Becoming a freelance copywriter...any suggestions?

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Becoming a freelance copywriter...any suggestions?

Postby Scorpio Moon » Mon Nov 24, 2003 1:11 am

Last week, I got the idea to pursue freelance copywriting. I have an English degree and I have worked as a freelance journalist for years. I know I could do copywriting. I came here and did a search, read the previous threads in which copywriting was discussed, ordered the books "The Well-Fed Writer", "The Copywriter's Handbook", "Start and Run a Copywriting Business" and "Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul...". While I'm waiting for these books to arrive, I've been scouring the Web trying to get ideas on how to get this business going. I don't feel I need to take a copywriting course. I want to dive right in. At the moment, I'm unsure about a few things: I could do copywriting for free to get some experience, some material for my portfolio and a few references. But at the moment, I'd like to start seeking out paying clients. If I do this, can I get away with creating "sample" copy to put in a portfolio? Is it absolutely necessary I only include copy I have written for someone else? Since I'm just starting out, would it be beneficial to find a niche market and focus on it? Being the scanner that I am, I know I could write copy pertaining to a multitude of industries. Ideally, I don't want to focus on one. But in the beginning should I pick, and pursue, just one? And the big question: How do I find clients? I'm hoping the copywriting-related books I ordered will give me some ideas on how to go about doing this. But while I'm waiting for them to arrive, I'd like to start doing research. I've never been in a position where I have offered my services to a company. At this point, I am completely clueless on how to go about doing so. I'm guessing looking on the Web--job boards, writer-related sites--for specific "copywriter needed" postings wouldn't necessarily get a lot of results. I'm guessing seeking out, and approaching, companies would be more beneficial. True? But how do I go about doing this? One thing to note: I want to be able to work freelance completely via telecommuting and approach companies all over North America (or even worldwide). Being in Montreal, I'm restricted because I don't speak/write in French. I know, because I'm not bilingual, I wouldn't get a lot of work here. If anyone has any suggestions to help point in me in the right direction and get me started, I'd really appreciate it. ------------------ Check out my Web site
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Postby GiniDee » Mon Nov 24, 2003 4:32 am

Hi Scorpio - I've been a freelance copywriter too long to tell you how to break in these days. The books will probably help you with that. Almost every smart client you approach will ask you to do samples relating to their specific business or clients, no matter what type of portfolio you have. But what kinds of copy do you want to write? Radio or TV spots? Newspaper ads? Press releases and PR materials? Collateral materials for sales promotion? Direct mail? Consumer catalog copy? Copy for websites? Trade journal ads? Newsletters for clients? Print advertorials? Each has a different format. Each requires slightly different skills. Do you prefer business to consumer or business to business? Are you quick to pick up knowledge about businesses, how they work and what they offer? Can you persuade in print, rather than reporting? Are you good at sorting out what a client wants and filling their needs quickly and reliably with copy that gets results? I've been a working journalist as many years as I've been a copywriter. Some of the skills (spelling, grammar and punctuation, meeting deadlines, and writing to fit) do translate. Others don't. One thing you could do is apply for any local copywriting jobs available in ad agencies - just to take their copy tests, and see what they want. You could also look through the career sites on the web for freelance copywriting opportunities, though I've never done that myself. If there are any freelance jobs listed, they'll probably tell you what they want and what skill or experience level they require. Copywriting can be a lot of fun - with the right clients and products or services. Which reminds me - are you good at spotting the Clients from Hell before they swallow up your time and energy? That's a critical skill, essential for success and peace of mind. You might be able to get paying clients right away, if you're persuasive enough about what you can do for them to sell them on using your services. You might also want to get Laurence Boldt's book Zen and the Art of Making a Living to get a great overview on how to research and pursue your chosen career and prospective clients. I wish you the best - GiniDee Image
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Postby alcor » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:15 am

