How to build an online brand

Success stories

Success Case Study #6: Carolyn Barclay Copywriter

Carolyn Barclay copywriter

A copywriter provides written text for businesses or organisations, usually for marketing purposes.

Did you have a ‘day job’ prior to this? If so, what was it?

I’ve always worked in marketing. I got my degree in Advertising, Marketing and Communications at the University of Canberra and spun straight out of there and into the marketing department at Avon Australia. It was more of an analytical role (I had desperately wanted to be a copywriter) but I learned a ton and have never regretted working there. It was a great start in a wonderful company. 

I went on to hold a series of marketing roles with large Aussie brands, including Coles (supermarket), Mitre 10 (hardware chain), and Spotless (a facilities management company). I always tried to elbow my way into any writing projects and was eventually able to add ‘copywriter’ to my resume.

After my first child (I have four kids, 9 and under), I took time out of the workforce. I always had it in the back of my mind to start a freelance copywriting business, but had no idea how to do it! After a bunch of years, I really needed to do something for myself (and to kick the old grey matter into gear). So, I started a blog ‘Yes, No, Um…’ – which I think is now defunct. (Incidentally, that’s where my Twitter handle comes from). I was later able to use those blogs as a sort of makeshift portfolio to land my first copywriting client. And I was off of my freelance journey!

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

I worked for a few months at an events company Googling leads for them to cold call. It was the pits. I had no idea what I was doing, really. It was a stop-gap gig between marketing jobs – I’d just moved from Sydney to Melbourne. But hanging out with the British backpackers in the call centre was a scream! There was one guy in there who used to ring the numbers that just hung up on him and when they answered, he’d say “my turn” and slam the phone down. He didn’t last very long haha.

What gave you the idea of setting up on your own?

As I mentioned, I always had a yen to strike out on my own, but couldn’t work out how. I answered an ad looking for a writer on SEEK. They were open to the idea of taking me on as a freelance supplier and my baby business got born! Best move I ever made. It’s perfect for me, since I can work from home around my family. Two of my kids have additional needs, so when I look to the future, me working in a regular job with fixed hours would never work well for us. 

How did you manage to achieve becoming a copywriter?

I started off with that single client and grew slowly, but steadily – mainly through referral/word of mouth. Luckily, I tend to have ‘sticky’ clients, which is nice. These days I’m trying to take a more proactive approach, doing more in the way of marketing myself etc. I’ve been bringing in my own clients more and more which is hugely satisfying.

How confident were you that it was going to work?

I honestly never really thought about it. Which isn’t at all like me. I’m usually over cautious and predisposed to chewing all the flavour out of an idea without taking any action. I surprised a few people, that’s for sure!

copywriter melbourne

What has been/what is your biggest challenge?

Having the time to market myself AND do client work. During this pandemic, things have been a little slower, so I’ve been pushing myself to raise my profile and build authority etc. Having the time to do that has been incredible. I’ve met so many interesting people, like yourself. People in this industry are such a lovely, supportive bunch. They really go to great lengths to lift each other up. It’s a beautiful thing.

What have you learnt along the way?

Only everything. Hahaha. At the start of all this I could write and that was about it. Everything was new, which actually turned out to be an incredibly valuable experience; I was constantly nudged outside my comfort zone. I’m so different from how I used to be. Less risk averse. More confident. A lot of that has come from the work you need to do on mindset – as I’m sure many freelance copywriters will attest. You have to be able to back yourself, have a solid process and maintain good boundaries. The rest will fall into place.  

What has been your biggest achievement with your brand?

This is going to sound corny, but it’s being known for really caring. The no. 1 reason I love my job is that I genuinely care about the people I look after; I want them to do well and I love being part of that. It’s something all my client testimonials speak to and that makes me really happy.

What has worked well for you?

Honestly, just being myself. If you’re nice to people, help as much as you can and deliver on what you promise, you’re going to do well. People buy people. That’s always been true and it always will be.   

What has not worked well for you?

Trying to be all things to all people. When you’re a writer, you’ll always have projects and styles of writing you are more suited for. You start out writing anything for anyone, but over time you have to figure out what you love to do, what you are good at and what will help you achieve your financial goals and stick to the middle of that Venn diagram where it all intersects. Otherwise you’ll be miserable… or poor. 

[You can read about working for yourself here]

Are you making more money than you did in your day job? Is that important?

Yes, I think so. If I were working full time I definitely would be. Money doesn’t drive me, but what I can do with it does; pay for my kids’ therapies, make our lives just that little bit easier – it feels good to provide those little extras for my family.

Once all the kids are in school and I have more time to invest in my business, I plan to really stretch my wings and show myself what I can do. That really excites me. I’ve made this business out of nothing. Just some raw skills and beaten up old laptop. That to me is a huge accomplishment. I’m really proud of myself and there’s no amount of money that can top that.

Carolyn Barclay
Copywriter for hire


mob: 0401652548



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