There are endless articles and books on “how to become a freelance writer”. The topic has been done, done and done again. In this article, I’m not claiming to provide revolutionary ideas or shed a whole new light on freelancing.
I’m not that ambitious.
Yet, every now and then I get emails from would-be copywriters asking advice. So, I gave it a little thought and jotted down a few ideas before they floated off.
1.) Remember it’s a business
This may sound obvious, but believe me it’s not. Many people claim that you need to “be passionate about writing” to become a copywriter. Obviously in an ideal world you eat, drink and breathe writing, but… shock horror… it’s not absolutely necessary. Writing is a job and a way to earn a living like any other.
What’s more, being a good writer isn’t enough. If you want to make a career out of writing you need to make money, you need to find clients, set realistic pricing and be able to rid of clients who take up too much time or pay too little. It may sound ruthless, and I’m far from an expert, but I’ve learnt the hard way after under-estimating workloads, doing unprofitable deals to “get” clients, having to do unnecessary rework because of unclear briefs etc.
You need to think figures. How many hours do you need to work in order to earn the “salary” you want? Don’t forget VAT, social costs, time off and hours of admin – your hourly rate needs to take all these factors into account.
2.) Find a speciality
Logically, it’s a lot easier to find clients if you stand out and if you provide a “rare” service. Choose your niche based on your experience and preferences. A passion for running? Get into sports writing. Spend all your weekends doing DIY? Specialise in house & home topics.
In addition to selecting “specialist” topic, you could also specialise in one kind of media or format e.g. article writing, Wikipedia pages, Facebook etc.
For me, being an English Copywriter in Paris has made it easier to find work as there are a limited number of Brits living in the French capital who speak French and have experience working in/with French companies.
3.) Be polite and reliable
Hopefully, you’ve started to find some clients through contacts you know, via LinkedIn and by prospecting. But, as well as finding new clients, you need to keep the ones you have. And, in my experience, this works best if you are polite, efficient and reliable – send your work in on time (if not ahead of time), reply promptly to emails, make suggestions over and beyond the bare minimum, take criticism in your stride and find out what your client really needs.
For most projects, the most important thing is to adapt your talents to your client’s requirements.
I hope this rings true with any (budding) copywriters out there – don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or advice you’d like to share.