How To Boost Your Career With Side Projects (Without Losing Your Mind) With Laura Posterick From Catchfire [AMP 038]
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As a marketer, you have a day job. Did you know that taking on freelancing clients or having a side hustle can invigorate you and help you bring more to the table when it comes to your main job? Today we are going to talk about fanning those creative fires through a side job. CoSchedule’s blog manager, Ben Sailer, will be conducting the interview with Laura Posterick, the senior copywriter at Catchfire and the brains behind her own freelance business, Copy That MPLS. The conversation will be about lists, how to handle a freelancing business on the side of your day job, and how to glean inspiration from your personal life.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- What Laura does at both Catchfire and Copy That MPLS.
- How Laura keeps all of her projects organized without losing her mind.
- Tips on keeping your personal life separate from your professional life and not letting one encroach upon the other.
- How Laura handles her workflow with each company and meets her deadlines.
- Advice for people on how to say “no” to projects and clients you might not have the time or experience to take on.
- How Laura’s side projects and hobbies have helped her in her main copywriting job.
- How someone might convince a hesitant boss that taking on side projects won’t negatively affect their performance at their day job.
- The first thing someone should do if they are wanting to jump into the world of freelancing in addition to keeping their main job.
Nathan: Creative inspiration can come from so many different places. As a marketer, sometimes side projects or freelance work can help you re-energize the work you do at your day job. Today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, CoSchedule’s very own blog manager, Ben Sailer, is chatting with Laura Posterick. She’s the Senior Copywriter at Catchfire and the brains behind COPY THAT MPLS.
You’re about to learn how to use lists to stay organized, protect your personal time as you take on side projects, and borrow that inspiration from your personal life to reinvigorate the marketing work you do every single day. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Let’s check in with Ben and Laura.
Ben: Welcome to the Actionable Marketing Podcast. On today’s show, we have Laura Posterick who is a copywriter at a Minneapolis advertising agency called Catchfire. On the side, she also has her own freelance business called COPY THAT MPLS.
Laura: I say both.
Ben: Whenever I see abbreviations for Minneapolis, I’m like, “I’m never quite sure.” Anyways, it’s great to have you with us. To get started, could you tell me a little bit about what you do at Catchfire?
Laura: Yeah. I’m the Senior Copywriter there. I head up all things involving words really. We have one other copywriter and a proofer. I work with them to make sure that everything we do maintains a high level of quality and consistency. More so, on a day to day basis, I write mainly for health care. I work on both production and concept projects and working with all mediums online, print, brochures, direct mail, things like that.
Ben: COPY THAT MPLS is your side business of your freelance work. Can you describe what kind of work do you do freelance on the side?
Laura: It’s a lot. Really, I’ll try anything. I’ve been a quarter suits assistant. I do head shots here and there. I’ve done videography before but mainly I do copywriting there as well. And then I also do proofing and social media. My main ongoing client is my parents. They don’t pay very much, anything, but they started a small business a little over five years ago. I’ve been doing everything for them, their website marketing materials and everything. They didn’t really know what they were getting into. That’s kind of how my side hustle got started. I’m doing all of this for someone else, why not do it for other people that could pay me?
Ben: That’s got to be a lot of work though. I would imagine between your work at Catchfire and then marketing for your parents’ small business and then taking on other projects on the side and even taking on projects that aren’t copywriting like photography and so forth. How do you keep all of those projects organized without losing your mind?
Laura: It’s been up and down, definitely. I think throughout the years, I’ve gotten much better. I’m one of those psycho list makers. Everything is a list for me. That’s helpful. Whenever anyone asks about that, I always say file organization.
Make sure everything that you’re working on is consistent, and named correctly, and where it’s supposed to be. Otherwise, you’re just going to be searching for one thing, can’t find it, freak out, and if you’re not staying organized at the most basic of levels, you’re just going to dig yourself a grave of frustration. It all starts with just staying organized with your files and everything like that.
I also use Asana for my project management stuff. There, I make more lists and I keep track of all of my tasks, priorities, and timelines there. And then I think definitely a big thing for me is having a dedicated work space at home so that way I can separate in my mind when is it time to get in the zone and get work done vs. when is the time to chill on the couch.
Ben: I can totally relate to that because I’m definitely guilty of using the couch as a workspace after hours but I do have a home office as well and I can attest to the fact that having your own space is very important just for keeping yourself in work mode.
Laura: Yeah, you get so much more done in a less amount of time so it’s just really just setting yourself up for success.
Ben: Do you have any time management tips just for protecting your personal time while working on side projects too? How do you ensure that your work doesn’t encroach on just living your life too much?
