5 ways to make a success of being self-employed

%name self-employed

I used to search for this very term, 4 years ago: 5 ways to make a success of being self-employed.

I used to post statuses on social media asking the titular question, until I got repeated contact to sell cordial at £20 a bottle from Forever Living or something like that.

Forever pestering, more like.

Now though I love being self-employed.

I recently blocked someone who insisted on selling me his business scheme of pestering people for energy schemes.

Four years ago, I’d have played along with Vera and Bill, but now, longer in the tooth, I can spot a dud opportunity a mile off.

To be honest, I don’t think it can be condensed into just 5 ways.

But there are key principles, so here goes:

Choose clients carefully when self-employed

It feels counter-intuitive when starting out to be picky, but good lord, with hindsight, I should have done. I’ve got quite a good bellend radar now and I can quickly judge whether someone needs to be worked with or shoved away. It’s a skill I’ve honed now over 4 years. I’ve developed a thick skin too. If someone pisses me off, messes me around, I remember that Get Pro Copy is my business. I own it and fund it. I run it. Firstly, I don’t do bosses or tolerate micro-managing. In the early days, I’d bend over backwards to appease all clients. Now I don’t. Not from arrogance but from experience. A bad client is a mood hoover. Your best bet is to refund and find better people to work with. Trust me.

Get paid upfront.

There’s a rule here I’ve learned – the bigger the company, generally, the worse they are at paying. It’s like going out for a meal with someone who’s loaded who won’t pay a fair share. These companies and individuals who are rich are tight. They like 60 day payment terms, with your work done in a week. The freelancer however, the non-bellend clients, pay immediately. Guess who I then focus on when asked to do more work? Yes, the ones who pay me promptly. People do take the piss. Your job is to stop them doing that with robust payment terms. I moan about late payers. But, generally, 90% are fantastic to work with.

Pick the client not the bank credit when self-employed

Nuff said. I hope this is self explanatory.

Diversify

Firstly, it’s not good when you’re starting out to have a one role. You must diversify. I’m pretty good at multi-tasking, for instance, and I think this stems from 27 years of teaching. Thirty kids demanding attention, as well as colleagues, line managers with an endless workload, makes juggling web design with estate agency possible. Someone a couple of weeks ago commented on people who are Jack of all Trades. Before blocking the snidey bloke, I was tempted to respond, but like those bad clients, I ignored and pushed on with doing what I do. I’m a writer. I design websites. Social media is another passion. As is property. Why can’t I do all these? I’ve gallons of motivation and an eye for excellence. If I was shit at any, I would need to focus on one area. But I’m good at these things. Excellent and modest too.

Keep outgoings low

If you want to go freelance, do it. You’re a long time dead. I spent too long teaching and only saw the light when it made me ill and I left. My first business was an estate agency partnership. We did well too, but portal costs were too high. Our outgoings exceeded income and the business became unviable. My second business was this and its costs are low. I then had enough collateral to invest in estate agency again and work with Nest in Essex. My own new company is Nest in Norfolk. I love that business like this one. It will take time to establish I know. But it will become a success.

Remember your past

Finally, don’t bury the past and your own skills. I was a very good English teacher before becoming self-employed. Personally, I have a vast reservoir of skills from doing that since 1987. I make money from education. You see I mark exams. I get paid consultancy fees too by schools. This led to a new venture – Get Pro Marking which has low outgoings and high profit margins. It would be easy for me to go all Billy Casper and fire Vs at education. One or two shitty experiences though at the end of my career shouldn’t though destroy the career I had? I liked teaching. It was a good career. When I draw my pension in April, teaching will be looked at fondly again. Stuart Walton remains a teacher, but one who has developed other talents. I write, I design websites, I manage social media, I mark.

Finally, a call to action. If you’re stuck in a poor job and know you have the drive and ideas to escape, contact me.

I was fearful of the future in 2015. I had to replace a permanent salary. My outgoings were high from having two salaries and a liberal elite lifestyle of nice cars and San Pellegrino.

I had no choice though. I dived into self employment. It’s been a long haul but a success.

You can do it too. I can help you with your journey. Look at my portfolio of websites and writing here. Read testimonials on Google and you decide.

Don’t have a web agency charge you an arm and leg for a website; don’t be taken for a mug – contact me instead. I’m not a greedy git looking to make money from you. I’ll help you – as long as you’re not a bellend.

The pen is mightier than the sword, they say?

I make money, a good living actually, from the pen and the keyboard. 

Far more than I made in teaching English, leading an English team or being a Director of the subject across three schools. There’s money in words and lots of it and if you’re ignoring content as a means of increasing profits, quite frankly, you’re a bit thick.

