What I Learned my First Year as a Freelance Copywriter
As of September, I’ve officially been a freelance copywriter for a year. I can’t believe how fast that year has flown by.
I’ve loved my time being a freelancer, but there have definitely been a few hard-learned lessons along the way. So if you’re thinking about joining us here in the freelance world, have a look at these lessons and save yourself the mistakes.
Always Screenshot Your Work
This is a lesson I learned early on, and it seems like a d’uh one now, but make sure you always screenshot any work that you want to use in your portfolio from the live page.
I made the mistake of not doing this with work I had done before I was officially a copywriter but still wanted to use in my portfolio. I was writing articles and reviews for a website for about nine months so had a pretty good stack of work to show potential customers.
But when I clicked on the links (after I’d put them in my portfolio, rookie mistake), they were all bringing me to ‘Page Not Found.’ It turned out that the website had stopped publishing book reviews and had taken down all my articles. Panic set in, let me tell you, this was the bulk of my portfolio when I was first starting.
Luckily, my sister told me about a site called Way Back Machine that gives you an archived version of a deleted webpage if you have the link (and luckily I’d shared most of the articles on my Facebook page so was able to get all the links).
Not all pages are archived, and they might be an older version of the page and therefore not the best, but it’s better than nothing, and I was able to salvage most of my articles from that.
But from that day forward, I screenshot every single live page that I want to use in my portfolio, so I don’t have to deal with that stress again.
Tell Everyone What You’re Doing
When you start as a freelance copywriter, you’re going to come up against the same problem that most of us did: how do you get clients when you don’t have a portfolio, and how do you get a portfolio when you don’t have clients? It’s a pain in the bum.
One tip I picked up to help with getting clients is to make sure you tell EVERYONE what you’re doing. Everyone you know should be aware that you’re now a freelance copywriter because I can guarantee you that someone you know needs a copywriter, or knows someone that needs a copywriter.
My first two clients came about because I knew someone. The first was a friend who worked in marketing and needed a copywriter, simple enough. The second was the brother of someone I went to college with. She knew I was copywriting because I had posted about it on Facebook and when her brother was looking for a copywriter she sent him my way.
I would never have gotten either of those clients if I hadn’t told people what I was doing. So tell your friends and family, post about it on social media, shout it from the damn rooftops, and you’re sure to get a client.
Use Google Ads
I was never sure about Google ads before I started as a freelance copywriter, and even for a few months after I started. Maybe it’s just me, but when I Google something, I tend to skip the ads and go straight to the organic results.
But when I set up my business email and Google sent me an Adwords offer of €120 I wasn’t exactly going to say no.
I used Adwords Express because my Adwords knowledge is basic at best, and within minutes my ad was up and running. It was so simple.
Within two weeks of the ad going up, I had three queries. One ignored my reply, one said she didn’t have the budget right now, and one hired me. Let me tell you that I have more than paid for that ad with that one client alone, and that was just the first few weeks of the ad running.
If you’re skeptical of Google Ads like I was, I recommend giving it a try. Start with a small budget and see what happens. The beauty of it is that you only pay what you can afford, so you’re not gambling too much. But it paid off for me, so it might for you.
Working From Home isn’t as Great as You Think
One comment I’ve heard a lot, and I think a lot of freelancers hear it, is how great it must be to work from home.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love working from home, it has a lot of pros. I don’t have to deal with a commute every morning and evening, I can roll out of bed and be in work in 5 minutes, and I don’t have to rush around making my lunch the night before because my kitchen is right there at lunchtime.
But there are some downsides that come with all the good. It can get pretty lonely. If you live alone, you can easily go days without talking to another human being. I miss having co-workers and people to talk to during the day. I don’t go out for drinks after work, or have a big Christmas party like an office would, and that can make you feel pretty isolated.
Not seeing people from one day to the next also means that it’s all too easy to let hygiene slip. Talking yourself out of having a shower one day, or wearing the same leggings for four days in a row isn’t so bad when no one is going to see you (even though it is. Change your damn leggings!).
Despite all that, though, I do love working from home. The perks mostly outweigh the cons, but I am glad of the days when a client wants to meet at their office sometimes, if for nothing else than to get a bit of fresh air and daylight.
Money Will Be Tight
This is something I knew before I became a freelancer, but I didn’t realise quite how much it would affect me. I’ve always been kind of broke. Most of the jobs I’ve had before this were minimum wage or just over, or not paid at all (there’s a lot of unpaid internships and working for experience in the writing world, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post). So I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and have to be careful with money.
But I still always had money coming in every month, even if it wasn’t much. But with freelancing, you don’t have that stability. There will be times when nothing is coming into your bank account, and you need to be able to plan for that.
Up to a third of every payment I get goes into a savings account that I try not to touch unless I have to. That’s my money for when there’s no money coming in. I’ve had to dip into it for bills every now and again, but I make sure I keep it topped up.
Money will sometimes be tight as a freelancer, especially when you’re just starting out. But with careful planning it’s doable.
I Bloody Love Writing
This has been a bit doom and gloom so far, so I want to make sure that you know it’s not all bad. Being a freelance copywriter has its downside, but I get to do what I love the most, and that’s write. Writing every day means I don’t dread getting up in the morning and I don’t have to drag myself to my desk every day. I enjoy what I do.
And it’s not just the writing. I love researching because I get to learn about something new. I get to learn about topics I might never have come across if I wasn’t doing this. My day is varied, so one minute I’m writing about boilers and the next I’m writing about bean bags. It’s interesting and fun, and I bloody love it.
So while there are some cons to being a freelance copywriter, it’s absolutely a job I would recommend if you’re considering it.
And here’s to the next year.