7 Lessons In 7 Years: A Copywriters’ Tale…

I don’t know, I mean…winning has a price…and leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenge people when they don’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right, because my team-mates who came after me, they didn’t endure all the things I endured…Once you join the team you live to a certain standard that I played the game- and I won’t take any less. Now if that means I had to go in there and get in your ass a little bit, then I did that. You ask all my team-mates: “One thing about (me) was (I) never asked me to do something, that he didn’t fuckin’ do”. When people see this, they’re going to say “Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant…well that’s you. Because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to be a part of that as well. I don’t have to do this, I’m only doing it because…it is who I am…that’s how I play the game…that was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way? Don’t play that way.

– Michael Jordan

Last November marked 7 years since Scribe Copywriting became a registered business...

7 years since I completed the NEIS course. 7 years since I took on my first ever client (a personal trainer named Chris, and I still have a copy of the final draft I sent him, as I do with every other piece of client work I’ve ever written)…

Then something happened recently that made me think of this milestone, and I was quite flattered by it: an old associate of mine, a guy who’s been in business longer than I have (since he was a Primary school kid, in fact!) reached out and asked if I would step on board in a mentoring role with him? It’s not one-way traffic, because while there’s a lot I can help him with, there’s much he can offer me when it comes to business ideas.

This got me thinking…

After 7 years in business (and Scribe is the first business venture I ever founded) what are the biggest things that have stood out to me? If a young entrepreneur reached out tomorrow and asked if I would help to guide them, what are the lessons I would impart on them?

When I stop and I think about that, these are the things I would hammer home to save them the time it took me to discover it for myself:

#1- Be Specific

When I started out, I figured the easiest way to attract (and build) a steady client-base was to provide every service I could think of. So I took a “Yes we can!” attitude to every lead who came my way.

The problem with doing this?

I spread myself too thin. In doing so, I held myself back from focusing on an area of speciality and developing that craft. I lacked a unique identity. I could have spent more time getting better at providing those services I enjoyed the most- built a reputation based on that- and got paid more for it as a result!

If you narrow your demographic, you lose leads in the process. I’ve turned potential clients away because when I looked at what they were doing and found out what their goals were, I realised I wasn’t the ideal fit and disqualified myself. I missed out on the sale. But I gained the time and energy to instead focus on the important stuff- whether that was working with my ideal clients or working to attract more of my ideal clients.

All I can say is I have no regrets about changing tack with this, and my vision is clearer. My goals more straightforward.

#2- Choose Quality Over Quantity

I’ve long held to the belief that life is too short to go for what I don’t really want. Like if your heart’s not in it and doing the work to get it feels pointless, then chances are the reward isn’t that great for you. So why bother?

When I started out, I wanted to earn as much in a short space of time as possible, but realised after a while that I was sacrificing an opportunity to become the best, for the sake of making the most. So I narrowed my focus and it proved to be a better usage of my time and energy with better returns!

Before you think of how you could scale your operations up, consider what you already have in your possession. Take note of your existing customers, and ask how you could provide more for them- especially if it increases the opportunity to get more testimonials, better referrals and more money as a result of this.

When you’re focused on delivering more value first and foremost, you take more pride in your work, you do better work and the numbers take care of themselves anyway. Quality over quantity, every time!

#3- Meeting, Greeting & Mingling

In the very beginning, I asked a mentor what my top priority should be in order to drum up business? They said networking, and this answer seemed unusual- backward even. It was 2013, and didn’t modern marketing mean you should have a great website, a strong social media presence and plenty of videos to highlight how awesome you were?

But I took their word for it and so off I headed to this business breakfast or that event, loaded up with business cards and ready to chat. Looking back now, it was a great idea. Sure, a lot of business these days is carried out online, and by next year its’ predicted that any company who doesn’t have a website is as good as dead in the water-

Yet, the need for human interaction hasn’t been phased out by technology. We still want to connect. Think about it, who do you trust more?

a) Somebody you’ve only heard about online, or

b) Somebody you’ve met, whether they were introduced to you by somebody you knew or you’d never heard of them until your paths crossed

I’ve picked up new clients just through chatting to the right person down at the pub. I’ve picked up new clients because I met them through a networking event. I’ve picked up new clients through a referral from somebody I’ve sold to in the past, or somebody I’ve never directly done business with but who knows what I specialise in and is happy to recommend me.

