Sabrina Cohen | Owner, Copywriter
Q: Why did you start your business?
A: After stepping away from the film industry, I contemplated how to shift my career path in a way that was financially viable and true to my creative nature. After writing and producing a few commercials, I started taking on other freelance writing projects. Even though I wasn’t formally trained at the time, I understood storytelling and messaging enough to make an impression. One referral led to another, and slowly but surely, my portfolio improved.
At one point, I was contracted by two separate startups that were unexpectedly forced to close up shop, so I got intimately acquainted with the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurialism. From that perspective, it didn’t seem like such a scary endeavor to go out on my own. I wanted the freedom to work from anywhere and to cultivate clients and projects that inspired me and were out to make a difference in some way. It also occurred as a low risk investment since there wasn’t much overhead or initial monetary commitment (in comparison to other startups).
I created a simple website, ordered some business cards, and the rest is...well, you know ;)
Q: What are some key factors or decisions that contributed to the success of your business?
A: MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: I certainly changed my lifestyle expectations a bit, moving from a 1-bedroom in Manhattan to suburban NYC, where I could save money on rent and invest that money into my business. It was a sacrifice, but one that was worth making to pursue this dream.
HONING THE CRAFT: I’ve always been a writer, but I had a very limited understanding of copywriting as a craft when I started. It was a complete career change for me, so there was a learning curve that required leaps of faith, a lot of practice, patience, and perseverance.
I spent a ton of time developing my skills, attending workshops and seminars, taking courses, networking with peers, and learning from industry mentors. I got curious about everything related to my industry—web design, brand development, content marketing, graphic design, psychology, etc.
STEPPING OUT: As a writer, it’s sometimes more comfortable to sit back and stay behind the scenes, but it’s been really helpful to stretch beyond that and get in front of audiences by hosting and sponsoring events and teaching courses (in person and online). It’s given people a chance to see who I am around my work—and beyond it—which has helped to build the know, like, and trust factor. It’s also given my brand a presence and empowered me to see the possibilities for WORD-OLOGY beyond simply being a service provider.
CULTIVATING COMMUNITY: Community is key to discovering resources, getting inspired, and building your brand network. I’ve worked with a series of coaches and mentors over the years who’ve provided significant support when I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or was tempted to throw in the towel. I’ve participated in masterminds large and small, and always find myself more driven in groups. Nurturing those relationships has been priceless, both personally and professionally.
DIFFERENTIATING: I think having a background in film and psychology positions me a bit differently than most writers. I’m a creative director and big picture strategist, so that’s something I bring to every project. I’m always thinking beyond the words to create a message and user experience that inspires the reader to take action. I can tell a compelling story in almost any medium, as opposed to being a one-trick pony.
Starting out like that wasn’t easy. I was happy to take on any project that came my way, but it was also overwhelming to consider all the directions I could take the business. I was often told to pick a niche, and to be honest, I do think that would’ve simplified things, but it just wasn’t me.
Even though it took longer to create my own lane, it taught me to find the core message in any medium, and as a result, I’m now a highly versatile writer who can powerfully craft everything from a speech to a tweet. It’s also given me a chance to explore different types of industries and play in the worlds of different clients. That keeps it fresh and fun for me.
I’m much clearer now on the kinds of projects and clients that are a good fit on both ends and I don’t stray from that. Thinking back to where I started, I’m really proud of how far it’s all come.
Q: What are some challenging aspects of your business?
A: ISOLATION: Being an entrepreneur—and a writer in particular—can be very solitary and isolating. So, again, finding and cultivating your community is key. I sometimes miss the collaboration I enjoyed working in film, so that’s something I continue to seek out in projects and with peers.
UNPREDICTABILITY: Creating consistent, ongoing growth has been the biggest challenge. I’ve had months where an influx of potential projects comes through and then none end up solidifying. Until they’re signed on the dotted line, they mean nothing.
No two projects are the same, so even though I continue to streamline as much as possible, there’s always an element of unpredictability in timeline and process. It’s all a dance that definitely keeps me on my toes.
Q: Do you feel you made any serious mistakes as you were starting or growing your business? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
A: It’s impossible to avoid mistakes completely, so understanding that it’s all part of the journey is helpful.
PROTECTING MYSELF: There were a few times I got burned by a dishonest client or a subcontractor (e.g., a web developer or graphic designer I hired on behalf of my client). I’ve since put practices in place (e.g., requiring a deposit before starting work; checking references and vetting resources more diligently) to protect myself. I’ve also learned to stand for what I’m worth. It sometimes means losing out on a client, but the ones who are willing to invest typically understand the value they’re getting in return—and that’s the kind of client I want.
FILLING THE PIPELINE: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is getting caught up in present projects without putting enough focus and attention on filling the future pipeline. It’s such a no-brainer, but for whatever reason, I was really fearful of losing sales if I couldn’t take something on right away. I’ve since come to my senses and realized that having a wait list is actually a really great thing. As long as you’re clear and upfront, clients who value your work will wait for the goods.
BUILDING TEAM: Even though writing requires complete focus, running my business as an island doesn’t work. I continue to practice delegating and curating my team and partners who can help me grow the business, particularly in areas that aren’t strengths for me.
Q: What other advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
A: If you’re gonna go for it, GO for it. Study the pros and then carve your own path. Put yourself on the line in a way that has you play a big game and play it full out. Give yourself a timeline and if you don’t stick to it, adjust course or change your game.
Create accountability with others so you’re beholden to your word and any mile markers you set. Consider the advice of others, but always remain true to yourself. Love what you do even when you don’t. Be grateful for all of it.
Stay on point with your self-care. When mine is weak, so is my writing game, my business game, and my sales game.
Never stop pursuing your personal and professional growth.
WORD-OLOGY delivers thoughtfully crafted copy and brand messaging strategy that makes an impression and moves audiences into action. With clients ranging from solo entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 brands, WORD-OLOGY will capture your unique value and voice, so you can confidently connect with your audience, share your vision, and attract the brand fans you want most.
"I was often told to pick a niche, and to be honest, I do think that would’ve simplified things, but it just wasn’t me… as a result, I’m now a highly versatile writer who can powerfully craft everything from a speech to a tweet."—Sabrina Cohen