10 Ways to Kick-Start a Freelance Copywriting Career
Ready To Freelance as a Copywriter? These 10 Tips Work.
If you already have a job as a copywriter in an agency, you may be tired of working long hours on projects that do not inspire you. There comes a time in every copywriter's career when the thought of going it alone, as a freelancer, looks tempting. And why not? You set your own hours, can charge at least double what you
Even if you are not currently a copywriter, you can have success. If you have a talent for writing compelling advertisements and can think creatively for a wide variety of advertising mediums, you may be cut out for a career in freelance copywriting.
But before looking at seven ways to break into the freelance business, you need to know the pros and cons of starting a career as a freelancer.
The Benefits of Going Freelance
- You set your own hours. Work as many or as few hours as you want, as long as you are making enough money to be comfortable.
- You choose your clients. If you only want to work on beer accounts, or insurance, that's your choice. Find clients you love, and stick with them.
- You are your own boss. You answer only to yourself, and can forget about all those performance reviews, codes of conduct, and office politics issues.
- You are virtually lay-off-proof. Most agencies and corporations lay people off at some point, especially in a recession. You won't have that worry, although it's possible clients may scale back the need for your services.
- You get a great work/life balance. Setting your own hours gives you the chance to do the things you could not normally do during work hours. See a ball game. Go hiking. Catch a movie. It's your time.
The Cons of Going Freelance
- You have to hustle for work. In an agency or corporation, you are handed work on a plate. Freelancing means you have to get work yourself, and that can take time and a lot of effort.
- You can have dry spells. Some freelancers experience "feast or famine," being inundated some weeks, and ignored others. You have to take this into account.
- You are on your own. It can be lonely being a freelancer. Usually, you'll be working from a home office, although some agencies may ask you to come in from time to time.
- You don't get benefits. You may be able to charge more, but you'll be paying full price for health insurance, dental work, and all those other great benefits that an employer pays for.
- You may become trapped by certain clients. Some freelancers have found that if they turn down work, for any reason (usually because they are too busy), that door is closed to them in the future. Often, freelancers will take on more work than they can handle, simply because they do not want to risk losing that client forever.
So, if you've weighed the pros and cons, and it seems like the career for you, here are some strategies you can use to get started:
Ready to hang your shingle and call yourself a freelancer? You'll need a few basics to get your business off the ground. A portfolio website is essential. You can use sites like Krop.com and SquareSpace.com, which make it very easy. A computer, either a laptop or desktop, is a must have. You may also need business cards, letterhead, and other stationery and supplies.
And finally, create your own ad campaign. You need to get noticed.
It's not just the big businesses that need a plan of action. As a freelancer, you are the business and you need a plan too. Not only does this give you information you need to identify your goals, it also gives you key information you can use to market yourself to potential clients.
Deciding what you're going to charge is one of the most difficult decisions you'll have to make as a freelance copywriter. It's crucial that you set your rates right from the start.
Your first decision is whether to charge by the hour, by the project or to include both rate types. Your rates will also effect how you work with clients and get paid. Spend a lot of time developing your rates and evaluate what you can live with as a fee beforehand because clients don't want to work with freelancers who are constantly changing their rates and rate types.
You can't show off your writing talent if you have no samples. If you don't have any writing samples to your credit, there is an easy solution. Spec Ads give you the chance to create writing samples even if you don't have any copywriting projects under your belt. Spec Ads aren't just for copywriters with limited or no experience. They are an excellent way for you to show potential clients how you would write for their particular industry.
Very few people use physical folios anymore. Your online portfolio should be constantly evolving, and showcasing only your best work. If you are after a particular type of client, use this time to tailor your website based on what the client is looking for in a freelancer. This lets you switch out your projects based on the client's needs, showing your ability to work with any type of client no matter what the product/service.
When that first client calls, you want to have your contract ready to be faxed or presented in person. As excited as you may be to get that first client, you don't want to start working on any project until you have a signed contract in your hand. Creating a freelance contract is key to any freelancers success. It's your first line of defense if you ever find yourself with a client who doesn't want to pay.
You cannot afford to be a wallflower if you are going to have any kind of success in advertising or marketing. As a freelancer, you are going to be on a constant search for work, at least in the first few years. This is akin to being a lion or a tiger in the wild; if you don't hunt, you don't eat. So, as the old saying goes, "fish where the fish are." Every town and city, large or small, will have events during each month that are golden opportunities for networking. They don't have to be industry-related either. In fact, if they're not, you'll have less competition. Are the local microbreweries having a get together? Maybe they need writing help. Is there a convention in town? Someone, somewhere, could be looking for the skills you provide.
If you're having trouble getting people to notice you, consider a lateral thinking move; go outside of your comfort zone, and create work that generates its own buzz. Many students these days are putting spec ideas up on YouTube, and seeding them to sites like Reddit.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. By using a collection of relevant hashtags, people will be able to find your work. And if they like it, they can get in touch with you via the information you leave on your page. You could also send links to local news outlets. They are always looking for content.
Don't ever feel afraid to ask for help from people that have already made it. Most of the time, they will remember being in your shoes, or know what it's like to freelance, and will be more than happy to offer help and advice. But, be respectful of their time and position. A quick tweet or LinkedIn message shows little to no effort. Take the time to write to them, either with an email or a physical letter. You could also include samples of your work. Do it in a way that stands out. You will be surprised at the doors you can open in this way.
10. Find Clients
Remember all those basics you got together in step one? Now it's time to put them to good use. Whether you're approaching agencies for freelance work, trying to get small businesses to use your services or both, you can take several different approaches to find your clients. Send out links to your website, and develop physical mailers to break through the email clutter. Advertising agencies, especially smaller agencies, need freelancers because the cost of a permanent, full-time copywriter is too much for the agency to bear.
Be persistent in your search for clients and soon your freelance copywriting career will be so successful, you'll actually be turning new business away!