Every business needs written content, so copywriting is a great transferable skill with a huge potential market. But how do you actually become a freelance copywriter?
There’s no hard and fast rules, of course. But here are some steps you can take to kick-start your copywriting career.
Write as much as you can
The great thing about writing is that you can start doing it straight away. Whether you choose to get into blogging, write newsletters for a local charity or create a Facebook page linked to your personal interests, make sure you are creating and publishing content regularly.
Use your contacts
“My top tip would be to tell your friends, family and personal contacts that you’re available for freelance work” says copywriter and journalist Nicola Moors. “You’d be surprised at how many (especially those that own their own businesses) need your help. Plus it’s great for building experience and grabbing those all-important testimonials.”
Create a portfolio
Many jobs involve copywriting, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to compile examples from your previous work, even if you had a different job title. If you’ve ever written something for a website, a flier, an instruction manual or a circular email, then you’re a copywriter! Draw together anything you can find into a well-presented document, and you have your portfolio.
“Make sure you grab a testimonial from everyone you work with so you can use them to show off to potential clients” says Nicola. Get yourself on LinkedIn and ask clients and colleagues to endorse your writing skills.
Find your niche
One of the most daunting things about selling yourself as a copywriter is that you could be asked to write about almost anything. While clients should provide you with any essential information to include in your copy, some jobs will also involve research. So, you’ll need to gauge which projects are worth your while according to the fee available and your prior knowledge and interests.
You can make life much easier for yourself by identifying the areas that you are most comfortable writing about and pitching to relevant companies. Perhaps you’re a parent, or you’ve worked in the travel industry, or you’ve recently researched which oven to buy. Your life experience gives you the edge when it comes to writing about these topics – make the most of it by offering to do a great job for a good price.
Get to know SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and it’s a high priority for any business that wants customers to find it online. Copy is just one of the things that affects search rankings, but understanding how your words can bring more traffic to your client’s website is essential for any 21st century copywriter. Check out this guide to SEO copywriting for starters.
Martin Sayers has over a decade’s experience as a full time freelance copywriter, and runs the Facebook group MS Copy Club, which connects people together to share tips and advice about how to write powerful copy. But his number one piece of advice is simply to stick at it.
“The single most valuable thing you can have as a copywriter – far more so than talent – is persistence” says Martin. “You need to keep going, even when times are tough, be prepared to learn from other copywriters and take lessons from every piece of copy you see – both good and bad.” You’ll have highs and lows, like any freelancer, so you need to be resilient and determined.
Know your worth
You might decide to offer “mates’ rates” if you’re odd-jobbing for family and friends or trying to build a portfolio. While many people find this a useful thing to do at the beginning, it’s important to see the bigger picture too.
Make sure you know what you need to earn every month, and set a day rate that reflects this, while accounting for the essential time you will spend on marketing and administration. If you’re working for less than this rate, tell your clients that they’re getting a discount and make sure they know it will only last for a limited period. Use this time to impress them with your copywriting skills, and chances are they’ll be willing to pay more to keep you when your prices go up.
Like any freelance career, there’s no magic formula that will make you a successful copywriter overnight. But with these tips in mind and a bit of hard graft, you’ll be well on your way. So, what are you waiting for?