Y ou might be coming into this article the way I would’ve in the Fall of 2020: with absolutely no idea what copywriting is.
More than likely, though, you have at least an inkling of what copywriting is, but you’re still unsure. After all, can you really make money as a copywriter? More specifically, can you make money as a copywriting beginner?
The answer to that is a resounding yes! In fact, I made more than $11,000 in my first year of copywriting. And that was starting from absolute ground zero, with no idea what “copywriting” even meant.
In this article, I’m going to be sharing the tips and tricks I learned while building my copywriting business. First, a word of warning. When it comes to learning how to make money from home fast, copywriting isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It will take work and it will take time… but we’ll get to all that in a minute.
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How To Make Money From Home With No Experience Copywriting
First, just in case you (like me) have never even heard the word “copywriting”, a quick definition. Copywriting is any piece of writing that prompts someone to take an action.
Pretty simple, right?
Once you know what copywriting is, you’ll start to see it everywhere. Billboards, radio ads, and “junk” mail with offers for a credit card or grocery coupons are all great examples of “physical” copy. Even your cereal box has copy on it!
However, physical copy is a smaller and smaller part of the copywriting industry. Copywriting is a growing industry because of digital copy and the rise of e-commerce. Again, know that you know what it is, you’ll see it everywhere. Website landing pages, Facebook and Instagram ads, and email newsletters are all examples of digital copy.
So, now that you know what copywriting is, how can you get started? Well, you can start your own copywriting business in just three steps (and one optional step).
Number one, you’ll need to create an online presence. After all, people can’t hire you to write if they can’t find you! This will include setting up a website, business email address, and creating social media profiles.
Number two, start writing. Jokes about writers who don’t write can be found anywhere you look. That’s because, as anyone who writes can attest, sometimes you hate writing just as much as you love it. As a copywriting beginner, nothing will give you a bigger boost than just putting words on a dang page. (Even if you never show anyone.)
Number three, find clients. Notice that this comes after “start writing”. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made while growing my copywriting business was looking for clients when I wasn’t ready. You need to make mistakes, and it’s always better to make them for yourself and not for a client.
Optionally, you can also form a single-member LLC. This isn’t required, because as a freelancer you don’t have to have an EIN (employer identification number). However, if you ever do want to hire someone in your business or apply for a business line of credit, you’ll need this. In the meantime, there are some financial benefits to forming an LLC, so make sure you do your research!
No Experience, No Problem
One of the biggest blocks to starting as a freelance copywriter is not having any experience. I might be beating a dead horse here, but you don’t need experience to start writing. Even if you didn’t know what copywriting was before this article, you can start practicing.
As you practice, you can learn more about how to get better. As you learn how to get better, you can start taking on small projects and working with other copywriters.
It’s no exaggeration to say that working with more experienced copywriters is the best thing I could’ve done as a copywriting beginner. My very first client was an experienced copywriter looking to outsource some work, and that on-the-job training was pure gold.
If you’re not quite ready to put yourself out there yet, look into investing in a course using some start-up money for your business. This is something I didn’t do, and I wish I had. Paid courses typically have more specific, detailed information than free info, and can even help you build your portfolio.
Setting up your website, practicing, learning more about copywriting. “Sure, sounds great,” you tell me, “but how can I get started with those things?” Finding good resources can be a real pain. I ended up wasting almost $5,000 on mediocre courses and coaches who didn’t help me grow my business.
My list of “best resources for new copywriters” is still growing, but here are some of the things that have helped the most on my journey.
Websites are one of those things that everyone knows about but no one knows how to do. That’s why you need a good domain hoster when you set up your copywriting website for the first time. There are several options on the market, and most of them are functionally the same.
The best value for a copywriting beginner? That’s got to be Bluehost. Their basic plan includes your domain name and is only $2.75 a month for your first year. After that, it’s $9.99 a month, which is still an amazingly great deal.
Learn How to Copywrite (Better)
After your site is up, you need to start practicing and learning. One of the most common pieces of advice is to study “the greats”. That means copywriting giants like Gary Bencivenga, David Ogilvy, and Gary Halbert.
