This year’s annual business navel gazing crept up on me by surprise. I was beavering away innocently enough in Futurelabs when a book caught my eye on the shelf behind me.

Book Yourself Solid‘ said the smarmy suited guy on the front. Eurgh! I thought. Nothing could be further from my vision of making just enough to live sustainably in a deliberately engineered low-stress lifestyle.

Out of curiosity though, I picked it up.

As I suspected, it was about shameless business development, with a stereotypical emphasis on bigger is better. But it looked at the process of marketing from a refreshingly different angle…

Instead of exploiting market demand, BYS says you (as owner of a business or practitioner) should lead with yourself and what you want out of this. And it encourages analysis of who really are you and what you uniquely offer the world.

It’s an ambitious, almost spiritual angle, but it appealed to me. So for now this book has the benefit of my doubt.

What’s the plan?

Put simply, I’d like to do more freelancing for businesses whose values and mission I believe in. Until now, I’ve felt content working for whoever drifts along, providing we get on OK. That organic approach to marketing has worked fine for me and my clients so far, but lately I feel like my talents deserve more virtuous application.

I’m also middle-aged now. I’ve got a legacy think about (tortured genius artist that I am).

I’d like to use my knack for copywriting for the good of humanity and the environment. Ambitious I know, but I believe I have a duty to change the world in some small way; contribute to and be part of something bigger – society, the planet.

Think of this like a more responsible approach to what I do.

So I’ll be hijacking BYS’ advice to help me do that – trundling through its exercises, with the goal of attracting more of the right kind of clients, rather than inflating growth and money. And I’ll post the results here for posterity and commitment.

Here’s one of the first exercises I completed, describing the qualities of my ideal client (a work-in-progress of course, with plenty of flexibility). I’ll post a follow-up article very soon about who they are.

The characteristics of my ideal copywriting client


  • Are passionate, excited people with big ideas, a grand plan and a cause they believe in
  • Like to share their ideas, genuinely believe they can change the world
  • Have time for people and enjoy talking to them
  • Make you feel good for having listened to them
  • Are principled, honest and ethical
  • Tell stories about what they do
  • Know their stuff
  • Are easy to respect
  • Defer to expert opinion but equally stand up when they want something done a certain way (and able to justify it)
  • Give back to society, they reward and empower their employees
  • Run a sustainable business that acts responsibly
  • Trust people
  • Learn by following their industry, reading the latest thinking
  • Recognise people’s strengths and weaknesses and play to them
  • Want people to be happy and challenged (not stressed or pressured)

The qualities of our relationship

  • We both want to do the right thing
  • We’re honest and trusting
  • We’ll be on a greater mission to solve the world’s problems together (especially environmental and societal problems like energy, overpopulation, pollution and climate change)
  • It’ll be empowering: their business will grow in a healthy, organic way, and I’ll learn about myself and my art in the process
  • It’ll be local or regional (with a global outlook) and invested in places we care about
  • It’ll be progressive, we share ideas and challenge the status quo
  • It’ll be responsible and sustainable: puts back into nature or work in harmony with it, like renewable energy, recycling or wellness.
  • We’ll eventually grow to become friends

The nature of the work

Will be:

  • Accountable: we’ll take responsibility and not shy away from decisions;
  • Responsive: we keep our promises
  • Autonomous and trusting: so we’re both the best we can be
  • Part of a virtuous cycle that gives back to nature and society, where profit follows as a byproduct
  • Modern, agile and forward-thinking
  • Intellectually challenging, creative and interesting: something we can both learn from
  • Manageable and fair: with realistic boundaries and budget

What three filters should new clients satisfy?

  1. Do people and planet come first?
  2. Will I learn new things?
  3. Is there autonomy and freedom?