A career in copywriting can be both lucrative and fulfilling. You get to stretch your creative muscles every day, you’re constantly learning about different products, services and industries, and meeting all kinds of people. And since every business needs to communicate effectively, talented copywriters are always in demand.
Going freelance can be even more rewarding. After all, who doesn’t want to be their own boss, in charge of their own destiny? As a freelance copywriter, you can choose how much you work and from where, fitting work around your life, not the other way round.
As with any business, however, you’ll need the right skills to face down the competition and win the most interesting and best paying jobs. Here are 5 crucial things to consider before striking out on your own.
Ask yourself if you’re ready for freelance life
Freelancing can be flexible, fun and fulfilling – but there are challenges too. So think carefully about whether it suits your personality, lifestyle and long-term goals.
The most important attribute you’ll need (other than being a great copywriter) is excellent time management. Not answering emails promptly or missing deadlines makes you look unprofessional. Freelancers often rely on word of mouth and referrals to secure new clients, so don’t tank your reputation by being disorganised!
Being a self-starter is another success factor. The work won’t magically come to you; you go after the work. This means taking the initiative to network and pitch potential clients when you’re not busy with briefs.
Finally, although freelance copywriters can make a great living, income might not always be stable. You might be flush with briefs one month and empty-handed the next. Make sure you’re resilient and financially savvy enough to ride the waves.
Know your stuff
So you think you’ve got what it takes to go freelance. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of being an outstanding copywriter. It’s not enough to be able to string a sentence together. To be a great copywriter, you need to understand human psychology, consumer behaviour and a host of tried and tested copywriting methodologies.
Make sure your knowledge is up to scratch. Read books, take a course, collect great copy samples. And never stop learning, be it honing your writing skills or keeping up to date with trends. Clients are relying on you to be the expert.
Here are a few of the foundational copywriting tenets we cover in our certified copywriting course.
1. Know your audience. If your piece isn’t carefully tailored to your target audience, it will fall on deaf ears. Talk directly your audience about what matters to them.
2. Focus on benefits, not features. Specs don’t attract customers. Tell prospects what the product or service means for them. How is it going to solve their problems and change their lives?
3. Push emotional buttons. Human beings make emotional decisions (even if we don’t like to think so). So to prompt your readers into action, you need to reach them on an emotional level.
4. Prompt quick action. The ultimate aim of a copywriter is to convert leads into sales. And do it quickly, before the prospect moves on. So make sure you have a clear and effective call to action and then create a sense of urgency or scarcity.
Build your portfolio
Get ready to start going after jobs. Potential clients will probably want to see work samples so make sure you have an attractive portfolio of great marketing pieces to show them. And if you know the results of a particular piece (new leads / sales / engagement generated), then include those too.
What’s your Unique Selling Point? Having specialist experience and knowledge will help you stand out. Think about what you bring to the table and, more importantly, how you can demonstrate it to potential clients. Sign up for pro bono jobs if you need the added experience.
Find your people
When starting anything new, a supportive community makes all the difference. So find a coach, trainer or mentor who can help you build your know-how, give you informed advice and keep you inspired and in action. This could be a former boss or colleague, an industry contact or a professional copywriting trainer or coach.
And find other freelance copywriters in the same boat as you. The mutual support will be a huge help and will get to your goal quicker. To connect with peers, you could sign up for a course or join an online community. With the reach of digital platforms, it’s easy to find like-minded individuals, wherever you are.
Many online copywriting communities are not only a great source of support, but a source of work too. Freelancers often pass on projects that they don’t have time for or aren’t in their niche. Take time to build connections. It will be well worth your while.
Know your worth
One of the biggest conundrums when starting out as a freelancer is how to charge for your work. It can be tempting to offer low prices to bring the work in. But be realistic about what you can and can’t accept. A good starting point is to reverse engineer your fees. How much do you need to earn every month? How many hours do you plan to work? What does that mean your minimum hourly rate must be?
You should also check out your competitors to get an idea of what they’re charging. And cross-reference with industry standards. Professional associations like the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance often publish guidelines and track rates, so you can figure out a standard fee based on your industry, experience and type of brief.
However, don’t feel that you always need to match or beat standard rates. If you’re a strong copywriter who knows their stuff, and you’re reliable, professional and personable, then you’ll always be in demand. Companies will be willing to pay a premium for your services.
There’s a lot to think about before you launch your freelance copywriting business. But the more preparation you do, the better you’ll set yourself up for success. Best of luck from all the team here at the Academy!