Laura: Hand in hand with my list making, Intensity is my calendar that I keep for myself. I have a Google Calendar and I have separate calendars for freelance stuff and all that. I schedule a lot of my time and I also share a calendar with my boyfriend so I know what I expect him to be doing at all times.
There are definitely times that I will schedule nights that I’m like, do nothing. Keep everything closed and off and just read the book that you’ve been wanting to read. It’s definitely holding myself accountable like, “Okay, I haven’t been going to the gym as much as I want to be and I haven’t been relaxing as much as I want to be.” I have to hold myself accountable and say, “Okay, I’m going to actually schedule it for myself so I don’t play in another project or say yes to something else.”
Ben: I would imagine that when you have different projects coming in at different times, maybe keeping those calendars consistent might be a little bit difficult. I would imagine it can’t just be one templated calendar and this is the routine every week. How do you manage that aspect of project management when you can’t necessarily control the flow of work coming in?
Laura: It’s definitely staying flexible. When my work gets busier, we usually have ebbs and flows that I can somewhat predict on a weekly basis so then I’m definitely flexible on that. I was looking, the beginning of next week is going to be pretty busy so I’m going to definitely maybe re schedule some things or make sure that I’m setting myself up to not be super stressed out.
Ben: When you’re working with freelance projects and if you have maybe even multiple projects that you’re working on at a time, how do you make sure that you hit your deadlines while still producing great work and without pulling all-nighters or possibly pulling an all nighter if you have to?
Laura: I think one of the most important things that I found, especially when I’m working with my freelance clients, is to really set expectations in the very beginning. I’m very open about the fact that I also have a full-time job and I’m very open about what’s expected for a turnaround time and I try to handle what they can ask of me. We’re very open. In the beginning, let’s set a timeline so that we kind of both have the same expectations for what’s going to be happening so that there are no frustrations on either end.
Definitely, if there’s a deadline coming up that I’m worrying about hitting with some of my freelance people, I’ll be very open and communicate with them to see if there’s any wiggle room and if there isn’t then yeah, there have been a couple late, late nights or very, very early mornings. It’s usually what I do. I work better in the morning so I’m more of a, “I’ll just get up at 4:00AM.”
Ben: Have there ever been any specific snags that you’ve run into that you can maybe talk about a little bit and discuss how you overcame those hang ups?
Laura: I suppose it’s been probably three or four years since I started with my freelance work. At the beginning, there were definitely a lot of things that I over scheduled myself and so there were a lot more late nights and early mornings. That’s a lot of adjustment and took a lot for time for me to realize like, “No wait, I can actually set myself to do better.” It’s not school work where somebody else is dictating everything. I have a say in this. It took some time but saying no is difficult for me.
In the beginning I said yes to everything, yes, yes, yes. Yes, I can do that. You need it tomorrow, no problem. As I’ve gotten older and more secure in my abilities and better with my time management, I think I definitely developed a better workflow to not stress myself out.
Ben: You said that saying no is something that’s difficult for you. I think that’s something that’s difficult for a lot of people. I think especially if you’re ambitious and you want to be helpful and you’re put in the spot where someone’s like, “Let me introduce you to my friend who really needs help.” If someone finds themselves in those kinds of situations or if they don’t feel like they have the confidence to politely tell somebody that they can’t take something on for them, what advice would you have for that person?
Laura: It’s always hard because everything feels so situational. I know some people who only work freelance or some people who just do freelance on the side like I do. When it’s something that if you have a full time job and you don’t need the money, then it’s always easier to some way say I just can’t put that in my schedule right now.
If it’s you just don’t want to work with the person because of different ties that they may have to your personal life and it just might get messy, I feel like people are more understanding of that than you might think they are. You’re not going to put out good work if you’re not super excited about a project. If you feel like you might not have the skills necessary, then maybe adjust your pricing and be open and say, “This is going to be me trying this out or me bettering myself. If you’re cool with that, then let’s work together.”
Ben: How have your side projects, whether they’re writing projects or even photography projects or social media projects or something else entirely, how do you feel that that work has helped you improve your skills as a copywriter at your full time job?
Laura: I feel like everything I do somehow weirdly connects into my copywriting skills. Anytime I’m taking in any media or storytelling, even watching movies and documentaries and listening to podcasts, and just hearing other people’s stories helps me better write for other people.
When I write at work, I do a lot of Medicare. In the beginning, it was really tough for me because I’m like, “What do I know about Medicare? What do I know about baby boomers and older people? I have no idea.” I definitely took on, and I always read articles that are geared towards the audiences that I write for on a daily basis because I want to know what they care about and I want to know what they’re interested in. That way, when I write at work, it’s more geared toward them. I can get in their mind space a little bit better and see where they’re coming from to know how to communicate with them.
