Can You Actually Make Money Copywriting?Jan 28, 2021
Wondering if you can can make a good living freelancing before making the leap from your 9-5 to full-time freelance? Don't worry, you're not the only one. While it’s easy to look up salaries for regular full-time jobs, the hard numbers on freelance income aren’t as easy to find.
Short answer: yes, it is possible to earn a good living as a full-time freelance writer. However, your earning potential will vary depending on several factors.
In this post, I’ll answer the questions I had when deciding whether or not to launch a full-time freelance copywriting business.
- Is freelance copywriting lucrative enough to make a full-time living?
- How much can I earn as a freelancer?
- Are freelance copywriters in demand?
- Is copywriting hard to get into?
- How do I become a copywriter with no experience?
- Can anyone be a copywriter?
- What skills are needed to be a copywriter?
By the end of this post, you'll know how viable it is to pursue a full-time freelance writing career and the steps you need to take to ensure you reach your income goals.
Can you really make money as a freelance writer?
While becoming a highly paid freelance writer is 100% possible, your ability to earn depends on your work ethic, confidence, and taking the right steps.
My story: I went from working a traditional 9-5 in sales to becoming a full-time freelancer with no professional writing experience in about four months.
My journey started with a google search. I had quit my toxic full-time job with no backup plan and was collecting unemployment. I googled “careers in writing that pay well” and “high paying writing jobs from home.”
After reading a few articles, I learned about freelance content writing. But knowing about the career field wasn't enough. Before taking the leap, I needed to be sure I could make a living as a writer.
^^This very graphic from an AWAI webinar convinced me that I could earn a living full-time if I could get enough clients.
The harsh reality? As a sales rep, I used to make 90K+ a year. In my first year as a full-time freelancer, I made around 50K. "Six-figure freelancer" is a compelling marketing concept, but making that amount is rare when you're first starting out.
While 50K was far from the dream, it worked for me as a single person living way beneath my means and had already paid off all of my debt.
While 50K might have been a “step back” as far as income goes, I was still incredibly proud (and surprised) that I could pay my bills, work from home without a boss, doing something I loved doing: writing.
If you want some stats, take a look:
- Studies show that more than half of full-time freelance workers feel more financially secure working for themselves versus their traditional jobs.
- One report found that there are more than 15 million full-time freelancers, with 1 in 5 earning a salary of $100,000.
- 60% of freelancers share that they’re able to make more money than they did at their previous jobs.
- Freelance copywriters can earn up to $250 an hour.
- 75% of freelancers reported that their wages remained stable during the pandemic despite the increase of remote work and a presumed declining demand for freelancers.
There’s no doubt freelancing can be lucrative, but your income will depend on the following four factors. Examples of these decisions are:
- Your chosen writing niche
- Your web presence and marketing (i.e.: your website, your LinkedIn profile, and portfolio)
- Choosing an effective, consistent strategy for how you’ll get clients
- How confident you are in communicating your value to clients
Income factor #1: Your freelance writing niche
Your ability to command high rates in your copywriting business depends on your writing niche.
I explain the importance of choosing a writing niche in my post, The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Freelance Copywriting Niche.
Examples of high paying niches are:
- Digital marketing
- and my personal favorite, software :)
Income factor #2: Your web presence and marketing
Here’s what you need to effectively marketing yourself as a freelance writer:
A professional website
Don’t miss out on this step. Your website is critical in making a good first impression you on potential clients. This means having…
- Your own website with a portfolio page
- Your own website domain (meaning: yourwebsitename.com)
- Your own email domain (having @gmail.com is a no-no)
If the idea of building a writer’s website is overwhelming, I understand. I didn't even know what a web domain was when I got into freelancing, and I had certainly had never built a website.
A freelance-optimized LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is your best friend for landing freelance clients. It's the fourth most popular social network in the world, with over 450 million members. If done correctly, your LinkedIn profile will do most of the selling on your behalf.
Over 50% of a clients’ decision is made before connecting with the person who will provide them with the goods or services they need. This makes LinkedIn one of your most valuable marketing tools.
Your LinkedIn profile is one of the easiest ways for clients to find YOU. While you’ll need to send a high volume cold pitches and LOIs in the beginning, clients will eventually start coming to you if your profile is optimized with the right keywords.
A compelling writing portfolio
A freelance copywriting portfolio is an organized collection of your best writing samples, stored in an easy-to-browse-file.
It’s important that the writing samples within your portfolio are relevant to the client and laid out in a way that doesn’t require the client to do too much digging.
Don’t have any writing samples yet? You don’t need to have work already published by clients to create an effective portfolio. You can build your portfolio from scratch with no prior experience.
You might not have clients or any published work right now, so to get portfolio pieces, you must create them yourself. This means you’ll be writing “on spec,” meaning you’ll write them first and then submit.
To create your portfolio from scratch, even if you have no writing experience, I show you how here.
Income factor #3: Getting freelance clients
If you’re starting your freelance business from scratch or have no professional writing experience, cold-pitching and sending letters of introduction (LOIs) is the main client acquisition strategy you should pursue.
The majority of writers know about cold emailing, but few realize that you can build your entire freelance copywriting business on LinkedIn by sending cold messages. Using LinkedIn is easier because you don't have to find email addresses and you don't have to publish your own blog or social posts.
There’s so much bad advice out there about how you need to “organically engage” and jump through hoops to get a clients’ attention without reaching out to them directly. People will tell you it’s sleazy or salesy or that it’s a bad business practice.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re feeling hesitant about send cold messages to clients, let me remind you that:
- You are not a telemarketer calling someone in the middle of dinner.
