An honest look at my first full year running a small business. What's it like to be working as a copywriter in 2020? Read through to find out!
I technically started Emily Writes Well in mid-August of 2019, but 2020 was my first full year of (mostly) knowing what I was doing. Working as a copywriter, especially in 2020, was a rollercoaster! So I thought it'd be fun to look back and see where things started, what I tried, what worked… and what was an utter failure. Okay, maybe less fun and more interesting… but regardless, let's do this!
Let's start at the very beginning…
In January, I brought in almost exactly $2,000 in revenue. I was paying $600 a month for 1:1 coaching (it felt like $6,000… but it was totally worth it. More on that later!) and my other expenses totaled about $180, for a grand total of $786.21 in expenses. My profit was essentially $1,214. I paid 25% to taxes ($303) and 10% to my charitable giving fund ($91), which left me with $820.
For what felt like a brand new business, I was pretty happy with where I was.
Here were the projects I worked on that month:
-2 from-scratch websites
-A resume and cover letter
-Single website page
-12 blog posts for wedding photographers
If you're looking at that list and thinking, “And you only made $2,000?”… I had the same thought. At my current prices, this amount of work would total well over $7,000. Which brings us to the next thing I want to look at: What I was getting wrong.
What Didn't Work in My Copywriting Business
My pricing was one of the biggest issues for me as a working copywriter in 2020. I started the year writing entire websites for $350. We're talking a branding deep-dive call and custom copy for 4-5 pages, title tags + meta descriptions, and full revisions. I didn't have the confidence in the value I was providing to ask business owners to fork over any more than that.
Types of Projects
I was doing anything anyone asked me to do at the beginning of the year. While I don't regret this (I think when you're first starting out it makes sense to try a lot of things because how else will you figure out what you like and what doesn't work so well?), it ended up with me wasting a lot of time learning how to do a bunch of different things and also doing a lot of work that didn't light me up or put my skills to their best use.
Ohhhh boy, did I learn a lot about the value of systems in 2020. Until March, I was creating individual invoices and sending custom, from-scratch proposals. This took roughly 3 hours a week. I know because when I was trying to decide to splurge on the $30 a month on Dubsado (if you're on the fence DO IT AND DON'T LOOK BACK! And also save 20% off your first month or year when you use code: emilywriteswell) I tracked every second of my time for an entire week. Once I saw that I could save at least 12 hours a month with the CRM, I knew it was well worth the price.
No Content Calendar
One of the first questions my first-ever business coach Kaila Ruan (she's incredible) asked me was, “What's on your content calendar for next month?” Crickets. My… what? I didn't even know what a content calendar was, much less have one.
I offered my services randomly and spoke about how I could help people on Instagram… but there was no plan. And definitely no strategy. One of my biggest struggles in working as a copywriter in 2020 was that my income was incredibly unpredictable, just like my content. This hodge-podge approach to marketing meant I was unclear, inconsistent, and missing out on a lot of clients.
What Worked in My Copywriting Business in 2020
Investing in Emily Writes Well
I invested in a lot for my business this year, but I started super small and slowly added investments as it made sense (and as I could afford them). I can confidently say that everything I put money towards this year paid off. Some more than others – my coaching, mastermind, website template, and Dubsado are at the top of the list – but it all has helped me move the needle forward.
Here are all the investments I made in 2020:
- 90-minute strategy session with Kaila Ruan
- 5 months of 1:1 coaching with Kaila after a 90-min intensive changed everything about how I did business
- A gorgeous and strategic website template from Elizabeth McCravy (this is one of my fave investments of 2020)
- Dubsado: This CRM has a steep learning curve (which led me to my next investment) but saves me so much time every week and runs things super smoothly. I also love how professional everything looks!
- A custom Dubsado set-up with Amanda Bellamy. She's a Dubsado genius who created beautiful workflows for me and taught me how to use Dubsado without crying.
- A monthly membership to The Marketing Hive by The Buzzing Blonde. This social media marketing membership keeps me up-to-date with the latest trends and pushes me to try new things on IG, Facebook, and Pinterest. I love being part of The Hive!
- a 6-month mastermind with Peggy James. This experience has pushed me to “next-level Emily” and helped me build connections with some incredible people. This was my first “major” (to me) investment at $8k, but I didn't second-guess this one for a second. I knew I wanted to learn from Peggy, I knew I needed a big push, and I knew this was the right group for me.
- Hired an incredible VA, Alyssa Tuck, who helped me get organized, build systems, and expand my community on Instagram. She's a brilliant writer as well, which was a huge bonus!
