The definitive guide to become a copywriter, even if you have no experience.
So you wanna learn how to become a copywriter my young & dumb friend? Well it’s very possible. In fact, there’s really no formal education you need. Some of the top-paid copywriters in the world never went to college or took a writing class!
No formal training!!
Make lots of money!!!
…..now before you start getting crazy, let me step you back into the reality of becoming a copywriter.
In this post we’re going to be covering A LOT (I suggest you bookmark or print this page for later). You can click to jump to each section if you’d like.
How To Become A Copywriter (in step by step table of contents):
- 1. Understand what copywriting is.
- 2. Learn why people hire copywriters.
- 3. Learn the different types of copywriter you can become.
- 4. Get the best copywriting books & courses.
- 5. Do copywriting exercises everyday.
- 6. Outline a career path for yourself.
- 7. Make a simple portfolio.
- 8. Keep learning & find clients
What Is Copywriting?
Copywriting is essentially moving words around to sell better.
Let’s say I work for a company that has a webpage which gets 1 out of 100 visitors to buy something.
If I was a copywriter, I would figure out how to make 5 out of 100 of those people buy. This means 5x more sales from the SAME webpage!
A good copywriter will understand how to do this with their words, and also how to re-arrange pictures and buttons to get more sales.
A good copywriter is not just a writer. They are a keen studier of the human psychology behind purchase decisions.
However if you’re not an expert sales person, fret not….there’s still room for you in the copywriting industry. We’ll talk about the different types of copywriters later in the post.
If you want to learn more about what copywriting is, then checkout this full guide called: What Is Copywriting? It’s fully illustrated with examples of copywriting, and this article is sent throughout marketing agencies and other companies to train employees on the basics of copywriting.
Now let’s move on to the responsibilities of copywriters, and who actually hires them:
Why do people hire copywriters?
Think of the huge amount of content a lot of companies have to put out.
A single insurance company will have to put out all this stuff:
- Ads on TV
- Ads on the internet
- Ads on radio
- Brochures for B2C sales
- Brochures for B2B sales
- Brochures for every different product
- Forms to fill out
- Forms to fill out for various different product lines
- Google ads
- Facebook ads
- Update their Twitter
- Update their Facebook page
- Make content for their website
- Make the content for their website about each different product
- Make sure their content is converting
- Make sure customers understand how to signup
- Send customers packets explaining their policy
- Have scripts for their sales people to follow
- Have scripts for their customer support people to follow
- Write press releases
- The list goes on and on and on and on…
Allllll of these things need to get written by or looked over by a copywriter. And that’s just a single example! Some companies will rely heavily on copywriters. Some companies (like 37Signals) require ALL members of the team to be great writers before they ever start.
A copywriter is generally part of the marketing or advertising team. The copywriter will be in charge of taking a product with lots of complexities, and sum it down to it’s easiest (and most sell-able) components.
Checkout our guide on How To Hire A Copywriter for more information on hiring writers (and a huge list of copywriters contact info in the comments)!
However there are several different types of copywriters:
- Agency Copywriters
- Corporate Copywriters
- Freelance Copywriters
….we will go over each one inside this post.
Know Your Goals….The Different Types of Copywriter You Can Become:
Saying “I want to be a copywriter” is a super vague statement. It reminds me of when people in college would say “I want to major in Business.”
…..it simply doesn’t mean anything without being specific! (For example in the business school, you can break it down into three main areas: Marketing, Finance, or Accounting).
Similarly with copywriting, there are a couple of different routes you can follow.
So which type of copywriter do you want to become?
Each of them does different types of work, makes different salaries, and has pros/cons. Let’s go through them all:
If you want to become an Agency Copywriter, here’s what you can expect:
You will have to get a job for a big advertising agency such as Ogilvy & Mather, GSD&M, or WPP. If you want to be a full time Agency Copywriter, you will most likely have to move to a large city where these agencies are typically located. This would most likely be in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and other large cities.
The Salary for an Agency Copywriter would be low as $35,000 in a smaller city, and between $50,000 and $71,000 in a large city. But this assumes you’re GOOD. I’ve met a lot of copywriters, and I’ve actually never met an agency copywriter I can safely say made over $100,000/year. (Here’s a full list of copywriter salaries).
However the work is stable, you generally get to work in a super-creative environment, and you get exposure to large brands you’d otherwise never get exposed to.
If you want to become a copywriter at an agency, be prepared to work with clients you don’t like or that are hard to sell. For example, you might be in charge of coming up with a campaign to sell laundry detergent. But the problem is the laundry detergent you’re selling isn’t ANY DIFFERENT than the other competing brands!
This means you’ll have to get creative when trying to market these types of brands. This also generally means you’ll be moving away from the super-detailed testing of the direct marketing world.
In Direct Marketing you sell directly to people, and can track things at every step of the way. At large agencies who are helping brands (such as laundry detergents), they’ll typically tend to focus on Brand Advertising methods which just get people to remember one brand, and therefore buy it off the grocery shelves.
