I always get the question: "How to start copywriting from scratch?".
It's quite hard to remember how you initially started when you own an already established brand. Nevertheless, I'll tell you what I would do if I had to start over copywriting in 2021.
First I'll discuss if you should start as an employee or as a freelancer. Then I'll tell you exactly what strategy to use to attract clients instead of chasing them. And finally I'll go through the process of writing an effective copy that will go beyond your client's expectations.
tl;dr Copywrite yourself in a sales letter, print it on a high-quality paper sheet and send it to your future employee.
Freelance or Employee ?
Why on earth would you aim for being an employee?
Being fully independent has way more advantages than being a modern slave in my (humble cough) opinion. Especially for a copywriter. Let's explore those in details:
- Obscene salary 💰
You'll earn way more money as a freelancer than if you are an employee. At least if you're a decent one. I personally sell my sales pages for $10k. Each. If I were an employee, that would just be my monthly salary. But let's be honest.
You won't make that much money as a beginner. You'll even start for free since you have no reputation yet.
But trust me, if you're good. Your revenue will increase exponentially in time. The industry is in such demand for good copywriters that you can't be poor if you know your job.
Don't fool yourself though: you will work harder to take off as a freelancer than you'd do if you were employed. Personal branding takes time; filling your bank account too.
- Never get bored
As a freelancer you will have the opportunity to work on many projects. Whenever a project or a domain bores you, you're free to pick another one and start learning again. What a deal!
As a consequence of switching between different projects, you will have the opportunity to progress at a lightning fast speed! Indeed, it will require you to master the copywriting fundamentals in order to be effective in a domain you don't know yet.
- Work from everywhere
Ok this one is not specific to copywriting. But once you taste it, it's impossible to go back.
More and more jobs allow you to work remotely, but you still have constraints : business hours, meetings, work everyday...
In short, there is no possible comparison between a remote full-time job and being fully independent. Depending on personalities, it can be a real relief to become a freelancer.
The only valid reasons you might want to be a full-time copywriter
Despite all I have said, I know some people are not made to be free(lancers). And to be fully honest, there are still a few reasons to explain why you'd like to copywrite for a company:
- Relative job security
Ok I won't develop, you get the point.
- Follow a project over time
This one is really something I miss when I work for a client. You get the job done, make a few iterations and then switch to the next client. All advanced copywriters know you cannot achieve a high-conversion rate without spending countless hours A/B testing your copy.
This is a full part of the work of a copywriter and you probably can't test it as much as you would like to if you're working once in a while for a client.
That's why we often end-up working for a handful of clients for which we take the time to improve the copy to the next level.
- Work for well-established copywriting companies
This one would be the only reason I would start my copywriter career as an employee. Indeed, if you work for a company that has a strong reputation in the copywriting industry (like Agora Financial), you benefit from their reputation which will help you start your own business.
Moreover, there are tons of experienced copywriters in those companies which can mentor you and help you become a greater copywriter.
Anyway in the rest of this article I will assume you want to become a freelance copywriter.
Find your first client
Ok let's talk real. What's your main concern is most probably finding your first client. How do I know that? Easy. It's the main concern for any business 😉
That's probably what you find on most blogs that cover this topic: "Create an account on Upwork or Toptal and you'll easily find a client".
That's probably true. But that's not what I'll recommend you to do.
On such freelancing marketplaces, you're selling your skills as a commodity. And as you may know if you know a bit about investing: if it's a commodity, then there is no margin to make.
What may seem like a good idea, is for me the worst possible idea for the ambitious yet to come copywriters.
However, there are still many actions you can take to hunt your prospects:
- Search for copywriting open positions and contact the company to offer your services as a freelancer.
- On linkedin, search for startup CEOs that you can contact to offer them to work with them on their value proposition, marketing strategies, landing pages, emailing, etc.
- You're probably watching YouTube or reading Blogs that are not yet monetized. You can contact their author and propose them to handle their copywriting to help them develop an offer, a funnel, a mailing list, etc.
Instead, you should think as a copywriter to sell your copywriting skills. Not like an ant in the anthill.
You should first and foremost develop your personal brand. Make yourself unique. In short: find your angle, be the purple copywriter, do something, but don't be just another one copywriter. That's the best way to make you regret your comfortable employee position.
I don't have time to develop the analogy here, but I'll be quick to make my point. Needy guys never get the girls. The first thing pick-up guys learn is that they need to make the girl chase them instead of the opposite more frequent situation.
To be more concrete:
- Go on specialized forums and try to help others. You'll be surprised how much work you get through this process. This has nothing to do with karma. Instead, it's just basic psychology with the reciprocity principle. Also if you're able to truly help others, it means you create value for them and they'll be inclined to pay for it.
- Develop your brand. Build an audience. Be it with a blog, a youtube channel or a podcast. It takes time, so you'd better start today.
- Treat your first clients like kings: you can't imagine the exponential power of word of mouth. Encourage them to leave you public reviews.
If you're really able to write an effective copy and you take all the actions above, it's impossible you won't have at least 10 clients in 6 months.
Convince the client to hire you
Ok so you should be able to generate a decent amount of qualified leads that need your copywriting skills. You must now convince them to hire you, at a decent pay rate.
