1) Hello Eric, thanks for your participation in our freelancer insides interview series. Firstly, can you tell our users a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Eric Brantner, a freelance copywriter from Houston, Texas. I’ve been a full-time freelancer for about 10 years now, mostly helping small to mid-sized businesses with all of their content needs. These days, most projects I take on are either landing page optimization or blog content with an emphasis on viral-type posts.
2) What was your inspiration and when did you actually decide to become a freelancer?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved writing. Even back in school, I looked forward to essay assignments. There’s just something about being able to use words to persuade someone or to motivate somebody into taking a specific action that’s irresistible to me.
When I got out of college, I took on a job as a copywriter at a local marketing agency. Unfortunately, the pay was terrible and the commute was over an hour each way. So, I started scouring the web, taking on every freelance gig I could get my hands on. Before long, I decided to take the plunge and give it a go as a full-time freelance writer. I haven’t looked back since!
3) What was the most challenging obstacle when starting your own business?
Starting a career as a freelancer isn’t smooth sailing. The first challenge, and perhaps the hardest, is having faith in yourself that you’re ready to commit to this full time. Thankfully, I was able to start my career in my early 20s before I had any “real responsibilities,” like being married or having kids that I had to feed. I think that made it easier for me to make that plunge, lowering my risk in case I didn’t make it.
But there’s another important obstacle that I’ve seen too many freelancers overlook or underestimate. And that is actually knowing how to run the business side of things. Too many times, I’ve met freelancers who have great creative skills but have no idea how to market themselves, manage cash flow, get their taxes in order, etc. Honestly, I think 80% of what determines your success as a freelancer is how good of a businessperson you are. The other 20% is how good you are at your actual craft.
4) How do you plan your day, do you work a ‘normal’ 9-5? What does a typical work day look like for you?
This goes back to knowing how to get organized and run a business.
I use Google Drive as a portal to manage all of my projects. I have all of my current projects listed out, their deadlines, and specific tasks that need to be done to complete the job. At the end of each day, I like to reassess where I stand on everything and outline what needs to be done the next day so I can hit the ground running.
As far as my work hours go, these days I mostly work “normal” hours, typically about 9-6. I’ll often check emails and do some minor tasks late at night after everyone goes to bed, but for the most part, I try to stick to those hours so I can spend time with my wife and little girl.
5) How do you set yourself apart from your competitors? What makes you special?
When I first started freelancing, I made the classic mistake of trying to compete on price. I saw how cheap some writers were and thought the only way to compete with them was to match or beat their prices. A huge mistake and a terrible way to differentiate yourself.
Now, I tailor my services to higher-end clients who frankly hate dealing with most freelancers. After years of hearing new clients share their frustrations with prior freelancers they hired, I positioned myself as the professional solution to all of the common problems these clients encounter, like slow response time (I promise 24 hour response to emails) and missed deadlines (I get penalized if I miss a deadline due to my own fault). In turn, this has allowed me to charge what I’m worth.
6) Let’s go for a question which might be interesting for all newbie freelancers. How do you find new clients who are interested in your services?
Currently, I have a full portfolio of recurring clients and get plenty of word of mouth business, so I haven’t tried to generate new business in a while. That said, I can share some of the tactics I found to be effective when generating leads.
First and foremost, get your own website up ASAP. These days, anybody can start a website in just minutes using WordPress (I detail the step-by-step process to starting a blog site on my site Scribblrs.com). Make sure you have pages for all of the services you offer, and optimize those pages to make them search engine friendly. You should also be blogging regularly and creating useful, sharable content. When I was focused on generating business through my site, I was ranking well for a number of relevant searches and would get several quality leads every single week.
7) Can you provide any marketing tips and tricks for freelancers?
In addition to what I said above, one thing I’d recommend is to do in-depth research on your competition. Identify some freelancers who are going after the business you want, and really dive in to what they’re doing (and not doing). Use tools like Open Site Explorer to see which websites are linking to them, and see if there are any opportunities for you to get links from those sites too (quality backlinks play a key role in getting your website to rank in Google).
I would also recommend building relationships with reporters and bloggers who focus on things like small business and marketing. Connect with them on Twitter, comment on their work, and get to know them. This will help you position yourself to pitch them a story down the line or to be a source for a story they’re working on, so you can get your name out there.
8) How do you manage the pressure of meeting deadlines? Do you use any specific apps or software tools for self-organization, invoicing and something else?
As mentioned earlier, I use Google Calendar and Google Spreadsheets to manage all of my projects. The tools are free and very easy to use, so honestly, there’s not much pressure to meet deadlines. I think a key is to set realistic deadline expectations for your clients in the first place. I’m a big believer in under-promising and over-delivering. I also don’t take on rush projects unless the client is willing to pay a much higher rate than normal.
9) What are your future plans? Will you be changing careers or continue along the road as a freelance writer?
I’ll always be a freelance writer, but most recently, I have taken some additional steps to achieve greater financial independence. Most notably, I’ve started a number of my own blogs that I maintain and generate passive income through via advertising and other methods. This allows more cash to flow in each month without me taking on more clients. The project I’m spending the most time on at the moment is Scribblrs.com, a site devoted to all things blogging and online marketing.
10) What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a freelance career? And what does it takes to be successful as a freelancer?
Learn the basics of running a business. Be organized and have a plan for building your business. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at your craft, because if you don’t know how to build an actual business, you will fail.
Lastly, when it comes to getting paid, always know your worth. Try not to settle for lowballing clients, because that leads to an endless cycle that’s hard to dig out of. And for goodness sake, make your clients pay a deposit on all projects up front.
Where to find Eric:Link to website: www.Scribblrs.com
LinkedIn Profile: Eric Brantner
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Pic: © Eric Brantner