If you have an entrepreneurial streak and can write, freelance copywriting may be perfect for you. Freelancing gives you greater control over your copywriting career and better earning potential too.
To become a freelance copywriter, first, learn the fundamentals of copywriting. Then write practice assignments to develop your craft and to add to a portfolio showcasing your work. Once you have a polished portfolio, write for freelance websites to gain experience working for clients.
Getting started with freelance websites like Upwork can be tough, and you probably won’t earn much in the beginning. When you’re beginning, it’s not about the income.
It’s about the experience, gaining confidence, establishing yourself as a professional, and building relationships with clients who appreciate your work.
Once you break through to gigs that pay fairly, you can begin to earn a professional income.
At that point, you can look for clients directly instead of using the freelance website, or you can incorporate both strategies.
Should You Become a Freelance Copywriter?
Later in this article, I show what it takes to be a copywriter and the pros and cons of freelancing.
Consider all the angles, but if you like writing and you enjoy working alone, copywriting may be a satisfying profession for you.
Many copywriters love the freelance lifestyle despite the negatives. To them, the control they have over their lives and the higher income outweigh the headaches.
Freelance means self-employed, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss. Every client you work for is your boss.
As a freelancer, you will usually have more than one project at a time, either as a temporary assignment or an ongoing basis.
For example, a marketing director with an online company hires you to write a 12-week email sequence. When you complete the job, you send her an invoice, and you get paid.
Your success as a freelancer is dependent on your skill as a copywriter, how well you promote your business, how efficiently you work and manage time, plus negotiating skills.
Some people wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, some people who may be extraordinary copywriters can’t make it as a freelancer. They may fail because they don’t treat it as a business, can’t manage distractions, can’t promote themselves or find clients.
The Benefits of Being a Freelance Copywriter
There are numerous advantages to working for yourself as a copywriter. It’s a natural choice if you love to write.
Some writers gravitate to copywriting after spending years trying to establish a career as a novelist or screenwriter, two challenging creative fields.
Fortunately, there is a massive demand for copywriters. You can earn 6-figures as a freelancer if you put in the work.
Here are some of the advantages of going freelance.
- Work from home or anywhere you have an internet connection.
- While every client is your boss, you don’t have to work for them. As a freelancer, if a client is difficult, just say no. There’s plenty of work to be had.
- If you prefer working alone, copywriting may be perfect for you.
- Established freelance copywriters earn considerably more than staff writers on an agency’s payroll.
- Low startup costs.
- Interesting projects.
Like any business, freelance copywriting is all roses and rainbows. There are negatives too. How well you enjoy writing freelance depends mainly on how well you can accept the negatives of the profession.
Here are some downsides to freelance copywriting.
- Solitude/loneliness. Working for yourself might get lonely if you prefer to work with others. Many writers like to work alone. If you prefer social contact during the day, make time to phone friends.
- Distractions. When there isn’t someone holding you accountable, it’s easy to squander your time and energy. Also, family and friends mistakenly believe because you are home, you’re not working.
- Irregular paychecks. In the first year or two of freelancing as a copywriter, expect the income flow to be uneven. It can at times seem like feast or famine. One week you’re struggling to keep up with the workload. The next week you’re going nuts hoping a client will call.
- No Support. When you’re freelancing, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. When you’re off on vacation or sick in bed, you aren’t making an income.
- It’s all on you. If you run out of supplies, you must order more. If you don’t have clients, you must go out and find some.
The Services a Freelance Copywriter Can Offer
As a freelance copywriter, there is a wide range of services you can offer. Naturally, your services will depend on your skills and preferences, plus the needs of your clients.
Most copywriters are content to write copy for clients. They don’t venture into related areas such as design or marketing strategy.
They simply write. It’s enough to write promotions, ads, and web content, and they make a good living at it.
They offer writing services and nothing more.
Editing and Revision
Some copywriters will analyze, edit, and revise copy written by the client.
Sometimes the service is just a critique of the work, but it may include a complete rewrite.
Clients will sometimes as for a critique as a way of getting professional level copywriting at a discount. Their reasoning is they did the hard part, and the copywriter just needs to look over it.
However, a critique can take just as much time and energy as writing the piece.
As you become more familiar with services related to marketing, you might choose to offer these in addition to writing.
- Creating complete sales funnels
- Web Design and optimization
- Writing and producing video ads.
- Email marketing strategies
- Market analysis
At the beginning of your freelance career, most of your time will be spent in search of clients or submitting proposals on freelance websites like Upwork.
For many freelancers, this is the toughest part. It challenges their comfort zone and can be a source of much stress.
This is the point where many freelancers fail. They either quit before they get started, or they don’t follow through with their search for clients.
Success isn’t instant. It’s a cumulative process that builds on itself.
For freelance copywriters who launch their business on Upwork or similar sites, the first few months can be brutal.
Showing up is half the battle, but so is staying in the game until you score.
Expect to fail. Make every setback a learning experience and try again.
Upwork and Freelancer
These sites have mixed reviews online, and many people claim you can’t earn anything there. Indeed, in the first few months, it can be tough to make a buck.
Upwork and Freelancer can be hard on newbies, but they’re still great places to develop confidence and refine your copywriting skills.
When you’re starting, think of writing on these platforms as an extension of your copywriting education.
Just do the work for the experience and to help you mature as a copywriter. If you earn a nickel from the effort, all the better.
Once you’ve paid your dues, you can make a substantial full-time income on these sites if you want.
A LinkedIn account goes a long way toward establishing credibility and building trust. When you have a LinkedIn profile, it will show up when people Google your name.
A LinkedIn profile is the new job resume. If someone is interested in your copywriting services, they will typically first look for your profile on LinkedIn.
