In an earlier article I listed four things I wish I’d done from day one of my solo business. This time, on a more positive note, I’m looking at five things I’m glad I did.

1. Invested in a strong brand identity

I found it well worth investing in a good designer to put together a professional image for my business – logo, business cards and website. When starting out, any expenditure can seem like a risk, but investing in your identity goes a long way to establishing credibility with new clients. It also makes you feel confident about your business and is therefore critical when trying to establish yourself.

2. Set up a project management system

One of the first things I did after landing my first paid job was to create a spreadsheet called Timesheets & Job Tracking. In it I recorded details such as job number, date, job title, description, client, cost, payment details, status and hours spent. I still use this spreadsheet for each job and it is very useful for tracking profitability of jobs, most valuable clients, cash flow and more.

3. Under promised, over delivered

Starting out I felt that every new project could be my last. This insecurity led to staying up till all hours to meet silly deadlines, doing more work than I had quoted for and generally bending over backwards for clients. Going to this extreme is definitely not a sustainable way to run a profitable business, but when starting out, six months or so of sacrificing profits for happy customers can pay off. Warning: resetting budget and timeline expectations with ongoing clients is the next challenge!

4. Made friends with the enemy

When I first started I looked around nervously at other copywriters’ websites worrying about what they were up to and whether they would steal my clients. After a while, I got the courage to approach those I most admired and we soon established a relationship whereby we shared thoughts, ideas and eventually clients. Now, some of the best business contacts I have are direct ‘competitors’.

5. Specialised

Having left an advertising agency environment, I decided early on that writing was what I enjoyed and what I would focus on. This has meant saying no to non-writing projects. I’ve learnt, though, that over the long-term sticking to what you like doing makes for a more satisfying business.

What were your best moves (or biggest regrets) when starting out?

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