Katie started her writing journey way back in the mid 90s when she would steal her grandfather’s printer paper and write stories. Katie Lingo was born out of her yearn to write more and earn a bit of extra cash on the side; but has grown into a full time successful business that supplies all types of content writing to agencies and small businesses.
Grab a cuppa and let’s sit down with Katie.
What is your name and what do you do?
Katie Thompson – Managing Director of Katie Lingo, an outsourced content marketing service for agencies and small businesses.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
Technically about 10 years, but it was always a side hustle. It took up about half my time from 2016 onwards, and has been my full-time gig since 2018. I became a freelancer by accident – I was working full-time and wanted some ‘pocket money’ to buy a house. I never imagined it would turn into a fully-fledged business!
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
I would be nothing without LinkedIn. But I’m quite personal with it too – sending DMs in response to requests rather than cold outreach. I like to lead with a joke and build a rapport. People buy from people.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
See above – definitely LinkedIn! I think, despite the fact people moan about it “becoming Facebook” these days, it’s still a professional network. That said, I’m also an avid tweeter, which is more for making friends really but I have had enquiries from it.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
Absolutely. When you’ve been burnt a few times, you start to recognise the red flags so it’s best to go in prepared. I start with the LinkedIn profile of the individual. What’s their background? What’s their base level of content marketing knowledge?
Then I’ll look at their website, see how active their marketing is and what kind of clients they’re working with.
Finally, I’ll do a quick check on Companies House. More for housekeeping really – if I can see they’re solvent, there shouldn’t be any issues with payment. Sounds a bit crude but it’s best to protect yourself.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
I’m a marathon runner and general gym bunny. Not the super skinny muscled-up kind – I still love junk food! But I love the goal setting that comes with marathon training, and the camaraderie/endorphin kick that comes with group exercise classes.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
I would say it’s definitely not 9-5. But I knew that going in – when I started off, I had a full-time job, so I would often do more work in the evenings. I’m getting to a better work/life balance now where I don’t take my laptop home at night or at weekends. But equally, it’s really helpful if, say, it’s the school holidays and I have family visiting. If I want to take Tuesday morning off, I’ll have Saturday morning in. I love that flexibility.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
Pricing or timing. My rates are fair and if they are questioned, I always point prospects to the ProCopywriters Annual Survey. It highlights the average day rates for copywriters throughout Britain, so it’s good to have that industry benchmark. Timing wise, sometimes people just need stuff doing yesterday. And while I try my best to accommodate, it’s not always possible. You have to be tough – I can deliver it on this date, or not at all. There’s usually more wiggle room than you think.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes, quite recently actually. The client wanted me to optimise AI content rather than write it from scratch. I’m doing a talk at BrightonSEO on the dangers of AI content so it didn’t feel like it fit with my principles. I explained my position honestly and said I didn’t feel comfortable working with content that could potentially put the writing community out of a job. They had their reasons, but ultimately understood my point of view. It was amicable.
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
I used to get really upset about it. I would get into this crazy cycle where the more effort I put into a pitch, the worse response rate I would get! So I’ve refined my pitching process, for example, only giving clients the most relevant samples rather than spending hours sifting through everything. I tell myself that if they want to ghost, this is fate leaving the door open for something better to come along. It wasn’t meant to be.
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
Definitely not. My motivations were to buy a house! I’ve done that now, and the side hustle is a business so the goalposts have certainly moved. I’ve also taken on my husband. That doesn’t mean we have aspirations of world domination. We’re at a point where we’re content (no pun intended) – if we can keep business ticking over, have nice meals and enjoy lovely holidays, we’re happy.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I suppose there’s a certain pride in knowing you did this by yourself. You’ve not only honed your craft but learnt the lessons of building a business along the way – marketing, accounting, sales. Every now and then I pinch myself and remember I have no boss. No one turning down holiday requests. The freedom!
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Unfortunately, I think there are some negative feelings towards the freelance community. Images of creatives sitting in coffee shops and doing nothing but playing on social media all day. The idea that we can drop everything and do XYZ on a weekday. It’s not the case. Yes, we have that control, but we also have to work damn hard to keep it alive.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Just to stick up for myself more. I used to go into pitches saying, “it will cost this much, but if that’s too much, we can do this”. It reeks of zero confidence. But I think that comes with time – I’ve got a much bigger portfolio that I can show off now, so I’m more experienced and can much better justify my pricing.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Stop selling all the time! I see really try-hard LinkedIn statuses where people try to shoehorn their services into a post about walking their dog or something. It doesn’t always have to be about the hard sell. Let people get to know you. If you want to talk about your dog, fine – but it doesn’t always need a call to action!
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