The highest paid copywriter works as a freelancer. This makes getting client referrals the lifeblood of a successful freelance copywriter career. Start getting consistent work, then you can ditch your boss and work for yourself.
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What is a freelance copywriter?
A copywriter writes promotional material (copy) for companies with the intention of making their audience take action…to sign up for our newsletter, buy this product, or even download our free ebook.
A freelance copywriter is someone who does not work for an agency, corporation, entrepreneur, or anyone but himself. As a freelance copywriter, you will be hunting for clients until you are established enough to gain referrals, which, as mentioned above, is literally the blood of any freelance copywriting career.
As you obtain clients you will be completing copywriting gigs for them in exchange for money, testimonials, referrals, and sometimes in exchange for services
Here’s a small sample of the materials copywriters write:
- Email campaigns
- Sales letters
- Video sales scripts
- Social media posts
- Website UX
- And a whole lot more
So…how does a copywriter get people to take action?
Well, copywriting is a persuasive language that speaks directly to a human’s prefrontal cortex (the emotional brain). The emotional brain is the part of the brain in charge of making decisions. If your emotional brain is severely damaged, you will no longer be capable of making decisions. By speaking to the audience’s emotional brain, good copy bypasses logic (for a moment) and stirs them into action.
Good copy appears to be “mere words” but that’s not quite true…is it? Here’s an example of some really dreadful copy:
Not one person bought the course. Zero. None. Zilch. Nada.
The ad copy was terrible. But, in my defense, I didn’t know what copywriting was at this point in my life. I’ve learned now. Trust me. One of my last clients got 34 warm leads in less than 40 hours with a FB ad I wrote for her.
How much money does a freelance copywriter make?
Um… $1,000 to $600,000 a year? It’s harder to keep track of this data. I’m not sure what the average annual earnings freelance copywriters are pulling in because it really just depends on the copywriter in question. There’s honestly no salary cap.
However, according to Glassdoor, freelance copywriters are making $81,748 a year on average. That’s well above the national average salary for a hired copywriter ($58,465 in the United States.)
How do I learn copywriting?
Since copywriters aren’t required to have any formal training there are a few different ways to learn the little known skill…
Teach yourself copywriting
Pros: Going completely Lone Ranger does have its benefits. You’ll learn what you want when you want, and as fast as you want.
Cons: You’ll make the most mistakes and fall into more pitfalls going Long Ranger. This is the slowest, most excruciating way to become a freelance copywriter. Not recommended.
Take an online copywriting course
Pros: Can be relatively cheap as a few hundred dollars can get you in the door. Everything you’ll need is packaged and you can (devour) the content at your own pace. Copywriting courses are packed with proven strategies on how to research, write copy, and get clients.
Courses usually include templates, audio, videos, live streams, a community of peers, and more. It strikes a great balance between self-taught and a copywriting mentorship. It’s the recommended path to take if you’re looking to become a freelance copywriter.
Cons: Committing to an online course can cost $300 – $800+ and if you’ll have to research who you’ll trust. Some online courses are always pitching their other products and that will rub some people the wrong way.
Find a great copywriting mentor
Pros: You’ll receive step by step instruction directly from a master copywriter. This will be the fastest, most effective way to launch your career as a freelance copywriter.
Cons: This is the most expensive option and can be $15,000 and up. There is also no guarantee that you’ll land clients quickly, depending on if your mentor is teaching you best business practices as well as copy.
How long will it take to learn copywriting?
Needless to say, everyone is different, but it really just depends on what path you take to learn copywriting. A person who is reading books and watching videos and trying to teach himself copywriting is going to take way longer than someone who’s been taken by the hand by a master copywriter.
And my personal experience is taking me about 40–50 hours to complete the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriters. But the learning never stops.
A-level copywriters are always improving and creating new techniques, new angles for us to study. Learn a few of my surefire ways to massively boost your copywriting skills right now with little effort.
Create your freelance copywriter portfolio
Now your copywriting portfolio is going to be your new résumé. It should contain samples of your writing and previous work. Ideally you want to start creating your portfolio while you learn copywriting, regardless of how you’ve learned it.
When visiting copywriting forums and Facebook groups, I’ve noticed the majority of the beginners get stuck in a vicious cycle. They can’t land a client because they don’t have a portfolio and they don’t have a portfolio because they can’t land a client.
The dreaded Catch-22 of copywriting LOL.
Oh, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret… you don’t need a client to write up a simple email or blog post.
Do not wait for a client. Write copy anyways.
