In mid-2019, I hopped onto the Upwork platform to see if I could bolster my income with a side hustle. I’d been a sales and marketing leader for many years but wanted to be more fulfilled. I’ve loved writing since I was young, and I used Upwork to hire writers for my full-time gig when I was too busy to write on my own, so why not try it for myself? Within a few weeks of effort, I had a handful of clients and a lucrative side business. This was the first things I learned when starting my copywriting business.
But at the time, that’s all it was. Life got in the way, and through twists and unexpected turns, my dream of going full-time as a copywriter would have to stay a pipe dream. However, in early January 2023, one of those unexpected career changes happened. You know, one of those where you saw the writing on the wall but got too comfortable, and things got stagnant? Yep, it happened to me. And as I took to LinkedIn to clean up my profile and start looking for a new gig, I saw post after post about major layoffs nationwide.
It got me thinking. Was this my time to turn lemons into lemonade?
Transitioning my copywriting side hustle into a daily hustle
I won’t bore you with all the details, but as it turned out, this change in my employment status came just a month before I was to get married. And while they say the second time is a charm (or something like that), how awesome was it to tell my soon-to-be-husband that I was unemployed (enter sarcasm here)? But he took it like a champ, offering his support, and I was off to the races, applying for job after job. And I had the first interview after the first interview. Then nothing after nothing.
While I like to think of myself as highly resilient (I can tell you a few stories), this was resiliency that I didn’t want on my resume. I was over-qualified with 30 years of marketing experience, or my “training and education” was outdated. It was enough to drive me mad. But I kept on going. And then something happened. One of my side hustle clients offered to double my workload. And another one said yep, she’d send more work my way. And finally, a massive new client offered me a project request I couldn’t ignore. The little clients started rolling in too.
It got me thinking. In just six weeks from that fateful date in early January, I had not only managed to get remarried, but I had so many copywriting requests coming in from want-to-be clients that I was turning them away. So, it got me thinking. Was it my turn to make lemons into lemonade?
Takeaways for future copywriters who want to take their biz full time
And here we are about ten weeks later. My estimated salary based on my current workload is 20% over when my employer broke up with me, and that’s on the conservative side.
I’ve been in contact with an accountant. I’ve created my S-Corp with the State of Minnesota. I have an official EIN. I have a business checking account and a business credit card. I have a company name and a logo. I’m doing this. And this is yet another thing I learned when starting my copywriting business. I hope that by sharing this information, it might benefit others looking to go down a similar path.
1. That work-life balance thing? Figure it out fast.
I’m one of those people who love to write for fun and money. This article you are reading right now? I wrote it for me. No compensation. But I loved every second of it. So, when you take what you love and start making money from it, it can get very addicting. Of course, when you are first starting a business, you need to spend money to make money, and you need to put in the extra time. Forgetting to be a human, however, is never a good idea.
Learn how to step away from the computer. And when your family starts making jokes that your head is always on the screen, you need to listen. It might be their cry for help that they miss you.
2. Figure out your working hours
Thankfully, this answer was already staring me in the face since I’ve been a copywriter and marketer for so long. In my case, as it is for many other writers and copywriters, that whole thing of writer’s block is real. And I know from experience that my brain will not want to write a word before Noon. Sure, every once in a while, my brain surprises me. But for the most part, my sweet spot is between Noon and 8 PM.
The chronic insomnia I have suffered for over 20 years probably doesn’t help. But, allowing myself to embrace my need to sleep late each morning (I expect little from myself before 9:30 AM), hop on the Peloton for a 30-minute ride, and take a leisurely shower, works for me. And when that Noon hour comes, the words want to pour out.
If you want to be highly effective in your new gig, you must listen to your mind and body. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. And since those early evening hours can cut into family time, I know now that I need to be laser-focused from Noon to 5 PM because I can’t cut into that family time every night. You need to figure out your working hours too.
3. Get the equipment that you need
Until a few days ago, I was hammering out blogs and landing page copy on a six-year-old Macbook Pro that would die 30 minutes after being disconnected from power. The letter “t” had decided it wouldn’t work without a double-tap, and the laptop’s cooling fan was running on high – all the time. I should also mention that the tops of my legs developed thicker skin from how insanely hot the device got after running so many hours a day.
I realized about a month ago that my typing speed had deteriorated from my typical 120 words a minute down to 60 or 70. It wasn’t because my fingers weren’t as spry as they used to be. It was because the laptop couldn’t keep up. I spent more time fixing the power cord, restarting the computer to cool it down, and double-tapping that forsaken “t” that I was slowing down my progress.
So, I bought a new laptop, and here I am, happily typing away. And the purchase? You bet – it’s a tax write-off!
4. Don’t forget business development -it never stops
Remember how earlier I said that I was turning work away? Yeah, I learned the hard way not to take that for granted. Because even though I had a backlog of work, I was still turning around deliverables quickly, at a high quality, and ahead of the deadline. But I needed to find new clients. I seemed to think they would keep finding me. And what happens when you stop looking? They stop calling.
The message here is that you must stay focused on business development no matter how successful you get. Make it a part of your day and week. In my case, 30 – 60 minutes a day of scrolling through Upwork to find exciting projects is adequate. But for others in other industries and hustles, you might need more or less time. Whatever that magic number is, make it a priority. When you stop working for the work, you can bet that you’ll be out of it pretty soon.
So, what do I do now that I am officially official?
This is still new, and I’m in that euphoric, excited, and stressed-out phase. But I have found my niche and what I can offer. I have a pretty good daily routine that allows me to sleep when my body sleeps, work out to take care of myself, and still have time to make dinner for my family and hang out at the end of a long day.
But all those other hours of the day? I’m doing what I love to do. I’m letting the words flow and, in turn, providing my clients with fully authentic writing that will help them do and sell more of the products and services they love. This is the win-win I’ve been waiting for all these years.