Freelance Copywriting: The Ultimate Guide

So, you want to become a freelance copywriter.

You’re done clocking in to that soul-shattering 9-5. 

You know you’re meant for more than monotony.

You want to work to live, and now the other way around.

Congratulations. Just by landing on this page, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and taking your dreams a step further than most people ever do.

Freelance copywriters lead some of the most interesting, freedom-driven, creative lives of anyone on the planet. And you know, in your heart, that’s the kind of life you want to live.

And you can. 

Freelance copywriters will tell you: this career shift will change your life.

But, what is a freelance copywriter? What do freelance copywriters do all day? How much money can you make as a freelance copywriter? How can you become a freelance copywriter? How do you structure your business so that it’s profitable AND doesn’t require you to work 100 hours per week?

Today, I’m going to answer all of those questions and more. 

Let’s talk about everything you need to know about freelance copywriters, and how you can become one.

What is Copywriting?

If you’re new around here, you might have some general questions about what copywriting actually is. So let’s knock out some of the basics.

Copywriting defined: Copywriting is the art and science of creating messaging that positions a brand to sell. 

Simple enough, right?

Yes––and no.

Copywriting is more than just good writing. Copywriting is a mixture of hard and soft skills that work in conjunction to define a brand, build excitement, communicate value, and compel an audience to take action.

What is Freelancing?

Freelancing is a type of work where the person completing the work is not tied to any one employer. Freelancers are self-employed, and are typically hired for specific tasks on a short-term basis.

Freelance copywriters work by the contract, meaning that they are hired on as-needed basis for a project with a specific scope.

What is Freelance Copywriting?

Freelance copywriting is when a self-employed contractor is hired on a short-term basis by a business to write messaging for their brand. This messaging, called copy, helps to define the brand, position the brand as an authority in the industry, build credibility, build excitement around an offer, and produce revenue.

What Do Freelance Copywriters Do? [Infographic]

Businesses hire freelance copywriters for a multitude of projects. The work that freelance copywriters do, however, isn’t limited to only writing. Some non-writing tasks associated with copywriting include:

  • Research
  • Content strategy
  • Brand development
  • Interviewing subject matter experts
  • Analytics

Freelance copywriters may also work alongside graphic designers, web developers, and other members of a marketing team to develop user journeys and create campaigns.

The writing tasks that freelance copywriters are responsible for are diverse and can include virtually every bit of messaging that a business needs. 

Is Copywriting a Hard Skill or Soft Skill? [Examples]

Let’s look at the hard and soft skills involved in copywriting:

Copywriting Hard Skills

A hard copywriting skill is a job-related skill you need to learn to handle the responsibilities of your job. 

Hard copywriting skills are skills that can be learned. Even if these skills don’t come naturally to you, you can develop them so that you can be an effective freelance copywriter.

Copywriting Soft Skills

Copywriting soft skills are more personality traits than skills. Soft skills are inherent, and though you may need to sharpen them, these skills are part of who you are. Examples of copywriting soft skills include:

Soft skills are inherent, and though you may need to sharpen them, these skills are part of who you are. 

How Much Do Freelance Copywriters Charge?

In short? Whatever they want to. Freelance copywriters determine their own rates.

Longer answer: it depends. 

What is the Freelance Copywriter Average Salary?

The average national salary is reported to be $70,476 according to Glassdoor. However, there is no “standard” salary for freelance copywriters (because as a freelancer, you control your own pricing, and therefore, your own income). 

What are Typical Freelance Copywriter Fees?

The fees freelance copywriters charge can vary depending on the scope of the project, the niche, and the years of experience of the copywriter. Some freelancers charge by the hour, some by the project, and some as part of a retainer. 

In the table below, you’ll find average freelance copywriter fees per project based on years of experience.

Keep in mind, these prices are only averages, and based on my years of experience in the field. Freelance copywriters, by definition, set their own rates, meaning that you could charge less or more than the prices listed in the table.

Can a Freelance Copywriter Work at an Agency?