- You are not an MLM boss babe asking someone to join your pyramid scheme.
- Offering your copywriting services to marketers in need does NOT make you sleazy!
The clients you’re messaging are already tasked with searching LinkedIn and other platforms to hire writers. You’re just being proactive and placing yourself in their line of sight.
Income factor #4: Confidence and mindset around client communication
Meeting with clients. These meetings are sometimes called client calls, discovery calls, or exploration calls, but they simply involve speaking with a potential client (usually via video call) about working together.
Those of you who are introverts: I will let you know as soon as a client discovery call is no longer necessary! For now, accept that speaking to a client will greatly improve your chances of landing them. When clients plan on spending thousands, they need to know, like, and trust the person they’ll be handing over money to.
Since freelance writing involves a lot of collaboration (exchanging feedback, editing, strategy, etc. ), clients want to know who they’ll be working with.
The goal of the meeting with your client is to show them that you can handle the job. It isn't about being phony, braggadocious, or arrogant. To learn how to be confident on calls with clients, click here.
As empathetic writers, we already like to make people comfortable, so handling clients canactually come more naturally to you than a super-salesy, outgoing person.
Is copywriting hard to get into?
At first glance, copywriting can seem like a complex career field that only seasoned writers can get into. Especially when you think of famous advertising geniuses like David Ogilvy and Gary Halbert.
Can anyone be a copywriter? Maybe not everybody. Let’s be realistic. But if my story is any inspiration to you, just know that I was able to become a full-time copywriter in less than four months without:
- Any existing network, referrals, or writing contacts
- Any published samples to put in my portfolio
- Any professional experience as a paid writer
- A degree in journalism or marketing
In other words, it is possible to overcome the most common “obstacles” new writers let stop them from pursuing copywriting.
Instead of asking how difficult it is to become a copywriter, it's more useful to focus on the skills needed:
Effective copywriting requires more than just the ability to write. Copywriting is the art of selling with words. Your effectiveness will come down to your ability to persuade and use psychology principles.
With the advances in AI, writing is becoming a commodity. However, the skill of empathizing and strategizing before putting words on paper makes you a “good” copywriter.
It’s important to keep in mind that copywriting skills will develop over time. You won’t be a pro when first starting out and that’s okay. Copywriting is a game of trial and error and constant improvement.
I kind of sucked in the beginning. Especially as I was shedding the academic essay writing style, I learned as an English Lit major.
Despite my lack of experience, clients hired me anyway. I think this was in large part due to my ability to sell myself.
While I may have felt like an imposter in the very beginning, I quickly learned that clients wanted someone to listen to their vision, be consistent, meet deadlines, and create content.
It was a huge relief when I realized freelance clients weren’t expecting an award-winning writer or marketing expert.
How do I become a copywriter with no experience?
I have good news: you CAN become a full-time freelance copywriter with no experience. Here’s how:
Step 1: Choose your copywriting niche
Step 2: Create two writing samples for your portfolio
Step 3: Purchase a domain and create your writers’ website
Step 4: Set an income goal
Step 5: Create a freelance-optimized LinkedIn profile
Step 6: Start cold-pitching (sending letters of introduction LOI) to freelance clients via LinkedIn
I detail these six steps in my free guide: The First 6 Steps Every Freelance Copywriter Must Take When Starting Out.
Despite having no experience, I landed my first freelance copywriting client in less than 30 days using cold-pitch messages on LinkedIn.
Prior to contrary belief, you don’t need to work for pennies beginning of your copywriting career just to get your foot in the door. I was making a full-time income in four to six months. I never resorted to freelance marketplace sites notorious for low-balling like Upwork and Fiverr.
Here’s the truth about the freelance writing industry: there is no shortage of clients looking to hire freelance copywriters. The problem is that most copywriters don’t know how to pitch and market themselves.
Companies are hiring writers every day. You just need to position yourself correctly and take the right steps.
Is copywriting oversaturated?
Many articles online claim that the freelance writing market is saturated as if that’s not a reason to pursue it. While there are many freelance copywriters out there, there are even more businesses that need copywriting services!
- By the year 2027, freelancers are projected to make up the majority of the workforce in the United States, with 50.9% of the working population. (DDIY)
- There are 34.5+ million businesses in the US, 543,000 new businesses created each month and1.5+ million nonprofits in the US. (Source: Filthy Rich Writer)
The truth is, if you can write well, correctly market yourself, and keep clients happy, standing out amongst the crowd isn’t that difficult.
I strongly suggest that if you’re interested in writing and being self-employed that you give your freelance business a try regardless of market saturation. If many people are trying to do something, it usually means there is a strong demand for it.
Getting clients is the key to a lucrative freelance business
Here’s the bottom line on making a good income as a freelance writer. Getting into copywriting and becoming a freelancer with no experience hinges on your ability to get clients.
From my own experience as a full-time freelance copywriter and the statistics available, it's clear that making good money as a writer is possible, as long as you take the right steps.
Getting your foot in the door as a freelance writer will require effort and persistence, but it’s not impossible, so don’t give up!
You can become a copywriter with no experience by positioning yourself correctly online and taking control of your destiny by cold-pitching and sending LOIs.
Without clients, you won’t have an income or a freelance business, so knowing how to land clients is one of the most important things to learn. Maybe even more important than the copywriting itself.
You can build your entire freelance copywriting business on LinkedIn by sending cold messages. And you don’t have to create your own blog of post thought-leadership content.
The best part? You can do it without UpWork just by sending connection requests, cold pitch messages, and passively engaging with likes, comments, and shares.