Are you an experienced copywriter thinking of going freelance?
You might be nervous about it but don’t be. If you have the experience, portfolio and contacts to be a freelance writer, it will be a doddle, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Let’s leave the benefits of freelancing for another article, here’s the inside story on how copywriters work freelance full time for the long term.
1. Get clients before you go freelance
It’s much easier to make the jump into freelancing if you’ve something to land on. You’re not allowed to poach clients from your own agency, but you can test the waters, put the word about with your existing network of ex-colleagues or ex-clients that you might be available and see if they are potential clients for copywriter jobs.
“Predetermine success” by thinking through every thought and action before you take the plunge. Predict every possible hurdle and imagine how you’ll jump over it.
2. Come out with a bang
Once you’ve ‘come out’ as a freelancer – tell everyone. Throw a big party for yourself and invite all your old colleagues to show them how brave you are. Scream it on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. If you’re reading this too late, have an anniversary party.
3. Present yourself
Make a website for yourself, print business cards, make a presentation, print your portfolio, pump yourself on social media, do whatever you think you can do to make yourself more employable. Make it the best that you can… BUT, here are two golden rules.
a) Don’t spend a lot of money on it
Ad creatives are used to working in agencies producing quality creative work and marketing campaigns. They have high standards. When they do stuff for themselves they have even higher standards. If you have savings it can be tempting to blow (i.e. invest) it on hiring a good web designer to make you look brilliant, but your website is just an ego trip and should be functional.
b) Don’t spend too long on it
The other major mistake a lot of people make is spending too long making the perfect portfolio or website. Six months after they started freelancing they still haven’t called anyone or tried to get any work. Yes you have to have something to show and your site should look good, but you and the work you’ve done are what sells you – and you already have both of those things at the start. It’s often psychological – it’s nerve-racking and daunting to do the rounds – but know this and get over it. Once you’re doing it you’ll kick yourself for not starting sooner.
4. Go round the agencies
Once you’ve announced it, and you have a business card and a portfolio, you’re ready to start calling for appointments with ad agencies – most freelance work comes from agencies, or any local small business that might need you. Save the big businesses for phase 2 once you’ve found your feed..
Call don’t email. Emails are easy to ignore and are timid. You must demand to be seen. Call first, then send a follow-up email with some samples (small files!) of your work attached, rather than a link to your website, it’s faster and has less confusion. They call you in for an interview: you amaze them.
5. Get an agent
Sign up with an agent like Copywriter Collective and you’re putting yourself in line for a lot more opportunities. You can still freelance for yourself as it’s not exclusive but their expertise will certainly help.
Now the jobs start coming in… congratulations!
Have a plan B
If they don’t, and you’ve been patient, it might be time to look at doing something else. Seriously. If you have met all the traffic managers/creative directors, called to follow-up three times, they know about you but you’re still not getting work, then you should start to explore other avenues.
I could advise you to make ads for yourself, start a blog, send gifts to creative directors, hire a SEO expert, and 101 other ideas… but these are things to do if you’re already established and know what you’re doing. If the economy is that bad or you’re not that good, you could do yourself a favour by being honest.
Before you start freelancing give yourself a goal and a deadline “if I haven’t earned ‘so much’ by ‘such and such’ I will try X instead”. And X should be enticing: travel, moving to another city, studying, that career as a gardener you always dreamt of. Life’s too short to bum around. Improve your language skills! Especially the English language if you’re not a native speaker.
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