How To
9 min read

How to Become a Successful Freelance Copywriter

Nicole Hankey

September 13, 2022

Introduction

Picture this: You’re in a cozy coffee shop, coffee, and pastry in hand, and you’re writing. But you’re not staring at a blank page or working on that novel you always vowed you’d finish “just for fun.” No, you’re actually getting paid to write! How? You’re a freelance copywriter.

If that scenario appeals to you at all, then you’re in the right place. So many people dream of being writers but don’t know how to make it an actual career. Luckily, as someone who recently dove headfirst into full-time freelance copywriting, I’m here to be your guide. 

Anyone can be a copywriter—all you need is an interest in writing, willingness to put in the work, communication and interpersonal skills, and knowledge of copywriting best practices. Let’s dive in!

Photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash

What is freelance copywriting?

Freelance copywriting is a type of job where a person writes copy for clients on a freelance (or contract) basis. They are not employees of any one company; rather, they work for various clients as a self-employed freelancer or owner of their own freelance writing busines. Freelance writers can work with agencies, find work on freelance job boards, or develop a network of clients in their niche or industry. 

If you want more information about copywriting in and of itself, check out our related post: A Beginner’s Guide to Copywriting

What makes freelance copywriting a great career option?

Let’s go over just a few reasons why you should consider becoming a freelance copywriter. 

Huge demand

Between the ecommerce market skyrocketing (it increased by 43% in 2020 alone) and the rise of content marketing, good writers are in high demand across a broad spectrum of brands and industries. 

Did you know that a compelling, informative blog post can increase traffic to a brand’s site by nearly 50%? With content marketing being such an effective way to bring in visitors, leads, and buyers, it’s no surprise that so many brands are jumping on board and looking to hire freelance writers. 

This demand doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Now more than ever, it’s a great time for you to make a career shift! 

Good pay

You might wonder, “How much can I make as a freelance copywriter?”

The answer varies significantly due to the high flexibility of the job and the fact that freelancers typically set their own rates (more on that below). However, according to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a freelance writer is about $66k a year, or $32 an hour. 

Hourly rates are tricky when it comes to freelance copywriting. This is because writers are often paid per word or per piece, not by the hour.

For example, if you get paid $200 for a 2,000-word blog post that takes you two hours to write, you just made $100 an hour! But if you only write two articles like that per week and are relying on writing as your full-time income, that breaks down to only $10 an hour. 

That said, it’s important to keep your desired volume of work in mind when you think about how much you want to make as a freelance copywriter. You can make good money writing as long as you set your rates well and maintain a consistent level of work.

In fact, many people find writing to be a more lucrative career than their previous one! Just make sure you’re realistic with your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It takes a while to build a solid client base and gain enough experience to set higher rates, so patience and persistence are key. 

Set your own rates

Freelancers have the luxury of setting their own rates, but what does that mean exactly? It means you have the freedom to determine how much your time and effort are worth—which is a great feeling—but it also means many people tend to either under- or over-value their services at first. 

Beginners may want to set their rates low to build up a portfolio and positive client testimonials. This can mean anywhere from $0.03 to$0.10 per word. Anything less than that and you’re basically working for pennies, which will put you on the fast track to burnout. 

As you gain more experience, you can raise your rates to reflect this growth. Depending on their expertise and industry, many intermediate-level copywriters charge between $0.10 and $0.50 per word. This is where you can really start making money, especially if you’re a fast writer with plenty of clients and projects. 

Experienced or elite writers can make up to $1 per word or more! Rates like these are typically reserved for well-known publications or clients in lucrative industries like tech, finance, and healthcare. 

One key thing to keep in mind: If you start with dirt-cheap rates to attract clients, it will be more difficult to increase your rates down the road. Come into the game confident about the level of value you bring to the table for your clients. Know your worth, and set your rates accordingly. You deserve to make a living just like everyone else, so don’t sell yourself short.

Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate your rate with clients as you gain experience and skills. Once you have a strong working relationship with a client and have proven your ability to deliver solid work, you can raise your rate. Remember that at the end of the day, you’re your own boss and your own business. If you think you deserve more, you can ask for it! 

Flexibility

This is one of the best perks of freelance copywriting if you ask me. Just like you’re free to set your rates, you’re also free to set your own hours. This means you’re no longer locked into a 40-hour work week (unless you want to be). 

For most clients, as long as you’re meeting deadlines and fulfilling expectations, they won’t care what your actual writing schedule is. So, go check out that hike in the morning and write in the evening. Up early? Get your work done by mid-morning and have the rest of the day to yourself. All about that grind? Work 24/7. The world is your oyster.

Minimal capital investment needed

Another fantastic benefit of freelance writing is that it doesn’t take much money to get your business up and running. All you really need is the knowledge and skills to write, a computer, internet access, and basic tech skills—all of which you likely already have or can acquire relatively easily if you don’t. This makes freelance copywriting a career with an extremely low barrier to entry. 

Work from anywhere

Along with the flexibility of setting your own hours, you can also set your own location. Want to travel? If you have access to a stable internet connection and set aside time to write, go for it! Want to try living abroad for a bit? There’s no reason to stay home for your job. 

Just make sure your specific clients don’t mind where you work from, because they might still require that you clock hours or be present for meetings in their time zone. 

Apply skills to grow your business

As a freelance copywriter, you can taste the entrepreneurial spirit as you launch and grow your own business. You’ll experience what it’s like to build a business from the ground up, establish a client base, forge working relationships, set your rates, manage your schedule, and, of course, make a living. As you learn and develop your skills, you’ll become even better at all of it, and you’ll watch your skills and your business thrive in real-time.

