Want to learn how to how to make six figures as a freelancer? Meet the creative pros who’ve done it in the Six Figure Freelancers Expert Series!
This week we bring you a digital interview with Jessamine Marie of connect-norfolk.co.uk, who left a 17-year corporate career for freelancing.
What makes Jessamine a Six Figure Freelancer?
For me, understanding the business strategy, ethos, and long-term vision of my clients is key to writing content that lands with impact. Professional copywriters will have bundles of professional writing experience, but the very best will have experienced working alongside business giants, where they have gained a sound understanding of business strategy and brand voice. I feel fortunate to place myself in this category. When I write, I write to add true value to your business, through written content that will generate prospects, leads, revenue, and profit.
Expert Freelance Interview:
What can you tell our readers about your background?
More than 17 years in corporate finance for a global insurance leader taught me more than I ever cared to imagine. Like most jobs, there were highs and there were lows, and during my career, I got to work with some exceptionally talented people, from interns to CEOs. I built some valuable relationships with suppliers and senior stakeholders too and wrote extensively to support the contracts that we held with them. The writing was the main element of my job that I loved, the part that put fire in my belly. Over the years I extensively traveled to support the implementation of project proposals, I saw significant change in the FinTech (Where finance meets technology) market, and through this I was at the cutting edge of associated business growth. I was considered a success in my field, but somewhere, deep-seated within me, I was unhappy. I felt unfulfilled and somewhat lost, and after much soul- searching it became clear to me that I was in an environment where the business processes were forcing me to operate outside of my core values, against what I believed in and often not in the best interest of the people around me. I knew I loved what I did, and I knew I was good at it, and so, going solo as a copywriter was the natural progressive step. Soon enough, Connect-Norfolk was born. Combining years of knowledge in Corporate finance, technology and associated legalities, I now write for organizations that are looking to further establish their brand or draw attention to current success.
How long have you been in business and what inspired you to start you business?
There is something honest about doing what you do for yourself and no longer slogging to fulfill somebody else’s dream, but to follow your own. I have been copywriting for more than 10 years, I side-hustled for a bit whilst working full-time in corporate finance and then made the leap about a year later. I can honestly say that I have not looked back. Running my own business was something I had wanted for a long-time, but it did not always feel like reality, I think with age comes self-belief, clearer thinking, knowledge, and a genuine contentment within your own skin, four things that are key to running your own business. I am now internationally published across digital and print with 80% of my clients based in the US and in the Tech arena.
If you came from a corporate job, how did you deal with the fear of leaving a stable paycheck?
Leaving a stable job and a regular paycheck is a massive deal, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Financial security allows us all to provide for our families and intern protects our mental well-being. I had a company pension, Life insurance, healthcare, paid holidays, sick pay, and many other benefits and I left it all behind. I had a little bit of money put aside which gave me 6 months to find myself regular clients and a regular income, otherwise, it really was toast and beans for dinner. It was both scary and empowering, I had made this leap, I was in control of my own destiny, and only I could make this happen. There were wobbles along the way of course, but staying focused and not losing self- belief was of paramount importance.
What, specifically, do you do? Who do you work with and where?
I write! Well actually, I research, I plan, I structure, I write, I submit ‘ version 1’ and then make edits as per client instruction. I work from home in sunny (mostly) Norfolk, England, visiting local clients in their office where mutually beneficial and sometimes working from my favorite coffee house where I can quietly research whilst eating sticky -choc -fudge -cake, but that’s our secret! My ideal client? A somebody/anybody who is stuck for words, who needs a writer that is emotionally removed enough from their ‘every day’ to understand their brand, their target audience, and their key message.
What is your top piece of advice related to your area of expertise?
