I was recently interviewed by a college student exploring a career as a freelance copywriter. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which I thought other people considering getting into freelance copywriting might find helpful. — Susan Greene, Freelance Copywriter, Orlando, Florida
For equipment, all you need is a phone, computer and the internet. But even more important are the non-equipment essentials: self-motivation, self-confidence, diligence, resilience, curiosity and salesmanship.
Of course, you need copywriting skills but beyond that you need to know how to sell. You can be the best copywriter in the world but if you’re ineffective at selling, you won’t succeed.
You also need to understand how businesses operate. How do they make money? What is their business model? Who is their competition? How do they market their products or services? Those are all basic questions that you’ll be considering for each new client you get and the answers will help inform your copywriting for that client.
In addition to those skills, you need to have a desire to learn. So much of copywriting involves research and learning about your clients and their industries. If you’re not naturally curious, you’ll struggle as a copywriter.
My website is my primary means of marketing, and I’ve made sure it’s optimized for search engines. It is thus easily found by people searching for a freelance copywriter, much as you (interviewer) found it by searching.
My website promotes my services and capabilities so that once a prospect lands on it, they hopefully like what they see and decide to contact me to discuss their project.
I’m not sure what you mean by manage. The typical copywriting process is this:
Like any business, I track my costs and my revenue and hope that the latter is greater than the former. I pay quarterly taxes on my revenue in accordance with U.S. tax code.
Very carefully. Because a freelancer’s business can easily fluctuate from feast to famine, I make sure to live beneath my means. I avoid taking on overhead and unnecessary debt and am conservative in my spending habits.
It helps that I work out of my home (no office rent) and hire freelancers myself when I have more work than I can do, as opposed to hiring employees.
When times are good, I save, so that when times are bad, I don’t freak out and do something crazy, like get a job with an employer. 🙂
I read a variety of copywriting blogs and occasionally books by industry leaders, successful business owners and marketing gurus. I also belong to various industry-related online groups and follow various industry leaders on social media.
Yes, but it’s not typically feedback on me personally. It’s feedback on the copywriting work I do for them.
For example, if a client hires me to write copy for their website, they review my work and determine if they like it, need any revisions, want to add or detract anything, etc. In the end, the goal is for the client to be satisfied and for me to get paid.
I should mention too, if they provide positive feedback in the form of a thank-you or review, I add their quote to my Testimonials page.
I am constantly learning about new products, new industries, new business models, new marketing strategies, etc. I’m fascinated by all the different ways people can make a living.
The other aspect of being a freelance copywriter that appeals to me is the tremendous feeling of accomplishment when I successfully complete a writing project, especially if it was particularly challenging.
Writing is hard, even for experienced professionals. Someone much more clever than me once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I thought that was right on point.
I’m also enamored with the idea of creating something from nothing and, when done, that something is now a useful thing that will serve a purpose: to sell my client’s product.
I’d have to say the financial aspects. It’s not that I don’t like money (Who among us doesn’t?); it’s that even after decades in business, I still feel a bit shy and uncomfortable when quoting projects, as though I expect the client to ask me to justify the expense.
I’m sure I’m not the only freelance copywriter who feels that way. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better about it, but I still have a ways to go.
After you’ve been in the industry for a while, you develop a sense of what the market will bear. You also get a feel for how long a job will take.
Nonetheless, you will run into situations where the client balks at your price or where the client accepts your price but the job ends up taking much longer than you planned. In those cases, learn from the experience and move on.
Well, certainly the internet has changed the way almost everyone lives and does business. And it’s also provided increased demand for copywriters, as so much of the internet is written content.
But beyond that, my clientele has changed over the years. I work less with small, startup businesses and more with mid-sized to large businesses that have substantial marketing budgets.
As for me personally, I’ve certainly become more proficient at my job. I write faster and better. And I also have years of experience that I can fall back on when approaching a project. Not everything is new and scary, so I can approach jobs with full confidence I’m capable of producing quality work.
Start writing TODAY. Yes, you can read books about copywriting. You can take classes about copywriting. But the real learning process comes from doing.
It’s comparable to learning to play the piano. I don’t care how many books you read on the subject, until you sit down at the keyboard and start practicing, you aren’t making any real progress.
* * *