freelance copywriter

How to Start Your Career as a Freelance Copywriter

Around 2007, Don Draper and Mad Men catapulted copywriting to the top of nearly everyone’s “possible career” list, even if they already had a career.

Back then, I was just a 16-year-old homeschooled, bespectacled nerd, going through an early semester of college, exploring how to make money online, and writing fiction books.

But, if I was starting my career and knew about the show, I’d probably have bought a typewriter and researched positions listed by ad agencies.

The truth is that the lifestyle of a copywriter isn’t nearly as fanciful as the characters on Mad Men.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this career path isn’t full of creative freedom, flexibility, and the occasional Old Fashioned.

So, what does it mean?

That brings us to today’s topic. Let’s dive in and talk about how to start your career as a freelance copywriter.

How to Start Your Career as a Freelance Copywriter

What is a Freelance Copywriter?

How to Get Started as a Copywriter

1. Read!

2. Get Organized

3. Get Experience

4. Research

What Type of Copywriting is for You?

1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

2. Technical

3. Creative

4. Marketing

5. Content

Copywriting is a Real Job (Don’t Forget It)

Time to Get Started in Freelance Copywriting?

become a freelance copywriter

The lifestyle of a copywriter isn't nearly as fanciful as the characters on Mad Men. 🤵 Learn all about real-life freelance #copywriting in our guide. ✍🏾 Click To Tweet

What is a Freelance Copywriter?

Whenever I used to mention to my family that I was earning work as a “freelance writer” back in 2011, I had to remind them what the word “freelance” means.

For some reason, they’d get too distracted by the “free” part and assume it meant making no money.

Working freelance means working on a contract or project basis. As a freelancer, you choose clients you want to work with, set your own rates, create a schedule, and hold yourself accountable.

Freelancing is one of the most in-demand types of work. As a copywriter, accepting jobs from various clients allows you to diversify your portfolio.

“Copy” is just another term to describe words. To take it one step further, copy is the written content used to market a specific brand or product. Copywriters create content for promotional and commercial use. Copy can be used for advertising, websites, billboards, email campaigns, newsletters, you name it.

As a freelance copywriter, you may find yourself creating catchy taglines for magazine advertisements or composing a unique blog article optimized for the web. You’re a covert salesperson, and the main tool you’re working with is your words.

A freelance copywriter creates content for promotional and commercial use on a contract or project basis. ✒️ You choose clients you want to work with, set your own rates, create a schedule, and hold yourself accountable. 👔 Click To Tweet

How to Get Started as a Copywriter

Luckily, freelance copywriters do not have to invest too much in equipment. Mainly all you need is a computer, internet access, and Microsoft Word.

You may think you have a knack for catchy taglines but “Got Milk?” wasn’t built in a day.

Just like any other job, you have to gain experience in order to become better. The main difference for freelancers is that you have to seek out these opportunities. With the surplus of blogs, magazines and pretty much anything on the internet, inspiration is easy to find.

1. Read!

One of the best things you can do to become a better writer is to become a better reader. Find blogs, websites, and magazines that you love and subscribe to them. Find out what makes them so compelling to you and try writing this way.

2. Get Organized

As a freelancer, you will have to make your own schedule. I know, this is awesome, but it can also be overwhelming without any strategy. There are a few ways to go about this depending on your work style. You can go classic day planner route or try a free organization app. It’s good to become familiar with these programs now because it’s likely that one of your clients will use them to organize their writing assignments.

A great tool freelancers use is Asana – this can help you organize tasks, set deadlines and attach files.

3. Get Experience

I advise to not take on a paid project without developing a writing portfolio. Most jobs you apply for will require you to send writing samples. They also want to see that you have published work online or in print. If you’re just starting out, you can build your portfolio by starting your own blog, taking unpaid gigs for friends and family and contributing to websites.

4. Research

At its core, copywriting requires you to be a skilled writer.

However, there are many other trends to keep up with depending on the type of jobs you take. If you run a company’s blog, for instance, you need to know how to optimize your article for search engines. Sometimes it’s not enough to create captivating social media posts. Platforms are constantly changing their algorithms which affect how much your post will be seen.

Explore online tutorials, videos, and training materials to help you along the way.

I teach an SEO writing course just for freelancers, marketers, and agencies. Grab your copy of my cheat-sheet to SEO writing for free:

Being a freelance copywriter starts with four things: 📚 becoming a better reader, 📆organizing your own schedule, 📰 getting experience, and 🤔 finding the latest online copywriting trends and tutorials. Click To Tweet

What Type of Copywriting is for You?

