So you want to be a freelance copywriter? Okay, kid. Roll up your sleeves, fire up that pot of Joe, and get those fingers warmed up. Let’s get writing.
Oh, before I say more, here’s my best advice for those thinking about freelancing right out of college: don’t. Becoming a successful copywriter takes years of stick-with-it determination and persistence. Most copywriters have already put in several years working full-time at companies or agencies before branching off on their own.
So, don’t be lured by those work-at-home schemes peddling workbooks, seminars or widgets promising overnight success. There’s nothing overnight about it. Periods of boom and bust, feast or famine affects everyone, regardless of talent, portfolio or address book. Still interested? Working as a freelance copywriter can be very rewarding and great fun. I still get a charge from people who’ve found me on the web, liked my work, and need writing help. It’s an opportunity to put all my word-nerd knowledge to good use, for people who appreciate it.
Follow these suggestions for jumpstarting your copywriting career:
- Volunteer for local non-profits. Animal shelters, eco-groups, hobbyist clubs and philanthropic associations are ALWAYS in need of someone to write press releases and grants.
- Network, network. No one’s going to know about you unless you promote yourself. Creative Connects hosted by the Boss Group, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America have monthly meetings. It’s a great way to find job leads and make connections.
- Get an online portfolio. If you have good work samples, it’s easier on everybody if they’re available on the web. GoDaddy.com offers templates and hosting. You can also publish samples on free blogs such as WordPress.com and blogger.com
- Get plugged into your alumni network. Reconnecting with old classmates is a great way to meet new people and find new opportunities. You’re more likely to land work if people already know you.
- Friend connects. Anyone you know starting his or her own company or returning to work for the family business? Inquire about doing their brochure writing or web content.
- Keep looking for full-time work. Freelance can be very unsteady at times. Building your freelance writing portfolio while working another full-time job is a wise, safe investment.
Landing work as a freelance copywriter requires skill, experience and reputation. But unlike a lot of other vocations or trades, it doesn’t require a degree and is largely self-taught, so there’s nothing to hold you back. Jumpstarting a career might necessitate working for pennies or for free at first. But remember: success in this business isn’t measured by income, but rather the ability to amass a wealth of contacts and clients who will supply you with regular writing work and refer you to others.
While the job won’t pay much at first, building a business based on solid writing work and integrity will pay off in the long run.