GETTING AN AGENCY COPYWRITERS JOB:
Generally these jobs will not go to total newbies. If an agency is going to hire you as a copywriter, they’re going to want to see some experience. And unfortunately there’s a lot of people from the aging print-publication industry who have lots of experience that tend to grab all the agency copywriter jobs.
However there IS some hope for newbies and young people vying for these Agency Copywriter jobs:
Older and more experienced people generally have less experience with social media as they grew up in a different era. And since big agencies are rapidly starting to charge their clients to take over their social media presence also, they now need people to run these accounts.
So a lot of agency copywriters are now moving towards their Digital departments. And most of these people are younger and social-media-fluent people.
So if you wanna become an Agency Copywriter, I would suggest you learn the basics of direct-response marketing to learn about sales, but then ALSO make yourself familiar with social media marketing and how it will look in the future. Read studies about how Twitter is used in advertising, or how Pintrest is used in advertising, or how Instagram is used in advertising, or how Facebook is used in advertising.
This will greatly enhance your skill base and chances of getting a job as an Agency Copywriter at a big advertising agency.
If you’re applying to an agency, they’re going to want to see you have some talent. Examples:
Applying for a copywriting job in the Digital Social Media department?
Maybe show them you have a huge following on Twitter or Pintrest or Instagram. Show them the methods you used to gain such a following. They will see you as more of an asset since you have actual experience growing a following.
Applying for the direct sales department?
Show them you’ve read all the classic copywriting books on advertising (Ogilvy on Advertising, The Boron Letters, The AdWeek Guide to Copywriting). Then show them some samples of campaigns you’ve put out online for yourself or others.
Applying for the department in charge of putting out brochures?
Show them you’ve studied graphics design principles. Show them you’ve studies typography. Show them you know how to use software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to make mockup layouts.
You get the point…..basically if you’re applying for a highly sought after agency copywriter job, it’s best to show them you already have the skills to be a kick ass hire.
THE “GOOD” OF AGENCY COPYWRITERS:
You’re going to get exposed to TONS of brands. And some of these brands sell in excess of $100,000,000/year of just a single line of products. Even if you’re dealing with something trivial as laundry detergent, you’re still dealing with enormous sums of money! This is a great thing. That’s because when you’re dealing with that much money, people are VERY CAREFUL with making moves.
So any changes in your marketing are thoroughly tested. While testing each and every change can be tedious and frustrating to fast-moving people, you will be exposed to advanced testing methods and start learning what makes people actually BUY.
You’ll also get to work closely with some of the worlds largest brands, and get to see all sorts of juicy inside numbers. Simply by being around all this information you’ll learn some pretty valuable things at an agency.
I think that if you ever plan on opening your own agency in the future, then working as an agency copywriter for a while would be a very good experience. I’ve personally never had a job before, which is great….but when it comes to selling to very large corporations, it’s taken me longer to figure out the process since I was never exposed to that environment.
THE “BAD” OF AGENCY COPYWRITERS:
A lot of the good stuff mentioned before is also bad. For example when you’re dealing with a client whose making $100,000,000/year from a product line, they’re going to want SOLID PROOF that your changes in marketing will work. They don’t want you making changes all willy-nilly since something like a small 5% drop in sale equates to a loss of over $5,000,000!
For this reason you will have to thoroughly test and fight for your changes. Your work will also be heavily scrutinized by several teams…..(all who will have “something” to critique on so they look important)….which can be very frustrating.
I personally think the worst part about being an Agency Copywriter is the fact that there’s very little upside when it comes to money.
Since you’re a an employee on a salary at a big corporation, you don’t get to share in the rewards of your marketing. So if you increase sales by 30% and your client makes an extra $30,000,000 that year……you don’t make any more money. After all, they were PAYING YOU to do all that work, and you did all that work with a TEAM….so it’s impossible to tell if the 30% increase was caused by a single person.
This means if things go well, you still make your same salary. I personally don’t like that model. However other people may really like the security.
How to become a Corporate Copywriter:
A corporate copywriter has a relatively boring but stable job. You will most likely work for a single company like a law firm or large corporation.
Let’s say there’s a large company that sells tractor and farm equipment:
- Anytime they have web page that needs to go up, you will be in charge of what text to put in it.
- Anytime they make some brochures for a product, you will be asked what to write in it.
- Anytime they have a TV spot to write, you will be in charge of writing sample scripts.
As you can see, you’ll be working solely on the products the company makes. And if you happen to not give a rats ass about their products, then this will be one helluva boring job for you.
Salary ranges for a corporate copywriter can be from $35,000 to $57,000 in my experience:
I’m not going to go into great detail on becoming a Corporate Copywriter here because these jobs are typically lower on the interest level for most copywriters.
