m wrong? They’re all gonna laugh.”

And on and on. Here’s the thing: there’s ALWAYS going to be someone who is better, has more experience, or has a different hot take on things.

So here’s a truth bomb for you.

You don’t have to be the expertiest expert in the room. You just have to be able to help someone else win.

That’s it. We’re all on this learning trajectory where we write new and different things each month than we would have the month before.

And, showing up — whether on live video, podcast, social media, or something else — take a leap of faith in yourself the first time (or the first 100 times) you do it. Very quickly, you learn that unless you’re saying the Earth is flat, not a lot of people (read: none) are going to stand up and tell you you’re wrong.

More importantly, you’ll find that the act of showing up, and doing so repeatedly, is what’s going to move the needle for you. People may not take notice the first time you appear, but they will ABSOLUTELY notice that you’re showing up more and more.

And I think that’s an important point — not every post you make will result in big bucks, massive amounts of clicks, or whatever you’re trying to do with it. 

However, it all goes back to basic math. 100% of the time I didn’t show up, it didn’t move the needle. But all the times I did? People began to take notice and visibility and authority continued to build up the more I show up.

And one more point — if you’re not talking about what you’re doing, how will anyone else know about it?


So what’s the takeaway?

It’s far too easy to let fear or imposter syndrome stop you from showing up. By taking time to think big, grow your network, and show up for yourself, you can find the levers that work for you to grow your company.

Whether that means owning your expertise and putting yourself and your products out there in the world (which is how I released Whomp Whomp to Wow, my course for writers who want support writing their own website copy)…

… or building authority by the simple acts of dreaming big and showing up…

… or perhaps, it just means building relationships with other people in your field.

Whatever path you choose, I hope you use this post as inspiration to take a step forward in your business.

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One Response

  1. Wow, Erin!

    This is so on-point!

    I love when you said: “You don’t have to be the expertiest expert in the room. You just have to be able to help someone else win.”

    I’m running with some of the ideas in this post.

    Thanks for sharing!

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