This Copywriting Side Hustle Grew To $10K/Month Thanks To Its Innovative Business Model

Published: December 14th, 2022
James & Lianna
Founder, SNAP Copy
from Austin, TX, USA
started May 2016
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there. We are Lianna Patch and James Turner, co-runners of SNAP Copy, your expert on-demand copywriting team. Agencies, small businesses, and e-commerce shops rely on us for outstanding outsourced conversion-optimized copywriting on demand.

Rather than working on a per-project or retainer basis, SNAP sells packs of Copy Credits, which clients can redeem whenever they need a copy project done over the next six months. Writing a Facebook ad costs 1 credit, optimizing a landing page costs 4 credits, and so on. (You can find a non-exhaustive list here; plus, we're good at thinking outside the box!)

Hangin’ in NYC at The Copywriter Club IRL 2019

If what you do doesn’t light you up somehow, you will eventually grow tired of it and want to give up.

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

We were both members of Joanna Wiebe’s (Copy Hackers) very first copywriter mastermind group back in 2015-2016. Eventually meeting in person at a conference in early 2016, we were determined to find some way to work together as we shared similar levels of irreverence and professionalism and thought each other to be all-around good eggs.

An opportunity presented itself in the form of Joanna shuttering the first iteration of SNAP Copy (that’s right, Jo started this thing and was the brains behind its unique offering).

We approached Joanna with the thought of proposing we take SNAP over rather than see her close it for good. But, instead, she flipped it on us, saying, “do you want it?”

Well, yes, we did! Over the next month, Joanna very generously gave us her time, transferred the domain to us so we could build a new site, shared the creative assets, and handed over the reins to the SNAP machine (sans customer list, we hasten to add).

Neither of us was interested in shuttering our consultancies (Punchline Conversion Copywriting and Turner Creative, respectively), so we decided to run SNAP as a mutual side hustle, allowing it to grow slowly and organically over time.

SNAP is the perfect complement to our own more project- and strategy-based companies. Whereas we (James and Lianna) are usually booked up weeks or months in advance, you can buy SNAP credits right now, submit projects through our automated system and get a smaller project back in as little as 48 hours!

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

As we were taking over a business that already had an established “way” to exist, we didn’t have to conceptualize things from scratch so much as figure out how we wanted to exist as SNAP copy.

We loved the idea of selling credits — credits that can be put toward whatever copywriting job you want or need — instead of selling set projects, like “optimize this” or “write that”.

On the other hand, we know that it’s easier to see yourself as a client of a business if you can get a tangible sense of what that will look and feel like and what it will do for you.

So our main tasks were to clearly describe the benefits of having credits (you don’t need to worry about finding a copywriter when you suddenly need one, are open to projects you might have thought too small, etc). And we knew we needed to make tangible the benefits of using credits (more sign-ups, more sales, being better equipped to serve and help your audience, etc).

One of our best retention tools is an automated monthly check-in email. It’s incredible how simply reminding people that you’re a resource they should be using can spur them into action.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Our “launch” was more of a “start”. We had some interest in the time between taking over the business and the official opening. So our Customer 00000000001 was in our inbox before we were ready to offer credits. Side note: they’re still a customer today!

Being a mutual side hustle, SNAP has never been something we’ve relied on for super strong or rapid growth, which has allowed it to grow organically, drip by drip, every day for years.

From a business perspective, one great thing about the credit model is that we have the money in hand before incurring the main costs (paying our writers) of the business. As a result, our ongoing overhead costs are not very high, which has allowed us to grow at our own pace.

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

The number one way we attract customers is when Lianna goes out and speaks on a stage somewhere or does a great podcast guest spot. As the more “in the arena” team member, she’s what most people consider to be the face of the business.

And what a face it is

The number two way we attract clients is through referrals. We have an insider referral system, which offers bonus credits for any new customers one of our clients refers to us. And we have an external referral system, which involves offering an Amazon gift card because someone smart and legal-y told us that was somehow better than cash. We’ll have to look into that, lol, because it may not be accurate or may not be valid anymore.

Many of our referrals come from other writers, from our “competition,” as one might think of it in another industry. Note: We don’t see other writers as competition in our part of the copywriting world. It’s pretty sweet how well-connected a great many of us are.

Another copywriter took this, for example

One of our main USPs is that SNAP is available all the time. There’s no waiting list, and no project is too small. Once you’ve got some credits, you can submit a project that day, getting your 1-credit job back within as few as 48 hours! (This means things like “optimize my short email” or “write 5 variations on a headline” no longer have to be tiny albatrosses weighing down our clients’ necks.)

One of our best retention tools is an automated monthly check-in email to everyone who has current, unexpired credits. It says, “How are your copy projects coming along? Is there anything we can help you with?” and lets them know how many credits they have and when they expire.

It’s incredible how simply reminding people that you’re a resource they should be using can spur them into action.

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

One of the most exciting things about SNAP is that this year (2022), we finally broke out of the “you can only work with us if you buy credits” cage we had been in for 5+ years.

To do this, we started offering SNAP Video Audits, giving people a chance to get our eyes on their copy at a much lower level of investment.

It’s turning out to be a big hit with new customers and is an excellent way for people to dip their toes into working with us while deciding whether to buy a bigger pack of credits and have us tackle some more involved projects.

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

We have made and kept far more clients from referrals and personal connections than through advertising. The more targeted, the more specific, and the closer to one-on-one we’ve shown up, the better our results have been.

Also, we’ve had a weekly founder’s meeting for over six years, and the only time we’ve felt strained or stressed by the business is when we’ve let that lapse.

Hangin’ in Vancouver at CTA Conf 2016 #diamondpoopemoji

We don’t always talk business during our Tuesday meetings — in fact, we often don’t — but having that guaranteed time for each other reinforces our commitment to SNAP and our friendship and makes everything hard seem more achievable.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Regarding the mechanics of SNAP, we have a WordPress site, which we were most familiar with at the time. We decided to use Divias a theme because James (very wisely) owns a lifetime developer’s license, which he bought back in the day. And we defaulted to WooCommerce as our storefront because that’s what seemed to make the most sense back in 2016.

In the background, we have a network involving ActiveCampaign, GoogleDocs, Trello, and Zapier. A lot of what we do is automated, thank goodness, and Zapier is the glue that holds it all together.

We have a team Slack, use Loom to make our SNAP Video Audits, and run everything through Grammarly before we ship it out to customers.

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

I think it’s fair to say that Copy Hackers have been our mutually most influential resource. There’s no better way to experience that than to get your hands on Joanna’s original books, three of which are now (finally) available on Amazon. We consider them required reading for anyone who writes for SNAP.

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

If you’re building a service business, one where only you can offer what you offer in the exact way that you offer it, the only thing that truly matters is making and nurturing personal, human-to-human connections. So take the time it takes to do that. Make it your priority.

We genuinely like hanging out with each other! Don’t go into business with someone you don’t like!

Also, if what you do doesn’t light you up somehow, you will eventually grow tired of it and want to give up. SNAP keeps going because we both like digging into the copy — into websites, landing pages, emails, and ads — and figuring out how to optimize it for conversions and improve it for reader enjoyment. The more we do it, the better we get and the more fun we have.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always on the lookout for sharp, conversion-copy-leaning writers who find optimizing copy oddly thrilling and aren’t afraid to make suggestions for which they weren’t asked (i.e., who tend to underpromise and overdeliver as a default).

Our positions are all project-based and dictated entirely by how many jobs clients submit, so they make a great bonus option for someone who is already making a living with their main writing gig/business. If you’re interested, reach out at snap {at} snapcopy {dot} co.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!