Suzanne Hoare, PepperJar: 'I wanted to do something that made me happy'
Posted March 3rd, 17:00
4 min read
Suzanne Hoare started her copywriting business PepperJar in 2015, after leaving a career as an employment lawyer. We chat to her about how she adds spice to words, the perils of calling yourself freelance and how to get comfortable with setting your own rates.
How did you become a self-employed copywriter?
I used to be an employment lawyer, but after a few years, I decided it wasn’t the right path for me. Once I joined the creative industry, I discovered that was where I should be, but the job I was in was limited in how far I could progress.
I knew that copywriting was what I wanted to do, so I looked at other copywriting jobs but I thought there’s got to be another way!
Exploring led me to this whole other world on the internet, that there were people starting online businesses who were just like me, so I thought, what if I did that? It was never part of the plan to be self-employed, I’d never even considered it up until that point, but I thought I could give it a good go.
It was a quick transition into going self-employed, setting up my company and taking the big leap. I didn’t try to build up a business on the side – I went all in.
The driving point for me was enjoyment. I get bored quite easily, I get frustrated quite easily, and I wanted to be in an environment where I was the boss, I could make the decisions and I had control over the direction the business went in. So it seemed like the only option was to run it myself. Enjoyment was the biggest factor – I wanted to do something that made me happy.
What marketing techniques did you use when you were first starting off?
The biggest revelation for me was Facebook groups. I wasn’t in any Facebook groups before my business and now I’m in a tonne. There’s a whole world of online entrepreneurs who hang out in Facebook groups, so when I started to spend time in online communities it got the ball rolling with getting clients internationally.
I don’t recommend trying to do 10 different things and only ending up doing them half-heartedly – do two or three, put everything you’ve got into them and then assess how they’re working for you. Then maybe change if you need to and put more time into the ones that are working for you.
Was there anything that surprised you about being self-employed?
Stuff around money surprised me. As soon as I went freelance (although I don’t call myself a freelancer – I think that the first step is not calling yourself a freelancer!) I realised that I decided how much I charged, and your automatic thought it to charge hardly any money because you want clients.
I can charge the kinds of rates I want to charge, if I can find the people who are going to pay them. I’ve raised my prices so many times over the two years.
Things like payment terms, automatically thinking I would have to issue an invoice after I’ve done the work and have 30 days terms on the invoice.
You don’t have to wait until you deliver the work to get paid, I always get half upfront and the other half often before the end of a project or on delivery. You don’t have to follow the industry standard, you set the rules.
Can you say a bit about why you don’t call yourself a freelancer?
There’s a stigma around freelancing – it conjures up the image of someone doing work on the side, working from home in their pyjamas. That’s not the reality, of course, you can be a freelancer and be an extremely successful business owner.
I was always very serious about making this step and that’s why I set up a company from the word go. I’ve always described myself as a business owner because I am, I have my own business and I make my own money.
I think if you call yourself a freelancer you’re automatically devaluing yourself based on the association made with the word. My whole job is around words, so I know the importance of using certain words and not using certain words.
Your USP is that you add spice to copy and you’ve got a really distinctive website – how do you get that across and make yourself stand out from the crowd?
Because I am a writer, it’s so much about the words that I write to describe myself.
It was always important that my website stood out. If I’m going to say to other people that I can help them stand out through words I have to do that for myself.
I was sick of seeing boring websites. You’re not going to sell yourself by saying the same thing as your competitor. I wanted to position myself as someone who could take the bland, take the boring and make it fun, exciting, engaging and compelling. The spice element is how I can communicate that – I love a good analogy and I love food!