If you ask any successful business owner what the most important part of their business is, every single one will say “sales”.
It’s the life blood of the organization. Without sales the business dies. Full stop.
Why am I bringing up sales in an article about how to become a copywriter? Because copywriting is sales in print form.
Copywriting is so integral to your ability to sell I would dare to say it’s the number one most important “business” skill you can possess.
I stress this because you’ve picked a lucrative and challenging goal… How to become a copywriter.
Why is it such a good idea to become a copywriter? Glad you asked!
- Work will always be available. In fact the market is getting bigger every day and businesses are popping up all the time who need quality copy.
- You’re going to learn a life skill that is easily the MOST transferable skill on the planet.
- You can work remotely from any place on the planet. Want to go to Thailand? Get a ticket and leave without any fear!
- You can earn good money. Life changing money.
How do I know this? Because I’ve done it myself. I went from dirt broke, no degree college drop out, to building a legitimate business copywriting online. It paid for my entire degree and got me a role at one of the hottest tech startups in the U.S.
Not only did the skills I learn help me blow my number out of the water, but I was able to maintain a very healthy side income from my copywriting clients.
Truth be told I’m not the best at copywriting. I’m not a “boy-wonder” who made $300k+ in the first year of copywriting. In fact I only made $40,000 when I first started.
However, what I am really good at is building systems and processes. These have helped me maintain a very steady second source of income without over taxing my time.
In this playbook, you’re going to learn what those systems are so you can immediately implement them and earn 100k+ as a copywriter.
If you follow this playbook step by step, you’ll earn more money in your first year then your current job. My guarantee.
What exactly is a copywriter?
Since we answered what copywriting is, we can now answer what a copywriter is. A copywriter is someone who writes copy, but more importantly they are someone who can get people to act.
Copywriting typically falls under the umbrella of marketing. In my opinion though it is much more than marketing.
Sending a follow up email to a prospect during your sales cycle?
Yea, that’s copywriting.
Writing to convince the company you work at to purchase a much needed tool?
Sending a text to your spouse to convince her to attend a client dinner?
Hopefully you get my point. Anytime you’re trying to convince someone of your position, more importantly, to take action because of your belief, you’re a copywriter.
Why not get paid to do it??
More formally though – copywriting typically falls within to these forms:
- Advertising (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Direct Mail, etc.)
- Landing Pages (Video Sales Letters, Static Websites, etc)
- Email (B2B, B2C, B2G, etc.)
- Presentations (Pitch Decks, Sales Demos, etc.)
- Blog Posts (Like this one!)
- Lead Magnets (White Papers, Cheatsheets, Reports, etc)
What makes the difference between “copy” and “content” is the goal of the writing. Copy drives people to take action.
Fork In The Road: Independent Freelancer or Agency Life
There are fundamentally two different types of copywriters:
- Agency Copywriters
- Independent Freelancers
Each has their pro’s and con’s, but if you’re here reading this I’m assuming you don’t want another job.
In fact you’re probably looking to fire your job ASAP. I’m more willing to bet you want financial freedom more than anything and you’ll hustle through anything to get there.
If that’s you then skip ahead to step 1!
However, if you’re 18, completely green, want to get paid to learn, and build a fantastic network, then maybe consider becoming an agency copywriter.
Heck, if you have a chance to work at Agora with the above credentials I would say take it!
That’s why I’ve listed the pro’s and con’s of both…
Agency Copywriter Pro’s
Stable income and benefits
Getting enough paying clients to pay the bills can take between 1 to 3 months. With an agency position you’re able to create a stable environment (at least temporarily) along with medical benefits. If you’re in a tight jam then this is a great option.
Mentorship & Feedback
With an agency position you’ll be paired with a mentor and editor. They will brutally rip your copy to shreds in the beginning, pointing out your flaws and mistakes, making you a better writer in general. It’s great having this because instead of a client doing this to you, an internal team will. Plus, with a mentor you’re in a bit of an apprenticeship where your learning curve can be lengthened.
Work for big brands and contracts
Big brands go to agencies for help. That means you’ll have a legit portfolio of work you can put on your resume. Being able to say you helped Volvo with their direct response copywriting is a great opportunity. In the beginning of your freelance career you won’t get those chances.
