November Review & Income report - Lots of work, not much moolah

November Review & Income report - Lots of work, not much moolah

November was a BIG work month for me. I had several new copywriting and web design clients and I was feeling energised and enthused. 

October had been my biggest work month yet so I set the bar even higher in November with a target of $6,000. 

As you may have guessed from the title, I’d didn’t come close to reaching it. Cue sad face.

Let’s dive into my freelancing month in detail.

What worked well for me in November 

I already had several jobs lined up 

When the month started, I already had several jobs scheduled in, including 3 website designs, a full website review and edit, and several smaller copywriting jobs. 

So, the groundwork was laid for a busy and productive month and I was relishing another healthy bank balance.

But I wanted to allow for additional small copywriting jobs so I pitched for more wherever possible.

I got an insight into how agencies work

Last month, I started working freelance with an agency here in Canberra. It was a great in and I’m planning to pursue more agencies around town next year with the same idea. 

I did some work for one project manager, and then another. Altogether, I did 4 projects for them in November and had some great feedback.

I’m more than happy to be the agency’s go-to writer but I found that this also had some downsides (read on below). 

I pitched for last minute, fast turnaround jobs 

This kind of work isn’t for everyone - it’s stressful, unplanned and you’re really under pressure to deliver. 

But it has 2 distinct advantages. It’s short term, so the project is done and dusted within a day or two, and you can charge a premium fee for the fast turnaround. 

Plus, once you’ve done the job, you have a relationship with the client. They appreciate your reliability and you now know their business. It’s the perfect time to pursue the relationship by offering your services and highlighting other stuff you can do. 

I did a last minute job for a business in the mining sector - ad copy with a turnaround of less than 24 hours. I pitched at about 12pm one afternoon, heard back a couple of hours later and sent through a super fast proposal and contract. I delivered the first draft in 2 hours, and the second by 7am the next day. 

Done. I invoiced a couple of days later (including a rush fee) and followed up with a suggestion for other copywriting work I could do for them. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t drift off into the sunset here. Rather, it turned sour. See more below. 

I put my prices up 

Kate spoke about this in one of her regular pep videos in the TCCS group

It’s a simple strategy to make more money - put up your prices. And the new year poses a perfect opportunity to do this. 

I emailed one of my long-term business copywriting client - with a slight nervous Mr Bean giggle - about my changed 2019 prices. I also offered him a retainer arrangement (and thereby an ‘out’ if he wanted). But he was all good with the new price.

Phew. 

As every freelancer knows, there’s not much worse than pricing yourself too low and feeling resentful all the way through a project. If you’ve done the hard yards, you know you’re good and you consistently get great feedback, then go on, give yourself a raise! 

I got some great client feedback

3 new clients made by month by loving my copywriting from the get go. In fact, they even uttered those magical words, “We don’t need any changes, this is perfect!”. 

There’s not much else that can boost my day and confidence like hearing those words. 

I continued to streamline my systems

You already know that I’m a systems fanatic (control freak!) and I love fine tuning my client workflow to move my projects along smoothly. I spoke about this in October but I stepped it up a notch in November. Namely by…

  • Finally setting up Asana and inputting all my projects and timeframes in there. I’m loving it!

  • Formatting and refining an end of project document (original copy bought from TCCS) that includes a testimonial request and an official sign off from the client

  • Creating a simple client project cover sheet that I can pop onto the front of all of my jobs, branded with my logo and including a list of revisions and dates

  • Fine tuning my website design and content proposal so I have that document ready to go for my Tiger package.  

It just makes me feel much more confident knowing I have my documents at the ready and a clear client onboarding system in place.

Do you struggle with setting up systems? Read on to the bottom - I may have a solution. 

What didn’t work so well in November

November was hugely busy work-wise but actually getting paid was a harder act to juggle. 

The reason for this was 3 fold.

  1. Web design clients have a longer lead time 

I usually book my web design clients a month or two in advance. This is so that I can block out a good 2 weeks to work on their site - giving them exclusive time with me and a sparkling new website in 2-3 weeks.

But this means that the time between the initial deposit and actually starting work can be a month or more. And by the time the 2nd payment hits my bank account (with the site mockup), it’s at least 6-8 weeks since signing up the client. 

About a third of October’s income was web design deposits but I didn’t start the actual jobs until November.

It’s doable but not ideal so I may have to figure out a way to manage that financial workflow better. 

