I recently interviewed Brooks Lockett, a fellow traveling SaaS copywriter. We chatted about how he chose a writing niche, what made him take the leap into the digital nomad lifestyle, how he finds copywriting clients, and tips for people that are thinking about freelancing and traveling.
Introduce yourself to the world!
Hi writers, marketers, nomads, anyone reading this!
I’m Brooks Lockett — B2B SaaS copywriter and positioning consultant. I hope you find something useful or interesting in my answers 🙂
What was happening in your life when you decided to take the leap into a location independent lifestyle?
After graduating college, I moved to New York City to work a marketing job. Three months into it, I realized I loathed office politics. And gossip. And seniority culture. And working in an office environment.
No one was a jerk to me or anything. I just realized the qualities that made me a less-than-ideal employee made me a great fit for freelancing.
The thought of working on my own — anywhere in the world, making good money — appealed to me a lot.
After work, I’d come right home and stay up until 2am most nights getting my freelance business off the ground.
What did the path to freelance writing and travelling look like for you?
I have a writing background. Majored in English in college. Wrote for several publications.
Even though copywriting is much different from journalistic writing, it helped that I already had skills to leverage.
While I was still working at my job, I moonlighted on copywriting courses from AWAI and Copyhackers and started working with two small SaaS startup clients. Eventually, I generated enough business on the side to go full-time.
I quit, left New York City, and went all in on freelancing.
A little over two years later, I’m writing copy full-time, traveling the world, and making a fantastic income. At the core of this is consistency, process, and work. More on that in later answers.
What was your first client project and how did you find it?
I saw the value of being active on LinkedIn, and got my first few clients from startup founders reading my content.
My first client was SimpleCrew, a B2B SaaS startup. I’m still friends with the founder and have partnered up on other projects far beyond copywriting.
I worked with SimpleCrew for over a year and still help with copy projects to this day. For freelancers just starting out, I think going deep with initial clients is a great way to “T-shape” yourself and be forced to solve lots of different marketing problems. Plus the consistent repeat business over one-off projects.
How did you use that project to get more work?
I knew I needed to overdeliver where most underdeliver.
This led to client referrals. I also focused on retaining the clients I already had and went deeper with them. It’s way easier to set yourself up with more work when the client already trusts you and knows your level of work.
I shared my learnings from each client project in my content. Sharing led to more visibility and more potential clients seeing my work. Basically just classic content marketing with effective distribution.
I also used my small portfolio of project samples to close other B2B SaaS clients who had the same problems to solve. Rinse and repeat. It’s a virtuous cycle and the momentum picked up from there. Niching really helped with this.
How do you typically find work?
Fortunately, as a copywriter, it comes to me. I post daily on LinkedIn, I’ve built up connections in my niche, and know other writers who I refer back and forth with. It’s best to have an abundance mindset.
That said, I’m always proactively networking, distributing content where my ideal clients are, and talking about new projects with current clients. Freelance life is way smoother when you build up a backlog of contacts and projects so you know you’ll be busy 4 months from now.
Even though my calendar is full, I’m still proactively laying runway because I want best-fit clients for next year and the year after.
This requires freelancers to do things when you don’t have to. Market hard, even when you’re flush with work. Don’t wait for the work to dry up to start building more relationships. I treat marketing myself as a habit, a muscle. I don’t care if my daily posts might annoy people. I’m building a business, and I want to be visible in the market.
Do you have a writing niche? How did you decide which industry to focus on?
Yes, and I have a lot to say on this because it’s so huge. As a copywriter, it’s your job to know your market. Could be finance, B2B, lifestyle, trains, whatever lights up your brain. You must have a pulse on it, be able to sense your market and where it’s going.
For me, B2B SaaS is growing every day. It’s exciting. I had experience working at tech startups and biotech companies. It’s what I’m interested in. It just made sense.
When I got started, the internet was already flooded with thousands and thousands of people calling themselves conversion copywriters. And the principle I understood from the very beginning was that I needed to have an answer to “Why choose me specifically?” And it needed to be extremely obvious. Otherwise, I’d just be lumped in with the masses.
I already had an English degree plus writing experience, so my general skill competency was there. But the real meat of what makes my writing valuable to my market is the fact that I’m focused on one specific thing that matters to them. I work exclusively with B2B SaaS companies and have been for years.
I ask every single client why they chose me and the answer is usually somewhere along the lines of: “You were the only one who really knew the B2B SaaS industry, understood what we’re looking for, and had the proof to back it up.”
I position myself as a specialist in an ocean of generalists. Positioning is the reason I close great clients. Positioning is the reason my copy performs consistently. Positioning is the reason I have the freedom to travel around the world.
