10 top tips on starting life as a freelance copywriter

A guest blog by freelance copywriter, Caroline Roodhouse of the Word Bird

I’m sure there’s no right or wrong way to begin life as a copywriter. I certainly wasn’t armed with a perfect plan. I’d developed a rather healthy network of business acquaintances from previous experiences so I felt confident there was at least a modest ‘team’ cheering me on. Immediately I stumbled upon Copyblogger. Here I discovered 14 ebooks, which became addictive reading and fuelled me with that extra confidence boost you get from soaking up such priceless knowledge. This outstanding, free resource, along with advice from friends in business, guided me on one step at a time. During the initial weeks, I spent every waking hour on the following 10 points:

  1. Plan – I wrote down my initial short-term plan, week by week to ensure I kept on track and to provide me with a point of reference whenever I was feeling particularly overwhelmed. I included basics such as scheduled times when I was available to work, specific research I planned to undertake, details of particular industry influencers I needed to connect with and developments I wanted to make on my website.

  2. Develop– I’d attended a free social media workshop some time previously through my local chamber of commerce, which stood me in good stead to develop my own presence. I immediately began engaging on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Google+. Crucially, being myself and avoiding a sales approach. I joined every chat group I could find, having initially been inspired on Twitter by #satchatUK– there are some highly supportive and friendly folk around, once you get started.

    My 6-week plan included specific target numbers of ‘followers’ and ‘likers’ that I intended to engage with on each social media platform. I also connected with experts in the copywriting field, soaking up their content and sharing it amongst my own followers.

  3. Market – I developed a basic marketing plan, centred around social media but not forgetting the more traditional methods too. Having developed a database of contacts on a simple excel spreadsheet I began a series of targeted campaigns using Campaign Monitor, a very cost effective and user friendly system. I came across some greeting cards with quirky bird designs, which I used to post my business cards out to specific companies I was hoping to build relationships with. I also attended one networking meeting per week, so that I could actually get out and converse with my local community.

  4. Join – I was invited to attend my local Entrepreneurs Circle meeting by a friend who was already a member. Another priceless resource of constructive business advice, inspiring mentors, local networking opportunities and a cure for the loneliness that can strike when you’re self employed.

  5. Create – Having received several enquiries very early on it was evident that I needed some kind of structure to my charges so I developed a simple rate card. I generally avoided hourly fees – initial research revealed that clients were much more likely to agree to clear, flat rates. This helped alleviate some of the objections I received when converting initial conversations into actual paid work.

  6. Produce – at this point I was beginning to receive two or three enquiries a week. I’d discuss requirements either by email but preferably on the phone. I’d confirm rates and begin to develop a relationship with a number of prospective clients. However, I’d hit another stumbling block. Clearly, people were put off by the prospect of producing a detailed brief, after all, writing is something they’re looking to avoid. Another way to ease some of the concerns and reduce delays was to create a very basic guide to writing a brief, including a little company background, deadlines, details of target client base and the overall desired outcome of the article.

  7. Avoid – It’s very flattering to be asked to produce a local newsletter here and a complementary blog there, it’s also a great way to showcase your work. I have nothing against producing copy for free with a view to future paid work. However, I was reminded regularly that there’s only so many giveaways you can offer before the balance is tipped the wrong way.

  8. Gather – Having started to develop a small customer base, I now had the opportunity to add testimonials to my website. I brought these recommendations to life with a photo and a link to their own website, which was also a gesture of thanks for providing the endorsement.

  9. Write – Everybody’s at it! Part of my initial plan was to write a blog post every week and to share it amongst my social media community. It seemed crucial to maintain this, as so many blogs appear to take off… and then nosedive.

  10. Build – It’s vital to be able to produce examples of work upon request and to continue growing this portfolio. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your varying skills and styles. I created another free WordPress blog as a way to collate and publicise my examples and linked it to my website.

I could continue, but you need to get cracking! Stay focused and keep on learning every day. Never forget plain old common sense as well as creativity. And make it work for you.

Above all, remain utterly determined. There’ll be the good days and the bad but that’s life, right?

Caroline Roodhouse recently began freelance copywriting, having spent many years experiencing the temptation of ‘what if?’. With a long career with HSBC and later, the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, followed by various marketing environments, Caroline has a thoroughly rounded understanding of business and an astute approach to creating compelling content. Caroline is also a highly disciplined individual with an alarmingly compelling desire for organisation and accomplishing tasks. 

7 Responses to 10 top tips on starting life as a freelance copywriter

  1. Great tips Carol! I am too contemplating setting my business and am now at the which-is-the-best-plan phase. That there is no right or wrong way to start is quite right. Your tips are simple but effective. Thanks.

  2. Caroline,

    I don’t come from a marketing background per se, but much of my work has involved providing copy of varying nature and discpline. Is the lack of a traditional marketing background a potential stumbling block?

    Thanks

  3. James,

    It really depends who your target market is and what sort of copywriting you’re looking to get in to. There’s opportunity for all sorts so it may not be an issue at all. However, if your clients require content marketing copywriting you can focus your research on that!

  4. I loved this article so much that I tracked Caroline down (admittedly not that hard to do nowadays) and she now produces our blogs and helps us with our social media. She is incredible she doesn’t just produce our copy she has really got to know our business and has had a really important impact on the business as a whole. So if you are a budding copywriter look at what Caroline is doing and emulate it with your own personality thrown in.

  5. Thanks Caroline for sharing this awesome experiences about starting a copywriting business. I’m looking forward to launching my own copywriting business very soon, and i found your information very helpful.

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