This is an idea that got to my head as well...but for later - I have to first improve my writing skills before attempting this. I am in Montreal too ... Hope it will work well and don't forget to keep us posted! Alcor
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Postby HollyL » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:23 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Scorpio Moon: <B> I could do copywriting for free to get some experience, some material for my portfolio and a few references. But at the moment, I'd like to start seeking out paying clients. If I do this, can I get away with creating "sample" copy to put in a portfolio? Is it absolutely necessary I only include copy I have written for someone else? </B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE> I'm not a copywriter, but I had an idea for you anyway: what if you made up an obviously fictional company, and wrote copy for that? An ISP that's been doing business on the planet Mars for ten years, or something silly like that? Note: I did read two of the books on your list, and I'm not sure something like this wasn't in one of them--I really can't remember. On the other hand, your copies haven't arrived yet anyway. btw, what about trying the local library in the meantime to get you started? They may have copies--mine did. Those books were really fantastic. <B> And the big question: How do I find clients? I'm hoping the copywriting-related books I ordered will give me some ideas on how to go about doing this. But while I'm waiting for them to arrive, I'd like to start doing research. I've never been in a position where I have offered my services to a company. At this point, I am completely clueless on how to go about doing so. </B>[/QUOTE] It's been a few months since I read the books on your list, but I seem to recall both of them relied on doing cold-calling. I actually did some cold calling (made a $700 sale! only one so far though) and I'm pretty sure those books are where I got the idea. Of course the trick is to get the prospective client looking at your sample portfolio, hopefully while you're still on the phone with them. My brother, who's an amazingly good salesperson, uses the fax for this, but couldn't you put your sample portfolio up on the web and then just tell the prospect to look at the URL while you're talking with them? You just call the company's main number, ask who is in charge of dealing with copywriters (sales & marketing, maybe?), and get that person on the line. Then tell that person about how much money they could make by utilizing your services and make them go look at your web site. I was trying to do it by mailing out brochures and then trying to get the person on the phone a week later, after they'd forgotten all about me. It's a lot of work doing it that way, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to make it easier, as I'm very lazy. Of course I'm going to be selling watertight plastic storage containers, but the same principle applies. I was actually going to be a freelance copywriter myself, but then I found out I was going to have to do my own selling anyway, and then I got a fantastic deal on these storage containers, and I figured if I was going to have to "smile and dial" anyway, I didn't want to have to write copy on top of it all. Plus I really like plastic storage containers, which is why I also sell Tupperware. It's a lot easier to sell something if you like the product. The good part about copywriting, looking back, would be that you don't wind up having to store all this inventory. We have product all over the house and it's only getting worse. Anyway, I'd suggest hitting the library, get the books you're waiting for and some general all-purpose books on How to Sell Well, and get your portfolio online. Keep us posted, okay? Reading about your path has gotten me charged up about mine--funny how that works. Image Good luck, - Holly
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Postby sgoldie » Mon Nov 24, 2003 2:06 pm

Scorpio, Perhaps you could add a section onto your web page for copywriting services, and then email a link to media clients thus increasing your presence in both arenas. I have noticed many times the misspellings on TV, web pages, newspaper articles, and the web. As a matter of fact I recently emailed Gateway about their "'freaking' computer sale ads", explaining to them how very inappropriate that language was. Sallie
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Postby kazbah » Mon Nov 24, 2003 5:57 pm

Hey Scorpio having been a copywriter for about 13 years ... my suggestion is to approach ad agencies and PR consultancies and offer your services. you will need some samples of your work, but you have plenty of articles etc that have been published, right? you might also like to target manufacturing companies that might be too small to employ an ad agency ... or distribution co.s/importers etc. I am thinking of companies that might produce catalogues and want some help with putting them together and preparing the content. and yes, companies who look like they might need some help writing copy for their websites .... you can find them pretty quickly online! Image Kaz
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Postby Scorpio Moon » Wed Nov 26, 2003 11:01 am

I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone! GiniDee: You posed questions I hadn't considered and needed to. Thank you. alcor: I will report back once I have made some headway. Image HollyL: Not only did your post give me some excellent ideas, you helped make me realize this goal can be accomplished. After reading your post, I felt more confident, excited and reassured. Thank you! sgoldie: Yep. Yep. Yep. If there is one thing I can do right now it is set up a Web page. Excellent suggestion. kazbah: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with me. Your ideas/suggestions gave me clarity as to what I need to be looking for. ------------------ Check out my Web site
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Postby Goldfish » Wed Nov 26, 2003 5:26 pm

Hi there, I'm an in-house copywriter for a business. You have all the right experience - just let your writing samples speak for themselves. If you're interested in marketing - you can always learn an industry, an audience, a product line, a marketing campaign/technique.....etc... A website is the best vehicle for showcasing your experience and "writing mojo". You might even want to do some mini case studies about the types of audiences you were appealing to and the various clients/pubs you wrote for. Working for an ad agency would give you the creativity and freelance freedome you're probably looking for. Image
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Postby Goldfish » Wed Nov 26, 2003 5:27 pm

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Last edited by Goldfish on Thu Dec 06, 2007 12:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby HollyL » Wed Nov 26, 2003 10:07 pm

I've got one more book for your list! I was at my professional speaker's meeting last night, and this one woman who is a marketing consultant said to read Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. We're going to get a copy this weekend.
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Postby GiniDee » Wed Nov 26, 2003 10:37 pm

Guerrilla Marketing was my Bible during my small business consulting years. I was doing everything from writing copy and doing layouts for newspaper and direct mail to planning in-store events and sales promotions for small retailers and service businesses. Any of the Guerrilla books are good. There are several now. The library should have them. There's an old chestnut ( older than I am) called How to Write Copy that Sells - can't remember the author, but I do remember it as being an excellent guide to basic principles of copywriting. See if your library has it - if not, check in at alibris.com and maybe you'll get lucky. If you're targeting retailers, one of the best books on retail sales promotion I ever read and USED was 1,001 Ways to Create Retail Excitement. Lots of good ideas in there that can be adapted to non-retail businesses as well. I took a lot of ideas from that book that were customized to fit varying client needs. I'm not in the best of moods now, as one of my best friends died suddenly last night, but I will write more when I am more myself. All the best - GiniDee
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