I love learning from other successful freelancers and online business owners.
And from what you’ve told me, you do too! So each week (almost), we’re going to interview someone new for us all to learn from.
Today, we’re chatting with Christine Lellis about how she got into copywriting and content strategy, and the main piece of advice she has for her clients.
What do you do and how long have you been in business?
I write copy and content mostly for the web, mostly for startups. Conventional business wisdom says you must choose a niche, but I’m in love with switching it up and picking the projects that interest me.
Formally I’ve been freelancing for a little bit over two years, but I dabbled with technical writing, blogging, and published a cookbook before I quit my day job.
What got you into freelancing?
I fell into freelance writing. Just stumbled right in.
I quit my teaching job in 2014 and launched an online course about healthy eating. Five people bought it (thanks, mom). I had no clue how to sell stuff online.
So I decided to learn copywriting. I slept way too little, drank way too much Diet Coke, and copied all of Dan Kennedy’s sales letters by hand.
That’s when I found out that people actually get paid to write for a living.
That’s it. I was hooked.
Was it what you imagined it to be?
I imagined myself writing from bed, tucked away in a corner café, or sipping mai tais by the pool. Check, check, and check. So in that sense, yeah.
It’s also been a helluva lot harder than I ever expected.
What has been the most challenging part of solopreneurship so far?
The best part of solopreneurship?
You can work from wherever you want, whenever you want. The worst part? You can work from wherever you want, whenever you want.
And if you’re not careful, that means working from everywhere, all the time.
Pretty soon, you’re checking your email on your phone under the covers.
Did you ever want to quit or give up?
All the time! At first, every project felt like a fluke. I’d finish one job and wonder if another one would ever come along. One minute I was drowning in work, the next I couldn’t find a single client.
That’s when I’d start polishing my teaching resumé — and when I realized I’m totally unemployable.
I’m ruined for a “regular job.”
Freelancing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t quit for anything.
What would you love to pay someone to take off your plate?
Am I allowed to say laundry?
I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my business. I like things to be “just so.”
So I do my own bookkeeping. I do my taxes. I designed and built my website. It’s a pain, and it probably takes me way more time than it should, but I feel like it’s important to understand all those aspects of your business.
How else can you know if your future bookkeeper/designer/developer is any good?
I tell my clients the same thing about their copy.
Write your own copy first. Learn what works and what doesn’t before you hire someone.
Educated clients are the best clients.
What task in your own business would you like to do more of?
I’d like to connect more with other writers. It’s nice to have someone who “gets it” when a client hires you to write and then edits your grammar. Or someone who understands why a perfect first draft merits a glass of wine. Small victories.
What are some big successes you’ve had recently?
Oh, I’ve worked with some really cool companies lately.
I just saw one of my previous clients, Sinners & Saints NYC, on Good Morning America! It’s exciting when you see a client you worked with from day one, and now they’re all grown up.
I’m inspired by companies that are doing well by doing good, like Grove Collaborative. They make natural, sustainable home products easy to get. I just finished working with them on their most successful affiliate campaign to date.
Plus, I took a 10-day vacation without WiFi. So that was a big success in my book.
What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?
Pay your dues.
I started at the bottom. I cold-pitched clients, competed against other writers, lost to other writers, watched clients rip apart my work, revised until my fingers bled, catered to unreasonable clients, worked weekends and holidays, and was grossly underpaid for the whole thing.
Because there are no shortcuts.
What are you most excited about for your business next?
I have no idea what’s next, and that’s probably the most exciting part of my business.
I have the freedom to choose which clients I want to work with. I can take a 3-day weekend, or power through it if I’m feeling productive. I can hold Skype meetings in yoga pants, and I can work from anywhere in the world.
How about you? Is there anything you’d like Christine about copywriting?
Christine Lellis is a Detroit copywriter and content strategist who writes smart, fluff-free copy that gets results. Her clients include multi-million dollar brands, scrappy startups, and once, a cat café. Connect on Twitter @lellischristine.