Community Chat: Anna Rogan – Copywriter

Anna Rogan has built a purpose-driven, heart-led copywriting business on a foundation of community, values and hard work. We caught up with her to talk about how she did it.

1. We’re so excited to have you on the community blog, Anna. You and I have talked plenty in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the full story of how you got started down the self-employed path. Was it something you always wanted to do? Or did you more or less ‘fall into it’?

It was always something that my partner and I noodled around with the idea of. We knew that we didn’t want to live in the city forever, which meant at least one of us would have to have a job that wasn’t based in the city.

When we were young and romantic we thought I’d be a travel writer/blogger so we could live in Mongolia and Alaska and other remote, rugged locations. But when the kids came into the picture we had to get a little more practical.

Copywriting seemed like an obvious choice thanks to my background in comms and media plus my writing degree and the rest, as they say, is herstory.

2. Now I know you’re a copywriter, so the copy on your website was always going to be fantastic, but what I feel really shines through is who your ideal clients are. Can you tell me more about them and how you’ve used your values to guide setting your business up for success?

Thank you! That’s such a huge compliment. My ideal clients are purpose-driven, heart-led, socially-conscious small business owners - basically, people who are using their unique magic to do good in the world.

In terms of using my values. Firstly, I had to articulate what they actually were and what they looked and felt like in practice. The lovely Ami Summers at Craft Coaching and Development coached me through that part.

My ideal client sort of naturally progressed from there but I’ve definitely refined it over time. At first, I thought I needed to go for charities and social enterprises to align with my values but I realised that there are a bunch of small business owners (just like me) who want to make an impact and do good in the world in their own way.

I also hit a little bump in the road when I realised I wasn’t fully living my values. As it turns out, knowing and articulating your values into a pretty little list of words is a very different thing to practising them. I had to take a good hard look at what I said my values were, how I was working and what needed to change. I reckon it took almost a year for me to properly define my values and get to a point where I felt they were embedded in my day-to-day. It’s something I continue to work on!

3. How have you refined your processes over time? Are there any things you used to say 'yes' to in the early days of your business that you say 'no' to now? And why?

Oh my gosh, yes, I’m a huge people-pleaser and I also love a good challenge. My M.O for a while was saying “yes” to everything and just figuring it out.

It served me really well in the beginning because it let me explore so many different clients, industries and types of copywriting. But it’s not a sustainable long term business strategy.

I was subbing out quite a bit of work to other writers, and also subbing myself! But I realised that I wanted to invest my time and energy into developing my own skills and not developing a team or being part of a team (at least not right now).

I’ve pulled right back to focus on the kind of work and clients that light me up. I say no a lot more and am kinder to myself with a less punishing project load and schedule. It has given me more creativity, more time and flexibility for current clients and is helping me build a joyful and sustainable work culture in my business.

4. I’m really keen to hear more about your day-to-day, too. Are there any particular tools you use to help you stay on track, promote your business, manage your time, do the actual writing, etc?

Writing-wise, I do it all in Google Docs because it’s really awesome for collaboration and it’s on the cloud so there’s less risk of losing work. I use a Grammarly plug-in to make my writing better and I use Loom to make video recordings for my clients when I send drafts so they can understand the strategy and direction I’ve taken with the writing.

Business-wise, I use a customised spreadsheet to track my projects that a wonderful productivity coach (Lauren at Seriously Sorted) created for me after mapping out my workflows. Plus good old wall calendars and a pen and paper to-do list.

I use Xero (plus another custom spreadsheet) for managing my finances. Toggl to track my time which is super boring but gives me so much data about where I’m spending my time, what kind of projects are profitable etc. And Zapier to automate and streamline my admin as much as possible.

Promotion-wise - my website is on Squarespace and I use Instagram and Flodesk (email marketing) to promote what I do and build relationships.

5. When it comes to the balance of client work vs working on your own business, what does that look like for you? Do you have any tips on staying motivated to give your own biz enough love amongst the client stuff?

Usually, I spend around 20% to 30% of my time on professional development, training, marketing etc, 10% to 20% on admin and 60% on client work. And I know that because I use Toggl to track my time!

I’ve gone through periods of being a morning person but right now is NOT one of them. I take the first part of the day to do admin, catch up on emails and connect with people. Then I go for a walk to clear my head and help me transition into deeper, more creative work (usually client projects). Our eldest is about to start school so I’m sure that routine will change.

