I’m new to freelance writing. Where should I get started?

As entrepreneurs, brands, businesses and organizations increasingly come to the realization that having entertaining, informative, or compelling content on their websites, the demand for copywriters has become higher than ever.

I mean, who doesn’t want to work from the comfort of their own homes, set their own hours and effectively be their own boss, right?

As a freelance writer who has been doing this pretty much full-time for about 7 years, I feel that it’s necessary to warn you that it’s not all as easy as you may think. There’s a lot of hard work involved, particularly when you get started.

Humble beginnings

I’ve always enjoyed writing from a young age. However, it wasn’t until about 2012-2013 that I started getting paid for writing.

When I first started, I think I was only averaging 1 client every 2-3 months. That was okay for me, because I was still working as a receptionist full-time, so I didn’t really have the time and energy to write as much as I do now.

It didn’t really even occur to me that I could make a full-time living out of copywriting. However, I slowly started doing more research and signed up for a bunch of platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork. While others have stated that they had experienced success on these platforms, I didn’t even get a single client. I even signed up for stuff like Lionbridge and a bunch of other transcription websites which was (in hindsight) a complete waste of time. The testing process is tedious, long, and when you finally get accepted, you’re expected to transcribe audio that is barely audible and sounds like somebody’s literally speaking into a potato.

Success!

I’d pretty much given up on trying to make a decent living working remotely, doing transcription work and writing. I still spent a lot of time marketing on various social media platforms, though. Just in case.

Then, the clients started flooding in. By this time, I’d found my niche – Business, Management and Law writing. I’ve probably spent over 500+ hours just researching and trying to understand various business models, theories and concepts. Nowadays, I can pretty much write any business and management-related content from the top of my head with minimal, if any, research involved. As law is constantly evolving and differs between jurisdictions, I’m still spending quite a lot of time researching when writing law-related articles.

Nowadays, my business solely comes from W-O-M (word-of-mouth) – referrals from friends and happy clients. In 2020, I made a net profit of over $75k solely from part-time copywriting as I continue to finish my Bachelor of Laws degree. It’s not a huge amount of money, but I’ve turned down numerous projects simply because I didn’t have the time to do it, or I wanted to give myself a little break.

Stress, writer’s block and burning out

In 2019, I experienced my first burn-out as a writer. I was averaging 3000 to 5000 words per day for three months before I started feeling absolutely depleted, burnt out and ready to pretty much quit writing altogether.

During my two-month break from writing, I realized that my mental and physical health is more important than making more money. This is why I began turning clients away in 2020 in order to never again experience the level of burnout, anxiety and depression that I had in 2019. Keep in mind that the stresses of law school combined with my ever-growing workload at the time was honestly enough to drive me crazy. Thankfully, my partner was extremely supportive and took care of me while I recovered. Make no mistake, burning out puts you in the worst possible state of mind that you’ll ever experience in your life. Take care of yourself first.

How can I get started?

1. Build your portfolio

If you want people to take you seriously as a professional, start building your portfolio immediately. There are a tonne of free websites that will allow you to showcase your work. Of course, you could always offer new clients a paid sample test (NEVER work for free), but a portfolio will always place you ahead of others competing for the same project.

If you’re stuck and have no idea what to write, reach out to us and we’ll provide you with some example topic ideas. I should also mention that finding your niche is also a part of building your portfolio. As you branch out into various different categories of topics, you’ll know when you a niche in which you can specialize. Feel free to check out my article explaining why finding a niche is pertinent and how you can do so.

2. Marketing

Once you’ve got your portfolio up and running with at least four or five different pieces (ideally, the more the better), you’re ready to start marketing. Thanks to the Web 2.0 and multitude of social media platforms accessed daily by millions, you can market for free on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even subreddits such as r/ForHire, r/HireAWriter, r/hiring.

If you’re super confident that your content is going to stand out over that of others, you can always opt for paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. From my experience, Reddit is probably the most effective platform if you’re going to spend your money anywhere. However, you may have a different experience depending on your niche and target audience.

It’s important to be active on social media. It’s best to post as frequently as possible to keep your audience in the loop. Create engaging content accompanied with attractive images in order to capture the attention of your target market. MJ&Steff use Canva as our primary method of creating Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts. Just make sure your captions are relevant to what you do. You want your clients to know that you have their best interests at heart, and you’re not solely money grubbing. It’s important to ensure that your client’s goals are YOUR goals. Otherwise half-hearted efforts will burn your reputation and could potentially end up in you losing future business.

3. Relationship-building

As aforementioned, you want your clients to know that you have their best interests at heart. It’s always beneficial to establish a connection with your clientele in order to build trust and enhance your professional relationship.

That being said, you’re definitely not your client’s personal assistant, mother or caregiver. When I say this, I mean that you’re not obliged to provide free advice, work for free or do anything that is otherwise not in your job description. However, this may differ on a case-by-case basis. If you have a great long-term relationship with a client whom you love working with, you’re obviously free to do whatever you want to nurture and continue this relationship.

Don’t underestimate yourself

I feel like this needs to be written under its own separate heading. Do not underestimate yourself. If you know that you’re good at what you do, don’t ever let any bitter clients or competitors tell you otherwise. I say this because every writer has their own unique way of writing/working, and naturally, your style of working will not be compatible with every single project or every single client.

When it comes to pricing your services, be firm and do not undercut yourself. If you believe that your work is worth $0.7 per word, that’s what you should charge. So what if other writers are charging substantially less? If you have the expertise, credentials and confidence in the quality of your work, you don’t need to lower your rates JUST because somebody else thinks it’s not worth it. There’s going to be people complaining about your rates no matter what. Even if you charge $0.01 per word, there’s still gonna be some fucker complaining that your rates are too high. Fuck them.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some seriously terrible writers charging way more than their work is worth. I say this as objectively as possible. If your grammar is absolute shit and you have a tonne of spelling mistakes in your ad, why the fuck are clients going to hire you over other writers who charge the same rate and can provide MUCH better quality content?

This is why I’d advise you to build relationships with other freelance copywriters so that you can exchange ideas and constructive criticism. You’re more than welcome to contact us for advice on pricing and CC, but bear in mind that we’re not going to sugar coat things for you. In order to thrive in this industry, you’ve got to have thick skin otherwise you’re never gonna make it.

Published by Steff

Professional copywriter.

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