Every week I receive a couple of emails from people seeking advice on how to get into freelance copywriting. While thereís no simple answer, and no answer which applies to everyone, there are a few tips which I believe will help most people make move into freelance copywriting, and survive first few months at least.
1) Invest in a website
The best place for any freelance advertising copywriter or website copywriter to start is to fork out for a website. A website is invaluable because when you cold call and email prospects, youíll need to direct them somewhere that gives them more information. Keep your website simple, include a portfolio page, add any samples of any sort of copywriting you've done, talk about places you've worked, clients youíve written for, and include any testimonials youíve received. Make sure you include your address and contact details as well, so people don't think you're a fly-by-night operation. Of course, it doesn't hurt to include a photo either. If you can't say much about your experience, don't say much. It doesn't even really matter if you don't say anything. Remember, just like any other form of advertising copywriting, writing about yourself requires art of subtlety. If you lack experience, but youíre confident you can do job, you can be very clever in what you don't say, and most people will read it way you intended.
2) Donít target agencies
If youíve never worked as an advertising copywriter or website copywriter before, donít target advertising agencies and web design agencies. They know exactly what theyíre after, so if you donít have a portfolio, you wonít stand a chance. Managing an inexperienced copywriter and controlling quality takes a lot of time and introduces risk. Most agencies are too busy to give unproven copywriters a break, even if youíre prepared to do work on spec. Target end-clients directly.
3) Cold call, cold call, cold call
One of best ways of generating business in early days is to cold call potential end-clients. Itís hard work and very time consuming, but you can generate some very qualified leads. For more information on cold calling, take a look at http://www.divinewrite.com/coldcallingcopywriter.htm.
4) Use a contacts & jobs database
No matter where youíre at in your freelance copywriting career, you NEED a database of contacts and jobs. Kind of a scaled down CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool. Use it to record everything! Particularly names, phone numbers, and details of any correspondence (especially phone calls). I created my own database using Microsoft Access. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/contacts and jobs.mdb to download a 208KB working copy for FREE. Youíll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it. Iím no database expert, so itís not a work of art. Itíll certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using database, press Ctrl + ; to enter todayís date.)
5) Write a few samples
If youíre targeting specific clients or industries, donít be afraid to write a few samples and send them through. You can offer pieces free of charge (everyone likes something for nothing) or at a discount, or you can use it as an incentive to sign them up for future work. It all depends on type of work and type of client. The important thing to remember is that samples are virtually as good as a portfolio to most prospective clients.