June 21, 2024

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Zoe Simmons, copywriting and editing business owner

Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Zoe Simmons, and I run a copywriting and editing business. I’m also a freelance journalist, speaker and author.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

After publishing my first article at the age of 16, I fell in love with journalism and the power of words. I studied a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Wollongong, and worked in a number of journalism, editing and social media roles, working with organisations like Mamamia, the Cancer Council and the Daily Mail.

As a freelance journalist, I’ve been published hundreds of times around the globe, including on news outlets like news.com.au, Daily Mail, Mamamia, New Idea, That’s Life, New York Post, Daily Telegraph and much more.

I was working in communications for a government-funded forensic mental health organisations when I realised I could make a career out of the services I provide. So, at the age of 24, I began building my copywriting business part-time, before taking the leap into full-time business ownership in July 2021 at the age of 26.

Writing can be hard, so I wanted to help businesses find their perfect words. I knew my skills in storytelling could be so powerful, and could provide so much value to my potential clients. I believe writing can change the world–or at least, someone’s world. I want to be a part of that.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I’ve been professionally writing for the last decade, but I only started my freelance writing business in 2016. Back then, I was freelancing for a number of news outlets, and dabbling in a little freelance copywriting.

When I realised I could build my own business and create a career, I began building my business part-time while working in government forensic mental health communications. I worked on my branding, my website, and my processes. I invested in some professional marketing, including the creation of a snazzy logo. I designed professional templates to stream-line everything, and began working with clients to build my reputation, and source testimonials.

When COVID-19 hit, I knew businesses needed help with their digital marketing now more than ever. It did take me a little while to take the leap: I was nervous. I was worried I was making a mistake. But I’m so proud I took a leap of faith and followed my dreams.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

There are a number of things I do to attract and retain clients–firstly, by providing quality work. I genuinely care about my clients and their projects. I like to go above and beyond to achieve the best possible results for them and their business. I feel like this certainly makes working with me more appealing: my clients know I always do my absolute best. It’s so much more than a project to me: it’s an opportunity to change someone’s life and business.

I also love to promote my clients online, so I feel like the social media love also goes a long way.

In terms of attracting customers, word-of-mouth referral has been fantastic. I’ve also listed my business on a number of online directories, and I am constantly on the look out for opportunities to get involved in community conversations, and promote my work. This includes appearing on podcasts, applying for awards and other promotional opportunities, as well as sharing my work, achievements and testimonials from previous clients online.

I also regularly mention I’m a copywriter in conversations! You never know who needs help with words.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I think I’m doing pretty well! I get a fair bit of work from word-of-mouth alone without having to do much marketing, so that’s really exciting. I feel like I’m also stepping up in my career lately–I recently made my speaker debut at the 2021 National Young Writer’s Festival for a panel on Journalism and Trauma: Keeping Safe in an Unsafe World, and read some of my creative work live for the Live Readings: Cringey Diaries segment. I also recently won Silver for the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the 2021 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

I’d love to keep helping clients find their perfect words, and grow my business. I want to continue working with brands that help make a difference in the world. But I also want to further pursue speaking and publishing opportunities. I’m currently writing a book on my town’s survival in the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, so getting this finished and published is my next major goal.

Creating more resources to support younger writers and small business owners is also on the cards, as well as getting more involved in advocacy (particularly mental health and chronic pain). I want to make a difference in the world. And I want to show that you can still be successful, even if you live with chronic pain (you just have to do things a little differently).

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to rest. When you run a business, it’s so easy to throw self-care out the window and work constantly–especially hustle culture is so glorified.

But it’s so important to listen to your body, and take care of your health FIRST. Last year, I was working 16-hour days, and I burnt out. It took me a long time to recover–probably more so than the average person, because I also live with chronic pain and fatigue.

It’s taught me to be kind to myself, and that you don’t always have to be productive to have value. Resting helps you recharge and come back stronger when you have the capacity to. It’s okay to take a break!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use a few platforms and tools for my business!

My website is through WordPress and Divi, which makes everything so much easier. I use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (I’d love to learn Tik Tok too eventually some day to connect with younger audiences!).

Canva is one of my go-to tools. I use it almost daily!

I’m also a fan of Tomato Timer and the Pomodoro Technique.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

When I was young, I fell in love with reading Cosmo. I loved their style, and how they advocated for some really important issues. It was pretty life-changing for me as a young person, and led to me doing a journalism degree.

As a writer, Richelle Mead and Tara Moss’s books have been particularly influential for me. I’ve read every book they’ve ever released, and I think this has had a huge impact on my skill and style.

Finding people like Carly Findlay and Kate Toon also helped me a lot. Carly helped me feel like I can be a proud, successful disabled woman who really can make a difference through words, and Kate’s work really helps me to feel confident, and like I can run my business and do awesome things. I’m a proud member of Kate’s brilliant Clever Copywriting Community, which has helped my business immensely over the years.

The Freelance Jungle and Bek Lambert also have so many fantastic resources, as does the Young Australian Writer’s group on Facebook.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

It’s scary. But if this is your dream, don’t ever give up. There will be a lot of rejection. There will be times when you think “I can’t do this”. There will be times when you just want to give up: don’t. Remember your why. Feel that fire in your belly, and let that spark ignite your soul. Take small, actionable steps, and believe in yourself. But remember to also prioritise your well-being. You should never sacrifice your health for success. You’ve got this! I believe in you.

Where can we go to learn more?

I’d love for you to check out my website and follow me online. Here are some links: https://www.facebook.com/ZoeSimmonsJournalist