How I Doubled My Business from 2020 to 2021

A sheet of paper on a desk shows a line graph of growth, and two pens, a ruler, and two books lie nearby.
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

In August 2020, after more than two years working as a full-time freelancer, I realized that my business had become stagnant. Since I had begun independently providing writing and editing services to clients in early 2018, my business had not changed. My client base largely remained the same, as did the way I operated day to day. Although the work was steady, I knew it was in a precarious position: The loss of one major client would disrupt my business and significantly decrease my income. I had to be better prepared in case that occurred.

What’s more, I knew my business practices needed a refresh. I was curious how investing in my skills and knowledge relating to technology, marketing, and other areas would affect my business. I wanted to see how viable working for myself could be in the long run. So, in mid-2020, I made a plan to aggressively grow my business.

The Early Years of My Business

From January 2018 to August 2020, I relied completely on client referrals. I didn’t have a website, and I didn’t use social media. All of my clients could be traced to the network of contacts I made as a magazine copy editor in NYC. (Most notably, I led the copyediting department at Time Out North America as national copy chief.)

In those two years, I focused on client satisfaction and retention, building a modest yet stable freelance business. I fine-tuned my skills as a copy editor and a line editor for a diverse client base that needed me to edit a wide range of media: short- and long-form online articles, print and digital magazines, video, social media, website copy, books, brochures, apps. I became expert in adjusting my style of editing to each client’s style and voice and each content form.

However, in 2020, my business reached a plateau. It was reliable, but it was not growing. As is common for freelancers, I would often find myself in feast-or-famine situations: Some weeks I would be swamped with work, and other weeks projects would trickle in. I wanted to standardize my workload every week. Plus, the work no longer challenged me. So I developed a plan for a new way forward.

The Aggressive Growth Plan

In September 2020, I took a six-week online freelance-writing course on how to grow a business to $5,000 a month (the subject matter applied to most freelancers of all kinds). That course covered mindset; how to build and manage a website and social media; how to identify your ideal target client; client relations and contracts; negotiating fees; and more.

In December, I began taking online copywriting courses through Copyhackers, the copywriting school started by renowned conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe. Those courses helped me better understand how to write landing pages, web copy, and emails that would attract and convert visitors. I intended to use those skills not only to improve my own business but also to potentially expand into another area of expertise.

By taking those courses, I educated myself on how to market my writing and editing business to a target audience and generate new leads without relying only on referrals. I discovered how to take advantage of free tools that made it easier for potential clients to find my business, learn about my services, and interact with me.

For example, I created a lead magnet — a free customizable editorial style guide template — to draw subscribers to my new quarterly newsletter. I wrote and set up an automated five-email welcome sequence using MailerLite, an email marketing software, to efficiently engage with and retain subscribers. I launched a website, a blog on Medium, and social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest). I also used Typeform to create an online project request form that clients could fill out in two minutes to contact me and share their project details.

Next, I began to pursue new client leads and projects by applying to gigs on Upwork and Indeed, focusing on long-term collaboration.

As business began to grow significantly, I had to learn how to become more productive and efficient with my time. I began to track my daily word count, which eventually enabled me to understand how many words I could realistically edit in a day while managing other tasks like emailing, content production, and invoicing. Instead of relying on a to-do list, I scheduled time for every task in a timeboxed calendar.

A More Efficient, Lucrative, Sustainable Business

From 2020 to 2021, I doubled my income. I gained eight new clients in 2021, all regular or returning: two from Upwork, two from social media, three through referrals (one from an Upwork client), and one through an online application.

Between June and December 2021, I grew my email list from 0 to 24 subscribers (today there are 29), and the last email I sent had a 50% open rate. I launched my editing Instagram in November 2020, and it generated a client by April 2021. I regularly generate leads through LinkedIn. Seven prospects have contacted me through my online project request form, and three have become clients.

My online presence has given me more credibility and has made it easier for potential clients to explore my services. I’ve even developed stronger relationships with clients because they can engage with and learn about me through multiple platforms. Overall, the effort I put into taking classes and applying what I learned evolved my business, making it not only more lucrative but also more efficient and sustainable for the long term.

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To get to know me a bit better, and for more editing tips, follow me on Instagram @pristine.editing.services, Twitter @PristineEditing, and Pinterest @PristineEditing. You can also sign up for my quarterly email newsletter on my website, or do so by requesting my free style guide template!

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Jaime L. Brockway

Jaime L. Brockway

31 Followers

Copy editor with 8+ years’ experience. Former National Copy Chief of Time Out North America. Semicolon lover, despite what Kurt Vonnegut said.