How to Break into Freelance Copywriting

One of my copywriters here at Jansen Communications asked me earlier this summer for advice on how to break into freelance copywriting – specifically, how to make the switch from a full-time job to the crazy, sometimes frustrating, but very rewarding world of freelancing. If it’s something you’re considering, too, cool – good for you!

I made every mistake out there as I started up my freelance business from scratch after being a stay-at-home mom for a few years. Which I hated. Being stay-at-home, that is, not being a mom. I love being a mom. But not doing anything intellectually stimulating and being looked down at by society in general – that sucked.

Now I happily work barefoot, run errands in the middle of the day, hang with our dog, and get paid for doing what I love. Anyway, here’s the advice I shared with my copywriter Janine:

Be patient

This is both the hardest and most important thing all aspiring freelancers must learn. You will most likely not be making money hand over fist immediately. It’s taken me 6 years – with fits and starts along the way – to build up my business to a six-figure income. There are certainly things I could have done better, but I’m happy with where I am, especially since I don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

Be patient as you build your network and portfolio. If you have downtime, use it to set up meetings, blog, and generally market yourself. Or just take a break and spend an afternoon doing something that will recharge you.

Network like crazy

My network got me to where I am now. In fact, I spent so much time building it that I don’t have to actively network anymore; instead, referrals come to me. It’s critical to understand who the decision-maker is – that is the person you want to meet.

Brand yourself

Before you start taking on freelance work, build your online brand. Choose a domain name. Work with a web designer and developer to create a beautiful website that reflects your level of professionalism and clearly explains who you are and what you do. Start blogging and using social media to get your name out there.

Take on side projects

Before you quit your full-time job, start accepting freelance projects on the side to help ease the transition. This will let you build up a portfolio of work, sock away money, and develop relationships with clients.

Never work for free

Never, ever work for free or lower your pricing. Instead, ask what the budget is and offer to work within that while making it clear you can only deliver on A and not A, B, C, and D. Likewise, watch scope creep. If a client asks you to do something beyond the scope of your original agreement, let him know you are happy to do it, but it’s going to cost X.

Stick with what you know

This may sound like a no-brainer, but when you’re starting out, it’s tempting to say you know how to do something just to get the job or make more money. If you end up doing that, your life will become really stressful really fast. If your expertise is creating and executing a social media strategy that will result in more sales, don’t say you can also write video scripts if you have no idea how to.

Build relationships with other vendors

A lot of my work comes through marketing and web design/development agencies. People know they need a new website or more coherent marketing plan, but they might not know they need a professional copywriter to take their content to the next level. A marketing strategist or web designer knows – and will refer them to me or bring me into the project under their umbrella. Those relationships sure make my life easier!

Got any other questions? Leave them below!

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