Recognise that you only have work to do if you go out and get it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sadly no one is going to drip feed you work. If you do a good job with your existing clients they might refer you to others with the potential of more work coming your way, but even when you are working hard on a content writing assignment, you still need to be looking for the next project, applying for that next opportunity, and networking daily. Now, this next piece of advice I learned the hard way and I shall say it only once, so listen carefully. Only a small percentage of interest from clients will materialize into paid assignments. There is no such thing as sowing too many seeds. When I first started out I held back on the number of pitches I placed, fearful that if they all decided they wanted me that I would have too much work, and then what would I do? I have since learned that this scenario is a very privileged place to be, but not one that happens overnight. Now there is no stopping me, I sow seeds daily, even when I am busy working, and that’s what keeps me in regular work!
How did you get started in business? What are the first steps you took?
I built an eight-week business plan. I bought out my local stationary shops supply of post-it-notes and brain dumped on to them. I asked myself these five questions:
- What do I need to do to become recognized as a freelance copywriter?
- What will my clients want from me?
- What legalities to I need to conform to?
- What will set me apart from my competitors?
- What will help build my reputation?
Tasks were divided by week and then per day, and allotted time-frames were awarded to each task. Each hour that passed was one step closer to me making Connect-Norfolk a reality.
How did you get first client & how did you get your best client?
My first client? Cold calling! That’s right, hundreds of calls to companies that had no idea who I was, why I was calling, and with no knowledge that they needed my services. It’s hard work, but it sure pays off, and It was outbound call number 310 where the voice at the other end said, ‘ your timing is impeccable, if this works out you might just be my copy savior’. I still write for this client today and ‘copy savior’ is a title that I’m happy to carry. As for best client, I don’t believe in them, every client is my best client, it doesn’t matter to me if I write for them on a weekly basis, or complete a ‘one-off’ job, at the end of the day every client has decided that they need my services and we work together to deliver desired outcomes. How do I find clients? Communicate, or for millennials out there ‘network’, be it over the phone, via job apps, via social media, LinkedIn, at meetings, conferences, seminars, or at dinner with your great Aunt Doris, just talk, share, shout about what you do, be confident, and be proud.
What marketing strategies have been most effective for you?
To date, I have not paid to advertise my services. That’s not to say that paid advertising does not have its merits. I have self-employed friends that rely on clients that are generated solely through paid marketing. For me, the best marketing tool is LinkedIn. When used properly it’s a brilliant lead generator. It pays to keep your connected audience (and beyond) abreast of what you’re working on, where your expertise lies, and your availability. Have a free hour in your Tuesday afternoon? Tell your connections on LinkedIn, offer a 15-minute no-obligation telephone call to discuss their need for whatever product or service it is that you are offering. I have landed many clients using this method.
How do you stay motivated or deal with fear or stress?
Background noise keeps me motivated, I guess it reduces the sense of working in isolation, so the TV is often on at low volume. I prefer the radio but I end up singing whilst writing, and that creates a breeding ground for errors! Regularly speaking to people keeps me motivated too, whether to a client, a potential client or to book a hair appointment! Don’t underestimate the importance of daily human interaction. A 10-minute walk around the block to take in some scenery and fresh air often helps to refresh me for the afternoon, as does sharing what I am currently working on with my friends and family, it brings to life what I do. Rewarding myself really helps, ‘When I have finished this page I can make myself an iced caramel latte’, having a milestone in sight always helps in keeping me buoyant. The key to overcoming fear is to face it. Do the things you are scared of. My first ever client meet to discuss a potential project was super scary, do it, reward yourself for doing it, trust me, the next meet will feel much more doable.
How do you stand out from the competition? What do you to differentiate yourself from other people in your area of expertise?
Experience has taught me that it’s the simple things that make a difference, and that those are often overlooked. My clients tell me that I stand out from my competitors because I do what I say I am going to do. If we have an 11 am call booked in, I call. If I promise to share a document, I send it. If we have a project deadline, I meet it. Reputation is key to the success of those who are self-employed. our reputation is built on our reliability, competence, and perception. Be reliable, be good at what you do, and ‘perception’ will take care of itself. Self-employment empowers individuals in a way that ‘being employed’ cannot, for we are the face of our brand. I speak to many potential clients who ‘might need me in the future’, my advice is to follow up that call, and 8 weeks later, follow up again. I landed a job last month and my client said, ‘we had three potential writers in mind for this job, but we are calling you first because you badger us on the phone every couple of months reminding us that you are here, we like that’. There are tens-of-thousands of great writers out there from creative students to published authors of multiple books. In my field of writing, corporate experience sets me apart. I can write effectively on processes, procedures, principles, and concepts because I have been fortunate to have been in the thick of it all and seen it first-hand, whatever ‘it’ might be.
