Have your sights set on becoming a freelance copywriter?
Freelance copywriting can be quite a lucrative career choice if you do it right. It can also serve as a great alternative to other, more traditional writing jobs, such as working for a magazine or newspaper—especially if you like the flexibility of working from home, setting your own schedule, and choosing your own assignments.
There is a lot of advice out there on how to start a freelance copywriting business, and we’ve done the work of distilling it down into one quick guide so that you can figure out the basics and get going with your career. Here’s what to know, including helpful tips on finding new clients and setting your freelance copywriting rates.
What is Freelance Copywriting?
When it comes to copywriting, freelance is often a good way to go. There are endless brands and businesses out there that are in need of custom copywriting but don’t want to hire a full-time writer to do the job—and that means endless opportunities for you to make money and expand your business.
So what does a freelance copywriter actually do? Freelance copywriters create a wide range of materials that businesses can then use to promote their products or services, increase traffic to their website, and connect with their audience, among other benefits.
Types of materials that a freelance copywriter may work on include:
- Blog posts
- Press releases
- General web content (landing pages, homepages, product pages)
- Social media content
- Email newsletters
- Infographic copy
Most freelance copywriters work remotely and for several clients at a time—if not more. Work and payment practices are generally standardized through contracts, which help ensure that both parties understand the freelancer’s role, as well as the expectations around things like content ownership, fees, and deadlines.
Freelance copywriting is primarily an independent job, meaning most of the time you’ll be receiving an assignment through your client which you’ll then complete on your own. That being said, you may collaborate with more than one person to get the task done, such as a graphic designer or SEO (search engine optimization) marketer.
If you’re a self-starter with excellent writing and time-management skills, then freelance copywriting may be the right career to pursue. And what you miss out on in salary benefits and in-office comradery you can usually more than make up for in work-life balance and overall job satisfaction, which for many people is more than enough to make it worth trying out.
How to Start Freelance Copywriting in 5 Steps
Writers take a lot of different paths in terms of how to start a freelance copywriting business, and what may work for one individual might not be the best starting point for another.
Still, the internet has made it easier than ever before to break into the field. If you work strategically and have the skills that businesses are looking for, you should be able to kick off a successful freelancing career—even if you don’t have previous experience.
Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Figure Out Your Niche
To be successful in copywriting, freelance writers often find that they need to narrow in on a specific niche.
Businesses are looking for writers with expertise, and the more you can prove that you know a specific field or topic inside and out—for example, sports, digital marketing, small business finance, or health and wellness—the easier time you’ll have building experience and proving your value to potential clients.
To find your niche, start by thinking about what interests you. Having a base level of interest is crucial for establishing competency, and also makes it more likely that you’ll truly enjoy researching and writing tons of copy on a subject. Check out this class on finding a freelance niche for additional guidance and tips.
Step 2: Build a Website
A website will lend legitimacy to your brand. It will also serve as a place where clients can go to see examples of your work and learn more about what you can offer them.
No coding skills? No problem. It’s super simple to set up a website from scratch, though do be sure to budget for yearly domain and hosting fees. Once your site is up and running, use it to spread the word on what you can do, as well as a place to publish original content and, eventually, a portfolio of your paid work.
Step 3: Start Pitching
Now that you’ve got the basics in place, it’s time to start pitching your work to brands.
Don’t worry about your lack of experience at this point. Businesses are looking for freelance copywriters who are professional and well-written, and that’s something that you can convey through your pitch itself, as well as the samples that you share with them (again, this can be content you wrote for your own site). You can also speak to your more general proficiency with a topic, even if it’s not related to writing.
We recommend this class on pitching, which covers how to source ideas, how to pitch them, and who to pitch them to. And in all of your pitches, make sure to include details on the project that go beyond topic, such as an estimated deadline and fee.
Step 4: Establish a Network
In freelance copywriting, as in most fields, networking is key. You never know who will introduce you to your next (or first!) big client, or who might be in need of your services one day.
Tap into your existing networks through social media and email outreach and let them know that you’re offering copywriting services. You can also reach out to writers who you admire and tell them that you like their work and would love an opportunity to work together some day. Most of your networking won’t necessarily lead to anything major, but you never know what doors you might be opening, either for now or in the future.
Show Off Your Value with Client Feedback
A Freelancer’s Guide to Getting Client Testimonials
Step 5: Do Something—Anything!—Each Day Toward Your Goal
One of the best pieces of advice for getting started in freelance copywriting is to take at least one actionable step each day toward building your career. This includes things like working on your website, writing new content, or sending out a new pitch. It can also simply mean doing some research or shooting off an email to a potential networking contact.
By doing one thing each day, you ensure that you’re constantly moving forward, regardless of how fast your pace is. And as already mentioned, you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from.
How Much Do Freelance Copywriters Make?
The average freelance copywriter in the United States makes $27 an hour, or $55,743 a year, according to ZipRecruiter.
Of course, this amount is highly variable, with some freelancers making much more or much less than the average.
How much you make depends on a number of different factors, including your experience, your clients, and the freelance copywriting rates that you set. How many clients you have and how many hours you work per week, month, and year will also play a huge role.
The more you work at it, the more you can expect to earn. Set realistic income goals every month or quarter and then evaluate whether what you’re doing is panning out or not. Keep in mind that it takes time to grow your business into a steady money maker, and it might be slow going in the beginning as you get yourself established and start building a client base.
How Much Should a Freelance Copywriter Charge?
Figuring out what to charge for freelance copywriting is just as crucial as figuring out what your niche and pitching strategy is.
There are multiple ways to charge for your work:
- By the word
- By the hour
- By the project
There’s no single charging method that works for everyone. Instead, you’ll most likely end up charging different clients in different ways depending on what they need and what makes the most sense at the time.
As for your rates themselves, don’t undersell yourself but do factor in your experience level. The more work you complete, the more you’ll be able to charge, with many mid-level and experienced freelance copywriters charging as much as $1+ per word, $100+ per hour, and thousands of dollars for individual projects.
How to Find Copywriting Freelance Jobs and Clients
You have a number of ways to go about finding freelance jobs, and it’s a smart practice to pursue more than one at a time.
Cold pitching (reaching out to strangers) and warm pitching (getting to know a potential client before sending them a pitch) can both be very effective. So can job ad boards, networking, and social media.
What about content mills and freelance marketplaces? Freelancers have different opinions on how useful these are, and both are notorious for being a race to the bottom in terms of rates. However, these could be useful supplements as you build up a body of work and gain experience. You may even be able to meet long-term clients off of them. Just be wary of accepting rates that are too low—particularly if the scope of work you’re providing is worth a lot more than you’re getting paid.
Want to Take a Comprehensive Freelance Copywriting Course?
If you’re looking for even more guidance, take a peek at Brad Merrill’s fantastic Freelance Writing 101 course. Merrill, an entrepreneur and tech journalist, will walk you through each of the topics we’ve covered above—plus a whole lot more that can help you as you start your freelance copywriting journey.