Discover How Garrett Oden Turned His Passion for Coffee into a Profitable Freelance Gig
You're gonna need a cup o' joe to get through Garrett Oden's Q&A. That's because you'll want to be wide awake to take in all of his insights.
Garrett turned his love for coffee into a money-making copywriting business. He started out writing the blog CoffeeBrewGuides and managing a cafe in college. When coffee companies asked him to create content for them, he realized he could make more money writing about coffee than serving it. He opened Garrett Oden Copywriting and became a full-time freelance copywriter and content strategist for coffee, food and food tech businesses in 2017. Learn more about this Waco, Texas resident and his journey into the gig economy.
giggs: Please share 5 tips for freelancers who are just starting out.
Garrett: 1. Never stop learning. If you ever stop thinking of yourself as a lifelong learner, you’ll stagnate. You’ll get complacent. You’ll raise your prices, but it won’t be justified because you’re not actively improving yourself. To be successful, you must always have a posture of self and skill improvement.
2. Stop relying on “motivation.” If you wake up in the morning, go sit on the couch and watch The Office while you eat breakfast, you’re going to STRUGGLE to walk over to your desk and start working. The problem isn’t your motivation though — it’s your routine. Experiment and find routines that put you in the right headspace to work, then systemize those so that, when the trigger arises (you wake up, you finish lunch, whatever), you just start working without needing an ounce of motivation.
3. Take detailed notes on everything business-related. Track the time you spend on each project. Track the time you spend cold emailing target clients. Find your billed hourly rate (what you charge clients) and your real hourly rate (what you end up with after all that time on Facebook). With those kinds of insights, you can quickly see how changes in your routines, habits, pricing impact the trajectory of your business — and it can be exhilarating!
4. Learn to make clients love you. This one’s not about skills or results — it’s about workflow. Are you organized, easy to work with, and deadline-strict? You don’t have to be the best at what you do, but if you can be the best to work with, you’ll have leads out the door. Practically, this can be mirroring your client’s tone, repeating back what they say to help them see that you’re clearly listening, setting them up in your task management system to demonstrate how organized you are, and sending clear follow-up emails after each call so that everyone knows what was discussed and what the next steps are.
5. Slowly start saying "No." Starting out, you need to say "Yes" a lot to get work, to try new things, to test new sills, to expand your boundaries, but eventually "Yes" will become a crutch. You’ll agree to things that sound easy because they’re comfortable and familiar. You’ll accept low-paying projects because you have a good relationship with the client and don’t want to risk losing it. But if you want to keep growing and evolving — and you should if you want to succeed — you have to start saying "No" to things that are the same old, same old. Always shoot for the next big thing.
giggs: What does a typical work day look like?
Garrett: Wake up around 7:30-8:00 am, make coffee and chill with my wife and pets, and be in front of the computer around 9:00. Take an hour-long lunch around noon, then get back to it till 5-6:00. Working like this enables me to take off frequently to visit family out of town or run errands.
giggs: How do you keep your business afloat?
Garrett: I’m systems-driven. I never lose track of tasks or deadlines because I rock my Asana account. I never lose track of prospects because I use Streak for Gmail to keep track of who I’m trying to woo. I also don’t back down.
giggs: How did you come up with your pricing structure?
Garrett: I never charged the same fee twice for nearly two years. I raised my price with every new client. This was partially because I was learning new things very quickly and knew I was getting more and more valuable. It was also because I knew my tendency was to withdraw and charge less out of imposter syndrome.
Pricing is a never-ending experiment with only two rules for me: I never start any new engagement for under $500, and if I can’t charge $80+ per hour (hidden behind a project-based fee), it’s a project I’d rather pass on because the opportunity cost is too high. I’m always testing.
giggs: How do you market your services?
Garrett: I do a lot of LinkedIn stuff. Liking posts, commenting, following people. They start to notice, and I’ve gotten some great clients this way. I write for two publications in my niche so that my target audience knows I’m "one of them." I also send a couple cold emails every month because I want to make sure my name is getting in front of my target audience.
giggs: What's the worst business advice someone has given you as a freelancer?
Garrett: Insta-fire any client that gives a single red flag. I would have missed out on some great clients if I ran away like I was entitled to a flawless client experience. A client asking for a discount isn’t evil — there’s no harm in asking. If a client asks about an hourly rate, it isn’t deceptive — they’re just trying to give their boss an expected budget.
If you see lots of red flags, go ahead and say goodbye — there are tons of bad clients that will hold you back. But don’t be an entitled brat.
giggs: What does your dream project look like?
Garrett: A full-suite copywriting job for a food robotics company — website, sales materials, emails. Ah, sounds fun.
giggs: Anything you’d like to add?
Garrett: There’s nothing special about me, and yet, I specialize in a niche industry that I’m slowly getting known for. It’s not about me at all — it’s about the dedication to the craft, the discipline to create systems that get work done every day, and the unending pursuit of learning and improvement.
Thanks for your insights, Garrett! Connect with Garrett on LinkedIn.