Tag Archives: freelance

10 Tips for Aspiring Freelance Copywriters

Every week I receive a couple of emails from people seeking advice on how to get into freelance copywriting. While there’s no simple answer, and no answer which applies to everyone, there are a few tips which I believe will help most people make the move into freelance copywriting and survive the 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 could call and email prospects, you will 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 the places you’ve worked, the clients you’ve written for, and include any testimonials you’ve received. Make sure you include your address and contact details as well, so people do not think you’re a fly-by-night operation. Of course, it does not hurt to include a photo either. If you cannot say much about your experience, don’t say much. It does not even really matter if you don’t say anything. Remember, just like any other form of advertising copywriting, writing about yourself requires the art of subtlety. If you lack experience, but you’re confident you can do the job, you can be very clever in what you don’t say, and most people will read it the way you intended.

2) don’t target agencies

If you’ve never worked as an advertising copywriter or website copywriter before, don’t target advertising agencies and web design agencies. They know exactly what they’re after, so if you don’t have a portfolio, you won’t 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 you’re prepared to do the work on spec. Target end-clients directly.

3) Cold call, cold call, cold call

One of the best ways of generating business in the early days is to cold call potential end-clients. it’s 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 you’re 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 the 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. You’ll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it. I’m no database expert, so it’s not a work of art. It’ll certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using the database, press Ctrl +; to enter todays’ date.)

5) Write a few samples

If you’re targeting specific clients or industries, don’t be afraid to write a few samples and send them through. You can offer the 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 the type of work and the type of client. The important thing to remember is that samples are virtually as good as a portfolio to most prospective clients.

6) Invest in an accounts package

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can handle your accounts manually (or with Microsoft Excel). Even if you only have a few clients, you NEED a proper accounts package like MYOB or Quicken (they both offer small business versions). You’ll understand why the first time you do your GST reports or annual taxes. In fact, you’ll understand why whenever you need to chase down outstanding invoices

7) Give great service

This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s important to remember that great service means different things to different clients. Most of the time you will be working with direct clients (quite often startup businesses) and agencies. Both appreciate great service but define it entirely differently. Agencies rely on their freelance copywriters to meet strict requirements (get the work done well, get it done on time, do not exceed the budget). They have end-clients breathing down their necks, so reliability is as important as writing quality. End-clients, on the other hand, need an advertising copywriter or website copywriter who sees their business the way they do, and can convey that vision. They’ll probably need a lot of guidance as well, particularly if they’re just starting out themselves. If you can, help them understand that copywriting isn’t just about telling people what products and services the business offers; it’s about conveying the benefits of those products and services. A good advertising copywriter or website copywriter will be able to help their client think in terms of benefits instead of products and services.

8) Expect hard times

The first year or two as a freelance advertising copywriter or website copywriter will be difficult. It takes a while to generate momentum and during that time, you’ll probably find yourself wondering if you’ve made the right career choice. While its possible to earn six-figures each year, you have to be patient (so its not ideal for new or intending parents or anyone with huge mortgage commitments).

9) Do not spend too much on training

In my humble opinion, no money spent learning is wasted. However, you must weigh up the return on investment. I do not know much about what copywriting courses are available, but if they are expensive, I’d think twice. In my experience, most clients (be they agencies or end-clients) value copywriting ability over training.

10) Know you can do it

Confidence in your copywriting abilities is a must. If you are not adamant you can produce the results the client is after, you will never be able to convince the client. Remember that everyone feels daunted at the start of a new copywriting job. There is always a steep learning curve in copywriting, and generally quite a bit of time-consuming labor. Do not fall into the trap of focusing on what you don’t know and what you haven’t done.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Peter Thiel And Max Levchin Bet On Freelance Economy

Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Valar Ventures has led a $10 million investment round in Lystable, an app for collaborating with freelancers, Lystable announced this morning.

The round includes earlier investors such as Max Levchin’s fund SciFi VC, Kindred Capital and Goldcrest Capital, as well as new backers Glynn Capital Management and Wilmont Ventures. Thiel and Levchin were co-founders of PayPal.

Lystable, which was founded in London and has an office in San Francisco, enables companies to onboard freelancers, create profiles for them, assign work to them, track invoices and make payments. Freelancers can also use the platform for functions such as checking the status of invoices.

“We are growing rapidly,” says Peter Johnston, founder and CEO, a former designer at Google and alum of the prestigious Techstars accelerator. “Our plan is to hire people to cope with that growth.”


Lystable plans to use the money it raised to introduce a new payments product, ideally by the end of the year, and hire senior executives to help that part of the business scale, says Johnston.

Target clients are companies in the media and tech sector that rely heavily on freelance talent, according to Johnston.

Lystable is SciFi VC’s “first investment focused squarely on the freelance space,” said Eric Scott, partner in SciFi VC, based in San Francisco.

Scott said the firm sees the data Lystable is collecting on freelance talent to be “enormously valuable.” While it is relatively easy for small firms to hire freelancers, it can be trickier for multinationals to find freelancers who work well with their team and fit into their culture, he noted.

“They address a problem no one else does,” he says.

Lystable raised $11 million in Series A financing in June 2016, bringing the total raised to $25 million since its founding in 2014, according to the company.

Lystable says its users include celebrity and style site POPSUGAR, the NY Daily News, Airbnb, ESPN, CNBC, IDEO, and Google.

Using Lystable’s basic platform is free but companies that pay their freelancers through the platform incur a processing fee. Paying through the platform is an alternative to direct bank transfers, which can be costly and, in some cases, impossible–presenting challenges as multinationals tap into an increasingly global talent base, says Johnston.

“The future of work is becoming more international,” says Johnston. “It’s going to be more important to get these freelancers paid, wherever they are on the earth.”

Lystable’s 2016 revenue was in the $1 million-$3 million dollar range, according to Johnston. The company employs 40 people.

There is significant competition in the freelance management space, with platforms such as Work  Market and Upwork going after enterprise clients. Some companies, such as the Washington Post, have developed private talent clouds to manage freelancers.

“I think there will always be companies that decide to build vs. buy, but in most cases it’s still going to make sense to buy,” says Scott.