Definition of a Copywriter

Self employment ideas for the freelance copywriter“The copywriter is writing copy for the purpose of advertising or marketing. The copy is meant to persuade someone to buy a product, or influence their beliefs” ¹).

The main purpose of a copywriter is to create copy, for their place of employment,  or as a freelancer with numerous employers. Often this person works as part of a larger team such as for a marketing firm, where team members work on a specific section of the advertisement. An illustrator comes up with fun images to help the context of the story along. The copywriter is going to craft that story to ensure it brings the attention of the reader and illicit the proper response whether emotional or through follow through. Working as part of a team often it is the art director and copywriter working together to create the full story and concept, although a copywriter may present the idea on their own as well.

Copywriters are employed at various firms, not just advertising agencies. For example public relations, large stores, broadcasters, marketing firms, advertising departments, book publishers, newspapers, cable providers, creative agencies, and magazines use copywriters. In some instances the copywriter can be a freelance contractor working for numerous clients, in the office, from their home, or as a partner in a different firm. Copywriting services can be combined with associated services like messaging consulting, social media, developmental editing, SEO consulting, proofreading, copy editing, layout, fact checking, and design.

Copywriting is very accepting of individuals from various education levels, backgrounds, and life experiences as any writing form is. However, it can be helpful to have some of the below skills to help you produce proper content based on the jobs assigned.

Command of English Language:

English language skills are necessary to provide clients with correct word choice, structure, comma usage, and more. All copywriters need to focus on three areas:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • punctuation

It’s in the Detail:

Copywriters must be able to see their own errors. You are a proofreader and copyeditor. Before a client sees work it should be as error free as possible.

Vocabulary:

Sticking with the same words makes your work repetitive. Achieving valuable content requires using different vocabulary, whilst maintaining a proper reading level. Testing out words is great, but sometimes tried and approved words are best.

View Points:

As a copywriter you have to put yourself into the target reader’s mind. You need to have an ability to persuade readers regarding services and products you are writing about. A reader needs to see the benefit.

Curiosity and Research:

Curiosity is used to find new angles, uncover facts, and determine unique points about the product or service. Through curiosity you need to be able to conduct research that is helpful, know how to use the Internet, be able to ask the client the right questions and therefore create convincing copy.

Listen Well:

Clients need to know you understand, you hear them, and expect you to follow through perfectly. By listening well you can find the correct tactic to take when writing copy.

  • Learn: The more you know the more you can write about. Short writing courses online or offline help you learn grammar, punctuation, and spelling; however, you still need to improve your skills by checking your own quality and continuing to learn.
  • Read: Always read different writing styles, subjects, and analyze the copy you read. Learn from what you see.
  • Activities: Enjoying activities from a wide range of options whether it is testing a product in a store for fun, going out to a new restaurant, or anything else expands your creativity and knowledge.
  • Work Placement Marketing and Copywriting: Work in a place for marketing and copywriting perhaps at entry level and see what others do, then get placement in copywriting.
  • Meet Fellow Workers in the Industry: Build contacts online, offline, and find opportunities to meet new people and tap them for skills.
  • Journalism: Write a piece of copy for a newspaper, radio and get some skills and feedback.
  • Advertising Agency: Learn about the industry, get a job, find out why ads are successful or what an art director does while working at a company.
  • Blogging: Create a blog, make money with Adsense, and get your style and name out there. Request feedback on the skills you have.
  • Portfolio: Create a portfolio online and offline regarding places you have worked, brands you have worked for, and create examples to show off as a way to gain feedback to gain proper skills.
  • Catch Employers Attention: Send great copy plus a gift, so you can get that job providing you with new skills and a chance to use what you have.

Experience is extremely important for copywriting, particularly with corporate placement in a marketing firm or advertising agency. Volunteering or taking an internship to learn the skills is one way to build up contacts, experience, and gain employment in a larger company.

Freelance Work

Freelance copywriters tend to work in any industry directly or indirectly for clients, operating as a sole trader, one-person company, or through other freelancers. Typical work involves websites, case studies, brochures, product descriptions, press releases, user manuals, internal documents, presentations and user manuals.

