So, you’ve decided that you’d like to earn money as a freelance writer, but without having had previous work experience, how do you break into this field?
It might seem like there’s a huge wall you need to break through to get to the magical title of ‘writer’, but it is not as difficult as you think. Here’s how to become a freelance copywriter with no experience, and start earning money.
We all have to start somewhere…
The great thing about being a freelance copywriter is that there is no ‘right age’ to start. You might be fresh out or college, a stay-at-home parent looking to earn some extra income, or just looking to create your own business where you call the shots.
Your dream career as a freelance copywriter begins with a single step. Making the decision to take a chance and go for it. If finances are tight, your freelance writing career can be a side-hustle, so you still have the security of your full-time wage. You have nothing to lose by giving it a go, and everything to gain if you make it a success.
If you want to be a copywriter, it is likely that you already have a passion for words. You just need to learn the right skills and techniques to shape them into copy that your clients ask for.
1. Hone your Skills
Freelance writing is competitive. For you to succeed, you need to stand out from the crowd by producing compelling writing that your clients rave about.
It’s time to get your learning on.
Read up on advice and tips on how to create effective copywriting. There is a wealth of information online, but it will take time and dedication to sift through it to find the pearls of wisdom you need. But, you don’t need to learn everything at once to get started, so the internet is a great reference when required.
A good online course is an excellent tool to get your skills sharp and you in the right mind-set to be a successful writer. WebWritersRock offer a fabulous course for great for a freelance writer with no experience, Essential Web-Writing Skills 101.
2. Find your First Clients
It’s tricky isn’t it?
How can you get clients when you don’t have experience, and how can you gain the experience you need when you can’t get clients?
The good news is that there are literally thousands of small businesses out there that need help with writing for a variety of purposes, like website copy, marketing materials and to increase their social media presence. All you have to do is convince them that you’re the right person for the job!
When you have no experience, then you don’t have example of copywriting to show prospective clients. Yet, you can change that by first creating your own website for your business, that also shows your creative copywriting skills as you sell your services.
Attract Clients with a great Business Website
When people look for copywriters, often the first place they turn to is the internet. That is why you need a great business website to tell people what you do, and how you can help them.
Setting up a website is fairly easy to do, even for newbies.
First, find a hosting service for your website. There are many providers out there. I use UnlimitedWebHosting, where I can run a website for less than £4 per month. There are other providers such as Bluehost, Weebly, Hostgator and much more, and prices will vary but are usually low.
Once you have your hosting sorted, you’ll need a website. I thoroughly recommend using WordPress, and many of the hosting providers will offer WordPress free as part of the hosting package.
WordPress is great because you can design slick websites without the need for any coding knowledge. Yet, for the more advanced websmasters, there is the option to adjust the code if you want to.
Pick a WordPress theme you like, and start customising!
Your business website should have pages that show the services you offer, your contact details so prospective clients can get in touch, and some clients testimonials. Testimonials are a great idea, as it acts as a recommendation, helping connive people to use your business for their writing needs.
If you don’t have testimonials – get some. Ask friends or family if you can write something they need for free, in return for a quote about your work. For example, you might write an awesome eBay description for someone who is selling something, or perhaps a letter for someone. There is often something that needs writing if you just ask around! Most supportive friends and family will be more than willing to jot down a sentence about how your work helped them, then hey presto – you have your first testimonials.
Alongside your professional website, also include a blog where you can add fresh content. Not only will this help give your website personality and voice, but it shows your writing talents to the world.
Blogs can easily be integrated with a static page business website, and WordPress is again the best option.
The Direct Approach to Getting Work
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If there are any local business you frequently use, approaching them for copywriting work can be a good way to get some work. It could be anything from your favourite café, or you could ask other small businesses in your area.
You can also approach businesses that you like the look of via the internet, and in industry niches you would like to write for. Usually, the best way to do this initially is with an email. These types of ‘cold’ leads can be tricky to get right, but there are ways to up your chances of a positive response.
Set the right tone from the start with a great email subject line that is more likely to be opened. It could the title of a blog post or article you want to write for them that makes it impossible not to click to find out more, or it could be clearly asking whether they hire freelance services. As long as it is not ambiguous, such as ‘hi’ or ‘freelancer contact’, you’re in with a chance!
In your email, be specific about the services you offer. Simply saying that you are a talented freelance writer who can help with marketing is not enough. Describe specifically what you are offering. For example, ‘I can create engaging blog posts that connect readers with your products’, or ‘An expert in the science of nutrition, I create in depth articles that help people lose weight.’ Paint a detailed picture of why that business needs your copywriting skills.
There are pros and cons to freelance marketplaces. Examples are PeopleperHour and Freelancer.com. Employers post jobs that they need doing, and you have to bid against other writers to get it. The negative here is that many writers try to undercut one another, meaning prices are low. However, it is possible to find some decent clients on these sites if you are willing to persevere.
Be careful as these websites are notorious for scammers who want you to work for nothing, so if you are successful in landing a gig, make full use of the escrow service that they offer, whereby employers pay you in advance and the funds are released to you once the job is completed.
Just as with freelance marketplaces, I have a love/hate relationship with content mills. These are companies who act as the middle man between writer and client. A client will tell the content mill exactly what is required, and the work is offered to a pool of writers. If you choose to do a job, then you will be paid a small amount for your efforts.
Some content mills pay better than others, and they can be a good place to start if you want to get your first writing gigs or want to gain skills and experience. However, if you find that you’re working for less than minimum wage, it is best to find sources of work in other places.
Employers want copywriters with sharp skills. Make sure you have what it takes with my Essential Web-Writing Skills 101 course! Affordable, practical help for new writers.
3. Business Basics for New Freelance Writers
When you work as a freelance writer, you will be paid for the work you do. When you are first starting out, it can be easy to mingle your personal money with your earnings from writing. While this is ok, you need to keep track of what you have earned through your writing, otherwise you could find yourself in hot water with the tax man.
An easy way to begin taking payments for your work is to set up a business PayPal account. From there you can invoice clients, get paid, and transfer the money to whatever bank account you choose. You will also have a record of business income for tax declarations.
Ever heard the phrase ‘fake it til you make it?’ Half of the battle with new freelance writers is that they think they don’t have the right to go for the bigger jobs. As long as you have solid skills in writing, there is no reason why you can’t pitch for a big fish.
Imposter syndrome is a recognised phenomenon – meaning that a person never quite feels good enough. I still sometimes feel this when working on a demanding job, even after years of being in the industry. I put it down to the brain’s way of trying to wriggle out of a challenge!
Confidence is probably the most important thing to have, alongside writing skills. When you have both, you will go far!
Becoming a freelance writer with no experience is doable, so don’t be disheartened if you haven’t had any success so far. Keep learning your trade, pitch like there’s no tomorrow, and you will start getting clients that pay well.
I love to hear about the challenges you face as a beginner freelance writer. Drop me an email if you have anything you’d like to ask me, or pop it in the comments below.