What are your top tips for people thinking of quitting a job to start a business?
Ask yourself these 8 questions:
- Are you willing to work hard? The answer needs to be resounding yes!
- Are you doing it for the right reasons? No one can tell you what they are but follow your gut, it is rarely wrong.
- Are you prepared for the financial and emotional peaks and troughs?
- Do you have finances to fall back on whilst you build your business and reputation? (Think additionally about your pension, sick pay, holidays)
- Do you have enough emotional energy and resilience at the current time? What else is going on in your life? What might stop you giving this your 100%?
- Can you test-run your business on a part-time basis before making the decision to leave your current job?
What is you favorite book, blog, podcast or other resource and why?
Ben Settle is my ‘go-to’ for inspiration. He is a copywriting expert who has taught the methods that he’s pioneered to some of the world’s most prestigious direct marketing companies. I have lost count of the amount of wonderfully inspiring business directive books that I have read over the past couple of years. Two of my favorites are: ‘The Other 90%’ by Robert K Cooper. ‘ How to unlock your vast untapped potential for leadership and life’. ‘Hippo. The Human Focussed Digital Book.’ by Pete Trainor with Luke Shipman. A book that will inspire you to ask questions about the world you live in and encourages us ‘not to do things better, but to do better things’.
What business tool or online software could you not live without? What makes it easy to run your business?
Skype. Many of my clients are US based so Skype allows a cost-effective and simple way of communicating. Apart from that nothing too extraordinary. Word, Excel, Outlook, and Privacy Badger!
What do you like most about running your own business?
Knowing that I am making a difference to someone and their organization, using well-written prose to shout about their brand, their venture, their opportunity or achievement. I love the freedom it gives me, sometimes I work until the early hours, sometimes I am up at the crack of dawn, as long as the job gets done I can plan my work around my loved ones. The Appreciation. All of my clients appreciate the work that I do for them, I am assuming that they would not provide repeat business if they did not. They have chosen to outsource their work and they know to expect quality, reliability, and that I am always happy to knowledge share.
What’s next for your business? What do you have planned for the next year, or what big goals are you tracking on?
2018 sees me under contract with some large organizations operating within the tech-space and supporting global growth across digital, FinTech, InsurTech, AI and associated Cybersecurity, with a real focus on User Experience (UX), My main goal is to stay true to my brand, with people and their organizations and the center of what I do. I am open-minded and excited by new opportunities, but even within this fast-paced digital world in which I find myself, my feet remain firmly on the ground.
What else is important that we haven’t asked?
5 years ago, I would have said, go on Jessamine Marie, you really can do this, and my message to you today is the same. Self-belief is 80% of the battle, and the other 20% comes down to hard work, dedication, and commitment. Whatever your business, stay true to and don’t undersell yourself, know your worth, and never ever compromise on the quality of the product or service that you provide. Some parting words from me: Not everyone is like you, we are all unique, clients will frustrate you and many will not operate in the same way that you do, love everyone, embrace their idiosyncratic ways, guide, support and accept them, only then can we work in harmony with one and other and maximize business potential.
Jessamine Marie is a freelance Copywriter based in Norfolk, England. Her writing is personable, engaging, human, and persuasive. Her free-spirited energy and love for the natural world, allow this writer to write fact-based, yet with an earthy twist of creative freedom, breathing life into words. If you’d like some support or guidance, or maybe an informal chat about your copywriting requirements get connected with Jessamine at www.connect-norfolk.co.uk
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Also published on Medium.