Generally people go for Agency Copywriting instead…..or if you feel like venturing out on your own, then you can go the freelance route. Which brings us to our next section:
How to Become a Freelance Copywriter:
Now here’s where a copywriting career gets interesting! (and I don’t always mean in a good way). The upsides and downsides of being a freelance copywriter have HUGE differences. Someone might earn $800 in a whole year….some others can earn $2,000,000+ in a year. It depends:
What a Freelance Copywriter Does:
A freelance copywriter jumps in whenever someone needs some copywriting done.
Let’s say there’s a growing startup that’s selling a cool eCommerce software system like Shopify, and they wanna start doing some “content marketing.” <~~ SUCH a buzzword.
Well that means they’ll be making a lot of content in the form of blog posts, press releases, how-to guides etc.
If they have no one to do write these in-house, they will often bring in a freelance copywriter for the gig:
Now let’s say there’s some guy who invented a new supplement, and he heard that building an email list would be great for his business. Well he might hire a freelance copywriter to write an autoresponder sequence for him.
This way he’ll be able to capture email addresses of potential customers, and send them cool stuff every few days which will make them want to buy his supplement.
A good freelance copywriter can do this.
Essentially it is the job of a freelance copywriter to either CREATE high converting content, or IMPROVE the conversion rate of content.
Working Conditions For A Freelance Copywriter:
A freelance copywriter can set whatever the hell schedule they’d like. Wanna not work for 6 months? Well you don’t have to. I mean, you might not make any money either, but you at least have the option to take off if you want to.
While there’s unlimited flexibility, it also means your stability is funky. There might be months when you get paid $5,000 to do a simple job. Then there might be months where you can literally not find ANY work at all.
If you aren’t well known in the copywriting industry (or other industry that needs good copywriters), then things will be hard for you.
However if you become well known and well respected and build a small following within an industry, you can have virtually unlimited work or upside.
Freelance Copywriter Salaries:
Oh man, the income ranges for a freelance copywriter can vary WILDLY!
I know people who call themselves “freelance copywriters” who make less than $20,000/year by freelancing. They may get a random gig here or there…..but they don’t make enough to actually live well.
I also know some other freelance copywriters who are popular in the copywriting world (Such as Dan Kennedy, Gary Bencivenga, John Carlton) who can bring in $2,000,000+/year in profit from their copywriting works.
I personally charge $600+ for a single hour. Or slightly less if hours are bought in bulk.
However I also sell classes and courses. So my focus isn’t just on freelancing.
Low-end freelance copywriters I know make: $3,000 – $15,000 per year
These people do it as kind of one-off freelance work or a side-gig.
Medium-end freelance copywriters I know make: $75,000 – $150,000 per year
These are people who call themselves copywriters, and have a reasonable network of people they work with.
High-end freelance copywriters I know make: $300,000+ per year (and this numbers climbs).
These are well-known people who can will high hourly numbers, or high per-gig fees. Generally they will only work with someone willing to pay them $25,000+ for a gig. Generally these people are ALSO very capable business people, and tend to either take equity in other companies, or have their own companies.
If you think about the 100 consults I did in 2014. I billed them at an average of $300 per hour. I would book up to 3 per day (keep in mind I also run a business, so I couldn’t do them full-time).
3 consults per day x $300 = $900/day
Let’s say I did this just 3 days per week = $3,600/week.
Let’s say I did these 4 weeks per month = $14,400/month.
Let’s say I did these 11 months out of the year = $158,400/year.
At the time I had a following of less than 10,000 people, and could still sell out all the consulting spots. So if I made JUST FREELANCE COPYWRITING as a full-time career….it could bring in a decent amount!
I had a following already before I started doing “The 100 Consults for 100 diff companies” experiment, but this was essentially how I did it…..with a SUPER SIMPLE page like this!
The “payment buttons” were simply PayPal buttons. People would buy pre-scheduled times. This way I wouldn’t have to do the stupid back-n-forth of scheduling consults.
Also by selling pre-scheduled times, I could still go about my OWN day very predictably, and not have to plan it around everyone else.
Every week I would send my email list a notification that I put new consults on the page. Sometime there would be just 3 consults available, and sometimes there would be up to 10 consults available.
I’ve modified this page to be EVEN simpler now, and this simple page brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees every year: My simple copywriting consulting page.
So as you can see, the pay scale for a freelance copywriter is much like any freelancer:
[No Network] + [Not Much Experience] = Gets paid crap.
[Lots of Network] + [Lots Of Experience] = Gets paid a lot.
So let’s go onto some other sections about how to become a highly paid freelance copywriter:
How to Get Clients As a Freelance Copywriter:
This is by far the biggest question I get. And people seem to forget one thing:
Establishing yourself as a freelance copywriter is the same as building a business from the ground up.
You’ve got to put in LOTS of effort in the beginning, show talent, and not expect immediate riches. There’s no free lunches here boys and girls.
A lot of people get entranced by the prospect of working from their laptop from anywhere in the world as copywriter. In fact people go nuts when I post pictures like this from various locations!
