This week we had the pleasure of a video call with storyteller Cam Baxter where he divulged some freelance home truths, client bugbears, top advice for starters and his passion for helping small businesses bloom.
For a refreshing read of the dynamics of freelancing in the writing world, read on:
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Cam Baxter and I’m a freelance copywriter and content writer. Full-time storyteller and Dungeons and Dragons nut.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I worked full-time in a head of merchandising role for a UK national music instrument retailer. I was responsible for the team who wrote the product descriptions being published on the website and when covid hit, they put me on furlough. I’ve always wanted to go freelance and it spurred me to make the leap as when you get put on furlough you don’t know if you’re going back to work. I didn’t need that uncertainty. Eventually, I did go back but I decided to go into freelancing. And nothing was going to stop me. In April 2021 I started freelancing and worked alongside my full-time job doing evenings and weekends until January this year. I then left my job to go into freelancing full-time. Which has been an experience.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
Ha! I’m still working it out. I’m going to hold my hands up and admit I started on PeoplePerHour and UpWork doing those really low-paid jobs because I had no freelance experience or portfolio. Due to my previous experience with writing product descriptions in my last role, I did some work for an electric scooter company for pitance; We did eventually move off the platform and established a year-long relationship where I charged a realistic rate.
Some businesses don’t know where to look for a copywriter so go to these sorts of platforms to find them. I’ve found clients on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; but haven’t had a referral just yet. ‘I’m looking at you guys Linkedin and Twitter friends!’ That’s the next goal. I’m really proactive about it – I’ll search everywhere as I’ve found some really great clients in the most unique places.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
I do prefer Twitter and LinkedIn. They work well together for me, as you can post the same content on each. With Twitter, I find I can have a bit more of a personality and can comment on, for instance, dog pictures, or possibly politics, without being too unprofessional. I find LinkedIn can be a bit contrived with spammy tip posts so I try to be a bit more human there, and it’s great for having a professional copywriter presence.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
I will have a look at their online presence to try and figure them out; find out what sort of people they are because I want to know how to approach them. I’m quite laid back and I think that some clients enjoy that personality but some of them prefer more professionalism; so I like to know who I’m dealing with. I also like to know what sort of things they have on their website, what level of standard they expect etc. So yeah, a little bit of client stalking beforehand. Is that ok?
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
Early morning walks. I really like to work early. My partner is a freelancer too so we like to get up real early at least once a week – around 6 am – and do the 20-minute walk into the city centre or take the dog down to the docks or the two massive parks near us. One of the other things I do is Dungeons and Dragons, I’m obsessed. We play pretty much every week, playing the same campaign and characters for over 2 and a half years now. It’s lovely escapism. My Swashbuckler character even has a London accent when I roleplay. And as you can tell, I’m as Northern as you get. One of my first jobs was actually writing for a D&D website; writing build guides, blogs and “how to”s for putting D&D into your resume.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
There’s some people who just “get it” and there’s some people who don’t. I think because they know you’re a freelancer they expect you to write a blog for £10 and then have this “how much? It doesn’t cost that much!” attitude. They don’t understand what goes into the process of writing said blog, taglines, press release etc. I imagine most freelancers experience these sorts of clients.
Having worked in sales, I do understand there can be a little bit of negotiation but it is a bugbear of mine.
Clients ghosting is another annoyance. You’ll be in a situation where you’re to-ing and fro-ing with a client and then suddenly…they disappear! There’s no kind of apology email to say they’ve changed their mind so that I’m able to divert my energy elsewhere, or open up more space for other clients to come along.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes. Money. They started quibbling about price and wanted me to work for a fraction of my quote. Sometimes people go in blind and they don’t know how much things cost. As a new freelancer I still struggle sometimes when people ask for less. I understand negotiating but when they want to chip off a lot, then it oversteps. I’m used to it from playing in an unsigned band, people asking me to play for exposure. I guess I’ll go to the supermarket to spend my exposure on groceries!
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
There’s a few reasons I started freelancing. I wanted that freedom, I wanted a better wage and I wanted to do something that was kind of creative and something that I enjoyed. I will take on roles sometimes just to pay bills that aren’t as exciting, but it’s okay as long as you get a good balance of the kind of work that you want.
I love when I can see a small SME or individual business grow because of me. I love working with those people, helping take them to the next level, and the joy and happiness that they have for seeing their business grow. Working with somebody who’s enthusiastic about their business as well. So in that respect yes, my motivations haven’t changed.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I really love writing and the freedom of working with who I want on my terms. The ability to put down my laptop and take the dog for a walk, grab a coffee, or meet a friend. I can work 8 till 8 or 10 till 2. It’s my choice. And I love that. I’m pretty organised so I’ll always fit my clients in. Office life was wearing on me. And I really hate working hard for a company without getting anything back.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
The uncertainty of not getting any work. That sits on your shoulders quite a bit. I was earning a decent amount from the electric scooter client every month and was even saving money. And one day he decided that he didn’t need me anymore as he was selling the business and that was a bit of a wake-up call. Also, one thing I’m glad I did was when I was freelancing and working at the same time, I put away my freelance money so that if anything like this happened, I’d have a bit of a cushion to fall on. Another learning curve was not to get complacent because you need to adapt quickly when somebody comes and pulls the rug from under you. I basically took my foot off the gas when it came to client uptake. I suddenly found myself without a big roster of clients, which is what I decided to build up over the last couple of months.
A very good lesson to learn early on: do not get complacent!
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
You don’t have to know everything. I felt really out of depth when I first went into it. You don’t need to be the best speller. These are minor details; this is why we have Grammarly, spell check etc. You don’t need to know all about a topic, you can do research on it. For example, the other day I did an article on landing pages. My conception of landing pages was actually different from what it actually was until I did my research. And the Twitter lot are a great support and resource. I’ve made so many great connections on there.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Those starting out, have a cushion of money. I recommend that if you’re working full or part-time, or you’re in a situation where you have another income, put some money away for 6-12 months. About 4-6 months of a comfortable monthly wage. So when anything does happen, you will be more relaxed and safe and everything will be fine.
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