Let me explain why the pen matters

When anyone with an iota of thinking power wants to make a purchase, they head online to research it. I’ve been positively glowing with excitement over the iPhone 11 Pro’s release and got one last Friday, but not without weeks of research.

I watched YouTube speculative videos about it before it was released. I did the usual Google searches for reviews and even set up alerts online for breaking news.

Next level geekery, I know, I know.

Decision time

When I’d decided to take the plunge and buy an 11 Pro Max, I knew already what colour I wanted. I knew which case to buy and where I would get it. I’d done my homework. The place I bought it from was the same price as elsewhere (Apple price fixing). But this company had swayed my decision making by providing great content for me.

Your business, whether it’s local, national or global, should approach sales that way.

Customers may not have the OCD fastidiousness that I showed. But before any major purchasing decision – new home, new car, new kitchen, new window cleaner – you can bet your bottom Euro (Brexit RIP) that they will have Stuart Walton levels of clicking before they press Buy it Now.

How you can influence

Today, handing over a website at a local café, I was asked about the purpose of blogging. It wasn’t a riveting discussion, but it wasn’t something I’ve squeezed into this article to get some covert blogging sales message across. I said “Look. A blog gives you information to share on social media. It links back to your website, and providing it offers value and answers. Humans will look at your website when they fancy a cooked breakfast, a quick coffee and sandwich. Why? Because your blog about Gorleston beach reminds them to come to you.”

That sounds a bit scripted. It’s not word for word clearly, but the intent was clear.

Offer readers something engaging and they will come to you. It may not be tomorrow – but they will, eventually.

Mix this with social proof with active social media posts and a good review strategy and they’ll turn up faster.

Pick up the pen

If you’re stuck in a job you hate, with colleagues you dislike and a bellend of a boss, you know you have to start digging a tunnel out. Your first job is to pick up a shovel and make some tentative stabs at marking an escape route.

Ergo your business.

If you want to increase sales and engagement, footfall at your business and accelerate profits, pick up a pen and write.

If you’re no good at writing, or hate it as much as that bellend boss, outsource it to copywriters.

Same with your website.

That cannot sit in aspic, gathering dust, gaining little traffic and leave you saying “I don’t get much business from my website, so I won’t invest.” You can invest in marketing or expansion with a merchant cash advance.

Invest in your website

If your website is a museum piece, about as appealing as Miss Havisham’s wedding cake, pick up the phone and contact a copywriter, a web designer, a social media expert.

But for your sake, do not do nothing. 

If your website and business is not working for you, making you happy with a good standard of living, you need to start working on it. 

I may not be a typical consumer who researches to the nth degree – but I don’t believe I’m atypical either.

The pen is mightier than the sword – now pick that writing instrument up.

Don’t believe it works? 

Look at me: talking the talk and walking the walk with my business: Get Pro Copy Ltd and check out my portfolio and what others say about me on Google and social.

Son leaves for Cardiff and how we feel

Cardiff awaits this weekend with the loss of our son.

I’ve always been a hands on dad, in the best possible way. Bringing up the two children in partnership with my wife.

There’s no state of tiredness as overwhelming as being a new parent. I remember it well, even though it’s 18 years since James Stuart Walton came into being. It crystallises too because I was newly married, adjusting to that and battling illness, both mental and physical.

It was a difficult period of our lives.

I eventually took time off work as an undiagnosed food allergy saw me emaciated and wasted, with a mind as broken as the body that was being fed gluten.

It meant though that my 10 stone, 6 foot 2 frame, I kid you not, would have bonding time with his newborn son in the rural delights of the Staffordshire Moorlands.

We used to walk most days. 

Impulsively I bought an all terrain buggy which was useless. But rather than admit it, I pushed and pulled up hill and down dale in Waterhouses, our home from 1999 to 2001. It was a strange period, made even stranger by local peculiarities. One was that the village shop owner had an Athena type poster of Iain Duncan Smith behind the till. This repulsed this 35 year old teacher every time I went in for milk. 

It was very Royston Vasey.

The car, our Golf GTi, was traded in for a slow cumbersome Honda CRV. This had the boot capacity of a Boeing 747, perfect for that buggy, travel cot, nappies, toys etc, which we’d load to travel to and from Doncaster to see family.

When we talked.

That’s another story too for another time, perhaps.

Luckily, in 2002, as James turned 3, I was miraculously rescued by the NHS. I went to the doctors (when we’d left Staffordshire to be nearer my parents and siblings) and was told in no uncertain times that I looked terminally ill. I had a sickly pallor, a concentration camp physique (I kid you not) and was detained in Scunthorpe General for tests.