Agency Copywriter

This employment opportunity is available in house with marketing agencies, graphic design studios, search agencies, digital agencies, copywriting agencies or PR agencies. Text is drafted to fulfill client requests. The copywriter is often briefed through an account manager or designer, while others can work with the client directly.

Freelance workers tend to spend a lot on gaining new clients, fulfilling all requests and generating more business, someone working with an agency can focus solely on the writing for much of the day. Writers tend to prefer it this way to truly follow their passion for writing. For others there is pressure over speaking with management, high quality creations, and delivering ideas.

In-House Copywriter

Usually this is for a larger corporation with their own in-service departments for marketing in which a writer is on staff full time. In this case there is only one client, which can limit the scope of writing projects such as discussing products or media PRs. There is a chance to develop tone of voice, working with internal teams, and enjoying the products they write about.

Advertising Copywriting

Most individuals think of advertising as synonymous with copywriting. These are concepts for TV, press and other advertisement products. Often memorable slogans, headlines, and taglines are needed so those seeing it will remember the written works. It can include long copy for advertisements like those in the Sunday supplements or subway.

Ad writers need to be highly creative, lateral thinkers, who have original ideas even under pressure. Copywriters tend to need compromise and diplomacy for skills to help create work within a team. The main focus is always giving ideas and content for selling products.

Longer Works

Copywriters can sometimes work on long copy jobs like advertisements such as copy sales letters which are several pages, press releases or copy work that is upwards of 1000 words or more. For most work 100 to 200 words is used, but longer works require a lot more words. This can include website copy that is over 1000 words. A craftsperson is necessary for this type of work rather than an artist because creative is not always required, but being able to provide fresh ideas with new words or rephrasing is. Certainly brilliance is required to maintain quality over such a long period of words.

Publishers and Copywriters

Copywriting for a publisher usually means you are a copywriter as well as a journalist or author. You have skills to create offline and online publications by researching facts, turning them into a readable amount of prose and then a third party sells the work for profit. Writers in this instance work from a brief, on a specific subject for the book or article for a fixed or royalty fee.

Website Copywriter

Someone who produces text for websites is a copywriter with different skills. They get to structure the site, plan the user’s experience, create the tone of voice, and may also be involved in design and usability. Certainly they make the text work together and may work with a web designer. The copywriter creates the copy, while the web designer creates the site. For some HTML, SEO, and CSS are needed, while others may focus on text and SEO only. Someone presenting as a specialist web writer has strong skills in writing for numerous websites while core skills are that of any copywriter.

SEO Copywriter

A job based on SEO web text where the text must appeal to the reader and gain prominent search results to ensure the page is found. SEO copywriting varies from other copywriting. There are many who feel it is an entirely different industry, while others feel proper writing, strong copy that is well structured is SEO all on its own.

SEO writers have technical and aesthetic skills. They need copy that generates sales and appeals to the reader. SEO is based on coded webpage, thus web development and design can be a part of a writers requirements. Also technical concepts such as heading levels, meta tags, anchor text, keyword density and word stemming is necessary. Advertising copywriters do not use these concepts thus the differences between different copywriters.

Online Article Copywriter

It is related to SEO copywriting; however, it can also reflect offline media copywriting too. There is always a brief and word count in which text is drafted. This writer often creates quality articles that are seemingly the same. This mass production is then posted on numerous article sites or helps add search friendly text to a website. Working as an online copywriter helps a person build skills, but they also need to keep their mind open for working up the ladder in copywriting. Rates are low and some see online article copywriting as low quality, without much care and a lack of versatility. In fact someone creating online article copy can be the most versatile because of the low pay ensuring numerous clients and thousands of different topics.

Copywriting wages can be very low to a solid year to year salary. Within a year or two it is possible to make $40,000 to $50,000. This success often comes from corporate positions or success as an author. There are those who make more than six figures income. It takes time to build a portfolio that will increase the gross income.

Per Page

Depending on the position you hold you may be able to charge per hour. A normal beginning wage is usually $50 per hour. This means making $500 for working 10 hours on a project. Robert Bly’s “Copywriters Handbook” has helped more copywriters make this and more. “The Well Fed Writer” by Peter Bowermen has also helped copywriters increase their income. With proper copywriting work it is possible to get paid more per hour than any other writer.

