Freelance Copywriting vs. In-House vs. Agency: What’s The Right Move For You?

A copywriting career is versatile. As a copywriter, you aren’t relegated to a specific journey. You can choose to live the freelance lifestyle, work in-house as a full-time copywriter, or take a job at a copywriting agency.

But, all three of these options are wildly different in terms of responsibilities. 

Let’s take a look at these three copywriting career paths.

Freelancing Copywriting 

Freelance copywriting means you’re a free agent: you’re not limited to specific clients, specific tasks, or reporting to a central location every day. As a freelancer, your time belongs to you––but that means all of your business decisions do, too. 

The Pros

Location independence. Time independence. No limit on your income. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can decide to pick up and go and work from the Oregon coast for a month, or you could stay home and work bundled up in blankets and wearing sweatpants all day. Or even no pants. It’s up to you.

But the whatever-and-wherever you want and the no-pants option are only part of why becoming a freelance copywriter is so appealing:

  • You don’t report to a boss. You ARE the boss.
  • You can turn down work when it’s not a good fit for you.
  • You can take a mental health day when you need to.
  • You can work during the hours that YOU work best––you’re not tied to the 9-5 grind.
  • You can choose to work with clients who will agree to the terms in YOUR copywriting contract.

Plus, you don’t have to agree to sign a non-compete when you work as a freelance copywriter, which means you’re not limiting your professional growth.

The Cons

Ok, I know the word free is right there in the middle of freelance, but as a freelancer, nothing is free. Nothing. And until you’ve built your reputation, you might not have much free time, either. 

Some of the downsides of choosing to freelance include:

  • Having to source your own clients. This is probably the biggest concern among freelance copywriters.
  • Work isn’t always stable.
  • You’ll need to manage clients AND their projects
  • If someone ghosts you when you send them the bill, you’re stuck with an unpaid invoice.
  • You’re responsible for your own editing and proofreading.
  • You need to learn how to get really, really good at marketing yourself.

Freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart. You need a lot of drive and a LOT of hustle if you want to make a living as a freelance copywriter.

Taking an In-House Copywriting Job

If you’re someone who’s fallen in love with the art and science of copywriting, but you’re looking for a bit more stability, working a full-time copywriting job might be your sweet spot. 

The Pros

As an in-house copywriter, unpaid invoices or a slow month doesn’t mean you don’t get paid. There’s definitely something to be said for a stable copywriting job.

Let’s talk about some of the best parts about having an in-house copywriting job:

  • You’ll likely have a team of marketers, SEO specialists, and project managers to lean on for support or guidance.
  • You’ll have a set schedule and usually weekends off, meaning you’ll be able to achieve more of a work-life balance  than if you were freelancing.
  • You don’t have to pay your own taxes at the end of the year. 
  • You’ll have easier access to benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, and retirement options.

And, if you opt for a full-time copywriting position, you won’t have to hustle to get work coming in the door. That’s the responsibility of the company. 

The Cons

A fulltime copywriting job isn’t for everyone, and if these cons outweigh the benefits for you, you might be better off going the freelance or agency route:

  • You don’t get to choose whether or not you work on a project. 
  • You’re more limited on your creative freedom than if you were freelancing
  • You have to ask for time off.
  • You need to adhere to company policies.
  • Some companies won’t allow you to have a “side hustle” of writing for your own clients
  • You’re limited to your salary, and are at the mercy of the company when it comes to a pay increase
  • You probably won’t get to use your work in your copywriting portfolio, as the project is technically completed by “the company.”

If any of these make you recoil, but you’re still looking for stability in your copywriting career, you might choose to work for a copywriting agency instead of dedicating yourself to one company.

Working With a Copywriting Agency

When I say copywriting agency, I mean a real, full fledged agency––and not a sleazy content mill. Although, I’ll admit, I might be a bit biased. I own and operate a successful copywriting agency, and I think agency copywriting offers the best of both worlds––stability AND freedom.

Keep in mind that not all copywriting agencies work the same way. Some agencies hire full time writers, some hire contractors, and some hire a mix of both (that’s what we do at Ampllihigher).

The Pros

Writing for a copywriting agency can provide you the stability you want AND the freedom you need. If you work as a contractor, you’re still able to achieve work-life balance and take time off when it suits you, but you’ll be provided with stable work.

Some of the biggest perks that come along with working for a copywriting agency are:

  • Consistent work that you don’t have to source on your own.
  • A variety of clients and content formats in which you can gain experience
  • The support of a writer, editorial team, and project managers when needed
  • Time and location independence
  • Someone else manages the projects, client relationships, and payments and you still get paid on time.

And, when you work for a copywriting agency, you’ll be surrounded by other writers––even if only virtually. What could be better than being surrounded by people who just GET it, right?

The Cons

I’d love to say that there aren’t  any downsides to working for an agency, but I’m not THAT biased. Copywriting agencies have their pitfalls like any other career choice.

Some of the reasons you might not want to work at a copywriting agency include:

  • You won’t often get to set your own prices, but rather, choose to accept work if it fits your price range.
  • Oftentimes, you won’t get to use your writing in your portfolio––many copywriting agency projects are strictly ghostwritten.
  • Pay is less than it would be if you were working directly with the client, because there are multiple other people involved in the project––including client acquisition itself.

If any of these are deal breakers, you may be better off avoiding the agency route and choosing another path.

So, Which One is Right for You?

I put this handy little chart together to make it even easier for you to decide what kind of copywriting career is right for you. 

FreelanceIn-HouseAgency
TIme IndependenceYesNoYes
Location IndependenceYesSometimesYes
Can You Set Your Own Prices?YesNoSometimes
Can You Use Pieces in Your Portfolio?YesSometimesSometimes
Find Your Own ClientsYesNoNo
Pay Your Own TaxesYesNoSometimes
Do Your Own EditingYesSometimesSometimes
Need Business InsuranceYesNoSometimes
Manage ClientsYesNoNo
Work With a TeamSometimesYesSometimes
BookkeepingYesNoNo

Remember: You Can Change Your Mind!

You’re not stuck working in house if you’d rather freelance, and you don’t have to live the freelance life if you change your mind and want to go to an agency. Copywriters are in-demand. Take them where you want!

Find the journey that works for you, and take it! And if you decide it’s not the right path, forge another one. Copywriting is versatile, and your career can go any direction you choose. 

5 Cool Service Swaps I’ve Done as a Copywriter

One of the coolest things about being a copywriter is that every business of every kind relies on copywriting or content writing in some form. 

There are so many things I don’t have time to do, or can’t do, and just don’t have the time to learn.

Enter: service swaps.

Read More »

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