How to become a copywriter (even with zero experience)
Learning how to write great copy can be an excellent career move. You can make a good amount of money while flexing your creative muscles and working in a flexible setting.
The best part: You also don’t need any formal education. In fact, some of the most sought after and highest-paid copywriters in the world never took a writing class in their life and clear six figures a year.
In this post, we’ll show you everything you need to get started as a copywriter — even if you don’t have any experience.
What is a copywriter and what do they do?
A copywriter is anyone who is paid to write content that entices readers to take action — in other words, copywriters write the words used for marketing products and/or services. This includes things like:
- Sales pages
- Email funnels
- Landing pages
- Blog posts/articles
- Social media posts
- White papers
- Case studies
- Advertisements (both print and digital)
- Video scripts
Despite the name, copywriters are more than just writers. They’re writers, salespeople, and behavioral psychologists all rolled into one. To be a good copywriter, you need to learn to master all those elements.
Luckily, it’s easy to start gathering the experience you need.
How Much Do Copywriters Make?
Copywriting salaries vary a lot depending on what setting you work in (more on that in the next section).
According to Glassdoor, the median salary for copywriters in the U.S. is $58,465/year, but this is for writers who work in house or for an established agency.
When you work as a freelancer, you can make a lot more (or less) depending on the amount of work you take on. The sky’s the limit when it comes to your income as a freelance copywriter, and it’s not unheard of for writers to have steady six-figure salaries.
Working as a Copywriter: Freelance vs In-House
There are two main settings that you can work in as a copywriter:
- In-house. Working for a company or marketing agency.
- Freelance. Working as a freelance copywriter (aka being your own boss).
And both have their pros and cons.
Pros of In-House Copywriting
- Stable income and benefits
- Mentorship if you work under an experienced copywriter
- Potential to work for big, well-known brands
Cons of In-House Copywriting
- You get paid the same amount of money, even if your work generates millions of dollars
- You’ll have less flexibility in your schedule
- You might have to work on projects you’re not passionate about
Pros of Freelance Copywriting
- You can start as a side hustle, allowing you to see if you really like copywriting before making it a full-time career
- Choose your own hours, projects, and rates
- Be your own boss and work from anywhere
Cons of Freelance Copywriting
- Unstable income — including lean periods where you have very little work coming in. May have to take jobs you don’t enjoy
- It may be hard to stay motivated without anyone keeping you in check
For this post, I’m going to focus on creating your own freelance copywriting hustle — even if you have no experience.
How to Get Into Copywriting – from Zero Experience to Professional
The art of writing (and doing it well) is one you’ll learn with experience — so you might not be great at it if you’re just starting out at first.
Learn How to Write Persuasively
You don’t have to have a creative writing degree to learn how to be a copywriter, but you do have to know how to persuade readers to take action. The good news is that this can be learned by studying those who’ve done it already.
These resources are a great place to start:
Practice Writing (and Build Your Portfolio)
Now that you’ve learned about copywriting fundamentals and studied some masterclass examples, it’s time to take action by actually practicing your copywriting skills.
Here are some perfect practice opportunities that you can work on today:
- Write the copy for your newly-formed copywriting business. Even if you don’t have a website, you can still write a solid description of your business.
- Offer to write for your friends or family if they have small businesses that need copy.
- Offer your copywriting services on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites typically don’t pay well, but if you have no experience, it’s a great place to start.
- Write a pitch email to your dream client – bonus points if you actually send it!
Find Your Copywriting Niche
With some writing practice under your belt, you can start to get a feel for the niche you want to pursue. Your niche is the specific area and audience you’re going to target as a copywriter.
“But why would I want to limit myself? Wouldn’t I get more work if I open myself up to more people?”
It’s paradoxical — but you’ll actually be able to find more work AND charge more if you niche down your audience and specialization.
So first, think about what role you want to own — and there are a lot of them.
- Emails / Sales funnels
- Social media / Community management
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Digital advertising (PPC)
- Blog posts / Articles
- Video / Podcast scripts
There’s no right answer here. The important thing is you pick what’s interesting to you and get started. And you can always change it later if it’s not the right fit.
Now you’re going to niche down your target market.
This will be your prospective clients. Ask yourself:
- What industry are they in?
- What are their services?
- How do they use copy currently?