I don’t know how tech-savvy you are or how polished and up-to-date your online marketing presence is. Neither do I care- you’ve got to be meeting and greeting. If business networking is still good enough for the likes of Richard Branson, then it’s good enough for you, too.

#4- Just Turn Up

Looking back, I notice how I’ve often found success or discovered breakthrough at a moment where I wasn’t expecting it. Either I hadn’t expected a lead to green-light a proposal I’d sent them, or I’d woken up without any sense today was going to be anything special.

As the Scouts motto says: Be prepared. There are times I felt unprepared or not in the mood to go to some event I signed up for. The day came and there was other stuff I’d prefer to be doing. But I went anyway…and on several of those occasions, I either learned something new and useful, or I was introduced to new people or opportunities that came in very handy for my business.

To become great, you’ve got to be consistent. Do the work, go to that event and be seen- even when it seems like nothing you do is making a difference. Don’t die wondering. The people who turn up and fail are still better than the ones who don’t turn up because they thought they would fail. Talk is worth $0. But action (ultimately) delivers real results. Remember that…

#5- Make Connections And Share Ideas

“It is a well-known fact that a group of electric batteries will provide more energy than a single battery. It is also a well-known fact that an individual battery will provide energy in proportion to the number and capacity of the cells it contains. The brain functions in a similar fashion. This accounts for the fact that some brains are more efficient than others, and leads to this significant statement- a group of brains coordinated (or connected) in a spirit of harmony, will provide more thought-energy than a single brain, just as a group of electric batteries will provide more energy than a single battery

Think & Grow Rich

You have great ideas that other people need to hear. But other people have great ideas you also need to hear. This is where networking and finding great referral partners comes in very handy. Instead of doing the work of one horse, you find a team of horses who make it much easier to pull that load.

Of course, you need to make sure you find the right connections, and I’ve spoken in the past about how to set apart the good people from the people holding you back

Yet when you’re brainstorming ideas or troubleshooting in the presence of other people- especially those who understand your business and have shown their worth- metaphorically your thinking goes from just one horse to a team of horses- and discovering that brilliant new idea or breakthrough becomes much easier…

#6- Make Every Day Count

I heard somebody a little while back lament that “the days are long, but the decades are short”. The older you get, the more you realise the truth behind this.

I can’t see the point in wistfully lamenting how quick time goes or how short life is- because the fact is that, to our knowledge, life is the longest thing we’ll ever experience.

So in light of that, the most you can do is to make every day count. At the end of every day, if you can reflect, think back and recognise that you did something of value- be it learning a skill, becoming better at your craft or having a valuable interaction with somebody who is important to you- then you made it count.

In business, I know I made the day count when I look back and through the day I worked on client projects, wrote more of my own content (be it a draft for an article idea, a video or an e-mail) or I spoke on the phone with referral partners or business connections. On top of that, if I went to the gym or headed out for a walk or took part in some other past-time that was more productive than just sitting in front of a screen and contributing nothing of worth- then sure, I made that day count.

We can’t stop time from marching forward as it always does. But we can start making every day count for something- and doing it consistently. Then one day we’ll look back with few (if any) regrets.

#7: Decide

To wrap up this piece, I want to confess something here-

When I started Scribe as a venture, I only viewed it as a short-term career. My real goal was still to get into film and TV, especially TV. I’d done 3 years at uni, completed my bachelors’ degree and I had ideas for creative projects I wanted to pitch. THAT was how I’d make a name for myself, and copywriting was just going to be my flexible “side gig”, something to pay the bills in the meantime…

But something changed. Too long to list here in full, but I started wondering if getting into film & TV was really worth it? Growing channels like YouTube made me realise that much of what I’d envisaged could in fact be achieved by this new platform, without the traditional constraints of network television. On top of that?

This whole copywriting thing suited me more than I expected…

Because in turning up

In writing

In learning time-management and self-discipline

I was learning more about myself than I’d imagined!

I’ve spoken about the power behind making a decision before

I remember doing the same with Scribe. I made the decision that whatever it took to build up this business how I wanted it to be- with maximum satisfaction in what I did and how I did it, with a healthy balance sheet to match- I would do it.

So whether you’re a start-up or an established business, whatever you envisage when you dare to dream?

Just decide.

Looking back now, after 7+ years, I think of how there was so much I was yet to realise when I started out. A website, a set of business cards, a signed document from ASIC and a registered ABN and it’s developed into this?

But for me, the story continues to be written. There’s always more to learn…

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