Meet Kevin Dowling, copywriter and content strategist who does the all important job of “making things sound less confusing”. Kevin takes complicated topics and translates them into words that everybody can understand. Experience counts, says Kevin, and with over two decades of experience and a wealth of testimonials, you can’t deny that.
Read on to gain some valuable insights from an expert in the field:
What is your name and what do you do?
I’m Kevin Dowling, a freelance copywriter and content strategist, specialising in investments and financial services.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been writing about investments for 25 years, but I had my first freelancing stint from 2014-2017. I was then asked to take on a full-time content role for one of my clients – but after being made redundant in 2019 I realised I would be better off as a freelancer. Despite a rocky first year due to the pandemic, I’ve never looked back.
I love the challenge of bringing in new clients, the variety of the work, and being able to set my own agenda and stick to my principles. As the poem Invictus goes: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
Word of mouth from happy clients. Writing is extremely subjective, and writing about investments and money in an interesting and engaging way can be tricky to get right. Trust is essential, so most of my clients are either people who I worked with previously, or people who had been looking for content support and were given my name by someone whose opinion they valued.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
I’m a big fan of Freeagent to keep my accounts in order, and Trello for planning different content projects. I use Pocket to save interesting articles while Twitter is great just to get different takes on what’s going on in the world. And for investment research, FT.com is still hard to beat when it comes to economics and markets.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
Absolutely. I used to struggle with imposter syndrome and would worry about showing up underprepared, so the only way I could get through a meeting or a call would be to do as much research as possible beforehand, so I felt ready for whatever could possibly come up.
Today, I still research a prospect in advance, but more to see whether we will be a good fit for one another. I will also look at their existing content so I can get a feel for their tone of voice, brand values and want they want their audience to care about.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I try to escape from my office when there’s a quiet moment, going for a walk, and just generally make sure I’m not staring at my screen all day.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It’s about the same, but with freelancing there’s a greater sense of internal satisfaction. You are working on something that’s intrinsically you. Back when I was a full-time employee, I used to work very long hours with very little recognition and feeling like a replaceable cog in a machine. Now, I work the same amount of hours, but the work is more varied, I have greater control over what I work on and when, and I am much more motivated as a result.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
It usually comes down to price, and the perceived ‘value’ of the work they want. Sometimes marketing teams find it hard to justify costs for external copywriting resources because people in other parts of the business think of themselves as ‘good enough’ writers. But most of the time clients have found their way to me because they have a specific marketing need within the business that requires the time, care and insight that a specialist writer can bring – along with a fresh way of thinking.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
I’ve turned down work if it doesn’t seem like a good culture fit, if the prospect doesn’t seem to value the work or if they’re not really sure of what they want. When a client pushes back on signing a ‘terms of business’ document, paying a deposit or filling out a briefing form, they are giving you strong clues on whether it will be a productive long-term relationship or not.
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
I’ve had clients disappear on me once we’ve started the discussion about prices. That always amazes me, because it seems people have lost the art of negotiation!
As for ghosting, it’s painful but it happens, and there’s not much point taking it too personally. The best thing you can do is to shrug your shoulders and move on. There are other great clients out there who will find you, and want to have a strong working relationship with you.
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
When I returned to freelancing, I just wanted to build up a few steady clients and take it from there. I’m into my third year now, and I don’t think things have changed all that much. I run my own business, so I don’t have a boss to try and impress or annual performance appraisals to worry about. If I enjoy the work and my clients are happy, then I’m happy, and that’s a successful business model for me.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Being able to help clients solve their problems. To me, writing IS problem-solving, and as a freelancer I get to help multiple clients solve different problems on a regular basis. I still get a buzz seeing something I’ve written in print, even though it doesn’t have my name on it.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Chasing late payers! I wish companies were better about paying freelancers on time. It’s especially galling when you’ve written something that talks about the challenges facing small businesses, and that same client has neglected to pay you for months!
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
That it’s not a competitive rat race, you won’t be fighting off other writers to keep hold of every client, and that some of your most valued professional connections will be fellow freelancers. You belong to a really helpful, empathetic and life-affirming community – and you have an important role to play within it.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Don’t lower your prices out of fear, and don’t start second-guessing your worth and haggling with yourself. If people value your work, they will pay you for it.
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