The fast starter’s guide to becoming a freelance copywriter
Do you want to kick start your career as a copywriter, but just don’t know where to begin?
Swimming in a vast ocean of freelancers (and big, hungry agencies) can be a daunting task, especially if you haven’t even begun your copywriting journey.
You may be wondering,
Is there any room for me?
Do I have the skills to be a good copywriter?
Will anyone hire me?
WILL I STARVE AND DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH, ALONE, HUNGRY AND CLUTCHING MY KEYBOARD?
Don’t worry. Let me assure you that’s exactly where I started out, over a decade ago. (Except for the starving a horrible death part. I’m a pretty positive and optimistic fella.)
Here are some awesome tips to get you started. With these bits of advice and a gung ho attitude, you can be making money as a copywriter in just weeks! (Heck, possibly even days.)
Tip #1: Build A Copywriting Portfolio
As a freelance copywriter, you won’t be relying on resumes to land jobs* – you’ll need a portfolio showcasing your best work.
A freelance copywriter’s portfolio is their weapon of choice. This is the sword/staff/bullet/fist that will differentiate you from your competition. So make your portfolio solid.
*Except if you’re a freelance copywriter in Singapore. (A country renowned for doing everything “by the book”.) Here, some companies demand nothing else but my resume – as if my Degree in Business/Marketing from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology means anything about me being a good copywriter. Heck, my classmates have gone on to become everything from magicians and musicians, to teachers, bankers and everything in-between.
“But What If I Don’t Have Any Experience Or Previous Copywriting Work To Showcase?”
I hear you. This sounds like a catch-22 situation, but it really isn’t. Read on to find out what to do next.
Tip #2: If You Lack Samples, Create Spec Ads
What should you do if you lack the samples needed to build a kickass portfolio? The solution is to create spec ads. (Short for “Speculation Advertisements”.)
Spec ads are advertisements that you’ve created (or in this case, written) but not published. In fact, these ads are entirely speculative, which means that you don’t have any affiliation with the brands, products and services you’re writing about. These pieces of advertising copy have been created entirely for use in your portfolio.
How to create a spec ad
Firstly, choose an industry, brand or product/service that you are interested in writing about. Let’s say you love tech and would love to produce ads for technology companies. Great! Let’s start there.
Now, select a product or service to write about. How about the latest iPhone or Macbook? (Just kidding, every tech geek knows there hasn’t been a “new” Macbook in 4 years. *Sobs*)
Next, think about the type of ad you’d like to write. A banner? Poster? Video script? News story? Take your pick.
Finally, create your very own spec ad. Then repeat the process till you have an impressive selection of them.
Soon, you’ll have a portfolio full of advertising copy for Fortune 500 companies and global names – an impressive start for an aspiring freelance copywriter! (Even if none of these companies ever asked you to write a word of copy for them.)
Note: When using spec ads in your portfolio, always make sure it’s clearly labelled as “Spec Ads”. Also, make sure your potential client knows what spec ads are, and don’t try to pull a fast one on them. Play nice and they’ll appreciate your honesty, copywriting abilities (let’s assume your spec ads are well-written) and your initiative!
Tip #3: Learn From The Pros
There’s a whole collection of copywriting books out there that you can dig into, and each of them will surely teach you something useful that will be worth the $10-$20 spent on it.
My personal favourite is “Ogilvy on Advertising”, which you can easily purchase from Amazon (along with dozens of other titles – just type “copywriting” into Amazon’s search bar and choose the top few that appeal to you.)
Tip #4: Uncover The Psychology Of Selling
Pick up books and courses on selling and influence. Get really good at these skills, because this is essentially what copywriting is – selling. Except, you’re using only the power of words to influence, convert and make the sale.
If you happen to learn about other aspects of selling in the meantime (such as reading body language), that’s great too. If you decide to meet clients or prospects face-to-face, you’ll be able to close the deal and clinch contracts in real-life situations too. (Not just through digital interactions.)
Tip #5: Get Your First Client
Getting your first client is a lot easier than you think, especially in today’s digitally-connected environment. There’s a lot of copywriting work out there, you just need to let the world know you’re ready, willing and capable of taking on these assignments.
Here are some good sources for copywriting assignments:
Social media connections (especially from LinkedIn)
Most Importantly, Just Get Started!
These few tips alone are enough to get your busy for the next few weeks. In fact, there’s enough homework here for an entire “beginner course” on kick starting your freelance copywriting career!*
So get started today and know that in a few weeks (or even days), you’ll have your very first copywriting client – and possibly an exciting, empowering career as a freelance copywriter.
*Come to think of it, perhaps I should create that beginner-level course and help beginners through the process. What do you think? Just me a note by clicking on the icon at the bottom left of your screen, I’d love to hear from you.