How to know if it’s right for you and tips to get started if it is.
I went from a corporate job in finance to freelance copywriting in less than two years. At the time I walked away from my original career, I had no idea what would come next for me, I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t know what the answer was until I stumbled into it.
It turned out to be writing, a hobby I adored as a child. Not just any writing, but copywriting. The career description matched multiple words I had been echoing in my self-discovery. I wasn’t familiar with copywriting until then; what do you know about the lucrative and competitive profession?
How to Tell If Copywriting Fits You
My everyday vocabulary aligned with all the keywords found in descriptions of copywriting. The following words were in constant repeat in my conversations and likewise good copy:
- Outstanding interpersonal and relationship-building skills
- Keen interest in pop culture and trends
- A warm, conversational writing voice
It’s true that returning to what comes to you naturally will point you in the right direction.
Do You Have a Fascination with Sales and Marketing?
I’m the marketing nerd who loves the Facebook ad where you guess which boosted post had the greater engagement. My go-to iPhone games are the ones where you guess the brand by the logo and ones that let you run an ad agency. It turns out my degree wasn’t a waste after all! My Bachelors in Marketing added weight when I was getting started as a freelance writer. All the effective advertising words I studied came into play. My knowledge of sales funnels and call-to-actions proved to be an edge. I’d always end up with sales as my ideal occupation on aptitude tests and resisted it like hell. I envisioned the much maligned used car salesman in my mind, but copywriting doesn’t feel like sales to me because I’m genuine and authentic with my content. If you’re into all that too, copywriting may be for you.
Are You a Solopreneur?
I avoided contacting agencies and large corporations once I found copywriting. I knew I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk in an office all day. Luckily, freelancing is a viable choice and a good fit with the skills I had developed in Corporate America. Some key skills to be an efficient freelancer are:
Great at prioritizing
Do you pay bills or return calls first? That’s your call now. Consider what will have more consequences if it waits.
Strong time management
There’s not enough hours in the day to have relationships, run errands, take care of yourself, write and be a business owner, not to mention if you have kids. Time blocking is a great tool to better manage your time. Finding apps that help can be useful, too. I prefer GoodNotes, Evernote and love my Artful Agenda app.
You’re in charge of you now, so you better be driven without external influence if you want to get things done.
Attention to detail
This is key in good writing, copywriting, and when running your own business.
Able to meet deadlines under pressure
This is hand-in-hand with self-motivation. No one’s looking over your shoulder to keep you on a task as a freelancer.
Organization is an umbrella for everything else. There are no priorities, scheduling or details without it. Find a system that works for you and start routines.
One of my favorite quotes is from the motivational speaker and author Gabby Bernstein.
“Organization is a sign of self-respect.”
Don’t think your corporate experience hinders a freelance career. That exact experience helped you build the foundation you need to be successful.
An Appreciation for Aesthetics Is a Bonus
As a copywriter, you’ll often find yourself working closely with designers and art directors or as part of the creative team. You may even have input in the layout of the final product. I was grateful for the design courses I had taken and the time I spent playing in Adobe. I find joy creating beauty in everyday life. This helps me produce content that enhances the copy and amplifies its sway. It’s essentially the chicken and the egg; it’s impossible and irrelevant to say whether design or copy comes first. Pictures and graphics are a given in most writing now, so an eye for what complements your copy is an asset. It thrills businesses to streamline by hiring a copywriting designer; why not give yourself that edge over the competition?
Get Comfortable With the Uncomfortable
“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Roy T. Bennett
Nowhere is this more accurate than writing. I had to learn to recognize the difference between fear and caution in my body. You may encounter any or all of the below:
A lack of steady income.
You’ll need to create (and stick to) a budget. I cut my spending drastically while changing paths. I took advantage of every military discount my husband was eligible for and got rid of the luxuries for a while. Ultimately, I was happier with fewer items and more me.
Naysayers will try to discourage you.
I consulted with a branding coach, who told me based on one impromptu collaboration on a Google doc, that I was awful and would never be a professional writer. Look who got the last laugh.
Honest writing will expose you.
Be willing to be vulnerable. Writing is an art and you face criticism, judgment and censorship from others and yourself.
It isn’t for the risk adverse.
If your 401k is more bonds than stock, it’s perhaps not ideal for you.
Writing Takes Hard Work and Patience
Be prepared, because it requires:
Writing every day, no matter what.
