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Making words from nothing

Typos are becoming a thing of the past with Dominique Antarakis' Copy Collective. She talks about why it's so important businesses have an extra pair of eyes

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I was very lucky to have a fairly calm baby, that I used to take to my clients' offices - Dominique Antarakis
13 January 2014

With the internet filled with hilarious misspellings and unfortunate typos, having the help of a cluey wordsmith is an invaluable commodity these days.
Enter Dominique Antarakis of the Copy Collective. Starting the small copywriting business in 2008, she's managed to take lifeless, boring text and turn it into marketable, snappy prose for anyone who needs it.
The business basically works as a buy your own writer. Need a speech in a day? No worries. Annual report due in a week? Done and done. Never created a brochure before? Not a problem.
It's a company you can hire to write or edit your business's text. It offers professional writing for clients who need that extra pair of eyes before they press send or don't have time to produce the writing themselves; a final buffer before a typo reaches a client and, if unfortunate enough, the internet.
Dominique wouldn't call the company an overnight success, but since its inception in mid-2008, the company has grown to hold five permanent staff members, a Sydney and New Zealand branch and a contributor base of more than 60 people around the country.
As a former business journalist and copywriter, the idea to start her own business was always in the back of her mind, but it took a bit of a push to get her to start looking at it seriously.
Reporting on success stories and business failures gave her a good idea of what she would be getting herself into.
"My first beat was women in business, so I got to interview a lot of interesting people about their lives and work, and I remember thinking at the time that I would really like to own and run a business one day," she tells Neos Kosmos.
"But as a writer it's hard to see how that could happen."
The business actually came out of necessity when her circumstances changed.
As a new mum, Dominique wasn't keen to go back into full time work with a young bub to look after, so she reassessed her job prospects.
She swapped the 9-5 for contributor work she could do in her own time.
"9-5 just never worked for me, I always had trouble getting to work on time," she says with a bit of a laugh.
"It was ideal for me to be a freelancer."
The baby actually helped her bridge the awkward first meeting with clients.
"I was very lucky to have a fairly calm baby, that I used to take to my clients' offices," she remembers.
As her client base grew, her reputation grew too, and soon enough she was struggling to manage her workload by herself.
"Basically I was doing five or six or seven jobs at the one time, and I thought 'this is ridiculous'," she says.
"If I had other people on board to pick up the slack, jobs would actually be done a bit more thoroughly and I could actually charge more for the hours being spent on them."
From there the idea was born and she was on her way to starting a business.
After covering so many horror stories in her time as a business journalist, she knew how difficult it would be sustaining a business past the five year point. She took the initiative and booked herself in for a six-month business mentoring course at the Australian Businesswomen's Network and studied hard to avoid the problems so many small businesses fail to anticipate.
"The biggest concern I had was quality control," she says when she first started looking to hire new contributors.
"You become a bit of a control freak when it's all your own work, you think, 'will I find people who are as committed to this as I am?'"
The panic eased when she kept finding talented writers, some, she says modestly, with a better turn of phrase than her.
The whole business operates online via cloud computing, so contributors can be anywhere with an internet connection and able to work. It's something she says is intrinsic to a freelancer, being able to keep a work life balance.
As well as keeping contributors busy, the Copy Collective also looks to enhance its writers' skills and offers them training to help them learn how to write for other mediums. The training sessions are also open to the public for any budding writers hoping to boost their skills. The next session is 'Writing for Fundraising' starting from February 18.
On the books, Dominique has high profile clients such as Amnesty International, The Cancer Council, Canteen, Médecins San Frontières and TEDxSydney, who all use the Collective for different reasons.
Many use the Collective's templates for letter writing, press releases or brochures and others ask for whole fundraising campaigns.
The not-for-profit industry is where Dominique started as a freelancer, and she takes a lot of pride in keeping as many organisations on the books as she can. At the moment, charity groups make up 50 per cent of the Collective's client base.
For many of these groups, the Collective is writing the lion's share of their marketing and media campaigns, effectively becoming a PR firm in the process. It's something the Collective is looking to move into if there's more demand.
Another venture on the horizon will be offering translation services. Many clients have already been asking for their work to be translated and the company has been dipping its toe in the water.
"People have approached us and we've said we can do that," she says.
"That will be in the next year or so. The model works if the work is there."
Until all the 'i's are dotted and all the 't's are crossed, there's no stopping the Copy Collective.

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