Are you just getting started as a freelance copywriter? Or are you a freelance copywriter looking for more work?
This post explores a few options for finding freelance copywriting jobs, and might give you a few ideas that you haven’t considered. This blog post is partly in response to the regular emails I get from people looking for work. I can’t always respond to emails I receive (sorry!) but this is what I might have written…
Finding freelance copywriting jobs
For a freelance copywriter, there are two main types of client:
Businesses (and organisations) that hire you directly. This could be as small as Fran’s Fridges from Framfield High Street or as massive as Mazda. There are lots of businesses that might need a freelance copywriter (for everything from web copy to job ads, catalogue descriptions, proposals, employee communications and statements from the CEO), but of course you won’t know which of the millions of businesses need a copywriter right now. It’s fairly futile to go searching for this type of client; you have to let them come to you.
Agencies that hire you on behalf of their clients. There are web agencies, digital agencies, marketing agencies, content agencies, ad agencies, mobile agencies and design agencies. They are often expert at hiring freelancers (they do it all the time) and you can assume that they are likely to need your services (at some point). They may already have a roster of freelance copywriters, but some of those might be expensive, tired or lazy, and the agency might be curious to try fresh meat.
Copywriting for businesses
Businesses of all sizes can make great clients. You can have direct contact with business owners and learn a lot about their companies.
To get direct work writing for businesses, you need to make yourself visible and findable. You need to become known, so that when a need arises your name is likely to get mentioned. You need to be findable, so that when a business goes looking, it’s you they be finding.
You can become known by expanding your social circle. You can go to networking events and meetups (including WriteClub, WiredSussex meetups, The Farm and content strategy groups) to meet other freelancers, related professionals and business owners. You can use LinkedIn and Twitter to make acquaintances, build on budding friendships and share your wisdom. You can write blog posts that demonstrate your knowledge, while giving people a chance to learn what makes you tick (or tock).
You can create a website (we’ll come back to this subject later on) and make sure your website uses the words your clients will use when they search for you (i.e. freelance copywriter), has links to other websites and is updated regularly.
Copywriting for agencies
Working with agencies can be more straightforward, for several reasons:
1 Agencies may use freelance copywriters all the time. So not only will they be expecting your enquiry, they’ll know how to deal with you.
2 Agencies will expect to pay normal market rates. Agency clients may still haggle, but in my experience it tends to be small business owners who are most likely to balk at my rates (often because I’m the first copywriter they’ve hired).
3 You can leave your details with an agency, so they can contact you when you’re needed.
4 There are a manageable number of agencies out there – so you can feasibly contact most of the reputable agencies that are local and/or relevant to your skills.
Making contact with agencies and businesses
What’s the best way to contact a new business or agency? Well, it depends. It depends on who they are and what they want. If they ask for an email don’t send them a letter. And if they provide a contact form don’t send them an email (not yet, anyway). Adjust your methods to your audience.
Sometimes a phone call is useful, partly because very few freelancers use the phone (it’s too scary) and partly because it can give you a chance to get noticed. Emails are everywhere, so they lose their impact. Phone calls are personal and direct, and you’re more likely to be remembered for a phone call than an email.
Whatever you do, be professional, be polite, be friendly, be accurate and get to the bloody point. It helps to have a point. So choose a goal, and make your way towards it in an orderly fashion.
I still get emails from aspiring copywriters that contain questionable grammar, misspelled words, broken links and other avoidable errors.
Get a website
Websites are so easy to get hold of (via services such as wordpress.com and create.net) that I don’t think there’s a good excuse for not having one. Freelancers without websites are a bit like teachers with criminal records. You just wouldn’t hire one.
Once you’ve created a website, make sure you write about the services you offer to clients. Include the words that clients use when they talk about what you do (AKA ‘keywords’) . Add your website to directories. Write blog posts. Write blog posts for your friends. Tweet about your blog posts. Share your tweets on your website. And so on.
Networking events are as varied as any gathering of people. Some networking groups are full of prehistoric business people, who will ‘work the room’ and force business cards into your palm. Other networking groups are modern, friendly, open and laid-back, where people go to meet others and make friends.
Networking has been immensely useful to me. There is no better way to get to know local businesspeople and find hidden work opportunities. Networking is often cheap, relatively quick and easy to do. Networking has helped me meet clients, partners and nice people.
You might feel apprehensive about networking, but you should push yourself to give it a try. Don’t just try one event, but try a handful of different meetups and networking events. It’s worth the effort.
Training and qualifications
Are you qualified to be a freelance copywriter? Probably, yes. The barriers for entry to copywriting are very low. All you need is ability, experience and a smattering of theory. You can pick up the theory from books on marketing, advertising and books about the web (Content Strategy for the Web, Call to Action and Don’t Make Me Think are all useful). So don’t think a lack of qualifications will hold you back.
If you feel you need a little training to shore-up your experience, look out for workshops and short courses by professional copywriters (such as this one from Relly Annett-Baker).
Do you have questions about working as a freelance copywriter? Just ask, and I’ll try to respond with something useful.