So you’re thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter, huh? Well, there’s a heap of money to be made and there are shit tons of freelancers earning over $100,000 each and every year! And the fab thing about copywriting is that it’s easy to get started and get that massive salary rolling in.
Every single business out there needs copywriters. They need someone to write the words on their website, in their brochures and flyers, in their social media marketing, in their email newsletters… the list goes on. And that’s where you come in!
As a freelance writer, it’s your job to write those all-important words that help businesses sell their products or services. And the best bit is that you don’t need formal training or education AND can work from wherever the hell you like.
Live the laptop life, my friend! Become a freelance copywriter.
So, to help you on your way, in this guide, I’ll spill the tea on the steps to becoming a copywriter and earning six figures or more each year. There are copywriters out there who smash $100k in their first year. It can be done, and as a been there, done that copywriter, I can show you exactly how!
First things first, though…
Table of contents:
- 1. What is a freelance copywriter?
- 2. What does a freelance writer do all day?
- 3. What are the types of copywriting?
- 4. What do copywriters get paid?
- 5. How can I become a copywriter?
- 6. General steps:
What is a freelance copywriter?
In short, a freelance copywriter is someone who writes copy and works for themselves. ‘Copy’ refers to the words businesses use to sell their products and services.
When you see any form of written communication or messaging from a business or organization, that’s the work of a copywriter.
Oh, and don’t get confused with “copyright.” Copyright is entirely different and refers to creators’ legal rights over their work.
Copy appears in a bajillion different formats, like:
- Social media posts
- Brochures and flyers
- Sales letters
- Email marketing campaigns
A copywriter’s job is to write persuasive and interesting words that make people wanna buy what folks are selling.
You might be thinking, “Back TF up! Anyone can write words… how hard can it be?”
But it’s not just about stringing a few sentences together. A good copywriter needs to understand what makes people tick AND what’ll make them buy from a particular brand.
It takes skill, know-how, and experience to write copy that gets results. And that’s where you come in!
What does a freelance writer do all day?
Shockingly, copywriters don’t just sit around all day sipping cocktails by the pool. Some of the day, yep, but not all of it!
The reality is that most of us are chained to our desks in front of a laptop, writing until our fingers bleed. Just kidding, but we do spend a fair chunk of time glued to screens and writing copy.
But the actual writing part is only one, albeit large, slice of the pie. There’s a metric fuck ton of other stuff involved, like discussions with clients, planning, sleuthing competitors, researching the topic, getting feedback, and editing. Plus, there’s all the networking and marketing your ass off on top of client work.
If you’re an employed rather than a freelancer, you don’t have to worry too much about these bits and bobs, and most of your time will be spent writing.
What are the types of copywriting?
You’re surrounded by copy. That box of cornflakes on the dining table? It’s covered in copy. That billboard on your commute to work? Ad copy. Artsy new Insta post from your fave brand? Social media copy. That email in your inbox from that dodgy Nigerian prince? 100% email copy (albeit not very good copy). Incredible, inspirational articles like this one. Yep, you’ve guessed it—blog copy.
And what do all these forms of copy have in common? They’re trying to persuade you to act and ultimately to buy something.
If the copy is trying its darndest to get you to do something immediately, this is called “direct response copywriting.” It includes stuff like adverts that are designed to get clicks, product descriptions that tempt you to add that ship to your cart, or landing pages that gather your email deets.
Then, there’s copy that doesn’t try to get an immediate response. Instead, it aims to build a brand that sticks in your mind, and you’ll buy at some point in the future. It big-ups the biz so that you want to be part of it. This brand-focused copywriting includes stuff like blog posts that show off the business’s expertise, social media posts that make you laugh or feel warm and fuzzy inside, white papers that highlight the brand’s authority, and even a brand’s tagline.
Think about brands like Nike and the ‘Just do it’ tagline. Reading that tagline doesn’t drive an immediate response, but it may make you feel a certain way. It’s aspirational, and when it comes time to buy new kicks, Nike pops into your head, and you do the thing.