Commonly called “the fathers of copywriting”, these giants of advertising wrote tips that are still relevant more than half a century later.
But I don’t think they’re the best place to start. In today’s online marketing world, I look to online marketers for the outlines and then visit “the greats” for the finer details. Here are my big three when it comes to modern tips for the copywriting beginner.
The Copywriter Club has got to be number one on the list. Rob Marsh and Kira Hug’s podcast has hundreds of episodes that are pure gold.
From that podcast, they’ve grown their thriving online community of more than 14,000 members, all fans of the show and supportive companions on your copywriting journey. (Fun fact, I landed my first-ever client by posting a “get-to-know me” in their Facebook group!) When you decide to invest in a paid course, theirs are the best in the market.
Joanna Wiebe was the first person to call herself a “direct response copywriter”, a term that has exploded since she coined it back in the mid-2010s. Her Copy School courses will help your growing copywriting business skyrocket. For those not ready to invest in a paid course, her newsletters are like finding $100 and a laugh in your inbox.
Last, but certainly not least, Jacob McMillen is the #1 organic search result for “copywriter” on Google. (Yes, really.) He gives out stellar advice on his blog like it grows on trees, and he’s the author of “The Internet’s Best Copywriting Course”.
There are a few absolute must-haves when it comes to your toolkit as a copywriting beginner. You’ll want to add to this list as you go, but here are the staples.
- A grammar checker (this helps you avoid embarrassing mistakes when you’re too focused on the message to check the specifics)
- A contract creation and e-sign software (so you and your clients are always on the same page about the scope of work)
- A billing software (to start raking in that money!)
Whenever you can, make sure you use open source software, to help you save money. Most tools also have paid versions, but trying the open-source edition can help you find your perfect fit.
Copywriting: How to Start Making Money
Alright, now lets’s get to what you want to know about starting a copywriting business – how to start making money. Making money as a copywriting beginner comes down to two things: Setting your prices and finding your clients. Again, notice that finding your clients comes after setting prices.
In my first year of copywriting, I jumped right into finding clients without making a plan. This led to a string of bad clients. Some of them significantly underpaid me, others asked for edit after edit with no clear goal in sight. I even had several clients ask me to build their entire website for them!
To avoid these kinds of clients, you need to know what you’re going to charge and why before you look for clients.
There are a few ways to charge as a freelance copywriting beginner, and they all have their pros and cons. Here’s a quick run-down.
- You know exactly what you’re making per hour
- You can make money while you get a good sense of how long projects will take, without underselling yourself
- You can undertake a variety of projects and research
- You may find that clients find your hourly rate “too high”
- Per-hour is an easy way to undersell yourself
- “Proving” that you spent all the time you’re billing for working on the project can lead to frustrating haggling
Best for: writers who need to build experience, writers who are consulting, writers who work on multiple parts of one client’s needs.
- Makes long-form writing easy to price
- Helps your clients avoid “sticker shock” when they see an hourly or per-project rate
- Aligns with the way many smaller to mid-tier clients expect you to price your work
- VERY easy to undersell yourself
- Can incentivize you to write long copy, not good copy
- Doesn’t work well for anything other than blog posts
Best for: New writers who want to be competitive, writers looking to start in the blogging space.
- You don’t have to fuss over how long a project takes or how many words are in it
- Your price can help your clients make an easy cost/benefit analysis
- Per-project rates cover the expertise you have as a writer – something it’s hard to put a price tag on
- People looking for long-form work might be confused by a per-project rate
- Your upfront cost might turn some clients away, especially as a newbie
- Your clients won’t usually feel like they’re getting a “deal”
Best for: writers working on short-form copy, writers who have some experience, writers who want to appear highly professional to a large client
Once you’ve decided how to price your work, you’ll have to decide how much to charge. You can do this using a pricing guide (AWAI and The Copywriter Club are both great options), by asking your client’s budget and working within that, and/or by scoping out the competition.
