Clara is an aspiring copywriter from France. She asked me some questions about launching her freelance copywriting career. I’m sharing both her questions and my responses because they may help other aspiring copywriters.
— Susan Greene
My name is Clara, and I am writing from France.
I am planning to become a freelance copywriter in the months to come in my country. I have been a freelance journalist and a book writer for years but I want to make a switch in my career given the difficulties in this field.
In order to refine my strategy in the creation process and to avoid obstacles that you may already have faced, I have a few questions that I’m hoping you will answer for me.
All of the above. I have some marketing agencies that have large clients and outsource the copywriting for those clients to me. As far as the client is concerned, I am an employee of the agency.
I also have several small- to mid-sized businesses that are my direct clients. My website attracts a wide range. Today for example, I received inquiries regarding my copywriting services from a startup overseas toy company , a mid-sized Ohio company that makes large signs for businesses to put on their building exteriors, and a small company in Pennsylvania that offers pressure washing services (cleans building exteriors, parking lots etc.).
At the same time, I spent most of today writing a case study and blog post for a large U.S. data company, work that came through a digital marketing agency to me as subcontractor.
My clients are nationwide and worldwide. One of my bigger clients publishes a directory used my thousands of manufacturers to buy machine components. That client happens to be in France (like you!).
I have another client that does software and app development that is based in Russia. Yesterday I had an inquiry from Hong Kong. Last week I had one from Australia.
Not all inquiries turn into jobs, as there are multiple factors at play, but my point is that I can and do work with clients all over the world.
It was significantly harder to make a living when I was starting out. It was difficult to get clients with limited experience, but this was also in the early years of the internet. Yes, I’m old. Most of the businesses I worked with were local and knew me personally or at least could meet with me in person.
Now my website does for me what I used to have to do on my own — network, make sales calls, cold calls, etc. I don’t think this is the case for all copywriters, but I’ve worked hard to build up my website and attract traffic.
It depends on the client and the project. Most of what I write eventually goes through a designer, whether it’s a graphic designer for print materials (brochures, data sheets, ads) or a web designer for digital marketing.
In some cases the design is done first and I write my copy to fit. In other cases, I do the copy and the designer designs around my text.
Personal networking was the approach I took when I started out many years ago. I attended networking meetings and belonged to groups like the local Chamber of Commerce so I had opportunities to meet other business owners.
Now, as I previously mentioned, my website brings in inquiries. I also get leads from social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Plus I get referrals from existing clients. Repeat customers are also a good source of copywriting work for me.
By the time they come to me, the clients are looking for copy. Otherwise they wouldn’t contact me. I quote a price. If they value the copy and my price is within their budget, then they give me the job. If not, I move on to the next inquiry.
I have a stable of people with whom I work on a regular basis. They include a graphic designer and a web designer. When a project involves design work, I bring in the appropriate individual. And it works both ways. When my graphic design and web designer partners have work that involves copy, they bring me in.
I write lots of websites. However, for the past year I have been working with the large data company previously mentioned, and for them I’ve done every item you listed and more.
As for SEO, copy editing and proofreading, I do the occasional job, but it’s hard to charge a decent amount for those services. An abundance of people are willing to do that type of work (because it’s easier) for far less than me. I’m not interested in doing work at beginner’s rates.
I don’t have to convince them, as I said, because they choose to come to me. By that time, they already know they need and want copy.
Again, I think I am in a unique situation because of my longevity and the strength of my website. This is not meant to sound boastful, but I’ve put in 20+ years. It’s only natural I would have opportunities to work on more projects and clients than someone starting out.
I can see where if I had to pursue clients, I might be put in the position of persuading them to invest in professional copy. But it’s just not a factor for me at this time in my career.
If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re essentially saying you want to achieve my level of success, but you’d rather not have to work as hard or take as long. Well, wouldn’t we all!
If it were easy to be successful and make lots of money as a copywriter right out of the gate, everyone would do it.
I have to admit there’s also a part of me that resents the question. You remind me of a kid in my algebra class who sat next to me and copied my answers on tests. I would put in many hours studying, and he would put in none. We both got A’s, which angered me. But in the end, who do you think knew algebra?
Someone can give you tips and suggestions, but there’s really no replacement for doing the work. Hands-on, real-life experience is how you get savvy.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. And I hope you won’t mind if I possibly add some of your questions and my responses to my website, as they may help other aspiring copywriters.