Most brands use a mix of both types of copywriting in their marketing. For example, they may use brand-focused blog posts to attract new leads and then employ direct response strategies like pop-ups to turn those leads into customers.
You see, copy is everywhere, and businesses use it in different ways to communicate with their target audience.
What about content? What sorta writing is that?
Content is kinda the same as copy. They can both mean ‘words.’ But content can be anything that appears on a website or on any digital platform, whether it’s written, designed, photographed, or filmed. You have to write copy, but you can sing, prance, dance, record, draw, or illustrate the content.
So let’s say you have an article that you’ve been writing. This article forms part of the website’s content. But, the writing is ‘copy.’
A good article needs talent as it should be engaging, interesting, and informative. It should make people want to stick around and keep reading, be it educational, entertaining, or both.
Content writing consists of blog posts, articles, eBooks, etc. Stuff that’s all about selling without being too sales-y. It’s about creating material or content that helps with marketing and drives traffic to the website.
It’s also about ensuring the content is optimized for search engines so people can find it (and your services!) more easily. It needs appropriate tags, titles, and descriptions so that when someone Googles a particular topic, your content comes up as one of the top search results.
Content writing services are important because they helps businesses:
- Sell their products or services
- Drive traffic to their website
- Improve their search engine ranking
- Connect with their target audience
- Establish themselves as an authority in their industry
There’s an overlap between content or marketing writing and copywriting. And you can offer both services. But the key difference is that copywriting is all about selling, while content writing is about helping and informing.
What do copywriters get paid?
Now that you know copy is lurking everywhere, you can see it’s an in-demand career. And that’s good news when it comes to your bank balance. Who doesn’t want more cash left for fun!?
But what you earn depends on how you do it. Once you decide to become a copywriter, you can find employment either with a content marketing team at an agency or in a company’s marketing department. Lot’s of larger brands hire freelance copywriters. Copywriter jobs offer a decent wage of around $69k. Definitely not to be sneezed at.
Finding an entry-level copywriting job is fairly straightforward. It’s a matter of perusing the job sites, dazzling them with a decent resume, and breezing through your interview. Jobs a good ‘un. The great thing about working in an entry-level position is that you’re being trained for free, building an impressive portfolio, and getting all that lovely experience under your belt while earning a wage.
But here’s the biggie: you’ll only be earning a fraction of what you would as a freelancer. There’s literally no ceiling when you work for yourself. You can earn fantastic money, and if your days become too full, you can take on extra hands and start your own agency.
How can I become a copywriter?
As you can see, the best way to make bank as a copywriter is as a freelancer. Yep, it’s time to challenge the traditional work culture. For so long, people have been told that employment is the best option. It’s more stable and reliable, and you have a guaranteed amount of money coming in.
But my friend, it’s simply not the case.
When you work for someone else, they control you and your time. They also control your salary and decide if and when you deserve a promotion or raise. Not to mention managing or micromanaging you and your working process.
When you’re a freelance copywriter, you’re in the driving seat. It’s all down to you, sunshine! And yes, this might sound scary, and it isn’t always easy, but the rewards are fucking extraordinary. There’s nothing like being completely in control of your time and finances.
And the great thing is that becoming a freelancer isn’t even that hard. Yes, it requires commitment, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, or at least tenacity and a willingness to learn, but it’s certainly not difficult.
So enough of the jibber-jabber, here are the general steps:
1. Understand the principles behind copywriting
Copywriting persuades people to take a specific course of action. You’re not just throwing a load of words together. You’re trying to achieve something with the power of persuasion.
The first step is to understand what makes good copy and what elements you need to include to make it persuasive. And the great thing is that there’s a cornucopia of resources available to help you learn. Just Google ‘persuasive writing techniques.’