You can bet the directors, managers, and owners at creative agencies will look to see if you have a LinkedIn profile.
You can put your portfolio right on your LinkedIn profile. You can also post endorsements and testimonials, further building your credibility as a copywriter.
Before you begin searching for clients, polish your LinkedIn profile.
Creative agencies are advertising and marketing consultants, design firms, PR firms, and any shop that creatively communicates with an audience.
Many of these firms are small and outsource most of the work.
Established copywriters also occasionally have more work than they can manage and will hand assignments off to fledgling writers.
Contacting agencies is how I got my start back in the mid-eighties. Since the internet wasn’t a thing yet, I had to find clients the old fashion way.
I sent resumes to every creative agency within a hundred miles and waited by the phone. Nothing happened.
Finally, after several months, a small ad agency called. They had just gotten a large commercial real estate project and needed a writer.
Soon after that, an agency asked me to write for a financial services client.
It was interesting to me that both clients said when they got my resume, they filed it away for the next time their agency had more work than they could manage.
Contact the agency manager, director, or owner.
Writing for small businesses is often overlooked by aspiring copywriters. However, it’s a huge market and can be very lucrative too.
In the digital age, most copywriters focus on finding online clients; very few seek to help small businesses that may not have an online presence.
As a copywriter, you have the skills to boost the profits of a small business. And, the more you help a business earn, the more they will gladly pay you.
It’s a win-win for everyone and very satisfying work.
When a small business hires a copywriter, they often want more than just copy. They may also need the copywriter to coordinate image and logo designs, video production, voice talent for radio ads, website, and online reputation.
Contact the business owner.
Writing for nonprofits is a considerable market. Many copywriters specialize in writing for nonprofits and charities.
Most nonprofits are dependent on fundraising and grants; both require skillful writers.
In the nonprofit arena, a copywriter can expect to write fundraising letters, ads and phone scripts, grant proposals, newsletters, and even speeches.
Direct Marketing Companies.
Not to be confused with MLM companies that claim to be direct marketing companies, direct marketing, aka direct-response marketing, or direct-response advertising inspires a prospect to take a specific action.
Usually to make a purchase.
For people outside the industry, direct marketing can be an emotional issue. Some people hate it and might inflict bodily harm on anyone associated with the industry.
Direct marketing is the realm of infomercials, telemarketers and junk mail.
But, here’s the thing about direct marketing you should know as a copywriter, it works. For a skillful copywriter, direct marketing can be insanely lucrative.
However, compared to other forms of copywriting, which may simply convey information, direct marketing sells a product. In other words, the results of a copywriter’s work can be measured and quantified.
It either makes money for the client, or it doesn’t.
They typically do not have stores or sales staff. The ad campaign does all the selling.
Some direct marketing companies sell through snail mail and infomercials. However, most now market online with PPC ad campaigns and video ads.
Direct marketing is the highest-paying specialty among copywriters. When you can create a winning direct-mail letter, advertisement, or sales page that generates sales, you can do very well as a copywriter.
Telling the World You’re in Business.
Now that you know who’s hiring freelance copywriters, you’ll want to get your business house in order before you approach prospective clients.
Create a LinkedIn account, get business cards, and matching letterhead stationery. A website is helpful, but in the beginning, you may be able to get by with just a LinkedIn account.
The thing to remember is when you contact a prospective client, or they discover you indirectly, they’ll go online to learn more. You want them to find only good stuff about you and your amazing copywriting skills.
A LinkedIn profile and a website are a one-two punch of impressive credibility enhancement. Take the time to make them look professional.
Once your business house is in order, it’s time to get the word out. The most common strategies for finding clients are listed below.
Writing articles is a proven strategy for building a professional image. As you begin your career as a freelance copywriter, published articles will build your credibility and get your name in front of possible clients.
It’s also a great way to use the unproductive time between clients.
Write for print and online publications related to marketing and niches that interest you.
Writing for local papers and magazines will get your name in front of local businesses and organizations.
Networking is tried and true. Other professionals routinely network and understand you need to promote yourself.
Networking at business meetings and conventions are the traditional way, but you can also network on forums and through blog or video comments.
The Invaluable Pitch Letter.
Mailing letters to prospective clients is a highly effective strategy for promoting your copywriting services.
The beauty of a pitch letter is it naturally showcases your persuasive writing skills and command of the language.
Start with a list of prospective clients. You can find them in online business directories.
Treat the pitch letter like a copywriting assignment. Before you type the first word, understand what the prospective client needs and how they can benefit from your services.
Start your letter by introducing yourself and your specialty. Then segue into how the prospective client can benefit from hiring your services.
For some people, cold calling a prospect is terrifying. It doesn’t have to be.
As much as possible, pretend you’re calling a friend you simply haven’t met.
When you make the call, politely introduce yourself. Then tell them what you offer and that you’re available for freelance work.
Ask if you can send them your contact details and a link to your portfolio (or website).
When you’re friendly and upbeat, the other person usually is too.
It helps to have a loving, Zen-like attitude when cold calling. You can’t control the outcome of the call; you can only control your side of the conversation.
Cold calling is a numbers game. The more phone calls you make, the more clients you’ll find.
And always be kind to gatekeepers. Sometimes they just want you to prove how badly you want it.
Watch for Opportunities to Promote Your Business
The ancient Roman philosopher, Seneca, reminds us that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
You never know who needs a copywriter or who knows someone who needs a copywriter. Whenever you meet someone new, tell them about your business.
It’s okay to tell them you’re just starting if that’s the case. Most people naturally want to help others succeed.
As you promote your copywriting services, persistence and patience are essential.
At times, it may seem like it’s taking too much effort for too little results. Starting a new business is like that.
Stay the course. Keep trying. You only need one client, and you’re on your way.