I love working on my business so it’s easy for me to stay motivated to do it. One of the best, and most surprising, parts of running my own business is the opportunity it’s given me to grow and develop as a person and leader. On the promotion side of things, I really enjoy the creative, connection-building aspects of marketing so I find it fun to do.

One of my biggest tips for working on your business is finding stuff you enjoy doing and automating or outsourcing the rest.

Don’t love spending time on Facebook? Try Instagram. Feel like writing a monthly blog is draining the joy from your life? Try swapping it for email.

I mean, it’s not always going to be fun, sometimes it will feel like a slog. But if overall you enjoy working on your business, you’ll make it a priority. And that enjoyment also shows in what you’re putting out in the world.

I also want to add that I’m pretty good at getting a lot done and I move quickly. It’s just how I operate. And I think this is partly because I don’t wait for a big chunk of time or the right mood to strike to work on things. I’ve learnt that you can achieve a lot in the micro-moments of time and once you get started, momentum can carry you a long way.

6. What’s been the most challenging aspect of running your own business so far?

The most challenging parts are also the parts that I love about my business. I love the independence that comes with being my own boss - having the ability to set a strategic direction and experience the outcomes first hand. But sometimes the weight and responsibility of it all can feel pretty heavy and isolating.

7. What are the 3 things people who are at the start of their self-employed journey should focus on to grow their business?

Talk to people about what you do - in real life and online. Don’t let your newness stop you talking about the things you know, it mightn’t be as much as some people but it will be a lot more than others and they’re the people who need you.

Set your finances up properly (I highly recommend Profit First). The sooner you have funds that can be used for business expenses, the sooner you can get help with the stuff you can’t do on your own. Things like -  getting an awesome website, having photos taken, getting coaching, hiring an accountant or a Virtual Assistant, investing in professional development or training, tools and software. It also helps you price your offers to take into account your tax AND SUPER right off the bat.

Start somewhere and iterate. When I first started out, all the small business advice I read said: “you have to define your target audience and unique service proposition”. And while that’s really solid advice, for me it took ‘doing the doing’ to work those things out. You might be lucky enough to find a profitable niche right away, but more likely you’ll need to iterate your offering and the people you serve. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s all data gathering. I’m still iterating and evolving and I don’t think that will ever stop.

8. On the finance-y side of things, how long were you running the business before you started paying yourself? How did you get through those first few months?

I started paying myself from my revenue straight away. It wasn’t a lot but it was something. I was on maternity leave from my day job at the time and I didn’t technically need to contribute to the household income (at least for a little while) but I knew that setting up my finances properly (i.e. paying myself, saving for my tax bill, and having money for expenses) was going to be essential right from day one.

9. And as I do with all our community chats, I'd love to get your thoughts on how super fits into your overall business strategy? Was super a part of your business’ financial strategy from the beginning?

Yup, it sure was. Just like saving for my tax bill and paying myself a wage, saving for superannuation was part of my business’ financial strategy from day one. Who knows what the future will hold for me when I get to retirement age! Investing now for that time of my life is an absolute no-brainer. There’s a reason why it’s mandatory for all employers to pay super to their employees, it makes sense to me to run my business that way, too.

10. Finally, what resources do you turn to for inspiration, motivation, and business growth/development? Any fav books? Podcasts? Courses? Are there any surprising lessons you've learnt that you think are worth sharing?

I know this is eye-rollingly predictable but anything by Brene Brown. Dare to Lead changed how I saw my values and how I live them.

I loved Company of One by Paul Jarvis in terms of thinking about what success looks like for the little guy.

And at the moment I’m listening to Tiffany Han’s podcast Raise Your Hand and Say Yes and I’ve never felt more seen and understood. So much inspo.

Rapid Fire Questions:

What’s your fav summer activity? Swimming at the beach and then walking around all day with salty wavy hair afterwards.

Where would you go if you were invisible? Buckingham Palace! What does Liz get up to behind closed doors?! I’d love to know.

Netflix or Stan? Netflix

What’s your favourite book? Cruel question, like asking me to pick a favourite child! But recent favourites have included A Little Life, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, Boy Swallows Universe and The Dutch House (my summer activity is reading books exclusively written by female authors to try to balance things out!)

Fav all-time song or song lyric? Rise by Eddie Vedder


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