But don’t fall down a rabbit hole and get overwhelmed! You need to be focused and understand that you can’t learn everything at once. Most of your learning will be on the job, and you’ll gradually start understanding what works and doesn’t as you gain experience. Just get a good grasp of the basics.
2. Learn copywriting and content writing basics
Now you know that copywriting is all about persuasion, the next step is to learn the critical skills that allow you to form persuasive words into the specific types of copy that people want. Like what? Like emails, adverts, sales pages, etc.
Once again, remember that you don’t need to learn everything to start with. But at the very least, you should know how to write a darn good headline for starters. It’s a critical skill that every copywriter out there needs. Why? Because pretty much all copywriting has some sort of headline, and it’s arguably the most important part of the copy.
Use the 4 U’s formula to create sexy, click-worthy headlines. In other words, your headline must:
- Be useful to the reader
- Create a sense of urgency
- Be unique
- Be ultra-specific
Remember that the best your headline is, the better the results for the clients. And when you get good results, clients keep coming back for more.
It’s also good to learn about value proposition copywriting. Say what? A value proposition is a short and sweet statement that tells the reader what’s on offer and to whom, and the value of this offering.
Now that might not seem complex but wrapping up these values in a concise and punchy statement is a work of art.
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be hired specifically to create a value proposition for someone, it’s a skill you’ll need for numerous forms of copywriting, like crafting landing pages and website copy. And clients are usually impressed when you can eloquently articulate the value of their biz as it’s something they may struggle with themselves. Ker-ching! Extra points for you.
On the agenda should also be learning about a few copywriting forms. At this point, you may have an inkling of the sort of copywriter you want to become. For example, if your heart is set on becoming an advertising copywriter, then focus on advertising copywriting — duh! But, if you haven’t the foggiest, I’d concentrate on learning about blogs, web copy and emails, for starters.
If you craft winning web copy for your clients that performs well, this directly affects their overall business success. Therefore, decent website copywriting is in high demand and attracts competitive fees.
Blogs and email copywriting are also lucrative, and they’re recurring business. Your clients need shiny new emails and blog posts every week or month, meaning it’s pretty easy to fill your schedule with these nuggets of joy.
Another great thing about emails is that you can measure the open and click rate, which tells you how your copy performed. There’s nothing quite like demonstrating your value to a client with cold hard stats.
3. Land some freelance clients as a copywriter
At this point, you should understand the basics of the theory and techniques of copywriting and what a day in the life of a copywriter might entail. But, the best way to learn is to write, as reading about it only gets you so far.
So, we’re taking the training wheels off, getting stuck into writing copy, and landing some clients.
Er, Zia, how TF will I land clients when I haven’t written any copy?
Yeah, I hear you! But there’s a plan!
Firstly, you’re going to write copy for your copywriting business. As a business owner, you’re just as in need of effective copy as any other business owner. So, grab your website and settle down to do some copywriting.
Although I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn, this is one huge advantage of having your own website. It allows you to show off your copywriting from the get-go.
Once you’ve written your web copy, find yourself a friendly copywriter to cast their eyes over your words. That way, you’ll know if you’ve really done a good job. Don’t know any copywriters? Give me a shout in the Easy Freelance Writing Facebook group! People are often willing to critique your work as they’ve been there themselves.
Now on the agenda is doing everything you can to write for another couple of businesses. When I say everything you can, I mean asking friends and family, asking small local businesses, reaching out to local charities, and offering your words for free. The goal of this exercise is to practice and to get feedback so you can improve.
I certainly don’t recommend working for free in the long term, but to begin with, it’s the best way to build your portfolio. And a decent portfolio is key to landing paying clients.
Once you have a few pieces of copywriting into your portfolio, it’s the moment to go all out to find someone, anyone who’ll pay you. Even if it’s only a tenner, it’s something. And there are plenty of coaches out there that tell you should never work for free or for shit rates, but at the beginning, let’s face it, your copywriting won’t be wicked good.
You need to get good at copywriting by taking whatever you can. Don’t just think about the money. Think about the priceless addition to your portfolio and the fact you’re getting paid something to practice.
