How to Start a Freelance Copywriting Business [Video + Transcript]

Greetings! In today’s installment of the How to start an SEO copywriting business video series, Heather addresses the subject in the broadest sense. That is: how and where do you begin? What steps do you need to take?

In her preceding video posts about starting a copywriting business, Heather discussed how to: define a niche market, ask for a writing deposit, deal with writing revisions, stand firm by your rates, protect yourself with a contract (no matter the size of the gig), and hone in on the services to offer your clients.

Here, she zeroes in on the overarching question: I want to start a freelance copywriting business. What do I do now?

Developing a plan is crucial

The smartest thing that you can do if you want to launch your own business is to develop a plan before you do it.

I’ve talked to many copywriters who have literally quit their job one day and started their freelance business the next! And while many were successful eventually, it proved to be a huge struggle at the beginning because: they were trying to get income in the door, it was an expensive time as their business was brand new, and they weren’t clear about who they wanted to work with…

So by developing a plan first, you can help ensure that you’ll be more successful more quickly! Here are five questions to ask yourself:

– Do you have a financial cushion so you can pay expenses + extra?

If you’re working at a real job now and you quit that job to start your own business, cool! But where’s the money going to come from?

Be realistic in asking yourself about this. Don’t set yourself up by thinking “Well I can cut expenses and only live on $500 a month.” If that’s not possible, that’s not possible! You’ll have to figure out some other ways to generate income while you’re launching your business. (We’ll talk about that more next week).

– Do you have funds for site design, business cards and other marketing materials?

In considering this question, you’re taking into account business start-up expenses, not just living expenses.

With business essentials like your website, you want to get them done correctly the first time. You don’t want to have to go the cheap route, thinking you’re going to learn to build your own site even if you don’t know what you’re doing, or get free business cards that have “printed free by X” at the bottom of them.

You’ll want to plan on having that money set aside so you can have a really nice, integrated branding strategy in place before you start.

– Can you launch with clients, or will you start from scratch?

I know some copywriters who have quit their job and then their ex-employer became a client – so they were able to start their business with a little bit of money coming in.

Other people are starting exactly from scratch, and so they need to figure out their target market, who they want to work with, and also how long it’s going to take before they get money in the door.

Which brings us to the next question…

– How much money do you need to make?

Do you need to replace your existing income? Can you possibly bring in a little bit less, or do you need to make even more?

Really give this question careful consideration, and again, be honest with yourself.

– Do you have a business/marketing plan?

If not, this is the time to create one!

Again, it’s about not starting out cold, figuring you’re going to be able to make thousands of dollars right off the bat.

The smartest thing you can do is first figure out what your target market is, what your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.) is, what kind of services to offer – all of those dimensions covered in previous videos – and then you will know what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and really be ready to rock and roll!

photo thanks to mathewingram (Mathew Ingram)

7 replies
  1. Nolan Wilson says:

    Great article. It poses many of the questions that I had when I first started up. I think that most people thinking about converting to freelancing should test the waters first. Take on a couple project when you have some extra time, and go part time at your current job if you can and split the time if possible. This will make the transition easier.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      You’re exactly right, Nolan. I know quite a few freelancers who work their “real job” during the day, and work on client work when they get home. It’s a demanding schedule, granted – but it makes the transition so much easier (especially around money.) Plus, that gives people the opportunity to see if they really like freelancing before they quit their “real job.”

      Thanks for your comment! :)

  2. Kevin Carlton says:

    In line with what you say above, I think the ability to say ‘no’ to that fancy new car or kitchen refit is something that is very important in the early stages of starting a freelance business.

    I’m currently darning my socks in order to ensure that I can put enough of the money I earn into where it really matters – namely back into my business.

  3. Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

    @Kevin, you’re right. I’ve seen new entrepreneurs buy fancy new cars because they were *sure* their business could handle the payments. That typically didn’t work out so well…

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  4. Misty Freeman says:

    This is a great blog and perfect for those who are attempting to find ways to better market their copywriting services. I know I’ve felt intimidated by some of it myself, but keeping a plan has helped to get things done in stages. Further, you should never quit a job if you know it is going to put you in a bind. Start small and dream big is what I say!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] You’ll find an example of a translator’s take on a business plan here. Sensible advice on business planning for copywriters (not too far from translators) is given here. […]

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