Alice Hollis is a B2B copywriter from the Thames Valley who started her journey back in 2015 after her son was born. In her interview, she tells us how owning her own business has been an ambition of hers and how freelancing helped her achieve that. Read all about our latest Featured Freelancer…
What is your name and what do you do?
I am Alice Hollis and I am a B2B copywriter for small IT and tech companies in the Thames Valley. I specialise in top-of-the-funnel content, like blogs, thought leadership white papers, guides and reports, and case studies.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I became a freelancer back in 2015 after my first son was born. My ultimate career ambition has always been to own my own business, and being freelance enabled me to achieve this, while being a mummy and continuing with a work I absolutely adore.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
Before becoming a freelance copywriter, I spent nearly a decade working as a B2B marketer, so I’ve tried pretty much every promotional tactic going.
The most effective strategy for my business is simply being me.
I learned early on that I needed to drop the corporate façade and just be myself – afterall, if people are buying from me, it’s because they want me. So I turned my world purple, put on my glittery heels, bake delicious cakes at every opportune moment and commit to just helping as much as I possibly can.
Also, I believe in practicing what I preach – so if I’m telling my clients that blogging is a great idea or that white papers are effective for demonstrating thought leadership, I need to be seen to do these things within my own business. It’s really powerful because it means I can share my own experiences with them.
It’s amazing the amount of referrals I receive from people who haven’t necessarily worked with me before, but know of me or have heard ‘good things’ about my work.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
Firstly, Trello. I use it to capture ideas, schedule and track all of my client work, as well as my own content. And it’s great for collaborating as you can share access to your boards and assign tasks to other people.
Also, FreeAgent. I use it to quote for projects, time track everything, record expenses and invoice. And then track what invoices are due/overdue and keep an eye on what I owe the tax man.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
Yes, absolutely. At a minimum I’ll look at their website and social presence. And if the leads come via word of mouth, I’ll talk to the person that’s referred them on.
Specific things I’m looking for are:
- How they use content at the moment.
- If there are any obvious gaps or recommendations I could make.
- Tone of voice.
- Messaging, positioning and value proposition.
- Whether it’s clear who the target audience is.
- If there is anything they’re clearly pushing at the moment – for example, a specific product/service or piggybacking off a current trend.
And then noting down specific questions I might have as I go along.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
I keep a notebook and write down any feedback I receive that gives me a lovely warm, fuzzy feeling – as well as recording every book I’ve read, training course I’ve attended and highlights. I then wrap this into a ‘behind the scenes’ article that I publish every month as part of my content strategy.
Also, I make sure to celebrate every ‘win’. This could be:
- Something huge, like securing my trademark.
- Something exciting, like a new client or project.
- Something routine, like completing month end.
- Something smaller, like a ‘good job’ email.
Every moment is marked to make it meaningful – and yes, this usually involves cake, sparkly shoes or beautiful stationery!
And I ring-fence Saturday night as my night. It’s tough enough running your own business, even more so when you add children into the mix and the 101 other things that come with running a household. But knowing that every Saturday I get to relax in a bubble bath, followed by a manicure, gin, chocolate and having the TV all to myself, gives me a lovely experience to focus on if I start feeling overwhelmed.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than what you had first anticipated?
Yes and no.
- I have all the freedoms I thought I’d have.
- I really am ‘chief of everything’ and have the power to change anything that isn’t working.
- You absolutely get back what you put in.
- It is all-consuming – even if you’re not physically at your desk, your brain is always-on.
- I get immense satisfaction and joy from running my own business – far more than I imagined.
- Being freelance doesn’t mean being alone – there’s always a community to support you.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
I’ve had a couple of prospects question my rates in the past. I know money can be an awkward conversation, but I put a lot of time and effort into calculating what I charge so I know it’s fair. Plus, ProCopywriters publishes its annual survey so I can benchmark myself against other professionals. Therefore, if my rates are questioned, I’m happy and confident to justify them, as well as walk away from the opportunity.
Otherwise it’s more questions about how I can help and my working process, rather than objections. As part of my #Write52 commitment, I answered a new question every week for a year and now have the most incredible and comprehensive FAQ section on my website. Now the most common thing I’m asked is, “What’s your availability at the moment?” because everything else has been answered.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Many times! And clients too.
