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Black Coffee Communication - where your message never sleeps
Nicole Leedham, founder of Black Coffee communication discusses how digital age has changed the copywriting industry.

Hi Nicole, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

For 20 years I’ve been working in communication, strategy and writing for clients in house. In the last 5 years, I went full time into running a small copy writing business. I started off by doing a lot of little jobs from small businesses which has nowadays been growing into a stable ongoing flow of clients.

I had a great English teacher back in school and I have always enjoyed English, history and geography, humanity subjects over chemistry or maths. This built my interest in writing.

 

You spent 20 years in one sector and then took that leap to start our own business, what was the transition like?

Writing was easy, I was confident in what I was doing but running the business was not as easy. For many people, their mentality is that that you can quit your job and make millions overnight and then end up on some Tahiti island sipping cocktails, but this happens for only a very, very small number of people. It took tonnes of hard work to develop the resources I currently have.

You have to be confident in your value. The minute you start discounting yourself you are telling your clients you are not worth it.

 

Do you believe working 20 years in one industry has given you a more grounded approach?

A lot of people have really good ideas but don’t fully know how to make it work and ultimately just have their heads up in the clouds. Many new entrepreneurs want freelancers“free” and pay us once they make millions. It doesn’t work that way. If you put all your money in product development and no resources into marketing then good luck with that.

For the first year I didn’t have a marketing budget. Every job I acquired was through spending hours to make connections through networking and marketing through word of mouth and referrals.

 

How did you come up with the name 'Black Coffee Communication'?

I was brainstorming with a business coach who asked me what emotions I wanted people to feel when they thought of my business. I wanted them to feel a sense of professionalism and excitement, so we came up with 'Black Coffee Communication' with the tag line of “where your message never sleeps”.

 

Are there any challenges you faced whilst running the business?

I get plenty of people who push back on price. And in the early days, I would cave (some income is better than none, right?) These days, if people have a smaller budget, I offer to reduce the scope, rather than my rate. If they baulk at that, then I know they are not the idal client for me, and a better one is just around the corner.  I know my service is worth investing in,  I will have said no if the offers weren’t right. If they can’t afford my rate, I am always happy to connect those people with writers of more suitable rate to fulfil their needs. I think it is important to build up a great referral network because clients really appreciate this, even if I am not right for them.

New entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic but sometimes I have to be the person who rains on their parade which is not fun. Sadly, a lot of startups fail because they haven’t put enough time and money into the basics. It’s not as simple as “if you build it they will come”.

You have to be confident in your value. The minute you start discounting yourself you are telling your clients you are not worth it. I have a few Adelaide clients but most of my clients are based in Sydney and Melbourne. Since I am in Adelaide I can’t charge too high, but at the same time it allows me to be more competitive compared to interstate competition.

 

How has the copywriting industry changed over the years with the introduction of the internet?

Without the internet, I wouldn’t have a business. Back in the day you probably needed to be attached to a marketing or advertising agency who outsourced their work to copywriting services since small businesses wouldn’t know how to find you. With the internet nowadays, you can market your business more cost effectively and help clients find you a lot easier.

 

Is copywriting for everyone?

For every proposal I sent out and every client I worked with, I learnt something new every time. Some were very good lessons and some were hard ones that were needed to be learnt. I have mentored a few young copywriters in how to deal with clients in the right way and have told them that you can be the best copywriter in the world, but it is a very subjective field and you will always get clients who don’t like your work.

I love working with small businesses since they are very emotionally invested in their work. They may be excellent at what they are doing but most of the time their communication needs a lot of work and that is where our copywriting perspective can educate them on the matter. And they tend to be really appreciative.

For many people, their mentality is that that you can quit your job and make millions overnight and then end up on some Tahiti island sipping cocktails, but this happens only with a very, very small number of people.

Have you had any mentors throughout your journey?

When I was working, I was lucky enough to have a few excellent bosses who inspired and informally helped me a lot. In the copywriting industry having a good mentor will add good value to your career. These days, I connect with fellow copywriters online and in person, some very senior. And  I join business groups where we exchange knowledge to help one another.

 

What’s it like working with startups?

I enjoy with startups because their passion rubs off on you. New entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic but sometimes I have to be the person who rains on their parade which is not fun. Sadly, a lot of startups fail because they haven’t put enough time and money into the basics. It’s not as simple as “if you build it they will come”. Many people don’t even know what google analytics is even though they are running an e-commerce business.

 

Do you have any advice to young entrepreneurs?

The entrepreneurial spirit is wonderful, and I didn’t’ really have it when I was young. I was more adventurous and into travelling the world than business (and this was before the internet, so remote work was not an option!)but it is never too late to start. The most important thing for people to understand is the business rules. Even for a more mature and experienced person like myself, you still have to go through similar processes, prototyping, getting to market, HR, management and things of the kind.

Don’t buy into the dream of thinking you can achieve the 4-hour work week quickly. It takes a lot of hard work before even think about reaching that point.  Don’t try to do it all yourself, I am not good at book-keeping so I outsourced this to a bookkeeper. The money I paid was worth it because it saved me so much more time to be able to serve more clients.