When people think of the things that might get in the way of being successful in their copywriting careers, they tend to all think of the same things: not enough time, other commitments, having trouble finding clients, etc.
The good news is that all of these are easy to identify and surprisingly easy to surmount with a good plan.
But it’s the other distractions—the sneaky ones that sometimes even feel like making progress—that are actually most likely to get in the way of your success.
So let’s shed some light on them now, and make sure they don’t get in YOUR way.
Spending time and energy on things that don’t matter.
Now, here’s the hard part: When you’re first getting started, it can be hard to tell what does and doesn’t matter, and that’s why having guides and coaches is so important. For example, you might go down a rabbit hole trying to decide how to incorporate your business (LLC? S-Corp? Which??) Guess what: Doesn’t matter. Truth is 99.9% of people who start working as a copywriter (in the States, at least) should just be a sole proprietor, which requires little to no paperwork.
Here’s another one: Spending time and energy hiring a designer to create your logo and then deciding between the options. Doesn’t matter. You don’t need a logo. Move on to the next thing.
If it’s not moving you ahead leaps and bounds in your business, chances are, it doesn’t matter.
Spending too much time and energy on things that DO matter.
So, you need a website. No qualifications here; you absolutely need a website. But there’s a difference between spending a few hours on Squarespace or Wix and creating a nice-looking one and spending 20 hours on Squarespace or Wix and getting every little detail PERFECT. Or deciding you need to build your website on WordPress and spending 40 hours on WordPress learning to use it, building the site, and researching fixes to all of the bugs that come up.
Even with things that do matter, the key is “progress, not perfect.” Yes, you do want to put your best foot forward. But chasing after “perfect” is just a waste of time. Perfect doesn’t exist—and trying to get everything “perfect” is a great way to waste time and postpone other crucial actions that will build your business.
Perfectionism, by the way, is another sneaky sign of resistance: Your brain tells you it needs to be perfect, but it can never be perfect, so you never have to take the next action and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t fall for that. Get your website up and keep moving.
Spending too much time and energy deciding.
Here’s another one that’s a good indicator that resistance is cropping up. Obviously, decisions can require a little bit of time—but there’s a difference between an adequate amount of time and way too much time.
For example, choosing between buying the domain name “carolwritescopy.com” or “carolcopywriter.com” is a valid decision to make. But it’s a one-hour decision, not a four-day decision. Ultimately, there’s not really much impact on your career to go with one over the other, so make the decision and move on.
Even with bigger decisions like how much to charge a client or whether to pitch a company, you can’t spend days deciding. Get all of the information you need (reach out to pros if you really need some outside help—just don’t let that be a procrastination technique, too) and then make the decision.
Spinning your wheels is a very good indicator that your brain is trying to keep you from moving forward by keeping you in the “decision-making” phase instead of the “action” phase.
Spending time (and energy) worrying about things you can’t control.
Ah, “what ifs”—a major distraction for a lot of people. Let’s look at what comes after that “what if”. It’s easy to get wrapped up in worry; it FEELS like a productive way to cope with uncertainty. But worry is never actually being productive; it’s just expending energy without having any kind of effect on the situation.
For example, let’s say you’re worrying about what your client will think about the copy your sent them. Now, you’ve done as much as you could going into the situation by working with them to create a solid creative brief, carefully strategizing and outlining your copy, executing on all of it, and then self-editing before you sent it. Great. That’s what you can control, and you took care of it.
But you CAN’T control what your client will think. You can’t control ANYONE else’s mind. Likely, since you’ve done all of the work well, your client will love it and have just a few small changes. But you can’t control what your client will think, so spending time worrying about it is a waste.
You also can’t control what your father-in-law will think about your new career. You can’t control which prospects will respond to your pitches. You can’t control whether or not a client will accept your proposed rate. All you can do is do your best going into every situation and fight the tendency to waste your time and energy worrying about things you can’t control.
Spending time (and energy) worrying about things that aren’t an issue yet
Along those same lines, it’s a waste to worry about things in advance—things that aren’t an issue for your yet, or may even never be an issue.
For example, we all know we have to pay taxes on freelance income. That’s the reason I advise my students to set up a separate savings account and put aside a percentage of each payment and not touch it until tax time. That helps ensure that when it’s time to pay the taxes, they have plenty of money on hand to pay them. So if you’re doing that…spending time worrying about taxes (versus doing something about them) is a waste of time.
Or, as another example, let’s say you’re still working your full-time job as you build up your copywriting business, as many of our students are. Worrying about what would happen or how you would handle it if you landed a client with a really big copywriting project is a waste of time. You can’t do anything about it and it hasn’t happened, so there’s absolutely no point in dedicating valuable time and energy to it!
Worrying, as a whole, is a waste of time and energy. And, I know, that’s a very easy thing to say. Believe me, I’m not saying not to worry at all! That’s like saying, “Stop feeling emotions!” Completely unrealistic, I know.
But what I’d challenge you to do is to let yourself worry for a few minutes (literally, only a few) if that’s what you naturally want to do, and then analyze the worry itself. Is it something you can control? If so, do something about it. If not, focus on taking positive action in your business.
The simple truth is that, by and large, what gets in the way of most people’s success in their copywriting business isn’t the economy (businesses are still hiring freelancers, believe me), or their resources, or anything like that—it’s themselves. It’s wasting time and energy instead of taking consistent, persistent action on the things that will move their businesses forward.
Be vigilant with your focus and be ruthless with what gets your attention. You and your career deserve no less.
Your turn! Did any of this especially resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below!