The main reason being that the fit isn’t great. Experience has taught me the ‘red flags’ that I need to be wary of:
- It could be that the project requires a level of technical expertise I don’t have.
- It could be that they’re questioning pricing and therefore likely to watch everything I do over my shoulder.
- It could be that they’re simply not yet ready for the content strategy I would be recommending.
- It could be that I know another copywriter who would be far better suited to their project.
I find the best way to let someone down is to be honest. I tell the person that I don’t think we’re going to work well together and the reason I believe this. And then offer to make an introduction to someone I feel would be far better suited.
I’ve never had anyone get angry or upset with me – I’ve even had people recommend me to others in their network because of my approach. And longer-term, by not working on the opportunities that aren’t right for my business, it leaves me open to say ‘yes’ when the right client does come my way.
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
Depends on the situation…
If it’s a client that owes me money, I would pursue them and be prepared to take legal action if necessary.
But if it’s a client/prospect that’s just gone quiet, I tend to leave them be – the last thing I want is to be that annoying person they then actively try to avoid. With most of my regular clients I tend to know when things will go quiet (usually because the workflows in quarterly cycles) so I plan my workload accordingly.
If they need me, they know where I am.
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
Yes. As a little girl it was always my ambition to own my own business. And making the move to freelance in 2015, it was all about achieving the ultimate work-life ‘blend’ – I wanted to be a mummy but I also wanted to continue the work I adored. So I made the decision that if I wasn’t spending time with my son, I was only going to do the work I enjoyed and work with people I liked working with.
It’s served me well so far. Plus, I’m happier and more satisfied at work and earn more than I ever did when I was employed, which enables me to secure my children’s financial future.
What is it about being a freelancer that you enjoy most?
That anything is possible.
When you’re employed, you’re always working to someone else’s agenda – a small cog in a big machine that’s always driving towards someone else’s vision of success. As a freelancer, I get to define that vision and I have complete control over how it’s achieved.
The thing that always frustrated me most while employed was seeing the office politics at play and knowing that processes were broken, or wrong decisions being made. As a freelancer there’s none of that. If something doesn’t work in my business, I try something new. If I want to upskill, I can. If I want to shower my clients in treats to show my appreciation, I can. If I want to paint my office purple and spend £600 on stationery, I can.
As a freelancer I have the power and authority to try anything and make change happen, which means I live in a world where anything is possible.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
It’s a condition I’ve suffered from for many, many years, but freelancing seems to exasperate the problem…
- I’m constantly worrying about what my clients think.
- I worry about whether what I’ve delivered is good enough – whether I’m good enough.
- I worry about not replying to a client the second I receive their message.
- If my schedule goes quiet, I worry that it’s the end of my freelance career.
- When I invoice, I worry there will be a big backlash from clients not wanting to pay.
- I worry that at times I dedicate too much time to work, and not enough to my children.
It’s constant and relentless, and unless I keep the anxiety in check, it becomes completely overwhelming. Thankfully I’ve developed several coping mechanisms that help me retain control, but it is an ongoing battle.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
When I started as a freelancer in 2015, the communities I now belong to didn’t exist. I’m sure there must have been something similar, but I never thought to look. No-one really tells you how to be a freelancer – as chief of everything it’s up to you to figure it all out…
Or so I thought.
It was only by chance that I stumbled on Freelance Heroes, Being Freelance and Doing it for the Kids on Twitter, but I’m so thankful I did. By exposing me to other professionals it helped give me the support network that you’d usually have when employed – but without the office politics:
- When I have something to celebrate, the community is there.
- When I’m having a bad day and need a shoulder, the community is there.
- When I want to procrastinate and have a laugh, the community is there.
- When I’m unsure and need answers, the community is there.
I often wonder where my business would be now if I’d been surrounded by such an incredible network from day one.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Freelancers are friends, not competition.
I come from a world of marketing where life is always about outdoing your competitors. But as a freelancer I learned to drop that mentality.
In my experience, I’ve only encountered 1 freelancer who seems intent on damaging my business. Everyone else in the community is incredibly supportive and genuinely wants to see you succeed.
With other copywriters in particular, there’s a wealth of knowledge shared about technique and best practice. I learn from them and test the lessons shared within my own business to hone my craft. And I’m passed so many opportunities. Of course, I do the same in return because that’s what a community is – we all work together and support each other so we all succeed.