The freelance copywriter life cycle… in four stages

If you are or ever have been a freelance copywriter, you can probably relate to this…

These are the 4 Stages of the Freelance Copywriter Life Cycle, according to ME.

At the risk of laying my emotional immaturity bare for all the world to see, read about the four stages below.

I figure I’m probably in good company, however, since according to this book I’m reading (which is AWESOME by the way), our emotional development stops at about age 7. So that would make the following juuuust about right then

Stage One

I call this one the wide-eyed and bushy tailed stage. Cause it’s the phase in copywriting where you are all star eyed and bedazzled by what kind of earning potential you’ve got out there waiting for you.

I went from earning $85 an hour before copywriting, to $200+ an hour (that’s my conservative guess–definitely on the low end, figuring $4,000 for a letter back then and maybe 20 hours invested… which is WAY generous… usually a salesletter takes maybe 5-8 hours of actual writing).

Stage Two

Here’s where the problems begin. You somehow missed it before, but now it becomes clear that copywriting is actually work. Heaven forbid.

By stage two, you’re getting used to making money with a whole lot less effort than 99% of the world. And that’s the problem.

Call it human nature, but that soon gets old. You start to realize that while generating $10,000 for a few hours of work is great, it’s still work.

Dissatisfaction starts to brew.

Stage Three

Here’s where things can go south quick if you don’t just stop and take a breath and understand that you are where you are because you need to be there at the moment.

Tough pill to swallow sometimes, but it’s the truth.


It can be hard to remember that when you look up long enough to see that you’re generating X dollars while the work you’re supplying is generating 10X for your client.

You don’t really think about all the responsibility your client shoulders, or their string of failures that led them to their current success. All you can see is the difference in the bottom line.

Thoughts like, “Well if that guy can do it, anyone can do it.” start to creep into your head.

Stage Fourlaptop and tea

The pressure builds enough for you to consider busting out of the client business and doing your own thing.

After all, everywhere you look, there are a ton of successful people (far less equipped than you that are doing it. If they can do it, why not you?

Here’s where you have a choice to make.

You can either shrink back and stick with what you know, and somehow just be OK with the nature of the business. That you work for money. And that when you don’t work, you generally make less.

OR… you can stretch yourself and make a move.

For me, Stage Four is the time to make the move. A BIG, BOLD move.

Cause you realize that the only perfect client you’re ever going to get is…


So you start shifting your thought processes. Instead of being focused on how to keep your client “happy” and how to keep the projects coming through the door, you start focusing on step one in business: generating revenue for yourself… selling your own stuff or other people’s stuff.

You’d think that a copywriter would be focused on just generating revenue, but when you’re dealing with other people, my experience is that you have to juggle a few more things… like relationships… and expectations… and all that other messy stuff that we humans seem to require.

I’ve finally realized that for me, generally speaking, clients suck. Not the people, just the model. That’s not to say you can’t make a great business out of working with clients, but I know for me, it’s no longer the way to go.

If you do work with clients and want some help improving the results you get from the effort you put in, then head over to the Copywriter’s Vault. Free videos, tips and stuff to feed any info product addiction.

Jason Leister profile picAbout the author:  JASON LEISTER

Jason Leister is a direct response copywriter, internet entrepreneur and editor of the daily e-letter, The Client Letter, where he empowers independent professionals who work with clients. He has seven kids and lives and works in the mountains of Arizona.

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