Taking the spotlight this week is Amy Dawson of Gatekeeper Communications, a PR and Copywriting magician with a mission to create buzz around your business. Amy recently celebrated her fourth year of being her own boss and is loving every aspect of it.
Take 10 and read about Amy’s journey, and get a lot of valuable business advice along the way.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Amy Dawson, and I run Gatekeeper Communications, a PR and copywriting agency based in Ipswich.
I specialise in creating content plans for clients that align with their business goals and their customer needs. My focus is on “what do you want to do?” “How do you want to do it?” and most importantly, “why do you want to do it?” I think you need to be able to fully answer each question before you embark on anything new.
My PR background gives me a unique insight into the parts of your business that are interesting and newsworthy. It means that if I’m writing a blog or article, I can always spot the potential in an area of your business that we can use to raise your profile in different ways. I believe that all your content needs to be used and exploited as much as possible, whether it’s spotting where a blog can be transferred into a press release, or an article can be broken up into smaller chunks and shared on social media.
How long have you been running your business/freelancing and why did you start?
I’ve recently celebrated my four-year anniversary. I set up in 2019, and that first year seems almost stress-free in comparison to the pandemic years where I was trying to simultaneously work full time and home-school a five-year-old.
Looking back, I don’t think that going freelance was ever the dream but it’s something that I love much more than I ever expected. Being able to be my own boss and being able to decide when and where to work, and what projects I want to work on means that I feel professionally challenged and I’m always pushing myself to learn something new or try something different.
Finding clients is one of the biggest concerns for people starting out working for themselves. Where did you find your very first client or customer? Where do you mostly find them now?
When I started out, I was able to continue working with a previous employer on an outsourced basis, which certainly eased some pressure. But I would say that Facebook community groups such as Freelance Heroes has been a big support in finding new clients, particularly as these community’s value what freelancers can bring and the skills we have. The difference I’ve seen in these groups is that if someone is undercharging themselves, there’s always someone willing to say “hey, you’re worth more than that – up your prices!” I think this is important, because it’s easy to think that you have to cut your rates to win business, but it should never be a race to the bottom.
Initially as I set up, I spent a lot of time going out networking in person to events in Ipswich. This has been effective, but it’s about understanding that networking takes time. Someone isn’t going to hire you because they heard a 60-second elevator pitch. I believe that “people buy people”, so I take the time to get to know other people and find out what they are good at. It’s taken a while, but the initial approach is now paying off, and a lot of people are recommending me (and vice versa).
I admit that online networking zoom calls leave me cold, so I did little of that during lockdowns. Instead, I focused on making sure that my website was continually updated with news and articles, often sharing some hints and tips of how to make the most of your content.
Who would you love to have as a dream client and why?
One of the things that I’ve always loved about agency life is that you can dip your toes into so many different sectors, and I’m always surprised by what has interested me the most.
In terms of “dream client”, I guess I would love to work on a client that fits in with my personal hobbies. So, if I could write for a client that was based on horse-riding, dog agility, sewing or baking that would be perfect!
But realistically, what makes a dream client isn’t about the sector that they are in. A dream client is always open to new ideas, is prepared to try things new (even if they don’t work), and values content and PR. I’m really lucky in that all of my clients are really lovely people and are easy to work and collaborate with.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
I’ll be honest, I very rarely update my corporate Facebook or Twitter pages. Instead, I focus more on using my personal profile to talk to people on FB community groups and on LinkedIn. I try to use social media to talk to people – even liking a post that someone has shared onto the Freelance Heroes page can be enough to remind everyone that we’re not working alone.
Is working for yourself what you expected? How do you manage a healthy work-life balance?
I love working for myself. I’m quite motivated in that I never struggle to sit at my desk and work, although I do have days where I have my iPad next to me with something streaming as background noise. Thank you, Amazon Freevee, for uploading the entire back catalogue of Neighbours…. it’s perfect background telly that I can have on to keep me company 😊
I am disciplined in that being my own boss is about keeping a sense of work-life balance and I’m in control of that. Three times a week I do a lunchtime weight’s session at my gym, which is around the corner. That means I have to get away from my desk and take a good break. It makes me much more productive in the afternoons. And twice a week, I have either a riding class or a dog agility class at 5pm which means I need to log off and get away. It also gets me out of the house.
Where I do struggle is taking time off – often because I am so busy, I don’t have time for days off. Even in the Easter holidays when my daughter was off school, I would be working for 2-3 hours in the morning, even if it were “technically” a day off.
What has been your favourite project to date?
As a PR and copywriter, I have been lucky to work on some really cool projects. I loved researching and writing some white papers for one of my clients, because I got to delve headfirst into a big meaty project – from creating the initial idea to writing the paper, then managing the PR around it. That was incredible to see how we could take an existing idea, but create entirely new conversations around that topic, backed up by independent research.
I have also been writing a lot of content for another client’s website, who has told me how much impact that content has made in terms of conversions/bounce rates/SEO. It is impressive to get data-driven feedback because it shows that content really does work.
What is your biggest win of the last 12 months?
My personal last 12 months have been very difficult for personal reasons, so most of my time in 2022 was about treading water.
However, the start of 2023 has been a huge success. I have taken on four new clients alone in the last six weeks and I’m really excited to work with them. I love being able to see how content and PR is helping them to achieve their goals, because when it is managed right, it can make a real difference!
I’m feeling really positive and motivated for what 2023 may bring.
What is it about running your business/being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I love overseeing my own work and taking on the projects that excite me. I have a network of trusted contacts that I work with closely, and not only do we refer work to one another, but they are always a good sounding board to speak to when I need advice. Being able to collaborate with such amazing peers makes me better at my job because I can learn from them.
The hardest thing about freelance life is when you’re exhausted and need to take a break. Last year, I had a bad bout of flu but continued working, which turned out to be a really bad idea. I’ve learned from that, and I’m now listening to my body when I need to take a breather. But it can be hard to do when you know that a day off means that work doesn’t get done.
If you were given a free £1000 to spend on your business, what would you spend it on?
Probably to invest in my website or to use on SEO.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers/small business owners?
The thing that I love about freelance life is how supportive freelancers are of each other. It’s not a competitive environment, everyone is trying to help everyone else.
In my network of contacts, I’ve got great relationships with fellow copywriters in Ipswich as well as marketing experts, SEO specialists, graphic designers and web developers. We all work for ourselves, but when big projects come in, I can refer clients onto the right people for their project. Not only are these contacts my peers, but I’m lucky enough to call them my friends. We go out for Xmas meals or social events, and we can call each other up to get advice or bounce an idea off one-another.
Having a trusted group of peers reduces the loneliness that freelance life can bring.
And finally, is there anything you’d like to shout about right now?
If anyone has any PR or copywriting needs, please get in touch! I might be based in Ipswich, but I work with clients in all sectors across the UK.
My website is gatekeepercommunications.com or why not connect with me on Linkedin?
You can connect with Amy on LinkedIn, Facebook and through her website.