Top writers will get six figures. Journalists usually work 5 to 10 years before making $50,000 a year, where top copywriters in a year can make the same. The important facts to remember is that finding clients and maintaining those clients will ensure the possibility of earning more as a copywriter. Freelance copywriters can make more than this by dealing directly with clients and no middle person. If you want to work on a book while getting paid to write you can because of copywriting employment that will pay steady income.

To earn this income it is all about how you promote yourself. There are copywriters who struggle to make enough income and there are those making over six figures. By reading up on the two suggested books and building a portfolio asking for $50 per hour is not an unreasonable amount; especially, with a portfolio to back it up.

  • Inbound Marketing thru your Blog: set up a free WordPress.com or Blogger account. Create well-written blogs in a consistent and resourceful manner.
  • Engage, Share, and Network with Social Media: anyone can create a social media page, but you need to engage others on those pages. Uses your writing skills to market yourself, and remain active. Start networking by finding others who might require your skills or simply be interested in what you say.
  • Be useful in online communities and forums: sign up for forums like Quora or Yahoo Answers. You can answer relevant questions, be active, and just help others out. This will get noticed and lead to follow through. Do not be spammy, annoying, or market yourself too much. People would rather see engaging content and advice.
  • Learn SEO basics: SEO is part of freelancing online and gaining new people. You need to optimize any page you have for the search engine as well as for clients, thus fundamentals are necessary.
  • Guest Blog: guest blogging is where you get to be useful and entertaining on another’s blog. As a guest you can market yourself and services without being overt. Concentrate on the value of writing with a link back to your site. This often targets new client leads.
  • Create a perfect pitch: You have to be able to market yourself. The wrong pitch sends the wrong message. Test a few out and fine tune it until you have a pitch that gets you what you need. You might want to get some advice on how to make it better by using forums and other locations. Always research and create a pitch that is relevant to the client.
  • Pay for advertising: paying for advertising with such things as Google Adsense and Facebook generates a way to be seen by more than just regular visitors to your site. It is a marketing tool with a higher return.
  • Email marketing: although it gets a bad rap proper email marketing can help you. An email newsletter keeps interested parties up to date not only on projects, but keeps you in the minds of people who may have a use for your skills. It’s a free way to get your name remembered.
  • Supply a referral discount: one way to make a client exceedingly happy is to know the next time they will get a discount. You can also set up a referral discount if they send you a client. Network because people love to get a discount and you want new clients.
  • Work with other freelancers: teaming up with freelancers ensures you market yourself and you can help others too. Swapping advertisements, leads, and bundling services is one way to gain attention. For example teaming up with a graphic designer means they would use your freelance writing skills on a new project. It can be a bundle service to get the client. It is possible to find individuals willing to do this through social media and forums. LinkedIn is one way to get a group of highly professional people together to team up for bundle services.

Sole Trader: this means it is a company with only you. You are not an employee because you are the only person doing business. This is a great way to spend time working on what you want without the hassle of bookkeeping or legal company registration. It is a cheaper way to create yourself for business.

Unfortunately if you incur debts or cannot maintain the business it is the end and all is on you. You have to pay what you owe. You have no protection in business should payment not come through properly and you owe money. For sole traders clients can also see you as a small place without adequate requirements for some jobs. It can lead to competition and in some cases losing the job you needed to get.

Limited Company: a company that is your responsibility, but the company covers the debts. Your liability is only up to the assets. All property can be taken to pay for the debts, but your home or any other individual assets not owned by the company are yours to keep. You do have set up fees making it an expensive proposition for an individual. You also have to use an accountant, file annual reports as a corporation and ensure all laws are being held to. There are laws for company directors, secretaries, and annual shareholder meetings which have to be done even if you are the only person and hold all those hats. The benefit is simple- you appear like a larger company with more employees. This helps clients take you more seriously and provide you with work sole traders may not have access to.

Setting Up Where to Work:

You are able to work anywhere you have an Internet connection, phone, and computer. Copywriters like many project managers, designers, programmers and photographers are their office wherever they are at the moment.

Concentration is key when setting up a space to work. Unless you choose a place of in house copywriting work, then you should have a home office. If you can afford it consider a rented office to take in local customers and give yourself a break from feeling like you are at home all the time.