Since all my copywriting business is conducted from a laptop, I can take off and go work from the beach.
Or if I wanted to drum up an extra $10,000 really quick …..I can just devote some of my hours to copywriting gigs.
But these luxuries are the result of hard work, actual results, and existing exposure.
This won’t happen overnight for most copywriters. And probably NEVER will for a lot of them.
(If you’d like to see full guide for this, view our: How To Get Your First Freelance Writing Job article).
Below I’ll share some of the ways I’ve personally seen people get amazing (and high paid) copywriting gigs:
Get Copywriting Gigs Method #1: Becoming popular on the web (my story)
If you become known as a famous copywriting figure, you will build instant credibility.
And if you have high credibility, you can ask for more money.
So how did I build credibility for my copywriting career?
Building Copywriting Credibility Step 1.) Practicing what you preach:
I originally ran a couple of businesses starting from high school, and I first applied some copywriting techniques to the email list I had.
One business was called HouseOfRave and sold light up and glow stuff. The email list had 7,500 existing customers on it, and I figured that blasting their faces with cool pictures and products would immediately make them buy from me.
So I sent out emails with custom pictures and lots of formatting that looked like this:
So here’s the results of the hundreds of hours I spent on making these emails along with the product photo shoots and writing descriptions of the products:
- List size: 7,500 (good)
- Open Rate: 35 – 40% (really good)
- Sales: 2 (HORRIBLE)
The amount of time I spent vs the amount of return I got from these emails was pathetic!! In fact I would make around $40 in profit from each email, meanwhile the email service cost me $80/month….meaning I was making a net LOSS of -$40!
That was pretty pathetic, but I just assumed everyone’s email list sold poorly, but was good for “exposure”.
Ughh….I was so dumb & naive.
So at some point a friend pointed me towards the Gary Halbert Letters…specifically The Boron Letters, and I started reading those.
Soon after I realized everything I was sending on my email list was totally wrong. So I then got the help of a copywriting friend, and sent out the next email in true copywriting form. Focusing more on the text than flashy images.
The next HouseOfRave newsletter that went out looked like this:
Notice the complete lack of pretty pictures or giant buttons. In fact there’s just one main link to click, that’s it.
The rest of the email used psychologically-geared copy. Hitting on concepts such as story lines, beneficial misfortune, alternate use cases, and scarcity.
Remember how my last emails would get a maximum of 2 orders.
This email generate over 120 orders in the first two hours. It was so successful I had to take the promotion down because I ran out of inventory.
From there I realized the power of copywriting. I even made a course showing exactly what you need to know, templates, and formulas to do this on your own.
But that was just the budding seedlings of my Kopywriting Kareer!
My good friend Noah Kagan was starting a company called AppSumo around the same time, and needed some help writing daily tech deals to his email list.
Well I tried my hand at writing these deals with my new copywriting superpowers. The very first deal we sent out resulted in Appsumo’s first $10,000+ profit day!
I tried writing another deal.
….and it just kept working super well.
Soon enough people were asking how the AppSumo copy was so damn great, and got them buying all the deals.
People would actually LOOK FORWARD to being pitched by us! All because the words in the email were so awesome to read.
For about two years 750,000+ were reading the words I was writing. This was obviously amazing exposure.
Then through AppSumo I started releasing my own digital products. Lots of them. About 13 in total, and I helped create many more.
One of the best-selling courses ever was The Copywriting Course. This was a “Kourse” I made for people to quickly learn all the tactics I use in copywriting. But instead of subjecting them to countless books and exercises, I designed the course so that people would be writing better in under two hours.
I then started adding on more sections, templates, and formulas they could use to learn copywriting for themselves and apply it to their line of work.
This course definitely rocketed me into a much more well-known copywriter.
After selling $1,000,000+ worth of that course, I started taking on the occasional copywriting gig.
I would charge about $200 for an hour.
Also in 2014 I decided to try doing 100 consults for 100 different companies. I just wanted to get really good at writing copy and advising others. The price for these consults was $280 – $315 per hour.
Then after demand for that was too high, I eventually raised the price to $597 for a one hour session.
I also tried a “Rent Me Out For The Day” session which would last 8+ hours……but that wasn’t very fun for either side. Everyone got too exhausted by the end, and it left no time in between for implementation and testing.
So I went back to the hourly model, and most gigs were between 4 and 12 hours. A LOT would be accomplished in that much time. And the results were stellar.
So now after all that experience and results I can quickly drum up business by sending an email out to the thousands of people on my newsletter. But that didn’t happen overnight.
So before you start dreaming of working on a laptop on a beach and raking in $1,000’s of dollars for a few hours of work, just remember that you’ve gotta start small first. Get exposure. Get GOOD.
