If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter, you need to be able to write persuasive, informative, and engaging content. You might now use all of those skills for every client because this is a varied field that involves everything from writing ad copy to technical manuals.
Because copywriters are responsible for so many different types of content, they’re in high-demand for business owners across nearly every single niche and industry. You just need to be able to write good content.
This guide will explain more about what copywriters do, how to gain the skills, where to find jobs, and more.
Become a Freelance Copywriter in 2021 – A Guide For Beginners
What is a freelance copywriter?
Copywriting is a broad category that describes written content that’s produced for marketing purposes. And a freelance copywriter is someone who does that kind of work for a variety of clients while being self-employed.
What’s different about freelance copywriters from other kinds of freelance writers is all about the kind of content you’re writing. You’re writing copy that’s used for advertisements, email campaigns, websites, digital media, printed marketing, and anything else that might be used for marketing purposes.
Freelance copywriters are in the business of persuasion. They understand their client’s business, customer pain points, and how to connect the two to develop effective copy.
The freelance side is more about the way you run your business. Freelancers are self-employed and work on long-standing contracts or one-time gigs for multiple clients at a time.
How much does a freelance copywriter make?
There is a wide salary range for full-time freelance copywriters, and ZipRecruiter reports salaries in the range of $19,000 to $101,500/year. They report the average pay at $55,743 a year.
The range varies so much because it depends a lot on your experience and skills. Experience is something you gain over time, but if you want to earn at the top level, you’ll want to learn high-paying skills, like:
- Direct response copywriting: This is sales copy that customers directly engage with, like landing pages, sales letters, product pages, brochures, etc. An experienced DRC can charge upwards of $100/hour.
- SEO writing: SEO, or search engine optimization, is a skill you must have as a writer online. There’s a high demand for talented SEO writers, and top earners make $50/hour or more.
- Digital marketing: Freelance copywriters specializing in digital marketing help create social media marketing campaigns. Because of how valuable this content is, freelancers average around $50/hour.
Another approach is to work with clients in profitable niches, like finance, tech, or health and fitness. These clients often have bigger budgets and are willing to pay more for talent.
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Benefits of becoming a freelance copywriter
If you’re reading this article, then you’re already thinking seriously about becoming a freelance copywriter, but here are a few more reasons that might sway you in that direction.
This is, hands-down, my favorite part about freelancing in general. You can scale your business at your own pace, and there are virtually no limits to what you do. Some build a steady freelance copywriting business and teach courses, consulting, or writing books.
This is a huge benefit, and it’s why you can realistically build your freelance copywriting business on the side of your day job. Many freelance copywriting jobs are remote these days, so you can work wherever you want, assuming there’s a good internet connection. You can work after your kids go to bed, in the morning before you go to work, and so on.
Your clients’ deadlines will affect how much you work, but you’re in control of almost everything after that.
There’s a low barrier to entry for freelance copywriters. You don’t need a college degree, there’s no specialized equipment beyond a computer and phone, and you don’t need special software.
Creative, fulfilling work
You’re going to work with so many different clients as you grow your business. Some will have big personalities, some will challenge your critical thinking skills, and all of them will engage you creatively. Creative work can be incredibly fulfilling because it keeps you absorbed in your work.
Growing your copywriting skills
Copywriting is one of several freelance jobs that don’t require a degree or formal training. Seriously, all of the top freelance copywriters I know are self-taught because there are more practical ways to learn the necessary skills.
A college degree can definitely be an asset, especially if you’ve taken writing-heavy literature courses, mainly because you’re familiar with writing a lot of content. Courses in advertising, marketing, and even psychology can be helpful because you need to know how to connect with people and address their pain points.
But I stand by the statement that formal training isn’t a must. There are so many ways to learn practical copywriting skills because the majority of what you’re doing is persuasive writing. Here are a few great sources to get started:
- Copy Chief: This is an online copywriting community for copywriters and business owners who want to advance their skills.
- Chris Orzechowski: Chris is a good friend and has done some stellar email marketing work for me in the past. You should definitely check out his blog.
- The Copywriter Club: This podcast is full of advice and tips from expert copywriters.
- Ogilvy On Advertising: This is an old-school copywriting classic by David Ogilvy that’s still relevant today.
- Everybody Writes: Ann Handley is a brilliant marketer and teaches copywriting basics in this book.
That’s only a handful of the resources that are out there. There are dozens of books, online courses, podcasts, and blogs you can follow to grow your skills.