If you don’t have a portfolio right now, what are you waiting for? All you have to do is get to the computer or use your phone like I’m doing right now and type. Make three samples in the niche you want to write about and put it on Google docs and BAM you’re ready to go.
Get your first client as a freelance copywriter
Start by asking your friends and family if they have or know someone who has a business. Let them know that you’re new to copywriting and you’re just trying to get some experience under your belt.
Try saying, “Can I try to write you something that could help your business. If it works great. If it doesn’t, what do you have to lose?” Any job you take can build your confidence and experience. Trying to charge the big bucks for every little project you do can backfire. Start where you are.
Yes, I wanted to land the big $5,000 sales letter the first month of my copywriting career but I didn’t have a single email to my name. I have no social proof, no results, no satisfied customers. I have nothing to show a business that my copy was worth $5,000 to their business. Expecting that is completely unreasonable, and, unfortunately, I see too many freelancers with an attitude that doesn’t match their portfolio.
Even if you do a little bit of free work, just get your foot in the door and get some experience.
Here are a few ways freelance copywriters can get their first clients:
- Ask your friends and family
- Ask local businesses
- Write some spec work
- Cold emails
- Create and populate a website
- Social media
Do a good job for your client
What you’re looking for is customer satisfaction and results.
To keep the math simple:
Let’s say normally your uncle is raking in $1,000 a week in gross sales selling burgers. Now, let’s say that you wrote a flyer for your uncle’s burger stand using everything you’ve learned about copywriting up until this point.
Even if your uncle doesn’t keep specific metrics about how much he makes a week, I’m sure he has a ballpark figure about how much his business is raking in.
You post the flyer around the neighborhood and your uncle notices that he’s averaging $2,000 a week since the flyers were posted. You’ve just doubled your uncle’s sales with one flyer, and that is why you can tell your next prospect that your flyer doubled gross sales at a local burger stand. And that is the reason you’re going to get paid well as a freelance copywriter.
Because good copywriters help businesses stay in businesses.
Because good copywriters move people into action.
Because good copywriters get results.
Ask for a testimonial and referral
So after any copy job is done – and you’ve done an amazing job – ask for a testimonial. These need to be as specific as possible. They need to include a brief explanation of the services your provided and the results it provided for the businesses. Have your client provide numbers when possible.
You also want to ask, “Do you know anyone else who can benefit from my service?”
Ask. Ask. Ask. Most people are not going to automatically think, “Oh, my friend needs help getting more customers too.” You need to ask.
This might sound like a daunting task, but, if you want to become a freelance copywriter, you will have to get over this fear. Don’t overthink it. Happy clients happily give referrals.
Referrals are the lifeblood of your newfound career. If you are afraid to ask for referrals, you’re going to find it difficult to become a freelance copywriter making over $10,000 a year.
So as your friend, and just as a suggestion… ask for the testimonial and referrals.
Rinse and repeat
- found your first client
- wrote the copy
- waited for results
- asked for a testimonial and referral…
you completed the first cycle. It’s rinse and repeat now. There will be constant learning and refining our craft (both writing copy and working with clients), but that’s the basics.
Do your best job every time, write every day for practice whether you have a client or not, and eventually, you’ll have more client work then you can take on.
When do I fire my boss?
I’m not giving you financial advice. If I had to redo this part of my career, here’s how I’d start preparing to leave my job.
I’d create a plan that involves asking the key questions:
- How much do I need to make from my copywriting career to feel comfortable enough to quit?
- What are my monthly expenses?
- What is my monthly budget?
And if you have a spouse, run it by your spouse and go over the numbers together. Quitting your job, especially if you’re the breadwinner of the household, is a big step and you don’t want to make that decision alone.
Once you’ve decided that you’re going to become a freelance copywriter then you’ll simply break down the math into small chunks.
If you want to make $60,000 a year, you don’t try to land a $60,000 gig. You break it down. $60,000/year divided by 12 months = $5,000/month
$5,000/month divided by 4 weeks = $1,250 a week
You can break it down further by the number of clients you need or projects or however you charge per service or retainer. Keep your eye on the small number because the small numbers come together to hit the big number.
Create a blueprint of the life you want to live and you do the math. Break it down into bite-sized chunks and accomplish each milestone until you reach your goal.
Then set a new goal, rinse and repeat because your business scaling process needs to be repeatable.
Thanks for reading this far
It’s tough right now during the pandemic and trust me I get it. If you’re having trouble let me know what’s wrong in the comments and let’s fix it together.