The 4 Biggest Lessons From My 1st Year In Business

Last month marked my first “official” year in business as a copywriter and content marketing strategist​. “Official” is in quotes back there because I’d been doing some freelance writing work (including a few copywriting gigs) off and on for the last 10 years but I didn’t derive a significant income from it until July of 2018.

To say that my biz exceeded my expectations in my first year would be low-balling it for sure…

I had no idea what to expect, to be honest. After getting my first client, I had no idea if there would be a second or a third but I loved the work, so I put my head down and kept at it. I invested my time and energy into every client project like it was my own. I made it my mission to under-promise and over-deliver.

And after a while? One referral turned into five referrals. Potential clients started reaching out to me after hearing about my work and by the one year mark I’d already raised my rates three times and found myself consistently booked out each month between retainer clients and one-off projects.

As you might imagine, such rapid growth comes with a pretty hefty learning curve, so I wanted to share a few of the things that (I think) made the biggest impact on my success.

1) I generated the most income from projects I had the most fun with. Let’s face it, the feast or famine cycle of solopreneur life isn’t cute, so when your business is brand new, you take on whatever work pays the bills. You do what you gotta do, right? But when I looked at the numbers for each of the 12 months I’d been in business, the biggest revenue generators were the things I loved and excelled at (like email marketing and creating sales funnels)…coincidence? I think not.

2) When I let go of work that wasn’t a good fit, it was quickly replaced with work that was. This is kinda the flip side of numero uno. In the first half of year one, I took on a few projects I wasn’t super jazzed about (like managing clients’ social media platforms as part of their content creation packages.) I loooooove creating content but let’s just say social media management is not my zone of genius. I find it tedious, soul-sucking, and boring. Once I realized doing work that drained my energy wasn’t worth the money and let those jobs go, new opportunities that excited me presented themselves almost immediately. It was crazy.

3) The more consistently I showed up (even when it seemed no one was listening), the more ideal clients reached out to me. Being that I’m in the content marketing biz and this is something I preach to my clients ALL the freaking time, admitting that I’ve been on the struggle bus from time to time when it comes to consistency in my own business is hard, yo. It’s kinda like the general contractor who has 112 unfinished projects at his own house, I guess. And when you’re not sure anyone’s sitting in the audience, you’re not super motivated to step on stage. But trust me, people are watching. And your next big client is probably not going to be the one who drops a smiley face emoji on every one of your IG stories. It’ll be the person who quietly follows you on social for months, stalks your blog every week (without commenting), then signs on the dotted line without balking at the price when she finally does reach out.

4) I set boundaries. I’ll admit, this is a work in progress. I’m really good at parts of this and not so good at others. The parts I’m not so good at? Answering client emails or doing “just a little bit” of work after hours or on designated days off. There’s a glitch in my off-switch and I’m not proud of it. I know it’s not a good idea to give people the expectation that I have 24/7 availability (not to mention it’s super annoying to my family when I’m listening to a Voxer message as we sit down to dinner.)

One thing I have gotten good at though is recognizing the quality and the value of the work I do without feeling the need to prove it to anyone. I refuse to drop everything for a client “emergency” (let’s face it, there are no copy emergencies!) I don’t allow clients to micro-manage me or tell me how to do my job. When you hire someone for their expertise, you kinda have to trust they know what they’re doing. I don’t chase people, either. If someone inquires about working with me then disappears or has an issue with the price (this rarely happens, BTW) I figure we’re not a good fit and I move on.

What’s made the biggest impact on your biz growth in the last year? I’d love to know, so seriously, comment below and share your a-ha moments. I’m not good at small talk…I prefer to just jump right into the good stuff. 🙂

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