10 Tips for Aspiring Freelance Copywriters
Every week I receive a couple of emails from people seeking advice on how to get into freelance copywriting. While thereís no simple answer, and no answer which applies to everyone, there are a few tips which I believe will help most people make the move into freelance copywriting, and survive the first few months at least.
1) Invest in a website
The best place for any freelance advertising copywriter or website copywriter to start is to fork out for a website. A website is invaluable because when you cold call and email prospects, youíll need to direct them somewhere that gives them more information. Keep your website simple, include a portfolio page, add any samples of any sort of copywriting you've done, talk about the places you've worked, the clients youíve written for, and include any testimonials youíve received. Make sure you include your address and contact details as well, so people don't think you're a fly-by-night operation. Of course, it doesn't hurt to include a photo either. If you can't say much about your experience, don't say much. It doesn't even really matter if you don't say anything. Remember, just like any other form of advertising copywriting, writing about yourself requires the art of subtlety. If you lack experience, but youíre confident you can do the job, you can be very clever in what you don't say, and most people will read it the way you intended.
2) Donít target agencies
If youíve never worked as an advertising copywriter or website copywriter before, donít target advertising agencies and web design agencies. They know exactly what theyíre after, so if you donít have a portfolio, you wonít stand a chance. Managing an inexperienced copywriter and controlling quality takes a lot of time and introduces risk. Most agencies are too busy to give unproven copywriters a break, even if youíre prepared to do the work on spec. Target end-clients directly.
3) Cold call, cold call, cold call
One of the best ways of generating business in the early days is to cold call potential end-clients. Itís hard work and very time consuming, but you can generate some very qualified leads. For more information on cold calling, take a look at http://www.divinewrite.com/coldcallingcopywriter.htm.
4) Use a contacts & jobs database
No matter where youíre at in your freelance copywriting career, you NEED a database of contacts and jobs. Kind of a scaled down CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool. Use it to record everything! Particularly names, phone numbers, and the details of any correspondence (especially phone calls). I created my own database using Microsoft Access. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/contacts and jobs.mdb to download a 208KB working copy for FREE. Youíll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it. Iím no database expert, so itís not a work of art. Itíll certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using the database, press Ctrl + ; to enter todayís date.)
5) Write a few samples
If youíre targeting specific clients or industries, donít be afraid to write a few samples and send them through. You can offer the pieces free of charge (everyone likes something for nothing) or at a discount, or you can use it as an incentive to sign them up for future work. It all depends on the type of work and the type of client. The important thing to remember is that samples are virtually as good as a portfolio to most prospective clients.
6) Invest in an accounts package
Donít be fooled into thinking you can handle your accounts manually (or with Microsoft Excel). Even if you only have a few clients, you NEED a proper accounts package like MYOB or Quicken (they both offer small business versions). Youíll understand why the first time you do your GST reports or annual taxes. In fact, youíll understand why whenever you need to chase down outstanding invoices
7) Give great service
This may seem like an obvious one, but itís important to remember that ďgreat serviceĒ means different things to different clients. Most of the time youíll be working with direct clients (quite often startup businesses) and agencies. Both appreciate great service, but define it entirely differently. Agencies rely on their freelance copywriters to meet strict requirements (get the work done well, get it done on time, donít exceed the budget). They have end-clients breathing down their necks, so reliability is as important as writing quality. End-clients, on the other hand, need an advertising copywriter or website copywriter who sees their business the way they do, and can convey that vision. Theyíll probably need a lot of guidance as well, particularly if theyíre just starting out themselves. If you can, help them understand that copywriting isnít just about telling people what products and services the business offers; itís about conveying the benefits of those products and services. A good advertising copywriter or website copywriter will be able to help their client think in terms of benefits instead of products and services.
8) Expect hard times
The first year or two as a freelance advertising copywriter or website copywriter will be difficult. It takes a while to generate momentum and during that time, youíll probably find yourself wondering if youíve made the right career choice. While itís possible to earn six-figures each year, you have to be patient (so itís not ideal for new or intending parents or anyone with huge mortgage commitments).
9) Donít spend too much on training
In my humble opinion, no money spent learning is wasted. However, you have to weigh up the return on investment. I donít know much about what copywriting courses are available, but if theyíre expensive, Iíd think twice. In my experience, most clients (be they agencies or end-clients) value copywriting ability over training.
10) Know you can do it
Confidence in your copywriting abilities is a must. If youíre not adamant you can produce the results the client is after, youíll never be able to convince the client. Remember that everyone feels daunted at the start of a new copywriting job. Thereís always a steep learning curve in copywriting, and generally quite a bit of time-consuming labour. Donít fall into the trap of focussing on what you donít know and what you havenít done.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn Murray is an advertising copywriter and website copywriter and heads copywriting studio Divine Write. He can be contacted on Sydney +612 4334 6222 or at email@example.com. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com for further details or more FREE articles.