How To Get Started In Freelance Copywriting

I. Intro
II. Career Landscape
III. Skills
IV. Copywriting Basics
V. Business Basics

I. Intro

One of the questions I get most often is "How do I get into copywriting?" or "How do I get started as a Copywriter?"

Freelancing copywriting, in my opinion, is one of the best online careers you can pursue today.

NOTE: I'm talking about Direct Response Copywriting (emails, sales letters, landing pages, etc).

Not Content Writing (web copy, blog posts, social media posts, etc).

As a freelancer:

- You get to work from home
- You get to make your own schedule
- You can choose your own projects and clients
- You have a lot of opportunity when it comes to increasing your income

As a Copywriter:

- You're learning an essential business skill
- You're learning a skill that will always be in-demand
- You're learning one of the best skills to sell online (the others are media buying and paid traffic)
- You're building a skill you can leverage into other roles and businesses (like CMO, partner, e-commerce, affiliate marketing, niche sites, info products and agencies)

II. Career Landscape

I worked in advertising for 5 years.

I wasn’t a Copywriter, though.

I was an Account Planner (this role goes by different names at every company, like Strategic Planner or Digital Strategist or just Planner).

The Copywriters at advertising agencies work in the Creative Department (which everyone refers to as Creative).

Creative tends to be Copywriters and Art Directors at different levels (Creative Director at the top).

You need to understand that the copy you write at an ad agency is generally NOT direct response (DR) copywriting.

It’s “brand” copywriting.

Nobody at ad agencies calls it that, though.

They just call it copywriting.

I suspect most people at ad agencies don’t even know what DR is.
I didn’t either.

FYI - This is also why most copywriters at agencies don’t know shit about how much money you can make as a Direct Response Copywriter. They have no idea you can make $500K, $1 million or more a year. I’ll get back to this in the Income Potential section.

The kind of copywriting created at agencies is what you see on billboards, subway ads, magazines, TV commercials, etc and hear on radio commercials

(There’s also a whole world of digital advertising which I’m not going to get into)

The important thing to know as it relates to a copywriting career at an agency is the kind of copy and messaging they use tends to focus on branding, i.e. influencing the way people think about brands.

Nike (clothing), Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Nestle, (consumer packaged goods), McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King (fast food), Ford, Kia, Hyundai, Toyota (car companies), Abbvie, Pfizer (pharmaceutical) etc all work with agencies to develop their branding.

On the other hand, you have companies that are interested in the DR style of marketing.

Financial Publishers
Dent Research
Stansberry Research

Health Publishers
Omni Vista Health

Kino Body
Legion Athletics

Brendon Burchard
Tony Robbins

These are a few examples of companies who favor direct response marketing.

Then there are smaller businesses (let's say under $5 million a year) and solopreneurs, like coaches and course creators.

They need DR Copywriting too.

DR is about driving people to some form of action:

  • Join an email list
  • Watch a webinar
  • Register for an event
  • Purchase tickets
  • Buy a product, like a supplement, book or course

(There’s also some overlap where businesses combine DR and branding)

So now you know the difference between branding and direct response. 

The question is… where do you work? 

You can work in-house (in the office)

You can work remote (outside the office… this is what most freelancers do)

Copywriters who works at ad agencies always work in-house. 

Copywriter who write direct response have more flexibility:

You can work in-house (at a company like Biotrust or Agora Financial or with a guy like Dan Lok)
You can work for one company, but remotely
You can work with multiple clients, remotely (which is what I do)

So if you want to get into copywriting, you need to ask yourself:

* Do I want to work in-house or remotely? 
* Do I want to be an employee or a freelancer?
* Do I want to write “brand” copy or DR? 
* Do I want to work with ONE client or several?
* Do I want a steady paycheck, benefits, etc or do I want complete control over my income? 
* Do I want to write copy or freelance for many years or is this just a stepping stone to something else (e-commerce, info products, affiliate marketing, brick n’ mortar, etc)?

I think the majority of my audience sees me as a Freelance Copywriter, but that’s not accurate. 

That’s like 20% of what I do. 

  • I also coach.
  • I also have my own product (with more to come).
  • I also do affiliate marketing.
  • I’m also a marketing consultant.
  • I also have my back-end agency.
  • I also have an equity stake in an agency.

Frank Kern, Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy, Dan Lok, Mike Dillard, Eben Pagan, Tai Lopez and Sam Ovens all know how to write copy.

But none of them are Copywriters.

So that’s the direction I’m going in too. 

Direct Response Copywriting is a great skill, but like the guys I listed before, I’m more interested in being a business owner (who just happens to have copywriting skills). 

The point is Copywriting can be a terrific stepping stone into other businesses. 

You don’t have to be a Copywriter forever (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Agencies can also be categorized based on specialty:

* General market
* Hispanic / Black / Asian / Multicultural 
* Digital 

Digital tends to pay the best because they get the biggest budgets

(Multicultural pay is the worst since they have the smallest budgets)

Plus... ad agencies have become completely infested with Liberal Lunatics, SJWs and feminists (FYI)

Anyway, let’s talk about money...