Now that you know what you’re going to charge, it’s time to start looking for clients. Some sites and coaches promise copywriting beginners easy, quick client generation… but don’t believe everything you read. Any client generation is going to be a different spin on cold pitching.
Look, I hate cold pitching, too. It’s time-consuming, disappointing, and at times it can feel futile. But cold pitching pays off. The real trick is finding which kind of cold pitching will work best for you and your business.
You can use freelance websites. Fiverr is a great site for getting people in the door with a cheap offer and then upselling them to a larger package. There are copywriters out there who do 100% of their client generation on Fiverr!
You could try social media channels, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. Build your following, find clients you’d like to work with and start sending out those pitches!
Finally, there’s cold-emailing, cold-calling, and in-person networking. These methods have more of a trick to them than websites or social media. Once you start landing clients, though, you can land the big ones.
No matter what kind of client generation you choose, think of pitching as your first chance to show off your copywriting chops. The better you get at pitching, the better you’ll be at writing for your clients.
Copywriting Business Know-How
Now, once you’re bringing in money, you’ll need to sharpen your business skills. Most copywriters are creative types, which makes them absolutely terrible at dealing with the more “numbers-focused” side of their business.
The problem is, the business know-how is what can make or break you as a copywriting beginner. Poor business skills can leave you stuck at a low income, with few clients. Taxes will be harder. Paying yourself will be harder. Putting money back into your business in the form of education, tools, or outsourcing tasks will be harder.
In my first year of copywriting, I really struggled with the business side of things. And, in fact, I’m still working on growing this part of my skillset. Here are the key things I’ve learned so far.
Business Bank Account
First, you’ll want to open a business bank account. If you chose to form an LLC, this will be a requirement. Even if you’re strictly freelance, though, having your business bank account will make things much easier for you in the long run (more on that in a bit).
I recommend TD Bank. Their wide range of options means that you can stick with them as your business grows. If you’re anything like me, you hate dealing with money. TD Bank’s friendly staff and devotion to being “unexpectedly human” makes calling their bank a little less like calling the bank.
This is another thing that copywriting beginners may not think of doing. The thing is, it can make a big difference. The “bare bones” of bookkeeping means you keep track of where every dollar goes. It’s like budgeting, but rather than planning where your money should go, bookkeeping helps you record where it has already gone.
Bookkeeping makes taxes easier, helps you measure your profits and losses, and (again) will be invaluable as your copywriting business grows. You can start your bookkeeping using a spreadsheet, but there are also several open-source softwares available to help.
Yes, you still have to do your taxes as a freelancer. Taxes can be a little trickier when you’re self-employed, but the prep you did while bookkeeping can help.
You can also use TaxSlayer. Their all-in-one self-employed package lets you file, get professional advice, and have peace of mind with audit protection for less than $60. Score!
Finally, keep learning about how to run a successful business. I’d recommend working through one copywriting resource and one business resource at all times. Whether that’s a book, a course, a class, or a podcast, you should always be working on something.
The more you learn, the quicker your business will grow and the more equipped you’ll be to handle it.
Freelance Copywriting – How to Start Your Own Business
And that’s it! There are a lot of fine details that get missed in a bird’s-eye view like this, but as a copywriting beginner, this guide puts you way ahead of where I was.
Starting your own business is the dream. You can make your own hours, set your own salary, and work on something you truly love. However, not every part of owning a copywriting business is as glamorous as it sounds.
Like anything in life, you need to put in the work to make it work. It’s too easy to give yourself lots of time off, especially when it comes to the hard things like pitching and learning business strategy. The good news? Your hard work will pay off.
When done well, copywriting is the intersection of art and science, and my writing is always the best part of my day. Whether you choose to write part-time as a freelancer or run a full-time LLC working for yourself, it’s worth it.
Interested in writing part- or full-time? Check out our writers’ nudge or Work With Us page. Whether you’ve worked on a few projects or are brand new to copywriting, we’d love to have you on our team!