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Things in my creative business that I could have done better

I feel like we’re often really quick to brag about all the things we’ve done well – and we should! But you know how social media is often that veneer of doing everything perfectly, when in reality we’re like Munch’s The Scream?

We all do dumb things in our businesses, things that we don’t feel right about at the time but – for whatever reason – we do anyway. Maybe because we’re desperate, maybe because some blog post told us to, maybe because we can’t figure out another way.

I’m going to share some of the mistakes I’ve made as a creative business owner, partly for fun, partly so you know you’re not alone in doing some dubious and downright daft things!

  1. To get an idea of copywriting pricing, I once set up a fake email account and sent other copywriters a quote request. I’m actually really embarrassed about that now because it’s so ethically sketchy – and I wonder how many times my unanswered quotes were someone else doing just that – but I was in my first year or so and genuinely had no idea of what to charge. On the plus side, I guess, I did discover that I was way undercharging, so there’s that.
  2. Bought way too many books about how to grow a copywriting business – when I really should have been investing in books about being a better copywriter. To be fair, this was getting on for 10 years ago, so there weren’t as many resources on building a creative business, but still.
  3. Related: spent way too much time on blogs and other message boards with other copywriters, when I really could have been spending the time building relationships with other complementary creative business owners, like designers. I could have got a lot more involved in the local creative scene.
  4. Relied too heavily on a couple of regular clients. I got really comfortable with having all my work come from a handful of people, stopped marketing because that’s not so comfortable…and you can guess the rest. One business got sold to a firm that had someone in-house, another changed their business model, and I was right back at square one.
  5. Forgot to get in touch with clients between jobs. I had a real thing for not ‘bugging people’, and assumed that if they wanted me, they’d get in touch. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes they’ll have work that they wouldn’t think to give to you, except from an offhand comment you made in an unrelated conversation, other times they just don’t think to. Build relationships that aren’t so transactional – because projects went so much better when I did stay in touch with people, properly. But I wonder how many one-off clients could have been long-term ones if I’d done things differently.

It’s not been that easy to share this list. There’s a little voice in my head going ‘but Lucy, you’re a coach, nobody’s going to trust you if they know you’ve buggered up so many things!’

Then again. Mistakes are how we learn. I know I’ve approached starting my creative coaching business much differently to the copywriting, because I’ve got that much more life and business experience under my belt. A baby doesn’t learn to walk by studying videos and diagrams and buying guaranteed results courses until they think they can do it perfectly, they get up, they fall over (a lot), they cry, they try again until one day it clicks and they get a big cuddle from their proud parents.

So this is what I want to say to you: no doubt you’ve done stuff in your business that you wish you hadn’t. No doubt you’ll do more of it in the future. But those are the kind of wounds that, once healed, grow back stronger…if we let them. And, anyway, the facepalm moments are great for reminding us how far we’ve come.

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