Finding work as a freelance copywriter

Guillotine Operator!?


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 and 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.


  1. Very helpful advice, useful tips and the perfect supplement to ‘Brilliant Freelancer’ (which is definitely worth its weight in gold).

    Comment by Rebecca — October 15, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  2. This is useful positive advice – a particular frustration starting out as a freelancer is the ‘It’s fairly futile to go searching for this type of client; you have to let them come to you.’ part! You want to search for clients, to find work, but really you have to work hard at getting noticed, so work finds you, and that takes a lot of patience. Networking is fun though!

    Comment by Phil Williams — October 16, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  3. Absolutely! Any freelancer who needs work should NOT sit back and wait for jobs to turn up. As a new freelancer (or just when work dries up) you have to get out and hunt down the jobs. I resorted to calling local agencies to introduce myself. It was a surprisingly effective technique which landed me my first few jobs. One agency I called wanted a copywriter that very day. An hour after calling them I was in their office, writing copy for them! Of course that’s a rare event, but other agencies I called kept my details and have called on me over the years.

    Thanks for reading!

    Comment by Leif Kendall — October 16, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  4. Fantastic tips, I really enjoy your blog posts.

    My handy tip for budding freelancers: If work is thin on the ground, I occasionally approach a few independent graphic/web designers (instead of agencies).

    They often have clients who want a website or a fancy flier but have no idea about the content. The designer can offer me as a bolt-on option to their clients.

    In such cases, companies are usually parting with a big wodge of cash (especially for websites) so they don’t tend to balk at spending extra on really good words.

    Comment by Celia Anderson — November 4, 2012 @ 9:26 am

  5. This is a great post especially in light of the fact that so many companies both online and offline do not realise the value that great content can have on the persona of their business or organisation. Well written professional content can make the difference between gaining an order or loosing an order and it is those savvy businesses that appreciate this are the ones which will succeed.

    Comment by Gareth Parkin — January 1, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

  6. Some great advice here Leif. I definitely agree that you need to create your own opportunities when starting out. I’d also suggest focusing on promoting your own website early on in your career so you don’t need to rely on job hunting as much further down the line.

    Comment by Jamie Thomson — December 3, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

  7. Absolutely. The ideal set up for any freelancer is independence. If you rely too heavily on any one thing then you’re at risk. If you rely on a job site for work, then you’re at risk if they close, or start charging you fees, or if they lose their paying customers. And if you rely on one or two clients then you have very little security if a client decides to work with someone else – or to stop using freelancers entirely.

    Creating your own website is one effective way to be more self-reliant. And it’s so easy to get a website that there’s really no excuse for not having one.

    Comment by Leif Kendall — December 4, 2013 @ 9:31 am

  8. Absolutely Leif. I’d say it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. Your advice about how to contact digital agencies is particularly helpful too – doesn’t seem to be covered anywhere else on the web. I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference.

    Comment by Jamie Thomson — December 26, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

  9. Hi, I moved into Manchester with freelance copywriting my ultimate five-year career goal. I’m currently in a digital agency and see how the personal touch of a phone call does make all the difference in being remembered and first in the mind when decided who to hire for a job. Also love your analogy for a copywriter without a website haha! Can I ask you something? I’m doing bits of freelance at the weekend whilst full-time in the week, but when did you know you were ready to go fully freelance?

    Comment by Wesley Young — November 8, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

  10. Hi Wesley,

    Thanks for your comment.

    The answer to: ‘When are you ready to start freelancing’ is similar to ‘When are you ready to have kids?’.

    The answer is simultaneously ‘never’ and ‘now’.

    On the one hand, you’re never completely ready. You could always do more. You could get more experience. Get a better website. Do more networking. You could wait for the perfect moment.

    But that moment will never arrive.

    If you have a full-time job you’ll never have enough time to really push a freelance career – and anyway you wouldn’t be available to do any work you managed to generate.

    If you have a bit of experience, a client or two, a lot of determination and enough cash to survive a few months with little or no income then you’re probably ready.

    And there’s only one way to know if you’re ready – and that’s to take the leap.

    Comment by Leif Kendall — November 9, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  11. Dear Leif,

    I’ve tried hard to obtain my first client. At the meantime, I’m targeting Graphic Design Agencies. At present, I’m not having much luck in getting any response…

    I wonder, could you please advise me if there’s such a thing as Directories for small Independent firms of Graphic Designers and Advertising Agencies? …

    I’m 66-years of age and now retired. I wish to earn some cash part time doing a job which I love…

    I have shelves full of books by the world’s best copywriters…

    Recently, I completed a ‘Breakthrough Copywriting’ course by Andy Maslen, a top UK copywriter. In addition, I have studied his five excellent books on the craft of copywriting…

    As for obtaining local clients, I’m not getting very far…

    I should be grateful for any advice, which you may wish to pass on to me.