It always amazes me when freelance writing coaches say you should be demanding at least $100 for a blog post, even as a complete newbie. Now, some people are genuinely brilliant and can instantly craft kick-ass blog posts worth that amount. But the truth is that most people need to find their feet before they can demand more money than pocket change.
When complete beginners are told they should wait for big fish clients, it can slow down their business growth. And who the fuck wants that? As a beginner freelance copywriter, you should be as prolific as possible. You need to practice and build your portfolio, and if someone’s willing to fling a $20 at you, take it. And the experience.
A good place to find clients is by perusing job listings. Where? Here:
Accept what you can and get the experience under your belt. It’s going to come good if you stick at it, so don’t stress.
Treat each writing project like they’re paying your million dollars. No, the shitty clients don’t deserve it, but make the most of it and get positive reviews and feedback.
And it’s not all doom and gloom at the bottom of the ladder. You may even find a decent client or two that you stick with it for a while.
Besides job boards, you should also build your LinkedIn network and reach out to businesses with cold pitching. It might seem like a massive waste of time when you don’t immediately get positive replies but stick with it. I’ve landed some awesome gigs by reaching out to people to see if they needed my content writing support.
Hopefully, by now, you’re beginning to feel like a legit freelance copywriter. You’re being a writer! And you have a growing bundle of positive testimonials and portfolio pieces. So, after a couple of months of low-paying work, it’s time to set your sights a little higher.
4. Mapping out your freelance copywriting business processes
Up until now, you’ve been stumbling through the world of freelancing, gobbling up cheap gigs, and prioritizing experience. Yet, you’ve learned how to deal with tricky clients, take soul-crushing feedback, close sales on the phone and over email, and write, deliver, and edit more work than you thought possible. You’ve experienced the freelance hustle!
That’s all well and good and exactly what you needed, but now it’s time to start freelancing with more purpose.
Sit down at a big old table with plenty of paper and pens and map out your copywriting business as it stands. You’ll need to include how you find leads, close sales, deal with payments, collect project details, deliver the work, etc., etc.
Next, consider any issues. Is it difficult to find leads, or can you find them but can’t close them? Are you finding time management difficult? Is communication with clients taking up too much headspace?
Once you have it all mapped out, the next step is to iron out and perfect your processes, so everything is as efficient as possible.
And what do I mean by this? Let’s take my business as an example. Waaay back in the past, I found myself doubling back to clients to find the information I needed for their copy. There was always something I forgot. So, I created a Google Form with a bajillion questions. Well, maybe not that many, but certainly enough to gather the information I needed to create scroll-stopping copy.
It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t time-consuming. And it saved me the hassle of unnecessary emails and waiting around for the details I needed.
There are loads of processes you can outline, from onboarding new clients to writing blog posts. If you’re particularly tech-savvy, you can even automate parts of your processes to save you time.
And, if you ever hire a virtual assistant or other writers, it helps to understand your processes and have them spelled out.
5. A freelancer needs leads, leads, leads!
Leads are one of the things that freelancers struggle with, particularly in the beginning. So you need to create a way of attracting recurring leads.
How? There’s my favorite, LinkedIn. Then there’s having a shiny writer’s website with good SEO and guest blogging. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can also pay to advertise your services. I mean, I don’t know any copywriters who do this, but technically it’s an option!
Let’s start with LinkedIn cos you all know how I feel about it!
Building your network and posting on LinkedIn should be part of your daily routine. You should also send connection requests to people you want to work with and join relevant groups.
When it comes to posting, try not to be too salesy but share your recent work and developments in your writing business. You could even get a bit of controversy going. Stretch the industry norms! You want people to remember you, right?
If you’ve just delivered a project or closed a deal, make sure people know about it. If you’ve been featured in a publication, share the link. New review? Get in on the LI.