Get Paid To Learn
Put simply, you’re green. With an agency role you’ll get paid to learn the skill of copywriting. It’s a great option if you’re younger and wanting to learn as much as possible.
In House Con’s
Pay Stays Consistent
Your pay as an agency writer will remain flat throughout your career, compared to being a freelancer. No matter how good you get, even if you make millions for your clients, you’ll have a consistent base pay (with potential royalties, but that’s mainly to the agency).
At the end of the day working in a business means dealing with office politics. You’re going to need to play the game to get on the good projects, which can be a headache if you’re ever planning to leave and do your own thing in the future.
Forced to Work on Projects You Don’t Care About
You have no choice in this regard. You will be forced to work on projects you don’t care about. You don’t have the freedom of choice in this regard.
Building Someone Else’s Dream
At the end of the day, if you’re working at a company without equity, you’re building someone else’s dream. This is especially true if you don’t have any performance kickers to help supplicate additional income from your work.
Independent Freelancer Pro’s
Control (be your own boss)
As an independent freelancer you only have yourself to answer to. You either get the work done, or you don’t. There’s no one holding your hand or telling you what to do. If you’re responsible then this is a beautiful thing because you can own the whole process.
Being a freelance copywriter affords you the luxury of working from any area on the planet – as long as there’s WIFI. You can work from home for a portion of the day, and then go play basketball for the afternoon. You don’t have a time clock you need to punch.
Perfect Side Hustle
Being a freelance copywriter is a perfect side hustle. You can do projects during lunch, immediately after your “day job”, and sometimes during your “day job”. If you work a white collar gig, and you want to eventually own a business, learning copywriting is the perfect avenue to get you to success.
Independent Freelancer Con’s
You Have To Perform… Quickly
There’s no beating around the bush. If you’re selling your services as a copywriter you better be able to perform. Otherwise you’ll face a mountain of chargebacks, a bad reputation, and a very lean stomach and wallet. You better learn quickly. More importantly, you better execute even faster.
You Must Be Responsible
If you can’t manage your time effectively you shouldn’t be an independent copywriter. You’ll be responsible for getting new clients, writing the copy, managing your finances, designing landing pages, and every other function within a business. You must have a strong internal locus of control to survive in the frigid waters of freelancing.
Your income will operate at an “event” level. Meaning you’ll get paid for your production of copy. In the beginning you’ll typically get paid for just the production of the work (actually writing the copy). However, over time you’ll start asking for performance kickers which include percentages of the sale, split test bonuses, and beyond. I find income acts like a wave function. It goes up and down, but should be consistently up and to the right.
Which Path Works Most Efficiently?
Only you can know which path makes the most sense. Personally, I recommend the route of becoming an independent copywriter if you’re already working a white collar job.
From what I’ve found, experience is always the best teacher. You just need to be willing to get punched in the mouth a couple times.
Just make sure you have the resources to take those hits and you’re not adding unneeded stress to your situation with your new copywriting gig.
Full Playbook: How To Becoming (Freelance) Copywriter
Before we go forward – you need to know how to break massive projects down to their parts. At the end of the day being a “copywriter” is a life skill. It’s a craft you perfect every day. Writing in general is like that too, treat it like an art.
The way you get to becoming a “professional” (which is really a mindset at the end of the day) is by breaking down your mountain of a goal into easy and actionable parts.
Zig Ziglar put it best: “To become great you must do the things you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not.”
Treat this playbook with that kind of attitude and you’ll be successful.
Step 1: You’ve Got To Learn… Quickly.
Normally I would recommend just diving in. That’s how I did it, but you would be wasting your time because you’re currently at an Unconscious Incompetence stage. I would be doing you a disservice if you didn’t take the appropriate steps to learn the basics of copywriting.
Luckily there are some FANTASTIC mentors in the space to help you get the best skills quickly.
You have 2 weeks to complete this step. If you’re dedicated you can do it quicker but you’ve also got to give yourself enough time to absorb the information.
Go to this page and learn about the best copywriting books for your adventure.
Make sure to take copious notes and keep them in a place where you can reference them. Over time the ideas you learn will develop into insights, which become more concrete as you practice.