When space is limited, set up a little nook because your office does not need to be large, just functional so you get the work done on time. Here are some suggestions of places to work:

  • The Kitchen
  • Coffee-shop
  • Anywhere with free public Wi-Fi
  • Spare bedroom
  • A dedicated room in your house/apartment
  • A home office (most popular)
  • A rented office

For money savings choose a place that does not need to be adapted and one that will not cost you anything if at all possible. Your space should feel like a business. This will prevent the desire to not work. You need a door with rules about working hours if you have kids so you are not disturbed. The more professionalism you give to the job the easier it is to be disciplined. When you lose that feel or do not have it the work can become tedious and you look for ways to avoid it.

List of Equipment:

There are some definite things you will need based on the type of freelance copywriting business you intend on running.

Phone: make sure you have a phone. A dedicated line is best, but you can use a cell phone. Always answer the phone with a professional attitude rather than hello if you intend on using the phone for business. Even if you use a private phone for business, you must answer professionally. A potential client could be calling and they want professionalism not someone saying “hello.”

Desk: find a desk you like or build one that functions as you need it. While some say any table you have will do the trick, it is not true. You need to be comfortable or that slacking off feeling will come in. The desk needs proper working space for your computer, printer and other materials you might need as you write.

Chair: this is where you need to spend the most money besides that computer. Your chair is where you need to sit comfortably. Whether you are writing, researching, thinking, or answering phone calls you want something that retains your posture. A good investment on an ergonomic chair is necessary, and replace as you need to they only last five to seven years even with a good investment, when you sit in it for eight or more hours a day.

Computer: hopefully you already have a computer either a desktop or laptop. If not then consider how you intend on working. For some a laptop is best so they can be mobile in any situation whether the power cuts out, a client wants a meeting, or you need a breather from the house. Desktops have more storage and capacity as they always will, so think carefully. You can always get your investment back in a desktop and then get a secondary computer, laptop, later on. Always buy what you can afford and what is most functional for your line of work. Use any type of backup drive particularly a removable one and set your computer to back up frequently. This way when the power is out, you haven’t lost what you were working on.

Stationary: business cards and invoices. Although invoices can be electronic for most writers, you may need to send them out via snail mail. For business cards use the entire card and space provided to impress a potential client.

Naming your Copywriting Business:

You need a good name, but do not worry you can use your name. Leave out the middle name or any suffix you have, but your name is great as a brand. Just put your name and Copywriting behind it.

Specializing as a Copywriter:

Being someone who knows it and does it all sounds great, but experience in one area tends to be what clients want. Like you searching for a doctor you want the person well trained for your condition. You want a specialist with experience versus a person who has just been in the profession as a doctor for years.

As a specialist you are elevated above generic writers in that industry. You can choose the niche like IT, holidays, gaming, medical, publishing, legal or anything else that you have experience in as long as you provide proper credentials and have the expert knowledge required.

As a specialist you will get better at writing what you love, you will enjoy the research, each piece you work on, and you gain understanding of the industry. This ensures your client list will continue to grow.

Copywriters tend to come in with experience in a particular area. If you already have experience for travel or another industry start with this because you have contacts you can speak with. They know you and know your knowledge. It helps you gain more clients and it shows you have more experience than others in the industry versus being a general practitioner of writing.

Understand that “best” does not mean you are the best, but it is the perception you create. Marketing is always a battle of perception versus product as Al Reis stated. Tim Ferris also made a similar comment in that your “expert” level means you know more than the client who needs the work done.

Once you have your business type, a place to work and the equipment you need, with a great name you are ready to sell yourself as an expert copywriter in an industry you know well. The next step is getting out there and getting the clients.

Customer service: this is needed in just about any job you ever have. For freelance copywriter customer service is a factor. You might think it is all about price and for some clients it can be. However, for true clients they want value. They want to know there is value in the work, in your service, and your attitude. Think of the Ritz Hotel and customer service. You want to be 5 star all the time. Definitely they want the results they are looking for at the price they can afford, but customer service matters. It is the difference between referring you to another person in need of your freelance skills and not.