Even if I’m not on my A-game, I’m still going to beat the generalist writer who lacks the years of experience I have in B2B SaaS. The wind is always blowing at my back, and it’s an unfair advantage.
What are your best tips for overcoming procrastination as a nomad – when you know you should be working but outside is always more exciting!
I’d say don’t try to travel somewhere new every weekend. I don’t feel the need for constant travel. I prefer to have “bases” where I know I’ll be able to work for 3-4 weeks at a time and be extremely productive, maybe even a little bit bored.
This allows me to have a repeatable routine that isn’t constantly forcing distractions on me from constant travel. I much prefer to stick to one beautiful place for several months at a time and really get to know it well. In my opinion, that’s a lot more fun. I’ve never been a “bounce all over the place” kind of guy.
Plus, if you’re serious about writing, it should already be a priority to you. Again, systems help. I do my best writing from 6am-12pm. That leaves me more than enough time to get done what I need to get done, with enough quiet and focused time to feel good about it.
But your career and business come with sacrifices. I’m not out partying and drinking. I’m in bed at a reasonable hour. I have a routine. I don’t just live by the seed of my pants.
I obviously have fun 🙂 but I love this business and lifestyle way too much to put it behind irresponsible partying and travel.
Do you set specific income goals for each month? If so, how do you work towards reaching them?
This might be a little controversial. But I don’t set goals.
I don’t have money figures in my mind. Instead I focus on output and habits. Creating content every day. Writing daily. Reading daily. Overdelivering for clients. Of course, there’s pricing strategy and all that, and I’m always working on that. But I prefer to let myself be free from goals.
When you’re in copywriting and content marketing, focusing on output is what really works (at least for me). We’re in the business of building well-oiled marketing machines. Instead of focusing on the goal (leads, money, clients) I’d rather build a golden goose that generates those goals over and over again for me (a content engine).
How do you stop freelancing work from eating into too much of your free time? Do you feel you’ve achieved a good work/life balance yet?
I make sure to stick to the things that ground me. Spending time outside. Reading great fiction. Biking, rock climbing, and staying fit. Spending tons of time with the people I love.
As long as I’m doing those things and “smelling the flowers” I don’t worry about how many hours I’m working.
I go by feel. If I feel good about my life, I’m not going to choke it and over-systematize it. Even though I ❤️ systems.
What’s your #1 challenge as a freelance copywriter?
It’s mentally heavy work.
Copywriting is intellectual, challenging, and can be complex at times. Giving my brain enough space to get away is hard.
Copywriters love their businesses. I think about it when I’m not working. It’s constant. There’s literally no ceiling for how good you could get at copywriting. That’s why OG direct-response legends are still out there honing their craft.
Reminding myself to always stick to the long-game is a challenge. But I’m getting better at it.
And what’s your favourite part of running your own business?
Freelancing is good for the spirit.
Being miserable in a 9-5 job wasn’t for me. I’m happy I have the opportunity to do my own thing, build a highly legitimate business that lasts and have all the freedom to enjoy every second of it.
Plus, building online is just fun. You get to build your own brand, expose yourself to opportunities. I think of these things as assets. Assets grant you freedom.
Every second you spend is for you. Not someone else. It’s your life, your dreams, your aspirations. It’s easy to take extreme ownership of your work.
What does a typical week look like for you?
I wake up early since I do my best writing in the morning. I wake up around 6am, coffee in hand, Brain.fm playing in 30 minute intervals. I do client work for like 4-5 hours. Then I work on LinkedIn, blog content, answer emails and Slacks, send invoices, do operational stuff. Usually done by like 2pm, depending on the day.
I study business / marketing books for an hour every day, 7 days per week.
Then I get away from my computer and phone. Either go to the beach and read fiction. Go sightseeing. Go biking. Hang out with my girlfriend who’s always by my side. Go hang with friends, eat, drink, whatever I feel like doing.
How do you juggle your client work while you’re moving around?
I’m not on planes every weekend. I give myself plenty of time to work when I’m in certain places. I’m very planned and I allocate time before I ever get somewhere.
Basically, lots of careful planning. For me, travel isn’t always spontaneous.
The caveat with this — it requires sacrifices. I know I won’t be able to hit every single cool spot.
I have to literally be such a hard ass military general about getting my work done. Sometimes it annoys people. But it comes with the territory of building a business 🤷🏻♂️
How do you feel about the rise of remote work and travel?
I’m constantly amazed at how the world of work is changing.
I can be scuba diving in the Virgin Islands at 7am, and be at my laptop at a cafe at 8:30am, working and answering messages with people from all over the world (true story).