2. I was at the mercy of other organisations’ pay schedules

The first was a new government client. Government typically pays on a fortnightly schedule, provided that invoices are processed promptly. 

This is a reliable and interesting client for me, and naturally, I know they’re good for the money! But for some reason (being a new payee perhaps), the rule stretched out well beyond a fortnight. By November’s end I still hadn’t been paid for the 3 jobs I’d invoiced. 

Second, the Canberra agency I started freelancing for has a 30 day payment cycle! (surely an antiquated invoicing system?) So, all of the work I’ve done for them this month won’t be paid until December.

This also means there’s no point asking for a deposit

This is a completely different pay cycle to what I’m used to. And it’s one that I’ll have to think - and ask - about for new clients. 

3. I underquoted for a couple of big jobs

This was another hard lesson learned - I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to do a job. And I’m still feeling my way with my rates. I have a sneaking suspicion that many copywriters at my level of experience charge a lot more than I do. It’s a tricky one.

Anyway, I did a load of work for these clients and didn’t feel I was properly compensated. It’s a learning curve, I know but it still feels crappy at the time! 

4. Dodgy clients

Finally, not entirely related to poor moolah but rather poor judgment - I had a couple of dodgy eggs this month. This is a rarity for me and I’m not used to it. It threw out my month in more ways than one and I’m still grappling wirth the consequences. 

One was the last minute client I spoke of above. I think the problem was that they were new to the whole copywriting biz and had different expectations of the end product. I’d crossed all my t’s - I had a signed contract, delivered the rush project ahead of time, and was helpful and transparent at every stage. They still came back unhappy - and angry. I had my first cranky client phone call in which I tried to stick to my guns and (calmly and politely) explain my side. I think I did okay but confrontation is always hard. 

But I have an uneasy feeling that they’re still going to refuse payment and that will lead to a whole other can of worms - in December. 

The second dodgy client was a new one that I pitched for and who happily signed a contract with me. Then an hour later, emailed to ditch me for what I guess was a cheaper quote. I reminded them about the contract (which they’d signed an hour ago) and this was very unprofessional and a big waste of my time. But I didn’t take it further. Alarm bells were clanging loudly so I took my shock and disappointment and adios’d that egg. 

Those 2 experiences reminded me again that in 2019 I want to push my copywriting on to bigger business clients, rather than the small business arena. It just seems less fraught with potential drama, pricing disputes and unreliability. Something I’m going to ponder on this summer.

Anyway…

Here are the cold hard facts for November:

Pitching

Pitched (on TCCS) for 10 new business copywriting projects

Pitched to 3 agencies (on LinkedIn, no response from either)

Pitched to 2 local Canberra consultancies

Web design

No new quotes as I’m full for November and December 

Copywriting

Landed 1 new business copywriting client, the rest were existing clients.

Delivered 19 business copy jobs (including website copy and drafts, blog posts, ads, brochures, etc).

Income report for November 2018

My income target was $6,000. 

I invoiced for $8199.20 and earned $2,063.20.

Yikes.

As I said, the big sticking point was that pesky 30-day agency payment cycle, and the slow processing for new government payees. 

Looking ahead, I currently have over $7,000 of commissions and unpaid invoices for December. So while I’ll definitely hit my monthly target, it feels a bit skewed. 

And the calendar is looking fairly bare for January. But that’s not to say it will be. If past experience is anything to go by, it may be better to have a clear and flexible schedule! 

And finally, a quick word on systems.

As you know, I’ve spent an age on my systems - invoicing, canned emails, contracts, briefs, clear client workflows, etc. And a thorough project management system that I can apply to copywriting and web design projects.

The reason I do all this is 2 fold - it makes me feel calmer and more in control while juggling multiple projects, each with different deadlines, clients and a bazillion steps in each.

And second, and more importantly, it reassures the client. They feel they’re in the hands of a professional, and that’s just how you want them to feel.

I write about systems a lot in my blog posts. But would you be interested in me walking you through exactly how I set up each one? And giving you all my templates and forms and canned emails?

Would this help your business? If so, email me and let me know. There’s an idea swirling about in my mind right now and I’d be happy to turn it into reality, if it’s something YOU want. So, let me know.

Now, I’d love to hear how your month is going. Are you hanging out for the Christmas break or looking to work through?

About the author: Lilani Goonesena is a freelance copywriter and web designer for businesses and organisations. Based in Canberra, she delivers professional Squarespace web design and smart, savvy SEO content. And she writes an awesome newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff".