How Eman Ismail Built a Copywriting Business to Create the Lifestyle She Wanted

Eman Ismail was working 12 hour days with a 2 year-old. Every night when she returned home after her son was already asleep she was unhappy with the state of things. She wanted to be present in her own life instead of beholden to the schedule of her employer. So she did something about it, […]

Eman Ismail was working 12 hour days with a 2 year-old. Every night when she returned home after her son was already asleep she was unhappy with the state of things. She wanted to be present in her own life instead of beholden to the schedule of her employer.

So she did something about it, and quit.

Then she launched her own copywriting business, but this wasn’t the first time she had thought about building her own company, this was her third try…except this time it stuck.

Listen to her story, it’s a good one.

Follow Eman’s Journey on Linkedin

Check out Eman’s website

Episode Transcript

Josh Haynam:
Hi, everyone. I am here with Eman Ismail. She’s an email conversion strategist and copywriter, and she has a very awesome story that I want to share with everybody. So thanks for being on, Eman.

Eman Ismail:
Thanks. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. So I found about you because of a LinkedIn post where you had shared about working with Copyhackers, and then I followed that to your site and kind of read a little bit of your story, and I just wanted to share it with everybody. So let’s just start there. How did you become what you are now?

Eman Ismail:
Okay. It’s a long story, but it starts off with… I feel like the middle of the story is me working for a charity. I was running the comms, the communications department for that charity, and so my job that was kind of to do whole bunch of copywriting. I was writing websites, emails, social media. I was managing their social media as well. I was monitoring their campaigns, doing loads of stuff, and managing the video content, and creating videos, and working with their teams across the world to create these marketing videos, and I was probably doing the job of about three people in one role, and I knew the thing I enjoyed most was the copywriting. I loved that most, and anything that kind of took me away from that felt like a bit of a drag.

Eman Ismail:
But it got to the point where, because I was commuting… This job was in Yorkshire, which is about an hour away from where I am, but in bad traffic it’s about an hour and a half. That’s each way, by the way. That is each way. So it meant that I had to leave my house really early morning, take my son to nursery. He was two back then, so I’d take him to nursery. And I wouldn’t get home until about 8:00 in the evenings, so I was doing 12 hour days. I had to hire a childminder to pick my son up from nursery. And I’d get in every night, and my son would be asleep on the couch, because he would refuse to… At two years old, he was very strong willed. He would refuse to go to sleep without me. He wouldn’t go to bed, so he’d stay up on the sofa just kind of waiting for me and then eventually fall asleep because he couldn’t stay awake. And I’d come in every night to him asleep and just be devastated every time, and just think…

Eman Ismail:
It got to the point where I was just so unhappy. I was so unhappy. And I think I was at work complaining about something one day, and my colleague had said something like… Well, she made a really sarcastic comment about me complaining all the time. And she’s a friend. She’s a good friend as well, by the way. But it made me really reflect on my attitudes and actually think, wow, when did I become this person who just complained all the time? Because even I was getting sick of me and my unhappiness and my complaints. And I just thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” I was so unhappy, and I needed to see my son more and I needed to be more involved in just even picking him up from nursery every day. It meant so much.

Eman Ismail:
And yeah, I decided that I was going to speak to my boss at that time. He was my CEO. I asked him if I could work from home more, because my job was the kind of job that I could do from home. But he said no, because that wasn’t how he kind of saw his company running. And I also asked for a pay rise while I was there too. And he said yes, actually. He said yes to the pay rise, but it wasn’t as much as I wanted and [inaudible 00:03:28] At that point, it was like, “I work evenings and weekends. I work from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM every day, and something has got to change.” But nothing could change very much for him, so I resigned. I decided to just hand him a notice.

Eman Ismail:
So I had a month’s notice to work. I had no savings, no backup plan, no backup job, just this really burning desire to just be in charge of my own life, be in charge of my own time and my own calendar, and to be able to be the parent that I wanted to be the way I wanted to be. And that was that. So I worked this month’s notice. I put out a couple of LinkedIn posts on LinkedIn and said, “I’m leaving my job at the end of this month. I’m going into freelance copywriting. If anyone needs a copywriter, do get in touch.” And I finished that last shift for my job. An hour later after finishing that shift, the CEO actually dropped me a message and asked if he could hire me as a freelancer, so that was my first client sorted. And that was a Friday. By the Monday I had another client I was working with, and a couple of days later I had a few inquiries come through from that LinkedIn post. And that was September 2018, so we’re going on two years now. And yeah, the rest feels a bit like history.

Josh Haynam:
That’s amazing. I love that. It’s like, you’re looking at your life, and it’s not what you want it to be, and there’s no escaping it, right? It’s like it’s every single day. And I can resonate with how that feels to be like, “This is not what I want.” But then you actually take the leap. So what did that feel like, to actually do it, to actually make that decision of like, “I’m going to do something about this”?

Eman Ismail:
I was terrified. I was terrified. I was so scared. But interestingly, I was offered a couple of full-time jobs immediately after leaving, but by that point I’d already been running my business for a couple of weeks. And I remember thinking, “This might not work. Maybe I should just take the full-time job and go for the stable salary and and just do that, because I have a two-year-old to look after. This is crazy.” But then I remember thinking, “I’ve not even given myself a chance. I don’t want to pull out the race before it’s even started. Just give yourself a chance and see where this business goes.”

Eman Ismail:
And I’m really lucky, because I have a really supportive family. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I’ve always been kind of used to that. And I was really, really lucky, because all my family around me were really supportive of it, and they were like, “Leave.” All of them said, “Leave. Do it. Go. You know this is what you want to do. You know you can do it. You’ve got our support. Go for it.” And so having just that mental and emotional support was a lot as well. So I think it’s really important to be around those kinds of people who believe in you and will lift you up and that kind of thing. But I remember being terrified, and I think I kind of thought, “Well, the worst that can happen is that this fails and I need to go out and find another job,” so-

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think the other thing that came to mind was… I think you mentioned… Is it true that you had always thought about wanting to do your own thing?

Eman Ismail:
Yeah, and I tried it multiple times, actually. This wasn’t the first time I tried to set up a copywriting business. I tried it two times before and failed miserably, so-

Josh Haynam:
Oh, so how did that feel, with this being like, “I’ve tried this before. Didn’t work”? How did it feel being like, “All right, I’m going to do it again”?

Eman Ismail:
It was even more scary, I think, but I feel like the third time was different, because… I mean, the difference was, I had been working for that charity for just over a year, and just the experience that I’ve got in that year. I mean, it was a very difficult year logistically, practically, emotionally, but I learned so much on my job, and I met so many people, and I built so many connections, and it really gave me the confidence to feel like, “I can do this by myself. I know what my strengths are, and I know I can do this.” But I needed that. I needed that job. And I feel like that was all part of the journey, the very necessary journey to get to where I am today.

Eman Ismail:
But I remember thinking, “Okay, you’ve done this a couple of times now, and it’s never worked.” And if I’m honest, I think part of that was always not having the confidence that I needed, whereas this time, this time I had a son, and this wasn’t just about wanting to build a business. It was now about creating a lifestyle for me and him, and one that worked for us, so I feel like I was much more motivated. It felt like I had a lot more on the line, and that if I could get this right, I could really get it right.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that totally resonates. I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything by Viktor Frankl, but he is a psychologist and talks about how when you have something else as like what you’re living for, your motivation and your willpower is so much stronger.

Eman Ismail:
[crosstalk 00:00:09:14].

Josh Haynam:
And it sounds like maybe that was the case.

Eman Ismail:
Yeah, that’s so interesting. And you know, the thing is, I’ve never been someone who struggles with ambition or determination or working hard. I can do all of that, but there’s something else. You need more than that to run a successful business, and I don’t know if I’ve quite worked out what that is, but having a child to take care of that third time really, really helped spark whatever it was that I needed.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. No, that makes total sense, and I can resonate with that in my own journey as an entrepreneur as well. Let’s jump into the next stage, right? So you make the leap. You have a couple of clients. Then what happens?

Eman Ismail:
So at that point, I was charging about 10 to 15 pounds an hour, knowing that this business is going to fail if something doesn’t change quickly, dramatically. So I was kind of flailing around a little bit. I didn’t know kind of how to manage clients. I had a lot of issues around money as well, even just like sending invoices and talking about rates and accepting work that was not going to pay me very well.

Eman Ismail:
And I knew I needed help, so I think I was scrolling through Instagram one day, and I saw that this podcaster I really love listening to, Belinda Weaver, was opening up her coaching community for copywriters. I thought, “Wow, this is exactly what I need,” but I didn’t think I’d be able to afford it, because I was really making very little money at that point. And so clicked on the link. I went to her sales page, scrolled all the way down right to the bottom, like you do, to check out the price before you do anything else. And it was really affordable. So I canceled my LinkedIn premium account and switched it over and joined that community, and nearly two years later I’m still in that community, and the change was amazing.

Eman Ismail:
I mean, I booked a coaching call with her a few days into the community, because you kind of get to share her with people as a group, but I wanted some one-on-one time, so I booked a coaching call with her. I remember at that time a family member saying to me, “Is that how much you paid for a half-hour coaching call? That is insane.” But I remember believing at that time… and that was a lot of money for me at the time, because I didn’t have very much… remember really believing at the time that I needed to invest in myself if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be. And within two weeks of having that coaching call with her, I made that money back 10 times over. And within a few months, I had quadrupled my rates. A couple months later, I had my best financial month ever at that point.

Eman Ismail:
And yeah, I sought help. I got help. I found a coach, found a mentor, found a group, a community to kind of bounce ideas off and get support from and give support to, and that was really where things changed for me.

Josh Haynam:
And what are your key takeaways? Like what really changed in joining that community and talking with her?

Eman Ismail:
Wow. Well, I’ve always been a bit of a teacher’s pet, so I like to kind of be teacher’s favorite, and work really hard, and be the greatest student, all that kind of stuff. And so for me, I think having someone who was there above me that I could look to for guidance and look to for support and go to for advice was really important, and it gave me a kind of path to follow. So I stopped flailing around not knowing what to do, and I had a very clear path to follow, and that’s what I did.

Eman Ismail:
So I think you need to know the kind of person that you are and where and how you flourish best. I was having this conversation with a family member recently, and they said that I flourish when I am in a community, when there’s competition, because, again, I like to be at the top of the class. So if that’s where I flourish, then that’s where I need to be. I need to be around people who are doing better than me, who are more successful than me, who are making more money than me, that I look to and think, “I want to be where you are. How did you get there? And let me do what you did so that I can be either on par with you or ahead of you.” So just knowing who I am and how I work best was game-changing, but just having that support was.. It really changed everything for me.

Eman Ismail:
And then since then, the biggest, I think, takeaway for me has been to always invest in yourself. I never have any issues in investing in kind of business stuff, in my personal development, in my professional development. I happily invest in courses and boot camps and most recently a mastermind. And that came about pretty interestingly, actually. Copyhackers was doing a challenge, and it was a five-day challenge, a five-day [inaudible 00:14:22] challenge. And if you finished the challenge and you did everything that they told you to do, they would put you in, I guess, a sorting hat, and then two people would win a place on their mastermind.

Eman Ismail:
So I did the challenge, and funnily enough, it was a really difficult week. I remember almost not getting it in on time. I almost didn’t submit it, but my friend messaged me, and she was like, “You can do it. Come on, you need to do this. You need to do it.” And she was literally like, “If you are not in it, you can’t win it. You need to be in it to win it, so let’s do this.” And [inaudible 00:14:55] it was like 11:00 at night, and I was looking at my son, thinking, “I’m just so tired. She doesn’t get it. I’m a mom. I’m so tired. I just want to sleep.” And I did it anyway, because everyone needs that friend who gives them that final push.

Eman Ismail:
So I submitted, and I won a place on Jo Wieb’s… Joanna Wiebe, that is, from Copyhackers… mini mastermind. A $3,000 mastermind. I got it for free for a whole year. That was in January 2020, and gosh, those… I mean, mastermind changed my business all over again, and the past six months have been amazing. And I mean, it led up to the post that you saw on LinkedIn with me writing an email for Copyhackers that went out last week. And also, my coach that I spoke about right at the beginning is now my client, so it’s come kind of gone full circle. And again, the masterminds, the communities, the courses have all contributed to that. I would not be where I am if I didn’t seek kind of help and support that I needed.

Eman Ismail:
And I think, honestly, a big part of that is implementation as well. So I mean, you can join all the courses, and you can join all the masterminds, but are you actually implementing anything that you’ve learned? Are you actually doing it, or are you just racking up courses? So that’s been really important too, just setting time aside for my learning, and protecting that time, and realizing that that is part of my business building.

Josh Haynam:
I think, as I’m just listening, what I’m hearing you say is, learning, community, accountability, which ties right into implementation, those are kind of like the four pillars.

Eman Ismail:
I love that.

Josh Haynam:
Am I missing anything else that feels really important?

Eman Ismail:
No, I love that for that. I feel like I need to go write that down somewhere, because I’ve never thought of it like that, but that’s exactly what it is.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, and that makes total sense. Like you are learning, and then you have the support to actually go out and do it, and then that leads right back into more learning, and that’s an awesome flywheel to be on.

Josh Haynam:
So now let’s talk about the today. So the original inspiration for this was looking at your life and seeing, “This is not what I want with my son. This is not what I want my life to look like.” It’s been… What is that? Close to two years now since making the leap?

Eman Ismail:
Yep.

Josh Haynam:
How have things changed? Where are you at now?