I found with the busy work and business operations, writing can seem unimportant; no matter how talented you are there’s room to improve. Practicing your craft each day will help do that. Think of Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods. Practice makes as close to perfect as you can get.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your career.
You’ll explore many job boards and pitch many potential clients to get quality, paying gigs. You’ll do samples, guest posts, and free articles to build a portfolio, especially if transitioning from the corporate world where your work isn’t your own.
Wearing many hats.
As an author and freelancer, multitasking is a necessity. You are the boss and the assistant. You’re likewise the social media team, the marketing department, finance manager and editor. Some days you’ll want to call Human Resources on yourself!
If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
If you’re working, think of it as you would smoking. It’s time to set a quit date. Allow ample time to prepare, but not enough to chicken out. And remember-, it’s always respectful to give your current employer two weeks. No matter what the future looks like in your head, it’s never smart to burn bridges.
Set goals and stretch goals. We’ve all heard the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. Goals should be measurable and realistic, but some should excite you. Think about not only income but an improved quality of living, a specific level of exposure or number of reads and dream publications.
Take advantage of automation. Research or find job opportunities worldwide from the comfort of the living room. Get certified to build your credentials or take a course, some of which are free, For example, Coursera will let you audit many courses for no fee. Though you don’t get the written documentation, you get the knowledge.
Technology is a Blessing and a Curse to Freelance Writers
The advances in technology can be a gift to the copywriter. You can reach clients around the world in every field, a huge plus for freelancers. Job boards are plentiful, making it easier to find several positions from one site, something not available years ago. This is a timesaver to be wary of though, as not all job boards are created equal. Look for one that vets every gig on the site to make sure you’re finding quality, legitimate opportunities, like the Muses app.
If you’re a less experienced writer or just want to bolster your knowledge on a specific topic, online courses are a dime a dozen. Some, like Coursera or Hubspot, even offer quality classes for free. And the writing tools are a good complement for those who have to edit their own writing, catching everything from simple spelling errors to overused words and run-on sentences.
So yes, there is online education to boost your knowledge and credentials and Grammarly to edit, but there’s also web presence and branding. As a writer, you’re expected to have a website and/or a blog. You must keep up with the Kardashians on social media. While Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn can increase business, they’re also time-consuming and a distraction. And while job boards can be a blessing, content mills, and low-cost sites like Fiverr can be a curse. For every easy invoice with PayPal Business, there’s a blog post that will not write itself. Instead of tooling around, make it green time by using the web to increase income by offering coaching or creating online courses. Be comfortable with and embrace technology trends without overdoing it.
Be a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades AND a Master of a Few
Most start out writing for a variety of clients, and it helps to have a wide knowledge base. It’s easier than you think to expand your horizons:
Keep up with current events.
Use personal experiences in life as a base. These could include parenting to budgeting to health or D.I.Y. Anything goes.
Use your interests and hobbies to your favor.
One of my most successful pitches was on hypebeast, a style introduced to me by my favorite musician. My passion came through in my words.
It’s still wise to narrow down and focus on one or two topics once established. While there’s no harm in playing with several topics in the beginning to discover what suits you, as you grow as a writer, you’ll want to find a niche. This increases credibility and helps draw the ideal audience. Niches allow you to command a higher dollar and be choosy about which offers you accept, because you’ll have a better reputation as an expert and a professional. It’s better to be somebody’s everything than everyone’s anything.
Overall Pros of Being a Freelance Copywriter
- Your time is your own.
- There is freedom of choice in location, as you can work from home or anywhere you want.
- Business casual is now yoga pants.
- It’s reasonably inexpensive to get started.
- You get to set your own potentially high rates.
- If you’re a multi-passionate entrepreneur, you’ll get to explore a number of options.
- You get to be your own boss.
Overall Cons of Being a Freelance Copywriter
- You own your time and you have to
- The apps, programs, and equipment can get pricey as business grows.
- If you don’t know your worth you will get taken advantage of.
- It can be solitary.
- Income isn’t stable.
- You may have to chase payments from delinquent clients.
- You’re the boss. There’s no one to blame if it hits the fan.
In today’s gig economy, freelance copywriting can be an ideal career for a digital nomad, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re still unsure after reading this article, I encourage you to give it a test run as a side hustle to see if it’s your glass slipper.
Written by Kristin Hodnett, Lifestyle Content Writer of XO, Krissy at www.kristinhodnett.com.