    Thanks, Leif…

    I love reading your blogs…

    I hope you’ll get round to answering my question.

    Best regards,

    Dave Oman

    Comment by Dave Oman — January 22, 2016 @ 8:53 am

  12. Hi Dave,

    Sounds like you’re working your socks off! And by rights you should be getting some results. But it’s impressive that you are looking for other ways to find clients.

    So you’ve tried the direct approach. You’ve reached out to potential clients, but not had any luck (yet). Don’t give up with this tactic quite yet. You might want to contact bigger agencies in the cities around – effectively casting the net wider.

    At the same time, I recommend you create a website. WordPress and Squarespace both offer DIY websites that look great. This will give you a place to talk about yourself and what you offer. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a portfolio – you can talk generally about what you offer clients.

    Also try to get an email address linked to your website domain (i.e. as this will make you appear more professional.

    Hope that helps.


    Comment by Leif Kendall — January 22, 2016 @ 10:33 am

  13. Hi Leif,

    Many thanks for your advice on obtaining clients. Last night, I wrote a blog using WordPress. Should this attract work from potential clients? Or, would I need to send it to Google? …

    As this is the first time I have ever written a blog. I admit, it was easy. Do you recommend just to leave the blog as it is? Do you think I would obtain prospects through this blog? My main interests have been on Print advertising, although I have some knowledge on Web Advertising…

    Many thanks again, Leif for your kind and much appreciated advice.

    I’m hoping to hear from you soon.

    Best regards,

    Dave Oman

    Comment by Dave Oman — January 30, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

  14. Hi Dave,

    Congratulations on the blog. Why don’t you leave a link to the blog in a comment? That way I can take a look, and other people will also be able to find it.

    Google will come looking for your blog, so no need to do anything else (make sure you haven’t ticked the box in WordPress to hide your blog from search engines).

    Blogging regularly will help people find your website. So in theory, yes, blogging improves your chances of finding clients. However this assumes that the rest of your blog/website is interesting, professional, relevant, persuasive etc.

    Write about the things your know – and write about the things you’re learning about. It all makes great fodder for your blog.

    Do post a link so I can have a gander.


    Comment by Leif Kendall — February 1, 2016 @ 3:58 pm

  15. Hi Leif,

    Many thanks for your quick response. My WordPress blog is:

    If you would please entrust me with your e-mail address. I should be delighted to send you a copy of my four-page sales letter…

    Please advise me of your opinion on my blog? …

    Thanks again, Leif, for your kind help and comments.

    Best regards,

    Dave Oman

    Comment by Dave Oman — February 2, 2016 @ 11:24 am

  16. Hi Leif,

    I believe you are the author of a book on copywriting…

    I should be grateful if you would point me in the right
    direction on buying your book? …

    Oh. one more question, what would your book cost me?

    Best regards,

    Dave Oman

    Comment by Dave Oman — March 20, 2016 @ 10:46 am

  17. Hi Dave,

    My book is about freelancing in general, rather than specifically about copywriting. It’s called Brilliant Freelancer and is available from most good book shops (and some libraries!) as well as Amazon, eBay etc.

    I’ve just written a blog post about how to fine-tune a website, which may be helpful for you:


    Comment by Leif Kendall — March 21, 2016 @ 10:08 am

  18. Hi Leif,

    Sorry about being so late in getting back to you…

    I haven’t done any marketing for several months…

    I found the hardest part of trying to set up a
    copywriting agency is finding clients…

    Difficult! …

    Many thanks for your reply…

    I plan to have another crack at setting up my own
    Copywriting Agency…

    I have ordered your book, The Brilliant Freelancer from

    I’m hoping your book will guide me to getting new clients.
    I love writing, it can be disappointing when writing to
    potential clients when they don’t respond…

    I have many books on freelance copywriting on my shelves…

    My favourite books are by Andy Maslen, a top British Copywriter…

    I’m sure you’re book will be an excellent guide on finding new

    I’ll give you feedback on your book after I read it…

    Thanks again, Leif for taking time to write me.

    Best regards,

    Dave Oman

    Comment by Dave Oman — April 16, 2016 @ 10:57 am

  19. Great article Dave! I’ve found that networking has been incredibly worth my time as a freelancer, getting to know like-minded entrepreneurs and be able offer each other invaluable advice has been fantastic.

    Comment by Charlotte M — October 26, 2016 @ 9:09 am

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