Many copywriting agencies hire freelance copywriters, and in fact, many freelance copywriters prefer agency work.

Working for a copywriting agency means that the work is sourced for you, the projects are managed on your behalf, and typically, a copywriting agency will have its own editors, eliminating your editing time.

Why Become a Copywriter?

Considering becoming a freelance copywriter? 

While I might be a bit biased (you know, considering that I’ve dedicated my life to the art and science of copywriting), in my opinion, freelance copywriting is the best career in the world. 

Freelance copywriting allows you the freedom to control your life.

And, freelance copywriting is one of those “unicorn careers” that you can get into without having a college degree or any prior experience.

Here are some of the top reasons to become a freelance copywriter:

  • Time independence. You choose when you want to work. Want a day off? You can take it without having to ask for permission.
  • Location independence. You know those jobs you hear about where you can work from the beach? Yep. Freelance copywriting is one of those careers.
  • Financial control. Ask all the freelance copywriters you know: the ability to set your own rates and income is one of the biggest perks of the career.
  • You work both sides of your brain. Freelance copywriting means using the creative part of your brain as well as the analytical part, meaning you won’t feel bored and unchallenged with your work.
  • Versatility. Want to write only emails? Cool. You can do that. Want to spice it up and include sales pages, ad copy, and digital ads as part of your services? You can do that, too. As a freelance copywriter, you’re the boss.

Sounds good, huh?

If you’re sold on this type of lifestyle, let’s move on to how you can join the elite group of people known as freelance copywriters.

How to Become a Freelance Copywriter

So, how do you become a freelance copywriter? It’s not as easy as sending an email to a business and letting them know you’re trying your hand at copywriting and would like them to pay you for it (at least not if you’re trying to build your career sustainably).

Let’s break down step-by-step how to become a freelance copywriter.

  1. Figure Out WHY You Want to Be a Freelance Copywriter

Before you invest time and money into copywriting courses, creating your portfolio, and building your personal brand as a copywriter, you need to dig deep and figure out exactly what draws you to copywriting.

Copywriting IS NOT a get-rich-quick scheme, despite what those dodgy Facebook ads are telling you (spoiler alert: most of them want you to buy their courses, which only sell you on other courses). 

Yes, you can make a lot of money as a copywriter, but you need to respect the field enough to understand that copywriting is a specialized skill. 

If you’re just looking to make a quick buck because you think copywriting is an easy work-from-home job, you’re going to be disappointed. 

On the other hand, if you want to own your time, control your finances, and do so by helping generate revenue for businesses? Are you dedicated to their success? Are you dedicated to doing the work it takes to yield real results for your clients?

If so, a career as a freelance copywriter is a great fit for you.

  1. Learn Copywriting

Once you’ve decided that the life of a freelance copywriter is absolutely for you, you need to learn copywriting. 

And I don’t mean watching a single copywriting tutorial and calling it good enough.

If you REALLY want to excel at copywriting, make good money, and start copywriting business that’s actually sustainable, you need to dive right into the deep end head first.

Let’s take a look at how to learn copywriting for beginners:

Take a Copywriting Course

One of the easiest ways to learn copywriting fast is to take a copywriting course. You can take a basic copywriting course and learn the fundamentals of copywriting, or you can take a more specialized approach by taking an email copywriting course, a sales page course, or a direct response copywriting course.

Read Copywriting Books

Copywriting books are a great place to start if you want to learn copywriting as a beginner. You can go with a classic such as Eugene Schwartz’ Breakthrough Advertising, or a more modern copywriting book like The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Writing Wildly Effective Copy.

There are copywriting books on virtually every aspect of copywriting. Read as many as you can.

Listen to Copywriting Podcasts

If you’re a more aural type of learner, listening to copywriting podcasts can help you learn copywriting fast. 

You can listen to copywriting podcasts while you’re driving, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or even at the gym. 

Create a Swipe File

In copywriting, a “swipe file”  is a collection of copy examples that you can draw later inspiration from. 

This doesn’t mean duplicating the copy; it means looking at each piece of copy to figure out what drew you to it, what it made you feel, and how it achieved the desired effect. 

