Having difficulty getting your freelance copywriting business off the ground? Perhaps you’re ready, willing and able to write but you can’t seem to land any clients. Read the email below from a new freelance copywriter. I’m sharing her questions along with my response because it may help other writers in the same situation.
— Susan Greene, Copywriter
First, let me say that I love your work. You’re always among the top results on Google no matter which copywriting topic I’m researching, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to surf your site this year. Love, love, love your work!
Today, I read part of your blog and noticed you sometimes take questions from newbie copywriters. Well, I’d like to add one if you don’t mind.
My question is: how will I know when my writing is good enough?
I started 2018 with high hopes for my future as a copywriter: I sent out well over 200 cold emails, Upwork proposals, and warm lead follow-ups. My first two clients came within three months, and they both hired me for additional work (albeit with very low paying projects) but now—ten months in—I can’t seem to close any additional sales and I’ve barely earned enough to cover two weeks of living expenses (in a really cheap state).
Obviously, there’s a breakdown somewhere in my process. Is there a litmus test to determine where it lies? Does my writing suck? Have I been unlucky? Am I looking for love in all the wrong places?
Over the years, I’ve received a lot of compliments on my writing, earned good grades in college English, and was paid well to manage communications as an executive assistant. In fact, it wasn’t until I joined a writer’s group this year that my writing was absolutely ripped apart. So now I’m wondering whether my writing is, in fact, the problem.
How does a new copywriter know if their writing is good enough?
Thanks for being a resource!
It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for the wonderful compliments. I’m humbled by your kind words.
You posed an interesting question: How will you know when your writing is good enough?
Maybe a better approach is to always be improving.
This past Sunday I watched “60 Minutes” and one of the stories was about Paul McCartney. After citing how wealthy he is (over a billion dollars!) and all that he’s accomplished in his 76 years, the reporter asked him something along the lines of “Why are you still working so hard?” And he replied that he was trying to get better.
The reporter said, “But you’re a Beatle!” And he said “Just like anyone else you have insecurities, no matter how high and great and wonderful you get, there’s always something that makes you worried.”
The reporter asked who he was trying to impress. He said, “Everyone, I suppose. It’s impossible but it doesn’t stop me trying.” And then he added, “I quite like thinking I’ve not done good enough yet.”
So, what’s my point? If Sir Paul McCartney isn’t yet good enough at his profession, then how can mere mortals like you and me say we’ve ever reached the peak?
If I may compare myself to Paul (bold move, on my part), I too still have insecurities and feelings of inadequacy in my field. That’s after 25+ years! I can easily think of a dozen copywriters who make me feel like a kindergartner when my talent is stacked up against theirs. So I just try to learn from them and keep improving. I may not ever be the best, but I will always be getting better than I was.
As for your writer’s group tearing you apart, I question whether they know what they’re doing. They sound harsh, to say the least. Quick story. I have a friend who writes children’s books, mostly for middle schoolers. About 5 years ago, he wrote his first book for high schoolers and he shared the premise and a few chapters with his writer’s group. They tore it apart. They told him it was stupid and going nowhere. He was depressed for months.
Well, about a year later, he nervously submitted the manuscript to his agent, never expecting anything to come of it. You can probably guess the end of the story. She loved it. She sold it. It’s been published, and he’s made good money from it. It’s even won some awards. Turns out he knew a whole lot more about writing than those so-called experts in his writer’s group. So take your writer’s critiques with a grain of salt. If they offer constructive, actionable advice, then learn from it. If not, then ignore their negativism and don’t let it get you down.
Rosie, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Keep reading and learning. Keep writing. And most of all, keep searching for clients. The problem with most people starting out isn’t that their writing isn’t good; it’s that they’re having trouble selling. They don’t know where to look for clients and how to land them. That’s truly the biggest reason people fail in this business. Even the best copywriter has to be able to sell.
Think of any family, friend or acquaintances who you could approach to assist with their copywriting. Maybe they need help writing a sales letter. Or perhaps they have a blog and would consider letting you write a guest post. Or maybe they could use new copy on their website. While you can’t charge them top dollar, you can be building your experience and your portfolio. Then parlay those successful jobs for friends and family into pitches to other clients.
Here’s another quick tip. It’s my go-to for slow times. Find digital marketing firms and ad agencies in your area and pitch your freelance services to them. I’ve always found agencies to be a good source of ongoing work. And all you need is a relationship with one or two active firms to get a steady stream of projects. So write them, introducing yourself. Try to even get an in-person meeting if they’re local. It’s old-fashioned networking but it can be very effective. It’s how I initially built my base of clients. Of course, that was a zillion years ago before the internet, but I still think it can be a solid strategy.
I hope all this has been somewhat helpful. Keep writing, but also keep selling. That’s the one-two punch that will lead to success. Good luck!
Wow! Susan, you’re delightful! Thank you for the quick and kind response.
I love the agency idea. I’ll start on that tomorrow and see how it goes. Thanks for the advice!
Your author friend’s story really resonates. One of the lessons I’ve learned as a freelancer is that practically everything is a matter of opinion. With 7 billion people in the world, there’s a place for everyone’s creations—somewhere.
I’m hope you don’t mind if I look you up on LinkedIn and send you an invitation to connect. I’m honored to know you and flattered at your quick and thorough response.
Thank you for making me feel welcome in the wide world of copywriting!
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