Name: Garrett Oden
Business Name: Garrett Oden Copywriting
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Describe your business
Garrett Oden Copywriting is a copywriting and content marketing micro-agency for coffee, food and beverage, and food tech businesses.
Tell us about your self-employment journey.
I ran a coffee blog and managed a specialty coffee shop during college. It was great fun, but I got burned out working in food service after a few years. Thankfully, the coffee blog had given me connections in the industry, and a few brands reached out and asked about content creation.
My wife and I realized that if we could do anything before kids, it would be work remotely and travel the world. That was the nail on the coffin for my coffee shop job. I started taking freelancing very seriously in 2016 and left the coffee shop a year later. Three months later, our plane landed in Tallin, Estonia, the first 4-week stop on what turned out to be a 15-month adventure.
At that time, freelance writing was largely a means to an end (slow travel), but as I got more interesting and challenging work, I came to love it.
In 2020 I slowly started growing my team. I wanted to contribute more strategically to clients, but I knew I needed help producing content and copy if I wanted to spend more time in strategy-land. It’s going well so far!
What area of your business are you most passionate about?
I’m a craftsman at heart and love the thrill of putting together copy and content for my clients that’s unlike anything else on the internet. We run strategy for our content clients, and there are few things as satisfying as being more thoughtful than our client’s competitors and seeing the results. Quality content and copywriting are a must!
What’s the most valuable thing you learned early in your career that has contributed to your success?
I realized very early on that if I didn’t pursue excellence in both the work I created and how I interact with clients, I would quickly fade into the ever-growing fog of generic, freelance writers just scraping by. My clients succeed because the copy and content we create are more thoughtful, well-formed, and researched than our competitors. The same is true for my business.
A close second would be: go deep on a set of skills. My micro-agency is only concerned with copywriting and content marketing. But there are still a bazillion ways to grow and expand within those two types of marketing activities, like managing strategy, original graphics, and conducting research.
How are you pivoting your business during the COVID-19 pandemic?
After a brief dip and panic, I found myself more swamped with work than ever in May of 2020. At the same time, thousands of businesses in one of our core industries (coffee) were suffering. I launched the weekly Coffee Marketing School newsletter as a side project to help coffee business owners understand marketing concepts and strategies that might help them outlast the pandemic.
Most coffee shop owners don’t have a business or marketing background, so giving away many of the secrets I’ve learned over the years has been really rewarding. Plus, it’s helped me build an audience of folks who aren’t a good fit for agency services but are interested in thoughtfully growing their business. I plan to launch a course via the newsletter in the coming months.
What’s a recent project that you’ve worked on that you’re really excited about?
In late 2020, I helped an enterprise restaurant management platform refresh its entire website copy. Paired with a redesign, it was a huge shift for the business and is significantly more clear, modern, and captivating.
We’re also creating enterprise-targeted content for them. The brand has a lot of strong opinions, so it’s been really fun creating content that makes a splash since the launch of the new site.
Are you a part of any freelancer communities? Which ones and how do they support you?
Yes! I love The Copywriter Club, a podcast, Facebook group, and paid membership that’s a no-brainer if you work in copywriting. I’m also a member of Superpath Pro, a content marketing membership.
Both groups are not cheap but are filled with many of the brightest minds in both spaces. It’s hard to put value on an engaged community of like-minded people who love to help each other.
What advice would you give other self-employed people?
It’s very tempting to see all of your revenue as income, then to see expenses and taxes as money that’s taken out of your income. It took me a while to realize that my mindset caused me to resent paying money for anything, even if it was a great value for me.
Things really changed once I learned about the Profit First methodology. Now, instead of seeing all revenue as income minus expenses and taxes, I dedicate a certain percentage of my revenue to four key categories: take-home pay, taxes, expenses, and extra profit.
This gives me a realistic expectation for what I’ll take home each month and offers the flexibility to spend on tools, education, and outsourcing without feeling guilty about robbing the family bank account of money. This healthier money mindset is essential for getting past mental blocks on investing and is necessary for growing a more mature business.
How has forming an S Corp helped you level up your business?
Being an S Corp has made me feel extra legit. It’s the real-world, tangible expression of my pivot from sole freelancer to agency operator over the last couple of years.
It’s also provided the financial clarity that I needed to bring on other contractors for the micro-agency model without blowing up my personal finances.
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