Ok……so that’s my story, and you can copy something similar, or here’s some other ways to gain copywriting street cred:
Get Copywriting Gigs Method #2: Becoming popular in a specific niche
So a lot of lower-end copywriters will insist “I can write everything!” But in reality they should niche down when they start. For example, if you worked for a big health company and did a lot of writing for them, you should call yourself a copywriter that specializes in the health space.
This will make it easier to gain credibility in a specific area.
You probably wouldn’t super-trust the guy who mows your lawn for financial advice…..however you REALLY might take his advice on how to hedge bushes and get a clean line on the edge of a lawn.
He has very specific advice, and lots of experience practicing what he’s talking about.
Instead of being “just a copywriter” ….it would be better if you were “A female copywriter who specializes in talking to 1st time expecting mothers.”
It would be best to hang out and network in places where people are selling stuff to 1st time expectant mothers. If someone need a copywriter, and you have experience in EXACTLY their niche…..guess who has a high chance of getting the gig??
My personal niche started out with smaller companies and daily deals. Then moved into medium sized businesses.
However if someone approached me to write for 1st time expectant mothers, I could DO It……but I don’t have experience and can’t exactly relate to the struggles of that demographic. So I try to stick to my area of expertise so I can deliver the maximum results.
Get Copywriting Gigs Method #3: Becoming popular for big companies
THIS method can apply to certain people, and be quite lucrative.
Let’s say you worked for a big company in the marketing department and you were exposed to how a big marketing department tests & releases products.
If you were to build a nice little network in the same industry, and then become a consultant with a VERY SPECIFIC expertise, then you get some other big companies to fork over A LOT of money.
Smaller freelance gigs can pay a few hundred dollars. But a huge corporation who is a doing an 8+ month rollout of $100,000,000+ product will pay you some phat-ass cash to ensure they do it right.
Now I personally probably couldn’t get one of these gigs because I’ve never worked inside a huge company. That means I lose major credibility because I’ve never walked the walk.
But if you do have some very niche experience within a big corporation and had a few big wins, you might be able to become a very highly-sought-after consultant.
The cool part is you only need a few good contacts for this.
I know someone who wrote an oil-management program in the 70’s that’s still used today. Till this day he gets sweet-ass gigs from multiple companies JUST to be around if anyone needs help implementing it.
Since the projects he consults for are $2billion+ …..the companies don’t mind shelling out major cash just to keep him around.
Sweet cash flow? Yes.
This is one of the benefits of working with a big company:
You know how to implement projects within a large company. That is actually a rare skill.
Get Copywriting Gigs Method #4: Small-time gigs
Now there are some other ways to get copywriting gigs, but I’ve never seen anyone who consistently made big money doing these things alone, so I’ll just list them quickly:
- Posting on Fivver for copywriting gigs.
You’ll definitely get some leads this way, but your clients will usually be bargain-hunters and not HUGE jobs.
- Posting on Craigslist as a copywriter for hire.
This will generally result in corporate copywriter jobs that are relatively low-paying ($35,000 – $45,000).
- Posting on Upwork as a copywriter for hire.
This is a good way to start, but I’ve personally never met anyone whose been able to maintain getting good gigs from Upwork. They generally start on Upwork then leave (or build courses on HOW to make money from Upwork, but they don’t actually do it themselves).
- Read this article on getting your first freelance gig from freelance copywriting.
This is my full article on how to get your very first freelance gig.
How to Charge Clients As A Freelance Copywriter:
There’s several methods to charge clients, and I will cover all of them:
- Per hour basis.
- Per project basis.
- Getting a percentage.
We’ll discuss each below:
Charging On A Per Hour Basis As A Freelance Copywriter:
This is by far the most simple way to charge. If something takes you 2 hours, you bill for it. Maybe $200/hour….whatever.
For example, if a client has an email they want to revamp and make work better, and you take 3 hours to write it….you can charge them [Your hourly rate] x [Hours it took] = [Your fee].
I personally like this method for the first couple of hours of working with a client. I get a handsome chunk of change, the client gets a nice amount of work done, and we can both see if we enjoy working with each other. (Trust me, there’s some people that sap your energy that you DON’T want to work with).
Charging On A Per Project Basis As A Freelance Copywriter:
This can either be a lucrative way to charge, or a total time-zapper.
Lets say you talk to a client, and agree to write as autoresponder for their business. You can say “I will write an awesome 8-email autoresponder for $3,000 for you!”
Divided out, this sounds like $375 per email. Which if this is how the project goes, would be decent money.
But often projects run time-heavy because of meetings, disagreements, changes and such.
So I would make sure you are ok to spend at least 30% more time than described doing the project for that amount.
Charging As A Percentage As A Freelance Copywriter:
This generally only works if you work for cheap up front, and accept payment later IF the product succeeds.
However only seasoned copywriters tend to get these gigs. Or if you DO get this gig a a beginner, it’s usually for a company that (excuse my country accent): aint’ makin’ no dang money!
However if you are a medium-tier or top-tier copywriter with a proven track record, you can arrange to do a bunch of copywriting work for a smaller-than-normal-fee…..but ALSO get a percentage of the increase in sales.