It was coeliac disease – gluten destroying my villi and making me vomit and have diarrhoea daily, with depression and anxiety always lurking in the corner.

We moved again in 2008 to Norfolk, after I was much better and had resumed teaching for 12 unbroken years, with daughter Ruby coming along to replicate the exhaustion in 2006, prior to moving to the county of tractors.

Norfolk is Marmite

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Norfolk. I love what I do now, but I hate what some people in this place did to me, but, with hindsight, it worked out for the best.

We’re anchored in Norfolk, we’re settled and even though we’ve moved twice here from Gorleston to Bradwell, it feels like home generally.

The climate you see and lifestyle is excellent. There’s little crime, little sense of threat, and the pace of life is gentle and relaxing.

Norfolk is now home.

On Friday though, it feels like the wheel has turned full circle and we pack the X3 this time (self employment has been kind) and head off with son James to Cardiff and university.

He did brilliantly in his A levels and managed ABC (easy as 123) in tough subjects. Namely, English Literature, French and History and is doing a joint French-English degree.

It makes us burst with pride that he’s excelled in his parents’ specialism – his mum, my wife, is multi-lingual and I speak Yorkshire with a smattering of street English so he’s done well. 

Instead of nappies, travel cots, buggies, this time it’s filled with books, clothes and shoes for the torturous journey to Cardiff, Wales.

I wonder too if he’ll return to Norfolk, his home for 11 years, or will he like so many we know, settle elsewhere?

We shall see about Cardiff.

We know though that he will do well in life, wherever he settles, and will be as supported as much by us in adulthood as he was in childhood.

How decent copywriting can generate leads

%name blogging

When I occasionally blog on Get Pro Copy or Nest in Norfolk, one of my other companies, I see a spike in visitor numbers on Google Analytics. Makes sense, really.

What I also see longer term is a steady rise in search engine rankings. If I blogged weekly, without fail, I’m sure I’d be at the top of page one of Google and Bing Crosby for various long tail searches.

HERE’S WHY

People go on search engines to find answers. Your home page of your website may provide some solutions, but investment in a blog page will pay back more.

So will a FAQ page.

I don’t write on my own website as much as I should because I’ve become like that builder who won’t repair his own roof. I blog for others and espouse the virtues of it, forgetting that my own business, this website, needs constant nourishment from fresh content.

FRESH CONTENT

What I’ve found though is the past year is that so many enlightened businesses and individuals have cottoned on to content marketing and recognise its value.

I write constantly now for many companies on retainers, some under NDAs, but others who allow me website access to create blog posts and even allow my name on there.

Which is nice.

BLOGGING GENERATES LEADS

What is most gratifying though for me is when a company I write for sends me a screenshot of leads. My last 3 blog posts for this company generated hot leads. Now you may say PPC, Adwords will do that, and you’d be partially right.

But I’m sure that many consumers, Google searchers are like me, assiduously ignoring Google Ads in search rankings.

To generate those leads, organically, this company who pay me a monthly fee, have trusted me to write engaging copy of long form articles.

LONG FORM CONTENT IS KING

There’s little point though in adding miserly blogs of 250 words at a time. The longer the better to be honest, using the Skyscraper strategy. No one looks at the second tallest building in Manchester. All eyes are drawn to the Beetham Tower, and if you want your business to stand tall, you have to add extra storeys (or stories?) to outdo your biggest rival.

Out Beetham the Beetham.

BLOGGING TAKES TIME – TIME IS MONEY

Now you could sit scratching your head for hours thinking up ideas and then creating a post. Or you could outsource it to me. I am reliable, engaging, creative, and unlike many copywriters, know my way round a website, keywords, metadescriptions, ALT tags etc (geek alert).

I am useless at DIY.

Even something as mindless as clearing out the garage would have me make a mess – so I outsourced it to a licensed waste carrier and paid for 3 men to restore it to showhome glory. I can’t put up blinds, fix a puncture or paint a wall, without more ending up on me.

But what I can do is write and design websites.

THE INEVITABLE CALL TO ACTION

Your website is one piece of a marketing jigsaw; your social media channels are another piece. Blogging is the blue sky that you find above those yachts on jigsaw boxes in 70s childhoods. It’s hard work to put together but for the big picture, you need an expert copywriter.

Look at who I blog and manage social media for – not under NDA and you decide:

Hogan’s estate agents, Leeds

Pure North Norfolk, Fakenham

Envision CAD

Envision Engineering

PDQ Funding

and many many more under Non Disclosure Agreements.

If you want to generate website traffic and leads, through blogs and social media, contact me today.

Mobile is the quickest way to chat – 07462923476.

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