Learn what persuasion and influence are first and foremost. You’ll want to develop the foundational skills before you dive into the technical skills of actually writing advertisements, landing pages, and sales funnels.
I recommend reading through Scott Adams’ blog post here. He lays out the best books on influence and persuasion.
Once you have a head full of jargon you’re now ready for the next step.
Step 2: Perfect Practice
Reading has its place in learning. In fact some of the most intelligent people on the planet read every day.
If you actually read the books above, and took notes, you’re already better than 60% of the people trying to learn copywriting.
If you want to become a copywriter you must write copy. More importantly, you must write good copy.
If you actually read through the books I recommended above you should have picked up on a “trick” all the legends suggest if you want to learn how to become a copywriter.
If you don’t know what this “hack” is, go back and actually do the homework.
Ready for the trick?
Do you already know what to do?
Are you sure?
Handwrite and reproduce great ads.
Sounds simple right?
It is, and it’s easy too. To get practice in the beginning stages you should hand write great ads that have made millions.
This is how you create perfect practice.
Once you’ve written them – your next step is to dissect them and find out why the ad worked so well.
What was the conversation happening in the prospect’s head which this ad tapped into?
Why did they choose that headline? What was the ONE thing they wanted to sell them on?
Make sure to keep copious notes. All of these insights are going to help you simmer so you’ll be ready for a real client.
Do this for about 2 weeks.
Write. Dissect. Read. Write. Dissect. Rewrite. Read. Write. Dissect.
Keep doing it day after day for 2 weeks. Yes, it might seem tedious and “unnecessary”, but it works.
Remember, chop wood, carry water.
Once done we get to the fun part…
Step 3: Welcome To The Show (Landing Client Number 1)
You’ve completed the reading. Taken pages and pages worth of notes. Written ads and broke them down until your eyes got sore.
Your head is probably swimming with headlines and body copy.
Now is the time to unleash all the potential.
Only question is… How?
You’re probably stuck with this problem. If I don’t have any experience or previous work, how am I going to get clients to trust me to write their copy?
You do it for free, for the first 3 projects.
Yes, I said that right. Do it for free to start.
Tap into your network and find people who own websites, businesses, or other types of organizations. They’ll always be in need of a good copywriter and if you explain the position, they will help.
When I first started as a freelance copywriter I did a project completely for free where I created emails for an up and coming CBD store.
They were a family company who wanted to nurture their email base and I met them when I was doing transcription work for their business. I told them my situation and offered to do it for free for a testimonial and reference.
Long story short – it worked.
Once you have a decent portfolio you can now go onto freelance sites to find work. Go to places like Upwork, Freelancer, or Problogger to connect with businesses who need copywriters.
Why those job sites? Because typically the clients who go to those job boards are looking for cheap work. They’re often not willing to pay top end for quality work, which makes it the perfect training ground for you!
If you’re going in with a small portfolio and some previous client testimonials, you’ll want to try and low ball offers to get a head start on your reputation.
After I helped those lovely CBD people, I got my first paying gig helping a gym owner with his Facebook ads. I got paid $10 per ad I created. Yes, that’s really, really low, but you have to start somewhere when building a reputation.
This will get you to land client number 1.
Once you get to this point you’re now officially a professional copywriter!
Step 4: Build Your System
After between 3-6 months you’ve gone through ringer.
You’ve gotten clients, written copy, experienced rewrites, gotten fired and yelled at, gotten praised and applauded, been stiffed your bill, and hopefully been compensated for your work.
It’s now time to start building your systems.
Before you do I recommend you read the book: “Thinking In Systems”
It’s a fantastic primer into how you should view systems thinking, which is easily another skill you should master in your life.
You will need to build systems for inflow and outflow within your business.
Answer these questions:
- How do I keep lead flow stable?
- What is the Standard Operating Procedure for the various copywriting projects?
- How do I keep myself motivated?
- How do I keep myself educated and sharp?
- Do I need to hire other people?
- What do I do with my taxes and business expenses? How do I track this?
- Can I train someone to work on smaller projects for me?
If you answer these questions you’ll have a greater picture of the map. By building these systems you can make sure you’re systematizing yourself out of the business as much as possible.
That’s a complete playbook on how to become a copywriter. Take it. Use it.
Most importantly, improve upon it.
If you have any questions, reach out!