So let’s say ACME Concrete is making $10,000,000 in sales per year of concrete. Well if you arrange a deal for a 10% payment for any increase in business, then you can make some sweet cash.
If you optimize the hell out of their marketing, and the next year they sell $14,000,000 of concrete…..then you come out of the deal with $400,000.
Advanced ad-selling guys will often negotiate “a percentage of ad spend” as their payment.
These deals are obviously harder to acquire and structure…..but can be hella lucrative. They can also be a major disappointment if the company doesn’t follow through on your advice. So it’s best to play these by ear.
Of all the top copywriters I know, they’ll ATTEMPT to take a percentage, but I only hear of 1-to-3 REALLY BIG WINS in everyone’s careers. Most of the deals end up being lucrative, but not insane.
Make a Simple Copywriting Portfolio:
Ok, listen to me carefully young buck:
You DO NOT NEED a fancy website. In fact, I’ve never never ever seen someone get a copywriting gig directly from their portfolio. EVER!!
The reason is: people are looking to hire you based on your skills at copywriting. Not “how fancy your website looks.” This is a common mistake. Look how crappy my copywriting consults page is. That page generates huge returns even though it sucks super bad. The desire to buy is created from previous exposure to me, NOT the way the page looks.
You can even just build out your entire copywriting portfolio on a simple Google Doc like I do:
People will spend months and lots of money and time on a fancy website, only to realize NO ONE IS COMING TO IT. The only people going there are the people they meet directly and tell to go there.
The best type of copywriting portfolio is a simple page with the following elements:
- Your name.
- Your expertise (Social Media? Landing Pages? A/B Testing?).
- Three examples of your work.
- How they can book a session with you.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but some of the best copywriting pages I’ve EVER SEEN are super simple one’s like this:
See how simple that is?
It also only leaves them ONE option of what to do next, and that’s to book a session with you.
These sessions should generally be a minimum of $100.
If a client is not willing to pay at least $100 for a consultation session where you point out everything wrong with their page, they are NOT going to buy anyways.
My minimum consultation session is $597 now. And I’ve learned the hard way that if people are not willing to pay it, they are not going to be willing to pay you more (or they just simply can’t afford it).
Oddly enough, the more I charge for each hour session, the more respect and compliance I get from the client! They want to make SURE they get their money out of that session, so they ensure they show up on time and show up prepared.
And if we both decide that the hour-long session was enough, then at least they got lots of value, and I got paid a nice little amount for an hours work.
Now some people may object to this “paid hour” type of consult and ask:
“But what if I want to do a free session for someone??”
I would personally avoid doing free sessions. Because what generally happens is:
1.) Everyone gets excited about working together.
2.) You setup a meeting with this “prospective client”.
3.) You prepare for the meeting and draw up a proposal.
4.) You talk with the client and tell them what you’re going to do for them.
5.) They tell you “let’s talk again soon after I run this by my boss.”
6.) You never talk again…..and all that time was wasted.
7.) You become sad and poor :-(
To get people taking you seriously, you need to charge them for your time. If they decide to go for a full contract with you, then you can comp them the hour long session. However if they don’t go with you, at least you still get paid.
Charging people for your time is a sure-fire way to get them to value your services.
Every single successful freelance copywriter I know ALWAYS charges for their time.
Get Copywriting Gigs Method #5: Jason’s story
I can sit here and tell you my OWN story for days, but I’ll let my friend Jason tell you some of his own tips:
This blue box section was written by a successful copywriter named Jason. He doesn’t have a website, doesn’t have any fancy business cards…..yet still manages to make 5-figures plus (per month) as a freelance copywriter through just referrals and word of mouth in very specific niches.I asked him to write some tips for you, and they actually come out damn good! Here’s Jason:So you want to be a copywriter? I’ll keep my story brief and offer a handful of tips that should be useful for all levels of copywriters – beginner through advanced.I got my start in a very unique way. I never went to college, and in fact I never even finished high school, and yet I run a successful six-figure copywriting business working online as I travel the world. As I write this now, I’m currently living in Paris, France and exploring French culture. I live where I want. I choose my clients. I have lots of freedom in my life. And I get paid for it :)Unlike my classmates in school who went on to get degrees and corporate jobs, I followed a different path. You wanna know what started all this?
I began reading The Gary Halbert Letters.
Immediately I started using his copywriting style to sell my own dating advice programs, and it worked! My conversions improved, my income went up, and I was hooked. At that time I still wasn’t making enough to not have a job, so I began offering my copywriting services to people on The Warrior Forum (a free discussion forum where thousands of online marketers congregate). I posted on there offering a free copywriting critique to anyone who asked. In the critique I gave several pointers that would help them improve their copy, and then I offered them a discounted price for a full sales letter since they bothered to contact me.
