How to support a small business with Louise Coopman of Coopman Creative
Welcome to the second in this blog series where we answer the question ‘How to support a small business’. In it I interview freelance, female business experts who share my desire to support you, if you:
- run or work in a small business
- feel overwhelmed by the amount of admin
- wish you had more time to focus on the bigger picture as well as supporting your team
- are on the lookout for advice in areas which you don’t have in-house or at the level of expertise that’s required.
I’d love to continue providing useful content so please feel free to let me know (in one word or short sentence as I know you’re short on time) what you wish you:
- had more time to do
- didn’t find quite so challenging
- knew more about
- could read about in a useful blog.
Louise Coopman of Coopman Creative, answers the question ‘how to support a small business’ as a freelance, female business expert in copywriting, editing and proofreading
Louise and I met each other over 10 years ago working at the Almeida Theatre in North London, where she was part of the marketing team. We were members of the Almeida book club and I remember us reading a variety of texts from the classics (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) to chick lit (Jackie Collins). Making lots of theatre trips together to all sorts of productions around London was something we also enjoyed. It’s been brilliant to see our careers developing since our time at the Almeida, particularly our decisions to take charge of our work/life balance and become fantastic, female freelancers.
Like me, Louise supports small, creative businesses. She provides highly skilled copywriting services crafting engaging, targeted and on-brand content for online, print and press communications.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey to freelance life and what inspired you to set up Coopman Creative, supporting small businesses?
I worked for in-house marketing teams across the cultural sector (theatres, museums and galleries, independent creative retailers, cultural festivals etc) for ten years. During this time, I discovered that whilst I enjoyed marketing in general, the aspect I really excelled at was the writing of content. Defining the right ‘voice’ for a brand and a project and producing really engaging written content. E.g. for websites, brochures, ad copy, events guides or corporate reports. After I had my daughter, a long commute into London and a need for greater flexibility pushed me towards the idea of going freelance. I set up Coopman Creative in 2015 to focus purely on copywriting and editing, and have never looked back!
2. What do you love about supporting small, creative businesses?
Whilst I have a range of clients, I particularly love working with small, creative businesses. Partly because my professional background and personal passion is the creative sector. I love that I still get to immerse myself in that world working with creative clients. But also, small, creative businesses have a certain passion and authenticity that you don’t get with bigger brands. These are people putting their life and soul (and often life savings) into their work and their business. Often without a lot of financial certainty but a huge amount of enthusiasm and belief. They’re just so fired up about what they do and how they can help others.
Providing something to them that they might struggle with themselves is what drives me. Most creatively minded people can write well enough but they’re often too close to the content to be able to write with clarity or see things from the customer’s perspective. I can provide that outsider’s perspective, with a creative but marketing-based hat on. I help them think about the messaging of their brand and how they want to sound. Also, a lot of small business-owners simply don’t have the time to write their content alongside everything else. They find it a huge relief to outsource to me as an extension of their team. Whether that means finally nailing their website, proofing all their written content before it goes to print, or writing a regular blog.
I love building up an ongoing relationship with small businesses so that I really feel I know them. This means I can produce content as and when they need it, capturing a voice to sound just like them. I also become a semi-expert in a whole range of fascinating creative subjects, which is perhaps the thing I love most about being freelance.
3. What’s the biggest challenge about supporting small, creative businesses?
There are challenges in supporting small, creative businesses. I know from running my own business that budgets are tight. Small businesses don’t have a lot of spare money to use for outsourcing. I find I sometimes have to really justify to clients (or their colleagues or stakeholders) the value of paying someone like me to write for them. However, they soon find that I am worth every penny. Giving them time and head space to focus on the rest of their business, and producing effective content that transforms their brand into something far more professional-sounding. This brings real results in terms of profile, customers and sales.
The other challenge, for me, is from a creative side. Small businesses often haven’t done much work before on their branding or ‘brand voice’. This is the defined voice they use across all their communications reflecting their business’ personality, ethos, and target customers. Big brands have usually put many hours of focus groups into this. As such, they can hand over a set of comprehensive guidelines. Whereas, with small businesses I have to sit down and do that work with them. It’s a challenge in a good way though.
I love drawing those ideas out of a client and seeing their pleasure when we find their authentic personality and voice. We then use it in really effectively their content. The usual response is “Wow, that’s how I’ve been trying to say it for months/years but never got it to sound quite right!”
4. What do you think is the most important/useful question people should ask you and how would you answer it?
When considering using my services people usually ask about how I work. Having not worked with a copywriter before they’re not sure about my process and costs. I explain that I start out with a meeting (face-to-face ideally, but obviously at the moment it’s all Zoom-based!). This is to really get to know a client, asking lots of questions and getting ‘inside their head’ and their business. Sometimes we might need a second meeting to fully establish their brand voice, until they’re happy we’ve really nailed it. I’ll make sure I’m properly briefed on what content is specifically needed, and quote an estimated fee accordingly.
Then I beaver away on the writing itself. Whether coming up with content from scratch, or editing things the client already has drafted. I send it over to them for feedback, thoughts and amendments. I’m happy to take any feedback on board. I’m creative but not precious – after all it’s your brand so it needs to sound like you! After a couple of drafts to make tweaks accordingly, the client is usually happy and takes the content to publish wherever they need it. I tend to charge on a project basis (or in some cases a monthly retainer) rather than by the hour. I don’t like the feeling of the clock ticking whilst I immerse myself in words. Though if a client prefers, I can quote an hourly rate.
5. If you were to give people one top tip, to do or look out for in the future, what would it be?
Train yourself up to think like a copywriter and it will help you in writing your own content. Look out for good (and bad) examples of brand voice wherever you go. Collect examples of adverts or emails you’ve had that engage or amuse you, or appeal to your sympathies or even fears. Particularly in your own sector, note your competitors or collaborators who do writing ‘well’ or poorly in your opinion. Also, sit down and think about 5-10 descriptive words that sum up your business and its ethos. Try to embody them every time you write. That’s the most basic step to defining your own brand voice.