You’re already a freelance copywriter, or you’ve just spent the Bank Holiday weekend making the decision to chuck in your job and go it alone. (Hurrah!)
You’ve got some experience, maybe had some freelance jobs through something like Copify or PeoplePerHour, but you can’t live on £10 (or less) per 300-word article, and anyway, you know you’re much better than that.
What you want is regular, well-paid writing work from agencies in your field. Well, there’s a coincidence! I run a copywriting agency and we regularly commission work from freelancers* – but hiring an unknown person always carries a bit of a risk.
So here are five things you can do to reduce that risk and make people like me actively want to hire people like you:
1. Specialise in something. There’s nothing less likely to inspire confidence than a writer who claims to be able to write anything, on any subject. I want to know why I should hire you for a job rather than anybody else. Are you brilliant at writing copy for infographics, or video scripts? Have you written loads of successful campaigns aimed at data centre managers? Do you have a degree in electronics, but decided to become a writer instead? If there’s something you’re really good at, I want to know.
2. Have a portfolio. Ideally one that doesn’t just have examples of your work, but also tells me what kind of results your copy produced, or at least helped to produce. Did this email smash all known records for open rates? Was this ebook downloaded 20,000 times? Did your slides make it on to SlideShare’s front page? Did your DM lead to an unprecedented number of sales meetings? If you can also explain why it worked so well, I’ll know you understand marketing as well as being a brilliant writer, which is a huge plus.
3. Know your rate. Whether you prefer to work to an hourly rate, daily rate or rate for a certain number of words, know what that rate is and be explicit about it. Any agency will want to know how much they’re going to be paying you, so they can budget, quote, forecast and project-manage accurately. It does surprise me how many freelancers don’t have a fixed rate, preferring the client to set the price for a given job. As a freelancer you’re running a business, and businesses don’t generally let their customers dictate how much their products are worth. If you’re good, clients will be happy to pay your rate – so know what it is and be confident about it.
4. Have a Terms of Service document. Let your prospective clients know what kind of service they can expect from you by giving them a Terms of Service document. This doesn’t have to be a long screed of legalese; just a few points about – for example – how you quote, how you charge, at what point you’re going to invoice (a portion upfront, on delivery of the first draft, on sign-off of the whole project?), your payment terms (i.e. how many days after the invoice date you want your client to pay you), whether or not your rate includes amendments to the first draft (and if so, how many), etc.
5. Make the most of LinkedIn. If my experience is anything to go by, LinkedIn is an incredibly important place for freelance writers to be seen and be found. When I was a freelancer starting my copywriting business, the vast majority of new work came through LinkedIn, and the same is true for Radix today. There are tons of ways to raise your profile on there, from participating in discussions and gathering recommendations to sharing examples of your work and connecting with potential clients (observing proper etiquette, obviously). And I know not everyone is wild about the Endorsements feature, but I’d certainly far rather hire a writer with endorsements than one without.
So there you go – if you’re a freelance writer with a strong specialism, great portfolio, attractive rate, clear terms of service and an impressive profile on LinkedIn, agencies should be falling over themselves to commission your services.
For more copywriting advice, listen to Good Copy, Bad Copy.
* Updated 2018: sorry, we almost exclusively use our eleven-strong copywriting team these days. But the advice in this article is still good.