That’s how I got my start 11 years ago. One of those Warrior Forum clients was worth at least $50,000 to me over the years. I’ve since moved on and began studying with Jon Benson – the pioneer of the video sales letter. I took a training with him that cost me $20,000 and I got certified in his method of VSL creation. I now specialize in direct response VSLs, and that’s what most people come to me for.
That’s my story in a nutshell. Of course, there’s a lot more to the story of how I build my copywriting business, but I don’t want to turn this into a book, so I’d like to leave you with a few nuggets of hard-won wisdom for becoming a better copywriter and growing your business:
Tip #1 – Learning how to write copy is a lot like learning how to be a professional dancer. You can’t read a few books on how to dance and expect to compete, or to even look good on the dance floor. It takes a lot of discipline and willingness to burn the moves into your brain so they become automatic. There are no shortcuts to that. You have to drill, you have to practice, and you have to continually sharpen your sword. That means writing out proven sales letters BY HAND (using a pen and paper) in order to burn the writing style into your brain. That means dissecting proven video sales letters and looking at the psychology underneath the words. This takes work, and there’s zero emotional reward for doing it. It doesn’t feel good, but it will make you better, and that will make you a lot more money which WILL make you feel good.
Tip #2 – Read the classic books on copywriting which Neville has already laid out for you. Do NOT skip this part just because some of the books are old. They are just as relevant today as they ever were.
Tip #3 – The best money you’ll ever spend is to hire a copywriter who is at least 5-10 years ahead of you to rip apart your work. My 2 best converting sales letters of all time were both torn to shreds by John Carlton and I was forced to improve them. The pro’s can see what you can’t see.
Tip #4 – The best copywriting courses out there will probably cost you a thousand bucks or more. I’m looking to purchase Gary Bencivenga’s program next. It’s a DVD home study course that costs $5,000. Does that sound like a lot? One project for me is worth between $15,000 and 25,000. If I learn one thing from that course that improves my copy enough to get more projects like that, then the $5,000 was a bargain.
Tip #5 – One of the best bits of advice that I got from John Carlton was to become a “shameless whore” for a while. Take any job at any price. You need to practice doing good work, then having it rejected so you are forced to do better work. You have to practice setting and meeting deadlines. Learn the basics, then get on Elance and just take any job you can get for any price until the demand begins to exceed the supply.
Tip #6 – Another tip from John Carlton… make sure you have some “thanks, but no thanks” money in your bank account. When you need the money, you’ll find yourself agreeing to all kinds of terms that you don’t like in order to get a gig. It’s okay, just go through this period as fast as possible and SAVE YOUR MONEY so you don’t have to keep doing that. Clients will bend their “non-negotiable terms” to your preferences, but only if you’re actually good and can deliver results. When you are good, you are not replaceable. Hiring a copywriter is not like buying silver or gold or something else where all is equal. All copywriters are not equal. Decent copywriters make decent sales copy. Really good copywriters make their clients a big return on their investment. Your clients don’t want good copy, they want to make a profit.
Tip #7 – Choose one industry and master it. For 16 years now I’ve done a lot of work in the dating advice industry. There are very few copywriters in the world who know more about what the customer’s desire and pain points than I do. If you’re passionate about fitness, then stick with that niche and devour that industry’s best offers. Become a stalker of good copy in your favorite niche.
Tip #8 – While sticking with that niche, be sure to hunt down proven offers in other niches. You’ll get ideas on how to present your clients’ offers that you would have never thought of otherwise. I mostly write for dating and personal growth these days, but I still watch VSL’s in the survival and fitness niches. Why? Because those are highly competitive niches, so the offers that are actually making a serious profit are going to have the best copywriting.
Tip #9 – Cultivate discipline as a daily practice. If you rely solely on passion and motivation, you’re screwed. You need to have the thick skin of a professional and be able to get things done even when you don’t want to or don’t feel like it. Read the book: The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a quick read, but it will give you a framework on how to think about getting your work done.
Tip #10 – Once you’ve paid your dues and you can actually write something that makes your clients money, make sure you attend the most popular marketing seminars. Anything by Dan Kennedy is a winner. Traffic and Conversion summit is another one. And read a book or two on how to network. Going there without knowing how to network will be a waste of your time. Start with: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. That book changed my life.
Tip #11 – Your clients will almost always try to get more services out of you for their money. This is common, don’t take it personally. I used to get angry about this. Then a friend told me that instead of saying “no”, just say, “Sure I can do that, and here’s how much more it’ll cost.” Thousands of dollars were added onto my income because of that one distinction.
Tip #12 – Create the habit of offering more value than you take. I learned that from the dating advice world. Always lead with the giving hand, not the taking hand. Do you think I get anything for writing this document up when I should be outside exploring France? Nope. But Neville has always been a giver with me and everyone else he interacts with. I’m volunteered to write this for him because he’s a friend. Maybe you’ll be a friend of mine in the future too. I don’t know. But I’m not doing this to get something out of it. I’m enjoying a lifestyle that most people dream about, and it’s thanks to all that I’ve learned over the years and the clients who supported me. I am more than happy to give back to the world in the form of helping you with this small collection if wisdom I’m sharing. Make sure you become someone who does the same.
