May was one of those months where I started feeling nervy every time I looked at my financials. At mid-May, I wasn't as far along as I should have been. But by month's end, I hit that target and that’s because I tried a new tactic...
May 2019 Review & Income report - The month I tried something different
In March, I picked up a couple of big clients and lots of little ones. Work started flowing and I met my target. That trend continued and I’ve been able to meet my targets which is very encouraging.
May target was $6,000 and I made that. Just!
What worked well for me in May
I continued with bigger client packages
In March’s Review, I shared that I started offering more holistic packages to clients. Copywriting and SEO, or web design and branding, etc. It was a strategy that worked really well, especially for small businesses and start-ups.
It’s much easier and cheaper for clients to have one person manage all their comms. And that person gets to know their business inside out. It’s almost like having a business partner or someone to keep them accountable and on target. Who doesn't want that?
Got more professional with a new CRM
Well, I’d been meaning to do this for forever. And finally, I invested in a new CRM (customer relationship management) system, Dubsado. This was on the advice of my new VA. It’s not the first time I’ve dabbled in Dubsado but this time I went the whole hog and signed up.
I shopped around first for a promo code and got 30% which is great and made the $US30/month price tag more palatable.
Dubsado is a CRM but it’s a lot more than that. You can manage your whole business, from time tracking and invoicing to send beautiful proposals, quotes, contracts and briefs. You can track clients, leads, projects and more, and receive and send client emails.
It’s a pretty mammoth program, and to be honest, I don’t know if I need all those features. Primarily, I want the client automation. For eg; send an invoice > the client details go into the system > contract gets sent > project timeline gets sent > a new asana project opens with said timeline... We’re not there yet but I’m hopeful of settting all this up. Eventually.
But in May at least, I started to send out nice, editable, online proposals, contract, briefs. Which is a definite improvement on my Word docs.
I started upselling
This was my “different” strategy, something I hadn’t really thought about doing intentionally before.
A typical concept of “upselling” is the classic “Would you like fries with that?” McDonald’s analogy. But it works. And in May, I purposefully started doing this with some of my small business clients.
Only, of course, if I thought it would benefit them. I’d never try to sell something to someone if it wasn’t the right fit.
For eg; a client wanted a website review, to check the readability and grammar, etc. So, I asked them if they’d also like an SEO assessment and keyword research. Yes, they did. Website review + SEO research = A much bigger and better value project
Another client needed a press release; sure, no problem. But then I thought that it’s important to send press releases to specific people and not generic email addresses. Would a business know this? And would they know the right names and contact details? I know that stuff and I know people who know people (the freelance network is so awesome).
So, I offered to put together a specific media contact list of editors, writers, bloggers and Instagram influencers. Then I suggested that I draft custom emails to the various categories of people, knowing that each requires a different approach. Press release + media list + 3 custom emails = A high value project.
It may sound kind of obvious but tell me, do you actually do this? And what kind of extra skills can you offer your clients? A lot, I’ll bet. And, of course, the more work you do with a business, the more likely they’ll become a return client and a good referral.
I brought in professional proofing
One of the perks of reliable work coming in is that you can outsource part or whole jobs to other people. And having a group like TCCS on hand is really useful when you decide last minute to get some help.
For my 2 big projects that stretched out over 3-4 months, I need to proof the copydecks in their final versions. But I’d been through them too many times, so I decided to bring in fresh eyes with two other TCCS copywriters.
I can’t tell you, actually, the relief I felt at being able to turn this part of the job over to someone else. Someone with exacting standards like me and a fresh perspective. I so recommend professional proofing if you’ve got a big copywriting job. It raises your professionalism and the quality of your finished product. And of course, you can charge for it.
Past clients reappeared
I do copywriting work semi regularly for an agency here in Canberra. In general, the work is straightforward and the people are responsive and nice to work with. The downside is that the briefs are often non-existent and the pay cycle is looong. So, I never expect payment that month.
This month, the agency asked me if I'd like to partner and quote on potential government contract. I said yes and gave them a quote. I’m keen to get win one of these contracts but unfortunately, it didn’t work out this time. Still, I'm pleased that the agency considers me its go-to copywriter.
Wrapped up 2 big project milestones
Finally, I managed to wrap up a couple of big milestones in 2 client projects. On big 3-4 month projects, I usually split payments into 3 parts. For eg; 30% deposit (1st invoice) > complete website copywriting > 35% (2nd invoice) > complete web design > 35% (3rd and final invoice).
This makes it easier financially for the client and I get some money coming in over the project course.
Do you split your big jobs into smaller payments? Does it help with your cash flow? I’d love to hear how you do it.
What didn’t work so well in May
The technical learning curve is slow
Starting any new software in your business is always going to a pain in the bum. It takes an age of messing about, watching Youtube videos, reading blog posts and harassing the help chat function. It’s both interesting and painful.
Even with my lovely VA creating templates and setting up other stuff, getting my head around the Dubsado beast is a big challenge. And I’m not there yet.
I know this is how all my web design clients feel!
Projects going overtime
One of the issues around longer projects is trying to keep them running on time. A project that stretches over 3-4 months is going to encounter delays such as illness, work dramas, school holidays, waning momentum, and more.
This happened to me with my biggest ongoing project. We're currently running almost a month behind schedule. And I don't see how we're going catch up.
Rescheduling deadlines means other jobs get squeezed, or you can’t take on work when you thought you’d be able to. Worse still, it means financial delays, which for a small business, can be really tough.
I definitely have some cash flow issues that I need to sort out for the long term financial health of my business. Got any tips? I’d love to hear them!
Here are the facts for March:
Pitching/quoting on new projects
Pitched (on TCCS) for 11 new copywriting projects
Quoted for 2 jobs from people who found me on Google
Quoted for 1 job that an agency brought to me
Outsourced 3 jobs to other copywriters
Won 4 new jobs
Started the prep work for a new website client but the project is now on hold
Talked to 3 other potential clients about new websites
Signed up 4 new business copywriting clients
Continued working with 5 existing clients
Delivered 5 business copy jobs (including website copy and drafts, blog posts, articles, etc)
Income report for Mary 2019
My income target was $6,000.
I invoiced for $6,300 and earned $6,071.
I got a couple of payments from work completed in April but there’s one outstanding invoice from a small business client. I’m hoping it’s just an oversight or cash-flow issue but it’s always difficult chasing late payments. I’m very glad that my VA/bookkeeper, Sue, manages that for me.
Looking ahead, I only have about $2,000 of commissions and unpaid invoices for June.
So, it will be another slog to keep pitching and planning ahead for more work. Plus a last ditch effort to bump up my 2018-19 income before the end of the financial year!
From next year (1st July), I’ll be registered for GST which is a whole other can of worms!
How is your end of financial year going? Gun blazing or a slow run to July?
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is a freelance SEO copywriter and web designer for businesses and organisations. Based in Canberra, she delivers smart, savvy SEO copywriting and professional Squarespace web design. She also writes an awesome newsletter on small business marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff".