So you’re trying to get your first freelance writing gig, but you don’t know where to start, eh?
Well sit in Uncle Neville’s lap and I’ll show you the steps to getting started as a copywriter:
Well my young little guppy, lets get you on the right path!
Let’s start you off by making you a single goal:
Our #1 Goal is to make your first $100 as a freelance copywriter.
Now that we’ve got a specific goal, we can start building towards that goal. Trying to make just $100 as a writer is a very attainable goal, that’s why we’re starting there. Some people might hit this $100 goal on their very first gig, and others might take a couple laps around the block before hitting that. Don’t get discouraged.
Like anyone who is just starting on a career path, in the beginning the money will suck and you will do a lot of work.
As you get more experience….
As you start to build a reputation….
As you get more good testimonials….
As you get some word of mouth referrals….
As you start learning what clients really want….
As you start offering more services clients want….
As you start getting known within a specific industry….
Then your income will start growing.
It’s always the toughest as you build your freelancing business from scratch:
So let’s get started!
1.) Start your Copywriting Command Center:
This is a document we keep to ourselves. It’s like our own little secret plan to dominate the copywriting world.
Your Command Center can just be a simple Google Doc or text file. The reason I want you to do this first is because many people blindly go through trying to build their freelance writing business and flip-flop around without a goal.
I want YOU, my special friend, to go through this process with a concrete plan.
At first your portfolio will be depressingly blank. But it’s ok because everyone has to start at the bottom. With some dedication, we’ll get this portfolio filled up in no time.
If you fast forward a few months, you can see this portfolio getting filled with larger and larger projects:
You see how the progression goes?
Small gig 2.
Small gig 3.
Medium sized gig 1.
Medium sized gig 2.
Big and highly paid gig 1.
Big and highly paid gig 2.
Big and highly paid gig 3…..
It’s just like any creative profession:
[More Experience] + [More Skill] + [More Notoriety] = [More Money $$$] !
2.) Know when to write for free….and when to say “no.”
Let’s be clear my young cub…..we’re in this game for money. Here’s how to determine whether or not to work for free, it’s very simple…
Reasons to work for free:
- The company/person is a well-known name you can use as a resume builder.
Ex: If you want to be a marketer and Seth Godin asks for your help on a page…then say yes to this gig. You can now say you’ve worked with Seth Godin which greatly adds to your credibility.
- The company/person is a hero of yours, and you want to work with them no matter what.
Ex: If Tesla or SpaceX were to ask for a bit of your advice, and you really love those companies, then say yes.
- The company/person has a huge audience, and you will be getting credit for your work.
Ex: If a blog with an active audience and 10x the readers you have asks for a guest post, they promise to also promote and email your article, and you’re definitely getting credit & links to your own site, then say yes.
That’s really about it. You should not do free work unless you KNOW it’s going to result in something awesome, or it adds major credibility.
If I catch you working for some shitty small insurance company that is “paying you in experience” ….I will personally find you and smack the pen out of your hand and then smack you in the face for being so dumb.
3.) Join groups where copywriting gigs are posted:
You gotta be part of groups that openly post jobs for writing. Here’s a couple of them to get started:
- The Cult of Copy (Facebook Group).
- The Cult of Copy Job Board (Facebook Group).
- The KopywritingKourse Page (Facebook Page).
- Austin Freelance Gigs (Facebook Page) ….obviously look for groups in your own geographic area.
- Meetup.com groups in your area. Find groups with keywords “Writer”, “Freelancer”, “Marketer” etc.
Like with any crowd of people, you get back from them what you put in. So if you’re just a lurker in these groups, then don’t expect to get a ton back.
For example, I try to post some helpful information in some of these groups every month. I treat the group to helpful information, and they reward me with feedback/questions/likes etc:
Beware: It’s very easy to cross the line between “posting helpful information” and “spamming the group with annoying self-promotion.”
To make sure people ENJOY the post, I like to give them something free.
For example in this post on The Cult of Copy I decided to give away the Google Spreadsheet of all the collected company slogans to the group. I didn’t make them trade an email address to get the doc, it was just free-and-clear for them to have:
By becoming a staple to some of these groups, you’re building a small group of fans in your industry. This can serendipitously lead to more gigs, jobs, and introductions you otherwise would never have got.
Something more interesting is when you go to a conference and meet these people in real life, you actually already have a great bond.
Be helpful and useful to these groups, and it can take you a long way.
4.) Start reading copywriting books and taking copywriting courses:
Like anyone who is good at what they do…..they study the subject. You need to get obsessed with copywriting and start devouring information at a fast pace. Learn from the masters. Use concepts they teach. Apply those concepts to your own writing. Blend your own writing and their wisdom together.
I already outlined exactly which books and courses to take, and don’t want to clutter up this post with them. Many of the books are either free or very cheap from Amazon.
You can see my list of recommendations here:
Copywriting Books and Courses Recommendations –>
5.) Start writing anything, even a small blog:
If you want to be a professional dancer, and have NEVER danced.
You better start dancing to get practice!
If you want to be a professional welder, and have NEVER welded.
You better start welding to get practice!
If you want to be a professional copywriter, and have NEVER written.
You better start writing to get practice!!!
You’re gonna suck ass at whatever you do for the first time. So it helps to just get started and get some practice.
I started writing articles in 2001 and posting them online before “blogging” was actually a thing. In 2004 I started a Blogger.com blog that I never expected anyone to read.
Constantly posting my thoughts on that blog helped me get into the groove of writing. Yadda yadda yadda years down the road, those same typing fingers make a good living doing the same thing I would’ve done for free anyway!
For all you know, you may actually end up HATING the process of writing. If this is the case, then move onto something else. But you’ll never find out if you like it or not unless you start.
Here’s a a perfect use case of this “Start writing anything” advice:
Learn from this example and understand that you don’t need to get some special assignment handed to you or big opportunity…..you can just start writing on your own free blog, in a Facebook Group, on Medium….anywhere.
If you don’t write –> You probably won’t.
So my friend, if you want to become a writer, then here’s the advice:
(That’s supposed to be a Nike “Just Do It” sign with a pencil at the end. Clearly I should “Just Start Drawing” to get more practice) ;-)
So with this advice, I implore you to go start writing. This can be in ANY form such as:
- Regularly posting in Facebook Groups.
- Start your own blog (this isn’t a technical post, so I’ll leave that to you….but I know Blogger.com is super easy to use and it’s free).
- Submitting articles to Medium.com.
- Posting short stories on your own Facebook or whatever social media following you have.
- Volunteer to write some posts or emails for a famous blogger.
- Post on Upwork.com or Fiverr.com to get your first initial gigs.
I can’t tell you exactly how you’ll get your first freelance writing gig, but I can 100% say this:
I will bet money that the person who ALREADY WRITES FOR FUN will end up becoming the successful copywriter.
6.) Put together some “Packages” for people to purchase.
At first you might be using platforms like Fiverr.com and Upwork.com to get clients, but if someone approaches you personally for writing services, they will inevitably ask “How much does it cost?”
This question scares people shitless, and with good reason.
You don’t want to charge too much and scare them away.
You don’t want to charge too little and be disappointed.
So this is why I suggest making multiple packages, often using “Three Tiered Pricing.”
Use three tiered pricing a freelancer can literally “make up” any crazy prices they want….even if you’re just starting out!
So the pricing structure looks like this:
Then we can fill in the pricing structure with our offering:
- The $15/hour may be the safe bet we know people can’t refuse.
- The $575 website review might be what we’d be really happy to get, but may not get right away as a new freelancer.
- The $2,750 package might be what we’d be REALLY excited to get! It offers a bunch of stuff people might not want or need, but it simultaneously lets people know you can do this stuff, and that you’re “valued” quite high. It actually might make them look at the low end offer ($15/hour) and bump up to the mid-tier option.
This kind of Three Tiered Pricing is a brilliant way for a newbie freelancer to offer super high-end packages without scaring away potential clients. You can read much more in depth about this (including personal stories) in my post about consulting as a side job.
Now since you’re a total newbie, I don’t want you wasting too much time setting up a website or anything to host this cool Three Tiered Pricing chart of yours. IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE ON A WEBSITE.
In fact, it’s probably best if you just have a simple email like this:
Load that baby up into your “Canned Responses” and send it out whenever you need. Oh, and those blue [purchase] links are just links to PayPal buttons. Don’t get distracted with being over-fancy with shopping carts and merchant accounts and all that jazz. Wait until you’re a baller copywriter brining in hundreds of thousands of dollars before fiddling with that.
Make a copy of my “Freelance Beginner Checklist” here:
-This includes this entire post so you can reference it anytime.
If you enjoyed this article, you might get some more insights on these other great articles about copywriting:
Neville Medhora – Experienced Kopywriter
P.S. In the comments, tell us how YOU got your first freelance writing gig!