Once you have the answer to those questions, you can come up with your niched-down role.
Here are a few examples:
- Email funnel copywriter for SaaS companies
- Social media manager for nonprofits
- Blog posts for personal finance websites
Once you know how you want to approach your copywriting hustle, it’s time to find your first clients.
Find Your First Copywriting Client
Finding clients can be a little intimidating — especially when you’re new.
Luckily, once you find your first few clients, the process becomes MUCH simpler, since they’re likely to refer you to their network (more on this later).
There are a lot of different ways you can find your first client. And you already have a lot of different platforms to find work as a copywriter.
Above, we mentioned one of the most popular: Upwork, a job and gig site catered toward freelancers.
Getting started with the website is simple. You simply create a freelancer profile and start applying for various projects on the site such as copywriting, SEO, social media, and more.
It should be noted that while Upwork can be a great place to find clients and build a portfolio, you shouldn’t necessarily rely on it to find all of your clients.
Instead, we suggest you go to where your clients spend time online. This means going to message boards, forums, and websites your client might frequent can be incredibly helpful.
- Are you a graphic designer? Find a Facebook or subreddit group for small business owners who need your services.
- Are you a writer for a niche industry? Start answering questions on Quora regarding your niche.
- Maybe you’re a video editor. Find online groups for bloggers looking to expand their content media.
Start going to these places and providing value. Not only that, but you should be doing it consistently. I’m talking every day for AT LEAST one hour a day.
By being engaged and providing immense value, you’ll build a network of clients organically and develop a rock-steady reputation.
Defining Your Price as a Freelance Copywriter
Knowing what to charge for your freelance work can be confusing, especially when you’re first starting out.
There are four main pricing models that freelancer writers can use:
- Hourly. You set an hourly rate and a client will pay you per hour. The benefit for the client is that they mitigate their risk since they can just stop paying you whenever they want if they’re dissatisfied. It also stops the clients from piling on work without paying you.
- By project. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting paid for an entire project, with more concrete deliverables for the client. This method is nice because when you’re done with the project, you’re done. So you might end up getting paid more than your hourly rate. However, you do run the risk of the client adding more work onto the project as you move along, so communication about what a “project” entails is important.
- By retainer. Your client will pay you a set amount monthly. This allows the client to have access to you at any given time during that month. As a beginner, you’re probably not going to find a client who is willing to hire you on retainer until you’ve built up enough experience working with them. However, it’s a good goal to have and something to keep in mind as you get into freelance marketing.
- Commission/bonus. This payment model can work in conjunction with all of the other ones and can provide a healthy incentive for you to get your work done. For instance, if your client promises you a $1,000 bonus for attaining X amount of leads with your landing pages.
If you’re a beginner, we suggest you charge hourly, because most clients are going to be unsure about whether or not you’ll be able to do a good job. As such, they might not want to give you a fat project fee.
Once you’ve gotten your first three or so clients though, then you can move on to different pricing models.
How Much Should You Charge Per Hour as a Freelance Copywriter?
When it comes to how much exactly you should be charging, there’s no right answer. When in doubt, charge at the lower end of the median when you’re a beginner, and raise your prices from there as you get more experience (by the way, the median hourly rate for a freelance copywriter is $34.16 according to Payscale).
How Much Should You Charge Per Page as a Freelance Copywriter?
If you want to charge based on the type of content you’re writing, check out this chart from professional copywriter Abbey Woodcock. She surveyed 68 copywriters for GrowthLab to find out how much they charged:
First, there’s a HUGE disparity between a highly experienced copywriter and a beginner copywriter. This should be encouraging for anyone just getting started.
Also, even when you’re a relative beginner, you’re still making a good amount of money for your services. Say you write an “About” page for a company and charge $85. If that “About” page only took you an hour to write, that’s a fantastic ROI on the time spent.
Earn more money today
If you’re really interested in making money as a freelance copywriter, we here at IWT have a gift for you: The Ultimate Guide to Making Money.
In it, we’ve included our best strategies to:
- Create multiple income streams so you always have a consistent source of revenue
- Start your own business and escape the 9-to-5 for good
- Increase your income by thousands of dollars a year through side hustles like freelancing
Download a FREE copy of the Ultimate Guide today by entering your name and email below — and jump into freelance marketing today.
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