Ed Gandia is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in the technology industry. Prior to hitting the world of copy, Ed was in enterprise software and industrial sales for over a decade. In addition to writing copy and consulting, Ed is also the co-founder of the International Freelancers Academy. For more information on Ed, check out his website at www.edgandia.com
Ed, what’s the best part of your job?
The fact that I get to pick the people and clients I work with, the projects I work on, and when (and how) I work. You can’t put a price on that level of freedom!
You were in sales for 11 years before going solo and starting your copywriting and consulting business, was that a hard transition to make and why did you make the switch?
Yes, it certainly was difficulty. My last job was for a small software company where the pressure to make and beat sales quotas was high. I did very well there, but I had to put in long hours, which left little time to work my copywriting business on the side. Not only that, but we had just had our first child, and my wife had left her job to stay home with him.
So, basically, I had a high-pressure sales job where I couldn’t afford to slack off. My family was depending on me. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my six-figure income — and yet I had very little extra time to do anything on the side. So I had to make the time to launch, grow and work my business.
The reason I wanted to make the switch is that I was sick and tired of the corporate grind. Corporate sales can be fun and very lucrative. But you’re often chasing someone else’s goals. You’re assigned higher quotas every year. The moment you hit them, it starts all over again. And even though the income grows with that increased performance, so do the demands placed on you. If you ever want to change your pace, it’s very difficult. Additionally, I had reached a point in my sales career where weekly travel was almost unavoidable. I didn’t want to be away from my family all the time, even if the money was incredible.
Because of these frustrations, I had set a goal to strike out on my own by 2008 (I beat that by almost two years). I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I’m wired to make my own decisions, take risks and chart my own course. Initially, my idea was to either buy an existing business or start a new business. What I didn’t realize at the time was that a solo business was actually the best-suited model for me. I’m now glad I went the solo route.
You’ve chosen to specialize in the software and technology sector. Yet, many consultants and solo professionals are worried about going to narrow by specializing in a specific industry or offering a limited number of services, what is your take on this and how has this decision impacted your business?
I’m a huge believer in specializing as a freelancer or solo professional. There’s a misconception that if you specialize your business will suffer should that industry, sector or set of offerings lose favor. That’s simply not true when you’re a solo business — not if you know how to position yourself strategically and market yourself consistently.
I believe that “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” comes from the corporate upbringing many of us have had. The fact is that when you’re a solo professional, your capacity is very limited. It’s just you. You’re not PwC or Booz Allen Hamilton — firms that need to keep bringing a ton of business in the door just to keep the lights on. When you’re on your own, two or three clients can give you more work than you could possibly handle. So you’re not impacted by economic or market conditions to the extent most companies are.
In my case, specializing on copywriting and consulting for enterprise software firms changed my business almost overnight. The moment I positioned myself as an enterprise software copywriter, prospects began taking me seriously. I was no longer being shopped around. By positioning myself credibly as someone who understood their business and the prospects they were going after, I became the obvious choice for many.
What’s been the most effective method for you to land new clients? Can you share a couple of tips?
There have been two methods that are responsible for most of my prospecting success: tapping my network and direct mail. Regardless of your profession or the markets you’re going after, it pays to develop a simple elevator statement you can use with your friends, colleagues and relatives. They may not be able to hire you themselves, but in many cases, they’ll know people in organizations who can! So work on explaining what you do and whom your ideal prospects are in a way anyone can understand.
With direct mail, the best approach is to offer a special report or white paper you’ve written on a topic that’s relevant to your prospects — something that positions you as an expert in your field while adding good value. Create a list of 50 – 100 high-probability targets and send them a simple sales letter. But rather than pitching your services in the letter, pitch your report and follow up with prospects who download that piece. The fact that they requested your report makes them a lead. Now your job is to try and convert that lead into a conversation, meeting, proposal and project.
Writing copy usually requires intensive focus and quiet time. How do you structure your work days and do you have any techniques you use to increase your productivity?
I work best and am most creative in the morning, so I schedule most of my writing and brainstorming before lunch. I do some writing in the afternoons, but nothing too intensive. Instead, I try to work on tasks that are less demanding of my creative capacities: research, editing, social media, replying to voicemail and emails, and so on.
In terms of productivity boosters, I find that it’s important to schedule your day. The night before or first thing in the morning, look at your overall project schedule and determine how you’ll allocate your time that day, hour by hour. Include personal time in that schedule. Above all, stick to it. Be disciplined. This tip alone will boost your productivity by 10 or 20 percent almost immediately.
Also, always work on the task at hand. If you’ve allocated 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to Project XYZ, force yourself to work on that project for the whole two hours. It’s OK to take a break halfway through. But then get back to work on time. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t check Facebook. You’re at work!
What does “work-life balance” mean to you and in your eyes do you have one?
Being a great dad and husband is a top priority for me, and a freelance business has enabled me to avoid weekly work-related travel and be home with my family every day. I can make all baseball practices, karate lessons, school events, and cook for my family every evening (I’m the cook around here!).
What are your favourite gadgets or apps that help you stay on top of your business?
I’m a simple guy when it comes to gadgets and apps. I find that simpler is better, which is why I still use a paper-based planner! I track all my projects and their progress with a spreadsheet, and I keep most of my notes on a yellow pad.
However, I’m a big fan of Evernote. I use it to clip and file articles from the web that I can read or reference later. It’s also a great place for checklists and an ideal way to capture and organize notes, pictures and thoughts when I’m out and about (I use the Evernote iPhone app).