Five Things to Act on when Becoming a Freelance Copywriter: Part I

Nexus Copywriting LogoThe first in a series of five guest blogs from Nexus Copywriting.

It’s a common feeling in life to look back on your past self and think, “If only I knew then what I know now!”

Well, if you’re intending to set up your own freelance copywriting business, think of the blog entries I write over the next 5 weeks as notes from your future self.  In spite of all the brilliant training you’ll receive and no matter how talented you are, for most copywriting students setting up their own business is a completely new phase of life and it’s easy to make mistakes.  These brief nuggets of copywriting business sense are designed to share with you one of the most potent forces on the planet: the power of retrospect!

1) Have Financial Backup in Place
Copywriters generally love what they do, and freelancers love the freedom and control of having their own business.  However, as much as we all cheer for the choice we made, it would be irresponsible to suggest embarking on this path is easy.  I’m amazed to see some copywriting training presented as a route to working very little and earning pot-loads of money.

It’s certainly possible to make a comfortable living and the very best copywriters can earn a great deal.  But that’s a long-term aspiration, not a short-term reality.  So when you set up your copywriting business you must be ready for lean times in the early days.

It will take a while for you to become established because initially you will face the Catch-22 of copywriting:

Businesses want to see evidence of your commercial writing, but you can’t build up a portfolio of commercial writing without working for businesses!

Of course, you’ll have the work produced as part of your course, but don’t imagine this in itself is going to be a passport to jobs.  Business people are cagey and whilst they might see the quality of your writing, they would often rather you had some real-world experience too.

This isn’t an insurmountable problem (see next week’s instalment), but it will take time to get enough businesses to give you work and create a more compelling portfolio.  Not least because it’s not just about the number of examples you have, but also the type.  For example, even if you have three different pieces of website copy you’ve written for businesses, they might all be for B2C markets, which means B2B businesses may be more sceptical about hiring you.

So you must ensure you have the financial backup to support you in this establishing phase.  If it’s possible to continue in another job whilst you find your copywriting feet that could be an ideal solution, although it will give you much less time for marketing yourself and means most of your spare time will be devoted to work.

If you decide just to focus on your new business then you should have enough savings set aside to keep you going for at least 6 months, together with any income a partner may be earning.  You could find that for several of those months you have little more than pocket money coming in.  Maybe even nothing.  It’s a worst-case scenario, but this is a serious move and you must be prepared for it.

With the proper provision and planning there’s every reason for your copywriting business to flourish.  However, just as a newborn lion cub needs the help and protection of its mother before it’s strong enough to run and hunt with the pride, you must set up protection for your new business to avoid running into financial trouble.

Next week’s instalment will look at one of the most problematic areas of running a copywriting business – the rates you charge.

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