Study the Greats

Want to be a great copywriter? Study the greats. 

Throughout the history of marketing, copywriters have been at the forefront of advertising and sales, and many of these copywriters have written copy that still inspires to this day.

Copywriters like Claude Hopkins, Victor O. Schwab, and Helen Lansdowne Resor are cemented in copywriting history as some of the best copywriters of all time. Study their work, what makes them notable, and take a page out of their book.

Learn Marketing Psychology

Something all of the best freelance copywriters have in common is an understanding of marketing psychology.

After all, copywriting is marketing, and the words you write need to strike a deep chord within your audience. Knowing what makes an audience tick is key to knowing what makes them click.

Practice Your Skills

Just learning copywriting isn’t enough. You need to put your newfound knowledge into practice. Practice writing headlines, sales pitches, and taglines to get started, download a sales page template and get to know your way around, or complete copywriting exercises daily.

The more your practice, the better your copywriting skills will be, and the faster they’ll develop.

  1. Choose Your Niche

Now, you don’t HAVE to be a niche copywriter. Many freelance copywriters are generalists, and I believe that if you’re a good copywriter, you can write anything.

But, the saying “the riches are in the niches” exists for a reason. 

There are a few reasons to choose a niche if you’re a new copywriter:

Your Skills Sharpen With Experience

As mentioned above, the more you practice your skills, the better you’ll be. And, if you practice your copywriting skills in the same niche, you’ll start to understand nuances, learn what sounds good and what doesn’t, what works and what doesn’t, and see your skills develop in a linear way.

People Pay for Expertise

There’s a reason specialists get paid more. 

One thing I always tell my copywriting students and coaching clients is this:

If two copywriters submit a proposal to the same company, the company is more likely to choose someone who is familiar with their niche. 

And they’re willing to pay more knowing that the job will be done right.

You Can Develop a Brand

Niching down isn’t just great for earning more money, it’s a way for you to attract more clients in general.

If you become the “early childhood education copywriter” or the “solar energy copywriter” or the “business coach copywriter,” you can develop your personal brand as a copywriter and create content that shows your expertise and attracts your ideal (and high paying, like mentioned above) clients. 

  1. Identify Your Ideal Client

Once you’ve determined your niche, it’s time to identify your ideal client. Knowing your ideal client will dictate your marketing strategy, your pricing, and creating your portfolio.

Create a profile of your ideal copywriting client:

Are they a woman-owned business?

Are they a stressed out entrepreneur?

Are they a startup?

Are they Fortune 500 companies with a modern marketing strategy?

List all of the features of your ideal client, including communication style, pain points, and personality traits. 

If you’re a brand new copywriter creating a copywriting portfolio with no experience, this is the client you’ll write samples for.

  1. Create a Copywriting Portfolio

You can create a copywriting portfolio with no experience. If you’re a new copywriter, you’ll create what’s called “spec work.” Spec work is created without commission with the goal of winning future clients.

Take your niche and your ideal client and write sample copy that would appeal to them.

For example, if your ideal client is a business coach, your samples might include sales pages for coaching programs or email sequences urging someone to sign up for a seminar.

  1. Determine Your Offers + Pricing

If you want to get paid, you need to charge. 

And if you want to get paid well, you need to structure your offers and pricing accordingly.

Figure out what you want to offer and how much you want to be compensated. You can offer packages, retainers, or work project-based only.

It’s all up to you.

And remember: copywriting is a specialized skill. Charge accordingly.

  1. Put Together Your Marketing Plan

Now it’s time to go out and get clients (and, bring them to you!).

Put together your marketing plan for both inbound and outbound leads. 

For your inbound marketing, how will you attract your potential clients to you? Will you use a blogging strategy and SEO? Paid ads? Instagram and LinkedIn?

For outbound marketing, will you be doing cold outreach on social media and email? Networking? Asking for referrals?

Doing a combination of all of these will help you start bringing in clients faster.