How to become a successful freelance copywriter

Are you sold on copywriting yet? 

Let’s explore some tips and tricks to get you started down the path to success.

Define your financial goals

First of all, you need to set a few clear goals for yourself. Not just something vague like, “I want to make six figures by next year!” You’ll want to be detailed and specific—not to mention realistic. 

Start by setting your rates: Think about how much you absolutely need to make to cover your bills and expenses, and determine how much work you need to find and take on to make that happen. Once you know your current rate and workload covers your needs, you can set longer-term goals for how you want to increase your income and grow your business over time. 

Tip: Don’t forget about taxes! These can get complicated fast if you aren’t a tax expert. Make sure you’re setting aside a decent chunk of your income to go toward your yearly taxes (freelance clients won’t deduct taxes from your payments like a full-time employer might), and pay quarterly estimated taxes to avoid penalties at the end of each fiscal year. 

Choose a niche

Maybe you could write about anything, but that doesn’t mean you should. The best way to succeed as a freelance writer is to narrow down your preferred areas of expertise and interest so you can define your niche. This helps you a) focus on work you enjoy and are good at; and b) set yourself apart from the competition and give yourself a competitive edge by targeting only the clients and projects that fall under your niche. 

There are plenty of niches to choose from, from home improvement to entertainment to cryptocurrency. The best niche is the one that blends your interest, expertise, and experience and targets a wide enough audience to ensure you can make money. 

For more on this, check out our post on Types of Copywriting

Learn copywriting fundamentals

You can’t expect to succeed at something if you have no idea what it is or how to do it. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you already have a good idea of what copywriting entails and how to excel at it—but it still doesn’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge. 

Invest in some online courses, follow writing blogs and social media accounts, and ensure you’re up to date on copywriting best practices. After all, you should always want to produce your best work for your clients.

If you want to learn more about the technical aspects of copywriting, explore our post on How To Learn Copywriting.

Create a copywriting portfolio website

One of the best ways to showcase your writing is by creating (or having someone else create) a portfolio website. This can be simple—just a collection of links to and PDFs of your best writing—or a more exhaustive professional website with testimonials, an internal blog, and more. 

It’s easy to set up a website through platforms like Squarespace or WordPress. Make sure you pick a professional design and clearly highlight your work, services, and other relevant information. You’ll include the link to your site in job applications and pitches, so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. We have a guide on how to build a killer copywriting portfolio because they are that important. 

Define your services and rates

Like we mentioned above, it’s important to set appropriate rates for your work to attract clients and pay yourself a living wage. Beyond setting your rates, though, you should also make sure you define which services you offer. 

Some writers stick to pure direct-response copywriting, which is focused on short-form content like emails, product descriptions, web page content,  and social media posts. Other people also offer content writing, encompassing long-form pieces like blog posts and articles. Of course, you can also specialize in a specific type of writing, like only writing web page content or only working with ecommerce marketing content. 

Making sure you accurately label your services and rates will help clients find you and will keep you on track with your goals. 

Market yourself

Arguably the hardest part of being a freelance copywriter is marketing yourself and sourcing all your own clients and projects. This can take a considerable amount of time and effort, and it can be discouraging to receive rejections or no response from people and brands you really want to work with. 

One way around this is to join freelance websites like Upwork, Work Genius, or Fiverr, among others. These sites help you set up a profile where you can highlight your experience and skills and apply for jobs and projects through their job boards. Once you’ve established yourself and completed a few projects successfully, clients can come to you as well. 

The downside to freelance marketplaces is that they typically take a percentage of your income in exchange for their services (Upwork, for example, takes 20% of your earnings from each project to start). They’re also usually flooded with other freelance talent, which means competition can be insanely high. 

To get away from the competition, you can apply to join writing agencies. This can be tricky if you don’t have a lot of experience or connections; it’s more common for agencies to approach you once you’re more established and they want to connect. 

Building and maintaining a strong online presence is one of the best ways to stay relevant and competitive in the freelance copywriting marketplace. Consider writing blog posts for your own site as a way to use your own content to market yourself. This doubles as a portfolio, too, since it will show potential clients your writing skills. 

Build solid processes

To maximize your success, you’ll want to streamline your process for job searching, client contact, copywriting, and marketing. Find a workflow that works for you—carve out time each day or week to focus on specific tasks, and treat them as mandatory obligations. 

Here’s an example: Make Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 8-10 a.m. your designated job-hunting time where you focus on reaching out to and pitching clients. Set aside Tuesday afternoons for website upkeep and personal blog post publishing. Devote three to four hours a day to pure client work.

Have a robust technology stack

As a freelance copywriter, technology is your friend. Writing tools like Google Docs, Hemingway editor, and Copy.ai can streamline the writing process to make your life easier and help you work faster and smarter. Take the Copy.ai AI writing assistant, for instance — by helping writers rework tricky sentences or come up with fresh ideas, tools like this let writers focus on the big picture to deliver better work to their clients.

Beyond our extensive list of free AI writing tools, you can also build a stable of go-to tools for invoicing, managing your finances, taxes, and any insurance/benefits you have. Catch is great for some of that, as are Bonsai and PayPal Business. 

Conclusion

So, are you ready to take the plunge and become a freelance copywriter? All you need is an interest in writing, solid writing and editing skills, and some basic technical knowledge and software. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance copywriting career! 

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