Types of copywriting work
Earlier I mentioned areas that pay particularly well for freelance copywriters, but those aren’t the only types of work. Here’s a more comprehensive list:
This is a catch-all term for copy that’s written to inform, guide, or entertain customers. This isn’t content that’s meant directly for selling, but any copy on a company’s website can serve that purpose, even if it’s indirectly doing so. Content marketers have strong research skills and can organize information in a way that makes it relevant and engaging for readers.
B2B copywriting is helping businesses sell to other businesses. You’re writing for people that understand the selling process themselves, so you’re really focusing on explaining things clearly and effectively.
The flipside of B2B copywriting is B2C. This content is designed to get into the mind of the consumers. This is where strong persuasion skills come in because you need to let them know how your client’s product or service will improve their life.
Social media copywriting
Digital marketers have strong social media copywriting skills. As you can imagine, you’re writing short bursts of content that are meant to appeal to people who are scrolling their feeds. It needs to be attention-grabbing, shareable, and short. Empathy and a sense of humor are traits that will go far with social media marketing.
Every copywriter should know a little something about SEO, but there are those who specialize in SEO copywriting. These writers understand how to increase the visibility of their clients’ content by working with algorithms, and because algorithms are constantly changing, these writers need to be adaptable.
Technical writing can be an ideal niche if you’re particularly interested in science or technology. For example, you could be writing instructional manuals, how-to guides, and journal articles. These writers are skilled at writing highly complex and technical content.
Finding your first online copywriting jobs
I highly recommend creating a website and marketing yourself on social media, but I also recommend finding work on freelance marketplaces. These might not be the highest paying jobs initially, but they will help you gain experience and referrals.
There are a lot of sites out there, but here are some of the best ones to find freelance copywriting jobs online:
- Upwork: You can create a profile and pitch clients on this platform. Business owners can also browse Upwork’s database and find you.
- Fiverr: Freelancers on Fiverr create service bundles (called gigs) that have a clear scope and can range in price from $5 to $995.
- Freelancer: Over 50 million freelancers use this site, which requires a paid membership starting at $5/month.
- Hubstaff Talent: This is a completely free platform, and you can browse job listings and pitch clients after creating a profile.
Maintaining and growing your freelance copywriting business
Beside what you actually do for work, running your freelancing business is really similar across industries. All freelancers have to start somewhere (which you just read about above), and other similarities are structuring your business and paying taxes. This isn’t always fun stuff, but it’s important if you want to grow your copywriting business well into the future.
Not everything on this list will apply when you first start, but read it over so you’re prepared for what’s coming. Then dedicate a little time each week to some of these tasks.
Start an LLC
An LLC is one of few different business structures used by self-employed people, and the purpose is to create a legal separation between your business and personal assets. They are relatively easy and expensive to set up, and you can learn more in How to Start an LLC in 7 Steps.
Set money aside for taxes
The general rule is that you’ll need to set 30% of your income aside for self-employment taxes. That’s if you’re an independent contractor. Learn more in Filing Small Busines Taxes For The First Time: Tips to Get It Right.
Start keeping track of your finances
Bookkeeping needs to start as soon as possible. It will help you pay your taxes and keep track of your income. You can use bookkeeping software, like QuickBooks, and you may eventually want to hire an accountant. You should be tracking how much money comes in and how much goes out.
Develop a business plan
Plan is a strict word, and maybe you’re into that. But at the very least, start thinking about your business goals. Who are your dream clients? What skills do you want to learn? Setting goals will help you plan out the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Network with other freelancers
There are other freelancers, business owners, and copywriters that can help you find working and act as a sounding board. Being a freelancer has a lot of perks, but you can feel like you’re going at it alone. There are groups on Facebook, Slack channels, and LinkedIn groups where you can find your tribe.
Actively look for work
You may get to the point when clients find you, but you’ve got to put yourself out there in the beginning. Start with those freelance platforms, and then start cold pitching clients once you’ve gained more experience.
Eventually raise your rates
Your rates will naturally need to start low, but you should increase your rates as you gain more experience. Gaining new skills and expanding the scope of your work are good reasons to increase your rates, but some freelancers also do annual rate increases to keep up with the cost of living.
The goal of copywriters is the same over time, but technology is constantly evolving, meaning you need to stay on top of digital clients’ latest trends and needs. Investing in online courses and workshops can have a massive return on your long-term business.
The final word on how to become a freelance copywriter
Freelance copywriters can realistically make $50-$100 an hour and that’s one of the perks of copywriting is that you can make more than writers who are on staff. There’s also an extreme amount of flexibility and scalability.
While you don’t need formal training to become a freelance copywriter, you will need to dedicate time to honing your craft. There are tons of books, podcasts, blogs, and podcasts that can help you learn the necessary skills.
Don’t forget to spend time on your business, nurturing it and planning for your future.