I’m also in a lot of different social groups with other local creatives and so anything like that helps with writing and with just being a creative in general. I always take skillshare classes to learn about literally anything. I’ll randomly just do a calligraphy one, like why not? Because I feel like any time that I’m using that part of my brain, I’m keeping it sharp.
Ben: You mentioned doing skillshare classes and maybe just taking something that’s completely outside marketing in any capacity. Do you have any other consistent hobbies or side pursuits that you also feel make you a better copywriter?
Laura: I just try a lot of things. I like playing with my hands a lot when I’m trying to take a break from my mind because there are some times I seem to turn it off. I’ll do things like calligraphy or water color painting to just turn things off for a little bit. I’ll try anything. I really enjoy just trying different hobbies and seeing what other people love.
Ben: When you’re evaluating a prospect or a potential client or project, do you tend to choose things that will let you stretch your skillset in a different direction or you prefer things that are maybe a little bit closer to what you do day to day?
Laura: I think that just depends on where I’m at at the time. If I’m feeling like things aren’t too busy for me right now, I want to really dive into something that I don’t know as well. If a client comes to me with something that I’m not super familiar with, then I’ll be super open and just say, “I’m not 100% experienced in this but I totally want to try it and I’m really excited about it.” Since it’s my side gate, I can be flexible on time congruence and also pricing so I can adjust to that.
People will reach out me mainly for copywriting because that’s my main focus. Often, it’ll stretch into, “Oh, I see you’re also doing this. I’d love to help out with it.” Being connected into the creative community like I am, I know so many talented people and I love it. I know a lot of designers, when they’re working on something, they’ll often just send me a message and say, “Hey, will you just go over this website and do it for someone?” Either proof it or if they’re looking for copywriting, it’ll be a nice little referral situation.
I mainly will do copywriting because that’s how I get my foot in the door, but I love exploring other areas because really everything is so connected and I love seeing how everything works together and being a part of a lot of different things, I really enjoy it.
Ben: Let’s say that someone’s listening to this podcast and they’re interested in taking on freelance work on the side but maybe they’re in the situation their employer is sceptical about allowing them to take on outside work. Different places have different policies about that kind of thing and some are more supportive or encouraging than others. If someone is in a position where maybe their boss or the head of the organization is maybe lukewarm on it or not super supportive or maybe even completely against it, how would you recommend that they convince their boss that it’ll help them be better at their full time job too?
Laura: I’m luckily in a place where they’re pretty open about it and just saying, “As long as you’re not wearing yourself out, we’re cool with it.” If you’re in a place that they’re not really sure about it, it just depends on the position that you have and where you want to go but I would really frame it as if it were extra education or training. When you’re working with another outside person, you’re working with project management, you’re working with your communication skills, you might be trying a new skillset that you don’t work with in your job that maybe eventually could bring extra opportunities for your job.
Definitely just frame it like, “Hey, this is training that you’re not going to have to pay for and that will help in the end.” I think definitely it makes a good argument for working outside of work.
Ben: One thing that you mentioned earlier about taking on side projects when you have a full time job. You had mentioned not needing the money. If you don’t need the money, then what’s your motivation beyond, I think with your parents, you’re helping your family’s business. With other projects, if you don’t need the money, there’s a lot of other things you could be spending your free time on, why choose to do more work outside of work?
Laura: It’s definitely because I like trying new things. I love working with different people. Ever since working with my parents and them being a small business, I see how important it is and how big of a need that there is for small businesses to have people who aren’t charging them outrageous amounts of money and taking forever and not being agile and not being really invested in their business.
I feel like when I first got started doing freelance, it was because I wanted to help other small businesses that were much like my parents because I wanted them to have someone that they could count on, someone that would really elevate their business as well.
Plus working in an agency, these are my main clients that I work with over and over and over again, it’s really nice to have a little spice for something else like writing for a different audience or different products or anything like that. It always helps me stay agile in how I write. Definitely just a little dose of other things helps throughout the days.
Ben: Last question I’ll have for you before we wrap up our conversation. Say I’m listening to this podcast and I’ve been thinking about taking on some freelance work on the side and now, I’m committed and I’m ready to jump in, what would you say is the first thing that person should do?
Laura: I think definitely just have a little plan in the beginning as far as what your focus will be. I think so often people will just jump in and say yes to anything and so having a little focus of here’s what I want to focus on. If you’re ready to jump in, I think just putting yourself out there is definitely a huge step where if people don’t know that you’re looking for side work, they’re not going to refer you. Most often, someone knows someone who knows someone who needs help with something. Definitely just being very vocal about it is a huge part.
Ben: Awesome. That’s great advice. Thank you again for your time coming on the show. This has been a great conversation and I think our audience is really going to enjoy hearing what you have to say about this.
Laura: Thanks for having me.
June 13, 2017