Megan responded to my request for small business owners to showcase themselves and their businesses on my blog to provide insight, advice and inspiration for others who are starting up/thinking of starting up their own small businesses – including me!
The idea originally formed because I was fascinated by people’s stories and reasons for setting up their own businesses and I wanted to learn as much as I could in order to educate myself for the benefit of my own business.
I wanted to find a way to ask the questions I wanted the answers to but I realised that if I was interested surely others were interested in the answers too! In addition, I wanted the businesses willing to share their stories to get something in return so I devised the ‘Small Business Showcase’ blog series which will give each small business featured promotion across social media. Win-win for everyone!
The same 10 questions were posed to all small businesses via questionnaire – here are Megan’s replies:
1) How would you summarise the service(s)/product(s) your business offers?
I write words for businesses, charities and other organisations – I love a bit of variety so I don’t ‘niche down’ too much. A lot of my clients hire me because they like my straightforward, friendly, not-too-corporate style, and because I understand their industries, as well as how to use words.
I’ve not always been a copywriter, but my range of experience (five years in the charity sector, ten in the public sector and a smattering of jobs in the private sector) brings valuable knowledge and context to the business. Writing has always been an important part of every job I’ve had though, so do I have oodles of wordy experience behind me.
Although my surname is Douglas, my middle name is Rose, so the business is Megan Rose Freelance. I was fed up of people emailing me ‘Dear Doug’ without looking at my name properly.
2) How long have you been a small business owner?
Pondering this made me realise I’ve missed an anniversary somewhere and it’s officially been over a year! I was planning the business, getting the blog going and building brand awareness long before I started trading, though, so it definitely feels like longer than 365 days.
Still, I’m going to go and buy cake to celebrate.
3) What inspired you to set up your business?
So many things, coming together at the right time. It was always something I’d thought about but wasn’t brave enough to do, but I guess with age comes experience (or something like that), more confidence, and the benefit of savings to help you through the early days. I’m hugely proud of making the leap to work for myself and of setting up a business doing what I love.
There were also more practical things thrown into the decision-making mix. I was fed up and bored in my job, I wanted to take a break for a few months, and I could really see the benefits that flexible working would bring (I’m definitely not a morning person, so the flexibility to work much later hours is AMAZING – I’m so much more productive with my days).
All that came together, and now here I am!
4) What platforms/strategies do you use to promote your business?
Social has been a huge promotion tool for me, but not necessarily through choice. I ended up in hospital not long after I started trading (long story) and for a few months I couldn’t get out and about so social media was the natural place for me to focus my energy. It’s paid off, though. I do go to local networking events but most of my best customers come from further afield so the online marketing is better for me.
I’ve also built up a great support network of other copywriters and small business owners online. They keep me sane and help with the practical stuff when I’m confused about how to be a business owner. Twitter is my favourite at the moment, but you can also find me on LinkedIn and Instagram. And if you’re desperate, you can try searching for my horribly under-used Facebook page.
5) What do you consider your greatest business achievement so far?
Goodness, it’s hard to pick one. That makes it sound like the business has been one huge success after another. It hasn’t. But every achievement is important at the time, or in the context, so it’s tricky to narrow down to a ‘greatest’. Actually taking the plunge and going freelance, perhaps?
Or maybe it was my dream client approaching me a few months in, having found my website on Google (woohoo!) and giving me a fantastic project to work on. That was pretty good too.
6) What do you consider your greatest business challenges?
Pricing? Finding new clients? Both are well-worn discussions in the copywriting – and wider freelance – community so I won’t go on about them in depth, but they’re both really significant challenges.
7) What resources/training have been most beneficial to your business so far?
Facebook groups, Twitter and the ProCopywriters network have all been amazing at helping me build a network of supportive colleagues. Listening to people who’ve been doing this longer than you is absolutely priceless. You can learn a lot for free.
Similarly, I read a post early on which noted how many free courses there are out there which teach you a lot of what you need to know over several months of emails or e-newsletters. Paid-for courses often give you pretty much the same information, only quicker.
So I set up an email account, signed up for every free copywriting or marketing course I could find and let the emails roll in for six months. That was while I was still in my old job and contemplating going it alone, and it means I now have a wonderful resource at my fingertips.
8) What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Think it through carefully first. Make sure you can afford to live, because the money won’t roll in from day one. If you’re working from home, get dressed every morning and get outside every day. Make friends with other freelancers, even if they do the same as you. They’re mostly very supportive rather than competitive (although you’ll always find a few…). Follow your gut when it comes to clients. If you get a bad feeling about them, you’re probably right. Know what you’re worth and don’t undersell yourself. Don’t say yes to every job just because you need the money. Sometimes it’s more important to keep your sanity (or your ethics – I was asked early on to write for a company trying to make gun distribution easier in the US – not gonna happen!). Oh and make sure you don’t run out of teabags. That’s the most important one.
9) What are your future plans for your business?
Interesting. I don’t ‘do’ goals, because they don’t work for me (this is why). But I do like to have a direction (or directions) that I want to move in. At the moment the business is growing nicely.
At the moment my plans are mainly around marketing and building up my reputation. I’m not out to create an agency that makes me millions. For me it’s much more about balance and happiness – doing something that makes me cheery and satisfied with my work, in a way that suits me. So far, so good.
10) Are there any other small businesses you would like to give a shout out to who have been an inspiration/support to you?
There are too many amazing copywriters out there to mention, so I’m not going to pick ANY because I’d miss someone out. But if you’re a copywriter in my network, know that your support is extremely precious to me.
Instead, I’m picking a few local businesses who have been important to me in a more general way, keeping me sane, eating cake with me, sharing woes about flaky clients and tax returns. So thank you to:
Rachel at Bulldog Accounting and Kate at VineLine Marketing AND Cooking & Carafes (she’s a busy lady). This pair are amazing. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but we stumbled across each other on social media and ended up going to the pub. One amazing WhatsApp group later and the rest is history. I guess I should talk a teensy bit about their businesses, but you should definitely check out the links yourself. Rachel is a very friendly and helpful accountant, and Kate is a star marketer, as well as running her wonderful Italian food blog. Busy ladies.
Andrea at Beehive Green is a local graphic designer, and I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with her a couple of times now. She’s also heaps of fun. The branding she produces for clients is fabulous, and it’s great to have someone to talk to who shares a lot of the same experiences as I do, but in a slightly different field. Our design and copy work well together!
Finally the lovely Carla, who’s just setting up as a social media manager following her Digital Mums training. The brand she established during training, Hello Hertford, was a real success with our local community. She’s going to be reshaping her social channels to fit the business in coming months – all very exciting – but I’m hoping she’ll still have time for tea and cake too.
My ‘Small Business Showcase’ blog series will be published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – previous showcases can be read here, here, here, here, here, here and here and here.
If you would like to feature your small business too, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.