I can work from an airport in the middle of the night in Hawaii, and schedule messages out to match my clients’ exact time zones (true story).
I can get an entire day’s worth of work done from a plane crossing the ocean (true story).
Nomads have the resources to tell us which countries have the most reliable WiFi. Which places have the most nomad-friendly coffee shops and co-working spaces. The canvas is being painted for folks who want this kind of lifestyle.
We live in an age where no one cares where you work, when you work, how you work, or what you wear when you work. No previous generations have had that flexibility.
And on top of that, you can make a fantastic living doing the work you love, for yourself and 100% on your own terms.
So yeah, that’s more of an ode to how great our tools are that make these types of lifestyles possible.
The best city you’ve worked from so far?
Seoul, South Korea — where I am now writing this 🙂
What’s top of your list for places to work from that you haven’t travelled to yet?
Gosh, so many places.
Even though it’s really hard to boil it down to just a few tops, here’s my priority list:
- Italy – where I’ll be next summer for 3 months.
- Southeast Asia – Thailand, Burma and Vietnam
- New Zealand
What are your goals for your business over the next year?
I’d like to work with more software companies who are innovating in the medical field.
Big logos in the marketing world are sexy. But SaaS ecosystems in verticals like healthcare are in major need of better tools. I’d love to play a small part in bringing life-changing products to market. Those types of projects haven’t presented themselves as much, but I’d love to get more into that.
That, plus passive income side hustles (working on it). I’m definitely a side-hustle guy. I like to have more than one thing brewing.
What are your top recommended resources online for new freelance writers?
I made the mistake of thinking that reading lots of books would make me better. I think that’s not the best way to do it. I think freelance writers should choose a few of the best books and re-read them once per quarter.
Here’s my short list of books I re-read every few months:
- Obviously Awesome by April Dunford
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
- Hooked – How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- Email Schema Book – Ben Settle
Plus, I’m plugged into the SaaS world. I read books and articles about the latest advances in cloud computing, company acquisitions, VC rounds, etc. Being immersed in this stuff helps me keep a finger on the pulse of the market.
What’s your best advice for anyone who’s thinking of becoming a freelance writer and digital nomad?
Have leverage before you start. Don’t dive in with no plan, connections or money saved up. Unless you like pain?
I was able to leverage skills I already had and chose an industry I’d worked in before. And that’s a part of the reason I’ve never struggled. People always act like freelancing is so risky, but it really wasn’t for me.
I think a lot of freelancers and consultants struggle early on and go through this very frustrating couple of years and it’s not totally necessary to do it that way.
Of course, that’s just what worked for me. Not everyone’s me. The key is just getting started and being stoked about building your own thing 🙂
But doing so strategically…
If you want to follow Brooks on social (or hire him for a copywriting project!) – you can get in touch here:
- Interview with Kerry Needs – wellbeing content specialist
- Interview with Robbie King – freelance copywriter and video producer
- How to become a freelance copywriter and work from anywhere
- TRAVEL TIPS AND RESOURCES
- Find cheap flights
I use Kayak, Skyscanner, and Expedia to find the best deals on flights. This often means flying late night or early morning – so if you’re working remotely, make sure you plan around this.
- Book accommodation
I always use Booking.com for my first stop in any city. These tend to be hotels, so it’s easy for your taxi or Uber drive to find them, which is a huge relief if you arrive in a strange city at 3am after a 19-hour flight and just want to sleeeeeep. For longer stays, I use Airbnb (always, always filter these listings by superhosts and make sure to read the reviews before you book), Hostel World to book budget stays, and VRBO (the new challenger to Airbnb – way less fees and great accommodation options),
If you’re a pet lover, you can stay FREE in a local house anywhere in the world with Trusted Housesitters. I’ve used this a couple of times and it was awesome. If you travel long term and miss the companionship of fluffy friends – borrowing other people’s pets (and saving $$$$ on accommodation at the same time) is a huge win.
If you need a rental car, I recommend RentalCars.com or Kayak to find the cheapest options and compare companies.
- Travel Insurance
Yes. You need it. I recommend both SafetyWing and World Nomads to keep you and your gear protected. These companies have monthly policies specifically for digital nomads and long-term travellers. I’m currently using SafetyWing, as it’s one of the only companies that covers travellers for COVID-related issues right now.
- Book a tour
I’m not big on guided tours, but I check out Get Your Guide and Viator to find must-see places in every new city I go to. If you love tours, these are the two top sites to search for and book tours around the world.
- Luggage storage
Stuck in that awkward zone between two accommodation points – or waiting all day for a flight? Stasher has 1,000 locations in 250 countries that you can store your luggage in while you go out and do fun stuff. Because carrying everything you own with you all day is not fun.