As a beginner, it’s good to try everything. However, as you gain experience, you’ll find topics that you prefer to write about. Each type has its own style and purpose.

1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Includes: Website content, blogs

Focus: In addition to creating high-quality content, SEO copywriting also needs to enhance the web page’s visibility. There are a ton of different techniques to make a page rank higher, but the best SEO copywriters can integrate keywords, links, and calls to action without affecting the readability.

SEO content writers can stay busy and make a great living. I teach a short one-week course on SEO writing with over 100 enrolled students. If you’re looking for a full-circle training on SEO writing, this is the course to take.

2. Technical

Includes: Articles (web and print)

Focus: Technical copywriting requires that you have an area of expertise. These articles will be less about creating a fun story and more about sharing specific knowledge and research with your readers.

3. Creative

Includes: Catchy phrases for advertisements, blogs, branding

Focus: Remember the Kit Kat jingle? Of course, you do because it was written to stick in your mind. Creative copywriters try to tell a story with their words, which makes them perfect for developing a company’s image and brand.

4. Marketing

Includes: Billboards, advertisements, emails

Focus: It helps to have a background in marketing for this type of copywriting. The advertisements, email campaigns, and even billboards you’ll be creating need to influence the public by speaking to their needs, while not sounding too sales-like.

5. Content

Includes: How-to guides, blogs, newsletters, social media, scripts, billboards

Focus: As a content writer, it’s good to know what topics you’re passionate about. Content copywriters develop blogs and newsletters dedicated to providing more information about a certain subject or product. Your writing is meant to turn one-time customers into dedicated followers because you provide them with useful information.

It is not required to pick a specific niche as a freelance copywriter. You do not want to limit yourself at first. Naturally, you will find that you enjoy writing in different styles and for different purposes. As this starts to happen, you can focus on one area to take your skills to the next level.

What type of copywriting is for you? You can go for SEO (for blogs and web pages), technical (guide articles, manuals), creative (storytelling, branding), marketing (ads), and online content (social media, emails). 📖 Click To Tweet

Copywriting is a Real Job (Don’t Forget It)

Freelance copywriters make a good living, but it requires a lot more hustle than working a typical job. It’s good to be aware that work will not always be consistent. You have to continually seek out new projects. If you want to be taken seriously as a freelance copywriter, you have to be serious about it too.

Just like you’ll be promoting other products, learn to promote yourself as well. It’s a good idea to create a website, LinkedIn page, and social media accounts that promote your new position. These are the perfect first places to post your work, network with other copywriters, and seek out new clients.

Set standards for your work.

Unlike many other jobs, you can set your own fees, which may be difficult depending on the type of client you’re working with. This is one of the most confusing parts of freelancing. Everyone goes about setting their rates in different ways. You may find some copywriters charge per word while others have a set fee.

When setting your rates, factor in your experience level, type of research you’ll be doing, time, value of the material, revisions, and deadline you’re given. It’s easiest to charge a flat fee for specific types of writing. For example, you can charge $30 for a 500-word blog post, which includes the time you spend researching. On average, this should take around an hour. With more experience, you will naturally become faster at the process and your prices will increase as your writing develops.

In freelancing, you can set your own fees, which may be difficult depending on the type of client you're working with. 🏷️ Some copywriters charge per word while others have a set fee. @JuliaEMcCoy explains more in her video. Click To Tweet

Different types of copywriting require different rates. Remember, this is how you’re making your living. Even though you are not a full-time employee, you are providing clients with material that is integral to their business.

I talk more about this in my video on freelance writing:

Time to Get Started in Freelance Copywriting?

Honestly, the best way to start a new venture is to jump right into it.

The more you write, the better of a writer you become.

You may find yourself developing a jingle for water bottles or writing blogs about the latest trends in at-home exercise. Early on, you’ll be able to find jobs through LinkedIn, Facebook, Craigslist and Indeed. You will learn both the type of writing you’re passionate about and also the type of client you want to work with. Writing trends are constantly in flux, but one skill that will never go out of style is the ability to write well.

express writers

4 replies
    • Wendy T.
      Wendy T. says:

      Thanks Masscv! It helps to have some great resources when you are starting out! – Wendy, Content Specialist at Express Writers

      Reply

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