  1. Determine Your Systems + Processes

Once the leads roll in, you need to be equipped to handle them. Once a lead comes your way, what’s the next step? How will you handle your discovery calls? How are they getting on your calendar in the first place? What’s your proposal process like? Onboarding? Project management? Offboarding?

All of this plays a part in how efficient you are and the experience you provide your clients

  1. Learn How to Scale + Grow

Once you’ve started your copywriting business and you’re starting to get clients, it can be tempting to just focus on the writing. After all, that’s what freelance copywriters do–write!

But as a freelance copywriter, you’re a business owner. You always need to have your eye on the next phase of your business. 

Keep the wheels moving on your copy bus. Don’t stop doing outreach. Keep creating content for your website and social media. Do what it takes to fill your calendar so that when your current client projects are wrapped up, you’re not scrambling to get the next gig.

How Do You Construct Your Freelance Copywriter Business Plan?

To create your freelance copywriter business plan, you need to first set your sights on your main vision. What do you want most from your freelance copywriting career? Where do you want to be in six months? 12 months? Do you want to scale and go agency style? Create templates? Add design services?

Reverse engineer your goals. Start with the big goal in mind and work backwards, giving yourself small milestones on the way there, and assign timelines and tasks to each one.

And, let’s be real here: There’s no way I can fit “how to create a freelance copywriter business plan” into this article. You’d be here for hours. That’s an article for another day, I promise.

What Should Be in Your Freelance Copywriter Contract?

Let me say this first: NOBODY WORKS WITHOUT A CONTRACT.

NOBODY.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them. 

It doesn’t matter how much you trust them.

It doesn’t matter how small the project is.

NO ONE WORKS WITHOUT A CONTRACT.

Even your mother.

Business relationships change people. Your freelance copywriting contract protects you in the case that your client cancels the contract or refuses to pay, and outlines the scope of the project so that you have something to back you up if you work with the dreaded “scope creeper” client.

I have a freelance copywriter contract template here if you need something to help you get started.

How Can I Build My Freelance Copywriter Portfolio?

Creating your copywriting portfolio is one of the most fun parts about being a new copywriter. 

And, it’s easier than you think.

Copywriting is unique. You don’t need to have clients to gain experience; you can gain experience by creating it yourself. And you can create a copywriting portfolio with no experience whatsoever.

Let’s elaborate on the “spec work” I mentioned above:

Spec work is, simply put, examples of your work that you weren’t hired to do. You can create spec work for existing businesses in the niche you’d like to write for and put it in your portfolio. You can even make up businesses that don’t exist and create spec work for them.

For example:

If you want to specialize in ad copy, you could write a spec ad for Starbucks.

If you want to focus on email copywriting, you could write a spec email campaign for Evernote.

If you want to work with business coaches, you could write a sales page for a fictional business coach.

All of this can go into your portfolio.

But, it’s important to note that your spec work should be labeled as such. You don’t want to claim that you’ve worked with a client that you haven’t actually worked with.

Freelance Copywriter Taxes: How Do I Pay Them?

Ok, it’s time for the LEAST fun part of being a business owner: tax season. Paying your taxes as a freelance copywriter is a far cry from entering in the numbers from a W2 and plugging them into TurboTax. 

Freelance copywriters are self employed. That means at the end of the year, you’ll be responsible for paying any taxes that would be taken out of a conventional paycheck, such as social security.

But, the great thing about being a freelance copywriter is that you can take certain deductions on your taxes, such as:

  • A home office
  • Gas you bought to go meet clients
  • Your computer
  • Internet service

And anything else you spent money on to run your business.

I recommend that anyone who isn’t familiar with doing their own taxes hire a professional to do so, as it gets muddy really quickly, and you don’t want to be left with a massive tax bill if you aren’t claiming the right deductions.

Where Can I Find Freelance Copywriting Templates for My Business?

Why reinvent the proverbial wheel? You can find templates for copywriters for everything from portfolio builders to freelance copywriting contracts.

In fact, I’ve got a whole slew of templates for copywriters right here.