Your goal here is to be top of mind when potential clients are ready to hire someone with your skills. I receive at least two messages a week from people looking to hire me. And, I hardly ever post on LinkedIn anymore. But, people come across my profile, see how awesome it is, and want in on the action.
In fact, every client I’m currently working with, I found through LinkedIn. Or rather, they found me. And no, it’s not like that initially, but these things take time.
Start by posting helpful content. Think about your dream clients and what they would enjoy reading or learning about. Engage with anyone who comments on your posts and send them connection requests. You should also send connection requests to your ideal clients.
I don’t send personalized requests as I find it too time-consuming. Instead, I just make sure my profile makes it clear as day who I am and who I help.
You can find recurring leads with very little effort by posting on LinkedIn a few times a week and sending a few connection requests. You’ll get directly in front of people who need copywriters, and after a while, they’ll come to you. And this, my friend, is why I love LinkedIn.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You need to know your way around SEO if you have a writer’s website. In other words, using wit, cunning, and skill to get your site to rank for terms people are searching for and are relevant to your business. In other words, when someone types something like “hiring a copywriter” or “find a copywriter in London,” your business pops up on the first page of results — fingers crossed.
SEO is my second fave channel for leads. Yes, it’s time-consuming, and yes, you’ll need to learn new skills, but it’s a great thing to know. Plus, some of it’s transferable to client work, making you more valuable.
The downside is that it can be tricky and takes time. You might not see results from SEO for months. But if you’re in it for the long haul and willing to learn, it can be a great lead source.
Here are some things you can do to improve your ranking:
- Research and use relevant keywords
- Use those keywords throughout your site, including in titles, tags, and descriptions
- Optimize your website for mobile
- Make sure your site loads quickly
- Get active on social media and include links to your website
- Guest blog (more on this below)
There’s a lot more to it than that, but those are some basics you can start with.
Guest blogging as a copywriter
Guest blogging means publishing posts on other people’s websites. Now you don’t just want to do this on any old website as that point pay off. Nope. You need to choose high-profile websites that people in your niche are familiar with.
Blog posts with your author’s bio at the bottom are brilliant pieces of advertising. Plus, they usually offer a backlink to your website, so it provides SEO juice.
Having your work appear on high-end websites lets people see your brilliance, and they’ll want to work with you. You can find my work on big ole’ sites like Healthline, Medical News Today, and Business Insider. People read my shit, love it, and want me to write copy for them.
Your name in shiny lights on a high-profile website does wonders for your career. I’m still surprised when people approach me about articles I wrote years ago. Guest blogging opens the doors to some fantastic opportunities.
Another bonus is that often you work alongside professional editors who can help you improve and offer feedback.
However, the more high-profile the websites, the more difficult it is to write for them. So, you might have to keep up with your networking efforts to get a foot in the door. And it’s unlikely that your writing will be good enough early in your career to meet their exacting standards.
But don’t let that put you off. Keep practicing, aim high, and keep high-level guest blogging on the back burner until your work is up to scratch.
The best part of freelance copywriting: The copywriter snowball effect!
Freelancing gets better the longer you do it. I promise!
When you’re starting out, it takes time to build up a network of clients and a repertoire of quality work. It may seem like an uphill struggle, and you may wanna give up. Don’t do it!
If you stick with it and do good work, things will snowball. You’ll gain momentum, and everything becomes easier as time goes on. You’ll have more examples of your brilliance to showcase, plus potential clients will start to come to you. Pretty soon, you’ll have more clients than you know what to do with, and your writing will be fast, effective, and get the outcomes that clients love. When clients love your work, they’ll refer you to others too.
Think of your freelance copywriting business as an investment. It pays off in the long run, I swear! And it’s an incredible feeling when things start to come together, and you can finally sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But it does take time and perseverance to get there.
So, hang in there! The light at the end of the tunnel is bright, and there’ll be exponential returns for your efforts.
And if it sounds like your cup of tea, I’m here to help! Let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’re finding challenging or how you’re managing your new career path!