Monday Spark: You don’t have to start at the bottom.

bottom of the ladderLast week I was speaking at an event in Austin, Texas, and had a chance to talk with dozens of freelancers at various stages of their careers.

I was particularly interested by what I heard from those people who had high-level, professional careers behind them and were now on the verge of starting a freelance business.

Here is the part that got me thinking. Several of those people seemed to assume that they had to get started on the bottom rung of the ladder as a freelancer. It’s as if a switch in careers somehow required that they start over and look only for low-paying, low-challenge projects.

Well, I don’t think that is necessary.

If you have some solid business experience behind you, why not start closer to the top?

OK, so you don’t yet have a ton of experience as a freelance writer or copywriter. So your first client probably won’t be with a sophisticated direct-response company that is used to working with A-level copywriters.

But you do have business experience, which is something a lot of those hotshot copywriters don’t have. So you can approach large companies and pick up plenty of writing and copywriting work that isn’t all about maximizing conversions on sales pages. Maybe it’s a case study, a series of White Papers, a monthly e-newsletter, editorial content for their website…and so on.

For those kinds of jobs, you don’t need to be an A-list copywriter. But you can ask for a fat fee because of your business experience. Large and medium sized companies like working with writers who understand business, speak their language and understand their culture.

Never position yourself as a beginner. Never behave like a beginner. Think of yourself as the person you were at the highest position you held in the business world, and behave like that.

Be that top-performing person, carry that persona and confidence into the world of freelancing, and position your services as top-end, close to the top of the ladder, starting on day one.

Can’t do that? Sure you can. You would have done it as an employee if your boss had told you to.

So why not do it for yourself?

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.



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5 thoughts on “Monday Spark: You don’t have to start at the bottom.

  1. This one “rung” true for me Nick. It’s making an intentional shift in perspective…one to a higher plane. How I view myself as a freelance copywriter is critical to the confidence level l convey and, ultimately, the clients I attract. Utilizing past experience and “behaving” appropriately are excellent pointers. Planning to be at next year’s Web Copy Intensive.

  2. Alan, hi

    You’re right. You make the shift in your own mind first, and then everything else begins to move upwards in your favor.


  3. This is brilliant advice. The fear of leaving a good job to ‘start at the bottom’ kept me from following my freelance dream for quite a long time. I always assumed I’d need to go back to square one, but it’s just not true! Plus, it’s experience in different fields that makes every service offering unique (and uniquely valuable). Thanks Nick!

  4. Thanks for setting the record straight, Nick.

    Going straight to the top of the food chain on Day One makes perfect sense to me.
    Success is all about winning the game between your ears, not between the lines.

    Think of this: When military generals retire, a lot of them go on the speaking circuit.
    Do they start at the bottom and work their way up? No way!!! They command 6-figure
    speaking fees immediately. It’s simply a matter of transferring their skills and experience to a new career field. Copywriting is no different. In fact, it’s exactly the same.

    I’ll be using your advice to work as a B2B healthcare copywriter. Conducting myself as a top-notch professional who commands juicy fees for case studies, white papers and monthly newsletters sounds pretty appealing.

    I appreciate the wake up call, Nick! You’re the second person in as many days who has recommended starting at the top instead of at the bottom. Well, once is a coincidence but twice is a pattern. I think I’ll take the hint…

  5. Michael,hi

    Thanks for the great feedback. Nice comparison with the retired general. That’s exactly the transition mindset we need as freelancers.


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