- CEO Retreat with Dolly DeLong. We rented an adorable Airbnb in Nashville (where we both live) and spent the entire weekend working on big projects, setting goals, and spending intentional time in our businesses. It was the best and most productive weekend!
- Custom branding with Jennifer Carfora. I had wanted to rebrand (or actually officially brand for the first time) but I kept telling myself it was a luxury I didn't need. Boy was I wrong! The entire process helped me get super clear on what I wanted for my business, who I wanted to serve, and made me refine my brand voice even further. I'm obsessed with the outcome and was so impressed by the entire process.
- A monthly membership to the Digital Lab All Access with Megan Martin. There is a lot of gold in this group and Megan shares a ton of valuable resources and trainings. I haven't prioritized this group enough, but I'm planning to use more of what's available inside in 2021. I can say that the membership community is crazy supportive and super helpful!
- Opt-in and Course Bundle from Magan Ward. This little bundle of templates helped me level-up my freebies and saves me from wasting major time in Canva. Magan's got some gorgeous templates in her shop and is expanding her offers soon!
Building a Supportive Community
Y'all, I'm obsessed with my little Instagram business community. Seriously. My people have been there for me through the good, the bad, and the ugly… and I've only met like 2 of them in real life! If I did anything right in 2021 it was finding like-minded, motivated women who help me see the big picture, set bigger goals, and keep me moving forward when I want to quit.
I was in a sorority in college (that one shocks a lot of people), and the community I've been welcomed into feels a lot like my AOII days. (When you pay for your friends, they stick around ?)
It's the least sexy advice out there… but consistency does pay off. I've shown up – on Instagram, with my clients, for my email community, for my business itself – without fail. I took time off and I missed an email or two, but I kept showing up and putting in the work. Over and over again. When it felt like I'd never crack a $2k month. When it felt like I'd never have the dream clients I imagined. When it felt hard and frustrating and so slow. I just kept showing up and trying new things and seeing what worked.
Consistency pays off. But I'm just now seeing that after one full year (and 5 months before that) of being in business.
So… now what?
I'll be honest, I don't have some incredible “I hit 6-figures in my first 6 months!” kind of story to share with you. Sorry if that's disappointing, but I think my first year of business growth is pretty realistic… and I think we should be normalizing slow, deliberate growth.
I'm ending this year with total sales revenue around $45k. Do some business owners do that in a month and not even blink? Absolutely. But to have grown my business from $300 custom website copy projects to where I am now feels like a major achievement. I did the math, and if I'd charged my current prices all year with the exact same workload, I would've brought in over $73k. Learning to price my services appropriately, and having the confidence to show up for those prices, is clearly a big deal.
My expenses these last few months have come in around $2k, so you can see that my investments have scaled with my growth.
This has been a year of being a full-time mom since my daughter left pre-school in March and hasn't gone back.
It's been a year of balancing my business goals with the lifestyle I want to lead and making time for my family.
A year of getting a lot wrong, but refusing to quit.
Looking to 2021, I've got some pretty aggressive goals. But I know they are totally doable. Coaching, for me, has shortened the curve and shown me how to create the business of my dreams in a deliberate, systematic way.
2021 Goals for My Small Business
Working as a copywriter in 2020 taught me a lot, and I'm ready to put what I've learned (and will keep learning!) to work in 2021.
My Big Goals for Emily Writes Well are to:
- Increase my passive income streams
- Feel LIT UP by every project I take on
- Help 60+ women revolutionize their email marketing and copy skills through The Copy Party
- Launch a high-level 1:1 program that's all about true authenticity and brand personality (more on this come in the new year… I've never been more excited about an offer!)
- Double my revenue
- Have fun with my blog and do more creative writing
Want to Work with Me?
If you're fired up after reading this and ready to take on your own business goals for 2021, I may be the perfect person to help you.
As a strategist, I help you identify (we get suuuuper specific) your target audience and create a plan for maximizing your reach.
As a copywriter, I write the words that show off your personality + skill and attract your dream clients. I'm a big fan of creating word magic that makes effortless sales.
So if implementing some automated email sequences, creating a lead magnet that people lose their minds over, or refreshing your website (or starting from scratch!) copy is on the 2021 list, I'd love to help you achieve your own major goals.
You can click on over to my contact page to get in touch! Or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if we're not already connected on Instagram, that's where you'll find me sharing writing tips + email marketing strategy most days.
Thanks for coming along on this journey through what it was like working as a copywriter in 2020. I can't wait to see what the new year brings!