Missing Deadlines: it might seem simplistic to say do not miss a deadline ever. Yet, there are instances where you come across individuals who think it is OK to miss a deadline. If you do, you need a new career. Deadlines are what make a copywriter like a quarter back. A quarter back who misses the goal every time or enough times is traded. A copywriter who starts missing deadlines or worse never makes them in the first place will be turned over for someone new. The trade in happens, so make sure you do not miss a deadline.

If you are not sure about the exact deadline, then make sure you get it from the client. If you are setting the deadline, then you need to make sure you tell them more than just the day. Tell them your time zone and in your time zone when you will have it sent. It is professional and ensures there is no margin for misinterpretation, which matters when dealing with clients around the world from all different time zones. Also ask the client where they are located in the time zones. They do not have to share a country specifically by asking this, but it gives you a way to figure out when they are on and available should questions come up regarding deadlines.

Adding Value: Your clients want to see value, but they like it even more when you give added value. How can you make more profit from a single client? Without being overly sales like you can make suggestions that might improve their business.

Obviously you want to provide what you are being paid for. However, sometimes you can think outside of what is asked to show more value to their work. Videos, articles and other copy related to the client’s industry could be helpful. Sending them takes a small amount of time and the reward can be great.

Always Provide Quality:

Your name and reputation matter. This is what is on the line when you provide a finished result. Whether you under bid, the client is irritating in some fashion, or something else occurs you need to be your brand. You as a freelance writer are your brand. You need to provide excellent work every time. This is the only way to increase your pay next time, get more clients, and continue on as a copywriter without your reputation being besmirched.

An important tip is to maintain the quality through each piece and with every job. It might seem redundant when saying always provide great quality; however, sometimes quality becomes an issue when you take on more than you can handle. Consistency is key.

To fulfill this, write copy and continue writing plenty of it. Additionally, read everything you can about the science and art of copywriting. No shortcuts exist. The Internet is not a magic place that will make you a legend overnight. It takes hard work to be successful and make the pay day you hope for.

Sorry there are no super secrets to a great career. It is all about working hard and continuing to work hard whether setbacks or positive results occur.

Helium: offers payment for working as a freelancer. Submissions won’t garner a lot of money at the beginning; however, as you develop your name and profile, growing the amount you submit the pay will start to increase. It is considered one of the higher paying sites for freelancers. It is a great place to start and continue your career as you gain a portfolio among all the rest.

Constant Content: for advanced freelance writers you can submit articles for purchase as a way to find clients seeking content for their magazines, websites, and other locations. You have the ability to make money on this website. In fact you could make more here than on others, but guidelines and rules are also strict. You need to submit a price for your articles, which also determines how much you can get paid.

About.com Guide: this site does not always accept guides. If you are selected to create written works, you will see compensation for it. It is based on your knowledge. With this website you need to have credentials and be an expert in the field. The experience is based on the guide they are looking for.

eHow: offers members payment to write how to guides on almost anything you can think of.

Epinions: another location to be paid for just about anything, within the niche of reviews. You are not required to have experience. Rather they are looking for opinions, typed and submitted where in you receive payment.

JustAnswer: is a site that hires experts. You need to provide qualified answers to questions posed on the website.

Manuscript Services: this is a place paying English speakers for writing tasks. You need to be native in the English language. They offer great pay, do not require upfront fees and ensure you build up your writing career.

Squidoo: a Web 2.0 freelance writing option allows you to create a “lens” i.e. page that is based on a topic of your choice. You are paid for revenue your written works generate. In other words, if someone goes to your site and then buys something from Squidoo you get a percentage.

Review Stream: is like Epinions where you get paid to write reviews.

Wordfirm Inc: they seek professional freelance writers, copyeditors, editors, proofreaders and indexes on occasion. They require an application for consideration. They do pay as they hire you as a professional.

TextBroker: a place for paid articles. The higher your quality the more stars you earn, thus the more money you can make. It is definitely a place to join if you are an article writer looking to increase your revenue streams.

Writing Assistance Inc: a place looking for copywriters, web content writers, and technical writers. They are a broker between you as the writer and the businesses they work for.

Yahoo Contributor Network: You join as a writer and get paid anywhere from $3 to $20 per article based on quality, share revenue, and the more you generate in interest the more you are paid.