How to Hire Freelance Copywriters

If you’re here because you’re a business owner or marketing director looking for freelance copywriters to support your campaigns, let’s answer some of your questions about how to hire freelance copywriters.

Where Do I Find Freelance Copywriters?

You’ve made the decision to invest in a copywriter. Great! But how do you go about sourcing one?

You can find a freelance copywriter on freelancer sites such as Upwork or PeoplePerHour, through networking groups, or even by a simple Google search. You can type in “[your niche] copywriter” and find someone who’s an expert in your niche.

Where Can I Post Freelance Copywriter Jobs?

If you’d rather freelance copywriters come to you, you can post copywriting jobs on traditional job-seeking websites such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or Careerbuilder.

You can even use social media sites to advertise that you’re looking for a copywriter for hire, posting job descriptions on LinkedIn or Instagram. The surprise bonus of using social media to find freelance copywriters is that potential hires can gauge whether or not you’re a good personality fit.

Freelance Copywriter Interview Questions: What Should I Ask?

Once you’ve had a chance to review the portfolios of freelance copywriters that have applied for the position, you dig deeper to find out if there’s a match both personally and professionally.

Someone writing your copy is someone you should “gel” with easily. After all, this person is going to be writing as “you” and in your voice and tone.

You should ask potential hires these questions at a minimum:

  • Can you describe your writing process?
  • How do you communicate with clients?
  • What do you need from me to make this project a success?
  • How did you choose the pieces for your portfolio?
  • How do you manage projects?

These questions will gauge how well you and your freelance copywriter will work together.

Frequently Asked Questions About Freelance Copywriters

More questions about freelance copywriting? Let’s get to it!

Can You Tell Me Where to Find Freelance Copywriting Jobs?

Freelance copywriters are in high demand. This means virtually everywhere you’ll find business owners, you’ll find a need for freelance copywriters. You can find freelance copywriting jobs on traditional job sites, freelancer sites, social media, or even by doing your own cold outreach to clients you’d like to work with.

Will Copywriting Be Automated?

Here’s the thing: artificial intelligence is still artificial. Until robots can develop emotions, understand nuance, and empathize with an audience, copywriting won’t be replaced by AI.

(This meme makes me laugh every single time.)

And, because AI copywriting software takes information from sources on the internet and regurgitates it, companies that use AI copywriting don’t have a unique or defined brand voice, which is one of the building blocks of a successful copywriting campaign. 

So, while copywriting COULD be automated, GOOD copywriting can’t be.

Does a Freelance Copywriter Blog?

There’s so much debate about this in freelance copywriting communities, but I’m going to give you my take on this:

Blogging is content writing, which is meant to boost SEO, build authority, and educate, entertain, or inform an audience. Copywriting is meant to sell and push the audience to take an action. You need both content and copywriting for a successful marketing campaign.

Someone who only writes blogs is not automatically a copywriter. Copywriting takes an entirely different approach and set of skills. 

Some copywriters may also offer blogging as part of their services and some may not.

As I’ve always said, a good writer can learn to write anything.

Can a Freelance Copywriter Work From Home?

Absolutely yes. Freelance copywriters are independent contractors, meaning they have location independence. A freelance copywriter can work from anywhere there’s internet access.

In What Industry are Freelance Copywriters Needed?

Every single one. Every single business on the planet needs copywriting in some form or fashion. In 2022, the fastest growing copywriting niches are financial, web 3.0, and health. If you’re looking for lucrative niches in which to stake your claim, those might be it!

Where Can I Find a Freelance Copywriting Course for Beginners?

You can find a copywriting course beginners right here on this website. The Copy Cornerstone Course walks you through the fundamentals of copywriting and helps you set the foundation for your career success.

Freelance Copywriters: The Unsung Heroes of Businesses Everywhere

Although freelance copywriters spend most of their time in the background of business, copy is the public facing messaging that builds a brand’s credibility, voice, reputation and sales. Versatile writers that work with marketing teams, brand designers, developers, paid ads specialists, SEO firms and more, freelance copywriters are truly the cornerstone of business success.

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