Every successful freelance copywriter is great at these three skills — and none of them are writing excellent copy.
Here are the three skills you should master when starting your freelance copywriting business.
A lesson every freelance copywriter learns on their way to a calendar booked full of great clients, financial freedom, and countless referrals.
Being able to write copy that sells is only one slice of the success pizza. Let me tell you why.
I always enjoyed writing, and when I got into advertising as a copywriter, I found a new appreciation and passion for the power of the written word. As my experience, portfolio, and income grew from doing freelance work as a side hustle; I decided it was a good time to start my own business as a full-time freelance copywriter. I thought to myself, “I know I can write, and I know I can figure out the rest.”
Spoiler alert — Running your own business is hard.
Hard in a sense that like most things, success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a ton of work. And even though you have this new flexibility as your own boss, there are moments you feel great and moments you are so overwhelmed with your to-do list. Kind of like this.
To any new and established freelancer, tell me if this sounds familiar.
It’s the start of the month, you look at your calendar, and you realize you have room to take on new clients. No big deal, you just now have to find said new clients so you can meet your monthly income goals.
You also want to grow your own brand online (You go, Glen Coco!). So, you need to create and schedule IG/Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn posts for the week and you have to think about what you’re going to put in your weekly newsletter. Better set a day or two to get these done.
Oh, let’s not forget, you have bills to pay and a business to run so you should keep track of expenses, invoices, income, and all that fun stuff.
And you thought all you would be doing is sitting at home in your pajamas writing website copy for a local pet shop or taking cute Instagram photos of the coffee shop you’re working at for the day. You thought wrong! (However, these two things are major perks of the job, so enjoy.)
The point is, there is a lot more to starting your own freelance business than you may have planned for.
Here are the three most important skills outside writing copy that I recommend you polish up to become a profitable freelance copywriter.
1. Be good at sales
One of the most important parts of becoming a good freelance copywriter (and freelancer in general) is you need clients that pay you with actual currency. This means you need not just to be good at writing words but talking words too. You need to be able to reach out to a potential client and sell them that your skill can help them solve a specific solution to a problem.
For example, you can look up a local boutique in town and see that their website is outdated and has no marketing or sales copy to help them sell their product or service. Do some research to find a contact and message them something around the lines of…
“Hello, my name is Terry Schilling, and I have shopped at your store before, and when I went to your website, I saw a few things missing that can help you attract new customers and help your store show up higher in search engines. I specifically write website copy for small business owners, and I think with a few copy adjustments and call-to-actions I can help you. Here is an example of web copy I wrote for a similar business and they now rank on the first page in Google. I know you’re busy, but if you have 15 minutes, I would love to talk to you and see if we can work together.” (insert contact information and send off)
The key to selling your services as a copywriter (or other skill) is to be specific with what you do and the value you bring. Give proof that your ability to write copy that sells can help their business achieve a goal.
Once you get comfortable with selling yourself, your mindset will change, and then the more work you will get.
Try This — To help you better sell your services, do this exercise. Take about 20–30 minutes and write out who your ideal client is and why you want to work with them. Then, write out al the ways your skill can potentially help their business grow. Writing it out will paint a clearer picture of what you do and how to sell that to a potential client.
2. Be able to manage money
One of the best feelings as a freelancer is when your client completes an invoice (it feels even better if it is on time). Seeing the money come into your bank account from your hard work makes the long days and nights all worth it. With all that being said, the more money you receive, the smarter you need to be with managing your finances.
Freelancing is just as much spending money to get started as it is earning it. You may spend money on creating an LLC, buying a website domain, creating a website, marketing, software, supplies, travel, and much more.
It’s not all just sitting at home writing and smiling as you transfer funds from Upwork, Fiverr, or PayPal. I mean, sure, that may be a majority of it in the beginning, but be prepared to spend some money to build your business.
This also means you need to track expenses, file away receipts, and see if you are making money instead of just spending it all. If your profit margin is in the green, you’re doing something right.
*Use This — One easy-to-use tool to get started is the financial software, Wave. It’s perfect for small businesses and freelancers to get a better grasp of what money is coming in and what is going out — it’s also beneficial when it’s time to pay Uncle Sam. With Wave, you can quickly create invoices, link your bank account, insert receipts, track expenses, and so much more. Do yourself a favor and sign up now if you haven’t already.
3. Be able to build relationships
This third one is the most important because no matter what business you’re in, the more strong relationships you have, the more success you will have.
In business, people like to work with people they know. You need to be present and engage with people.
Don’t treat a client as just a paycheck.
When I first started, I took on small projects that didn’t pay much, but I made sure I always answered emails in a timely matter, took criticism without complaining, offered feedback, and cared about my clients’ business.
My mindset was that every client can turn into a recurring client. Guess what?
I was right. I had clients reach back out to me with other work, and I received referrals from them. Translation…
Clients would tell me how much they enjoyed working with me and how personable and easy to work with I was. Remember when you were younger and you first heard the phrase, “Treat others how you would like to be treated?”
The same saying applies to freelance work except it should be, “Treat your clients how you would want to be treated as a client.”
One project can turn into multiple projects if you genuinely care about a client’s success. Trust me, when you care, they can see that, and you have a client who will think of you first when they have a new project or know someone who needs help.
One more thing on relationships — Make connections with other freelancers. To do this, you can go on Facebook and LinkedIn and look up copywriter and freelance groups. Google search conventions or meetups in your areas for freelancers, and go on Twitter and look up Twitter Chats that relate to marketing and your industry.
This opens the door to meet other creatives such as graphic designers, web developers, marketing strategists, and public relations professionals. The reason this is important is that one day you may get a client who asks for help with graphic design or creating a website. You can recommend someone to help and you let them know you offer them more than just your copywriting services; you provide a network of creative professionals. This will help save them time from outsourcing another person. I can’t tell you how many times my clients appreciate when I can recommend others.
Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to become a successful freelance copywriter, how do you feel? Better?
Okay, there are other factors that will make you successful, but I wanted to share with you three things I have learned that helped me grow my business. The thing is, you are most likely already polishing up these skills as you propose for your jobs, cold email clients, or ask friends and family if you can help them.
For me, the key was looking up resources on how to become better at sales, managing finances, and improving communication skills.
When you decide to become a freelance copywriter, you also choose to become a business owner, and that takes discipline and a very particular set of skills (Cue Liam Neeson from “Taken”) outside of writing copy.
Best of luck on your journey and be sure to look out for more tips and stories from me on the freelance life and writing great copy that sells.