The biggest, highest-paying agencies are usually located in big cities like London, NYC, Chicago and LA (small agencies = small budgets = broke employees)

Here are some names:

  • JWT
  • Grey
  • DDB
  • Ogilvy
  • HUGE
  • 72 and Sunny
  • Strawberry Frog
  • Wieden + Kennedy

But your cost of living is going to be high in a major city and as a Junior Copywriter you might make around $30K - $40K a year and have to find a new company every 18 months to get a 3% raise (not kidding)

A Copywriter might make around $50-$60K, then a Senior CW might make like $80K - $110K. 

Then a Creative Director might make $150K - $300K depending on the agency and city. 

But… you’ll also be working 70 hours a week and possibly doing a lot of business travel. 

It sucks. 

Agencies are notorious for working their employees to death. 

Want to be stressed out, out of shape and never home to see your wife and kids? 

Then a Creative Director position could be just what you’re looking for. 

With DR copywriting, the sky’s the limit. 

You can make 6 figures your first year. 

If you work at a big publisher like Agora, you MUST make 6 figures or they’ll just fire your ass. 

And several Copywriters there and at some of these other big companies will pull down high 6 or even 7 figures. 

I recently heard of one Copywriter making like $4 million a year. 

If you work remotely, like I do, you can also make 6 or 7 figures. 

I won’t get into it here, but a lot of it comes down to reputation and ability to structure deals. 

I know guys who charge $1,500 per email… $20,000 plus a % of sales for a sales letter… or can make $60,000 in a week just by editing some copy or making some changes to a funnel. 

I know another guy who wrote copy.. then started a supplement company and sold it for like $20 million.. and he's in his 30s. 

One of the guys who started Method was an agency Copywriter too. 

If I’m being completely honest, working in advertising was a waste of time.

With where I’m at in my online business right now: 

  • I make more money
  • I travel and live whenever and wherever I want
  • I only work on projects I’m interested in
  • I have some relatively passive income streams

Life is way better.

The typical ad agency Copywriter rolls into work around 10am… but doesn’t leave the office until after 7pm when it’s dark out. 

They’re probably doing some weekend work too. 

On the other hand, working in-house at a “DR company” can be a great opportunity to learn and you can make 6 or 7 figures if you’re good and work at a company with an aggressive compensation plan. 

I’ve considered it many times, but now that I’ve been living abroad for a year there’s no way I can work in an office ever again. 

Freelancing is great if you want freedom and control and you’re entrepreneurial, but most people:

* Don’t have the risk tolerance
* Can’t make enough money to support their lifestyle 
* Need the structure of an office environment 

If you’d like something more “stable,” look for in-house opportunities

If you’re interested in freelancing as a Copywriter, my book for beginners will show you what to do.

If you want to make a bigger investment, check out my review for 6 Figure Promotions (and Client Conversion Secrets) by Tej Dosa.

III. Skills

Let's say you decided to pursue Freelance Copywriting. There are two parts to this:

1. You need to build COPYWRITING skills
2. You need to build BUSINESS skills

Most Freelance Copywriters spend way too much time on #1 and not enough time on #2. 

If you're a good Copywriter, but don't understand how to price your services, find clients or create recurring revenue (as well as many other things), you don't have much of a business. 

Throughout history, there have been many "starving artists."

They were/are good at the creative side, i.e. producing content, art, writing, etc. but didn't know how to market themselves or their products.

So it's not enough to have creative skills and talents. 

You need to understand how to leverage them. 

Artists like Van Gogh, Gaughin and Cezanne are 3 notable examples who all died broke because they didn't understand the business side of their craft. 

Or look at present-day celebrities like Mike TysonJohnny Depp or MC Hammer

Becoming a better Copywriter is only half the equation. 

You also need to get good at the business aspects of freelancing. 

Let's cover copywriting first. 

IV. Copywriting Basics

Read these books (in this order):

No B.S. Direct Marketing
Web Copy That Sells
Crypto Copywriting Secrets
Great Leads

Read this blog:

Jamie McSloy

I love Jamie's blog. He's understands copywriting from both the skill side and business side.  ​

That's it. That'll give you the basics.

*** If you'd like to build your copywriting skills in faster, make sure you check out my review of 6 Figure Promotions and Client Conversion Secrets by Tej Dosa. 

This is my favorite copywriting course under $500 and it's the one I recommend again and again. 

Next, we'll cover the business side of freelancing.

V. Business Basics

Listen to these podcasts:

Smartest Guys in Marketing
MFCEO Project with Andy Frisella

Buy my book:

My book, Freelance Foundations, was written specifically for freelancers at the business stage.

It won't teach you how to write copy. 

Instead, it'll teach you all of the basics you need to understand as a freelance business owner, like:

  • The most common mistakes beginners make when it comes to pricing their services (and how much you should really be charging)
  • Effective methods to write your cold emails to get them opened (and get people to respond)
  • The 3 key ways to grow your business (Hint: Raising your prices isn't the only way)

"Should I hand copy sales letters?"

Major waste of time.

Want to get good at copywriting?

Work on actual client projects where:

1. You're working under deadlines
2. Your copy is being tested

This is how you get "paid to learn."

Every new project is an opportunity to practice, get better (and make money in the process).

"This is all great, but how do I find clients?"

Read this: "The 5 Best Ways for New Freelancers to Find High-paying Clients"

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