The chicken or egg paradox
The problem when you're a new copywriter is that you don't have a track record. But to get your first client and start building your portfolio, you'll need a track record that proves your skills 🤯
You get the paradox, right?
I have a solution to break that vicious circle. But you won't like it.
You should work for free. Yeah I know that sounds silly right?
But it is in my opinion the best way to convince your first client to work with you when you have no reputation. Why would he refuse? If you're a bad copywriter, he just hires another one and does not lose money. By doing this he takes no risk by hiring you.
Let me be clear. You should only do that for a client that's worth it. Meaning it has the potential to pay you like crazy once you've proved your skills to him. Additionally he should have a strong reputation so you can truly benefit from its testimonial.
What if I don't want to work for free? How much should I charge?
I would understand few of you would be able to work for free to get started. That's also why very few people obtain exponential results. I digress.
Basically, you should first determine what'd be the best remuneration model suited for you.
I strongly believe the perfect way to charge your client is a mix of a fixed price and royalties based on the performance of your copy.
Since you have no experience: $100-500 in fixed and 1-5% in royalties would be the typical remuneration you can pretend for. Of course this depends a lot on your ability to negotiate and prove your skills.
Prove your copywriting skills
One mistake junior copywriters often make is that they try to close their first client without any proof of their actual writing skills.
Just imagine, what if your mother came to a tech interview and pretended to be a dev (don't tell me your mom is dev 😅). With no experience. With no project to show her skill. Would she even have an interview?
Of course not. That's exactly the same here. You need to show something to your client so he can trust you in your ability to write a better copy than him.
What I strongly suggest is that you write copies for yourself and send traffic at your own expense. Then you'll be able to see your client and show him examples of your copywriting with real data to prove your skills.
I know it's a lot of work. And you probably don't know much with leads acquisition and advertising platforms.
But trust me. This will pay off.
Pro tip: you can also convince affiliate pros to send traffic on your copy. But again, they'll ask for proof that your copy is effective.
If you want to succeed, take your own risk and prove you can transform cold prospects to hot buyers!
Write the copy by following my 12-steps guide
Ok I think at this point, most of you think they've done the hardest.
That may be true. Or not.
If you miss the tick and get a bad reputation on your first job, you can as well go buy yourself a new identity on the black market and try again.
On the internet, there is no room for losers.
That's the same here, you should kill your first job. Way beyond your client's expectations. Trust me, don't count your hours on this first job. Or you'll count the digits you missed on your bank account in a few years.
Ok I hope you get a sense of how important it is to be good at your first job and how this will determine the rest of your copywriting career.
So let's talk about this brief.
Before putting any word on your white page, you should absolutely be certain that you understand your client's expectations.
This part is crucial.
If you get something wrong, you can throw away a lot of working hours. And I know what I'm talking about.
Let's be more practical here:
- Ask for a written brief. Often it can just be an email that your client's send you. Or it can be a more detailed document with a lot of information on their market and target personas.
- Study the brief. Understand their market from the inside out. Make sure, you know to whom you write to. What is the offer of your client? Does it fit with the persona's needs? Can your client offer be modified? If not, maybe you can try to sell it to another audience? In short, make sure you understand perfectly what are the constraints in which to solve this copywriting problem.
- Organize a call with your client. Make sure you have understood the context in which you have to write your copy. You're pretty confident you understood? Are you really sure? Reformulate every hypothesis in front of him to make sure.
- Ok it's time to find a big idea, an angle, whatever will guide your copy. You should find at least 3 big ideas you can present to your client. This part is the most fun and creative. You need to do your research on the competition, click here and there, read books, whatever: that's where it all comes down.
- Present your ideas to your client. Hopefully he should be enthusiastic with at least one of them. To help him make the choice, you can redact a few leads for each idea so he has a more concrete vision of what the copy will look like.
- That's it, your client validated the big idea. You can write the first draft. Start with the structure. The structure titles should tell the whole story by themselves. Then write the headline and the lead. Remember, you need to build momentum to keep the reader reading.
- At this point, you should be able to present something more concrete to your client. I strongly suggest you ask your client to validate your structure.
- Finally write the whole copy. Never forget who you are talking to. What is he thinking right now? What are his objections? You know how it works, you're a copywriter aren't you 😉
- It's time to show your final version to your client. If he's happy with it, then you should think of the formatting, the images and the whole sales funnel.
- Validate your copy converts leads at a decent rate. Don't send the whole traffic right away. I suggest you only send 5% of the leads at your disposal. Then you should A / B test the most important parts of the copy (lead, closing, price) to get to your objective conversion rate.
- Once you're pretty confident with what you got it's time to send leads on it and make your bucks 💵.
- After that it's not done. If it's a long-lived sales page, you should continue A / B test your copy so you can improve its conversion rate little by little. But this will depend on the budget of your client.
I think you got here a pretty decent resource to complete your first copywriting job.
From finding your first client to writing the copy, I could not have been more clear.
Now it's time to execute.
Your problem is not that you cannot find any client. You know that's more your lack of action.
Anyway, I wish you all the best in your future copywriting career.
I'd be more than happy if I helped at least one guy with this article. So be kind and let me know if you got your first job completed in the comments, I'll be curious what your process was.
PS: You can check the tools I use on a daily basis to help me write my copies.