Today’s suggestion is simple. If you implement just this one thing in 2014, I guarantee you’ll make more money.
This year, get fanatical about tracking your numbers:
and one number copywriters in particular should track.
More on that in 30 seconds.
I’m not talking about setting goals. That’s important and the first step.
Beyond setting goals, however, tracking seven key factors will help you:
- Diagnose exactly where you need to improve
- Track improvement from month to month and year to year
- Take control of your business instead of waiting for things to happen
- Make more money
I spent 15 years in direct sales, and I credit a lot of my success to using this strategy. And whenever I’ve applied it to my copywriting business, my income has gone up. Guess what? I’m going to get fanatical about it again this year.
Here are the seven key factors you should track in your freelance copywriting business and why …
1. Your prospect list.
I’d recommend making a big list – 100 or more. The more names you have, the more opportunity you’ll feel you have. WhosMailingWhat.com is a great resource for finding companies who use direct mail (the small investment is worthwhile). Or you can simply do a search in your niche.
How many names on your prospect list have you actually contacted either by direct mail, email, phone, or in person? This number really tells you how motivated you are. It also shows the importance of having a big prospect list.
Now we’re getting to the real action. Keeping track of conversations will tell you how effective those contacts are. “Conversations” only refers to seriously talking to a prospect about a project. Casual inquiries don’t count. I include email correspondence if it’s a legitimate back-and-forth dialogue about a project, but usually this refers to phone or in-person conversations.
Why keep score on this? Formal proposals are your chance to show your prospect what you can do for them. (Although if you can get the gig by just having a conversation without a proposal, do it.) You need to know the number of proposals you give so you can find your “batting average” after tracking the next key factor …
Your number of projects landed divided by the number of proposals given will give you your conversion rate. Make no mistake: we don’t just sell with the copy we write for clients. We are in the business of selling ourselves, and keeping score of the number of projects you get will tell you exactly how well you’re selling yourself.
6. Working hours.
Some writers would debate the idea of recording how many hours you work. Even though we often work by the project, tracking hours shows how efficiently we’re using our time. It can also help you determine rates (even though you wouldn’t tell a client how long a project takes you).
If you’ve read this far and decided that this is all too much work, let me implore you to keep track of at least one number:
Once you’re established, even if you ignore the other six numbers, make sure you’re always on top of this one. There’s something about knowing exactly how much money you’ve made for the week, month, quarter, and year-to-date that motivates you to make even more (in my experience).
Now, if you’re just starting out, try to keep track of your income and all seven key factors for at least six months. Then you’ll be able to set an income goal and estimate how many projects, proposals, conversations, contacts, and prospects that might require.
For example, let’s say in your first six months as a copywriter you made $12,000, which required 30 projects, 60 proposals, and so on. Your next six months, you may want to double that income to $24,000. Since you made $400 per project initially, a realistic goal might be to double that to $800 per project, which will then require another 30 projects.
Want to constantly improve in all key areas? I’d recommend keeping score of all seven factors monthly, quarterly, and yearly. In addition, track projects, working hours, and income weekly.
I can hear the objections now: “This will stifle my creativity,” “Too time-consuming and tedious,” “I’m just not a numbers person,” and from new copywriters, “I don’t have any numbers to track yet!”
Here’s the thing. Most successful businesses track their key numbers. Treat your freelance business like a business, and you’ll increase your chances of success.
The more you do it, the more fun it becomes. Seriously. And it shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes a week. (If it takes longer, it’s because you’re making a lot of money, and you won’t mind.)
The bottom line is this: when you know your important statistics, including these seven key factors, you can determine exactly what areas you need to work on. Put the emphasis on increasing your activity in that area, and the results will come.
Are you open to giving this a shot? Have you had success as a freelancer or in another business by keeping detailed statistics? Let me know if you’re on board for 2014, and let me know if I’ve missed any key numbers.
About the author: Steve Roller
Steve Roller is a direct response copywriter, world traveler, marketing strategist, and professional speaker. He is a personal trainer to aspiring copywriting rock stars.
Steve, an excellent post as always – thank you! I do have one question, though. If you have a prospect list of 100 or more and make, let’s say, 20 formal proposals a month – how do you find the time to complete the projects if 5 or even 6 of them say yes, but we need it yesterday? Are you saying its better to go through this process and say no occasionally if you have to? Please advise :-)
Yes, Suresh. Better to have too much work. At a certain point you’ll get good at adjusting your marketing efforts to align with keeping your schedule full, and slightly overbooked, but not too much.
Best wishes, and let me know if I can help you in any way.
Sound advice you can take to the bank. After all, as you point out Steve, that’s really the bottom line and the yard stick for measuring a real business.
For whatever reason, not keeping close track of our numbers is common among most Independent Creatives. I’m working to fix that, in myself and others! Thanks for reading, Alan.