Eman Ismail:
Wow. Well, the first thing is, I actually have a profitable business, which is crazy. I wasn’t quite sure that was going to happen, but it did. And I get to manage my own time. I get to manage my own life. I get to say yes to the projects that I want to, and no to the projects that I don’t. I get to work with my ideal clients, which is amazing, on the projects that I want to. And then in terms of my personal life, I am able to take my son to nursery every day, and I’m able to pick him up from nursery every day, and I’m able to go on his nursery trips to the farm, that kind of stuff that’s so important. And I mean, I went on a nursery trip with him to the farm, and I was potentially the only parent, I think, on the coach with them anyway. And he remembers that, and that was nearly a year, and he remembers, and he still talks about it. And so I feel validated in feeling like this was so important, and I knew it was important, and it was important enough to change my entire life for it. I’m so glad I did.

Eman Ismail:
And he starts school very soon. He starts school, and I’m just so lucky because I am in conversation with all the other parents, and their issues are… This transition period from when when he finishes nursery and start school is really difficult on parents that work, because suddenly the schedule is out of the window, and they’re doing kind of a couple of hours in school here and a couple of hours there. It’s all kind of like taster sessions. And it’s hard on parents who are working, who are in traditional employment, who have to ask someone else for time off. And I am just so grateful that I am not in that position anymore. I literally… I sent an email to my assistant and was like, “Can you take these days off my calendar, these times?| And it was done. Done. That’s it. And that was it. I don’t have to worry about it.

Josh Haynam:
That’s amazing. That’s got to feel so, so good.

Eman Ismail:
It does. It really does.

Josh Haynam:
So then let’s talk about the future. What are your plans for what you want to do with the business now that it’s at this stage of profitability?

Eman Ismail:
Wow. So much. I almost feel like I have… I always have too many ideas, so I have to gain kind of some kind of self control and reign in all my ideas.

Eman Ismail:
Well, I am currently working on a complete website makeover, so that’s the first thing. I feel like I finally know who I am as a business owner, what I am, what I’m good at, what makes me special, because there are millions of copywriters in the world, right? So I’m finally ready to redo my website and just really make my website a big part of my business. At the minute, it’s kind of just like a placeholder website. It’s kind of there so that the website is there, and a lot of the clients that I get are actually through LinkedIn and Instagram and through word of mouth referrals and that kind of thing, but I would love my website to do that job for me as well. So that’s the biggest project I’m working on at the minute.

Eman Ismail:
I have currently set up… Actually, I’ve just set up in the past week a coaching service for freelance copywriters who are new to the game, because I get a lot of messages and emails from freelance copywriters who were just starting out who really wants some advice on how to take the plunge, because I’m very kind of vocal about having been in a full-time job and quitting without a plan and then managing it and it somehow working out, and so a lot of people want to talk to me about that. And I did dedicate a lot of time to pick up the phone and really talking through this with freelance copywriters, then I kind of realized that, in a bid to, again, protect my time, I needed to turn this into a service. So I am currently offering that service to freelance copywriters, where it’s kind of like coaching, where I basically give them access to everything. So they ask me a question, and I will answer it as much as I can and give them as much information as possible, even if that means kind of digging into my business and showing them exactly how I do things. So that’s one thing.

Eman Ismail:
And the next is probably, I mean, my ever-changing financial goals, so always just having that next goal that I want to hit. And then hitting that consistently, because it’s great to say, “Wow, I had X month,” but can you hit consistently, is the question, so really kind of finding that stability. And then the next thing is just really finding my work-life integration rather than balance and trying to create a business that doesn’t always need me at the center of it so that I can go and do some other things that I love to do. Because I mean, I realized that writing was always my passion. I loved it, and that’s what I used to do as kind of my hobby. But now that my hobby is my full-time job, I don’t have any other hobbies anymore, so I need to go out and find some hobbies as well and have a bit more fun, I think.

Josh Haynam:
I love that. It’s so cool. You get to go to that place and achieve some things, and then there’s still more, but it’s also a certain contentment with where you’re at, so that’s all really cool. And yeah, this just feels like we got to follow a story from the beginning to not the end, like the beginning to a good place. And I think in wrapping up, I highly recommend following Eman on LinkedIn, which is what I’ve been doing, and I could see some of this journey as it’s unfolding. So definitely look her up. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Where else can people go to follow along with your story or check out your services?

Eman Ismail:
You can go to www.inkhouse.org.uk, or you can follow me on Instagram or social media at inkhousewriting. And like Josh said, I’m on LinkedIn as well, my name, Eman Ismail. So you can find me on all the socials or my website.

Josh Haynam:
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story with us.

Eman Ismail:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

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