Want a practical way to do that? Go to the bank today and get 30 one dollar bills. If you’re in another country outside the US, then get the equivalent. Every day for the next 30 days hide one of those dollar bills somewhere where a real human being will find it. Be creative. Go to a bookstore and stuff a dollar inside your favorite book. You’re not allowed to wait and watch to see who gets it or what their reaction is. That’s a taking-oriented activity. You want to train your mind to be a giver. That means you don’t need to know whose day you brightened with your dollar.
Oh, and make sure you hand write a post-it note and stick it to the dollar. Say something nice like, “I don’t know who you are and I’ll never meet you. But I left this here to brighten your day. Enjoy :)”
Always focus on giving value, and the clients will come. I hope this helps.
P.S. – One final tip. Don’t ever use your copywriting skills to sell substandard products that don’t actually help people. If you do, a time will come when all the disappointment you’ve added unto the world will come back to you in some form. Make sure that part of your initial consultation involves you evaluating the client’s product and making sure it’s up to snuff. If it’s not, offer to help them make it better for an additional fee. Learn how good direct response products are made. Your client will appreciate the help and the world will be made better because of your vigilance.
Copywriting Tools of The Trade:
Well if you wanna be a copywriter of any type, you BEST be versed in the art of copywriting!
Here’s a list of copywriting tools to sharpen your copywriting axe.
Copywriting Books to read:
I’ve read a helluva lot of copywriting books, and these are the one’s I recommend you read to get off to a great start:
Recommendation 1.) Read The Gary Halbert Letters (Free) Start by reading “The Boron Letters”. Make sure you print each chapter out for maximum effect!
You can also buy The Boron Letters directly from Amazon.
Recommendation 2.) If you want a book that sits on your desk and can re-cap this kourse quickly, then grab my book called “This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better” from Amazon.
Recommendation 3.) Read Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman. This book usually costs in the $30 range, but is one of my go-to books for ideas on how to position copy. Almost every successful kopywriter will know this book.
Recommendation 4.) Also, check out Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy (great for traditional advertising advice as well)
Recommendation 5.) My #1 recommendation however for learning how to write great copy by TONIGHT is the Kopywriting Kourse. This is not a book, but rather a video course. This copywriting course will take you through the basic mindsets, methods, and formulas you need to learn kick ass sales copy…..within less than 2 hours. You also get tons of bonus content for more advanced copywriting in different areas (like sales, eCommerce, digital products and way way more)….
Recommendation 6.) Read my whole list of copywriting book recommendations and watch the video at the end of that post, it goes through each book in detail.
Copywriting Exercises to Practice:
There are some basic copywriting exercises that will keep your brain SHARP, but listing these methods here got way too long, so we made a separate Copywriting Exercises Guide here.
An example of one of these exercises is “Mental Ad Re-Writing” on everyday advertisements you see, such as billboards.
So if you’re walking by a billboard, you think in your head what ways you can get people to crave that burger even more:
Try to think of ways you would have personally made that billboard better:
–Maybe a picture of someone EATING the burger and smiling?
–Maybe use an exclamation point and all caps instead of a period and lower case? Like: THINK BIG!
–Maybe list the location of the closest McDonald’s location?
This “Mental Ad Re-Writing” is one of the strongest ways to start building your copywriting muscle. See the full copywriting exercises guide here –>
The Next Steps To Becoming A Copywriter:
I showed above in this post some good things to do first:
- Read the copywriting books I recommended above.
- Making a simple copywriting portfolio.
- Put yourself out there.
I know this post is hella long, so download this free eBook for later:
“Become a Copywriter Even With No Experience”
This book is my free gift to you. It contains:
-All the info in this post
-Case study of becoming a copywriter from Tim Branch.
-All the resources you need.
I would highly suggest you kick back and read this on a tablet….or preferably print it out and read at night.
If you’re looking to change careers or even start writing on the side, this is a guide for you. And it’s totally free when you join my newsletter. Enjoy!
If you liked this post, signup for my weekly Copywriting Newsletter.
Is there something I’m missing? Something you’d like to know more about?
Tweet me at @NevMed and ask me a question, and I might add it into this page for you!
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P.S. If you’d like to sharpen your knowledge about becoming a copywriter, here’s some more great resources on copywriting:
- What Is Copywriting? An illustrated guide to copywriting with examples and explanations.
- Copywriter Salaries. A complete list of salaries for different types of copywriters, and even self-reported freelance salary ranges in the comments.
- Getting your first freelance writing jobs. A guide on how to get your very first paid writing gigs and jobs.
- Join the KopywritingKourse. Our premium training course to get you from copywriting newbie, to pro.
- More copywriting articles. Browse our inventory of free copywriting articles and guides.