If there is one thing I am asked time and time again it’s how does someone new to copywriting find work.
If only I had a penny for every time anyone asked me that. I’d be rich beyond my wildest dreams! Well, something like that anyway.
The thing is; there is no one answer or magic bullet, but here’s a little secret…
Many seasoned pro copywriters still struggle with this too.
You are not alone!
The good news is this guide is here to help you navigate the treacherous waters of the sea of covetous competition and land some prize clients.
1. First things first – DON’T SKIP THIS
Let’s start with first things first shall we…I think you will agree that before you build a house you have to have a firm foundation.
Many people new to copywriting, myself included at one point, instantly rush out looking for clients before they have sat down and really figured out exactly what they do, what they are good at, and how this can all actually come together to help a potential client.
Because that’s what it’s all about.
It’s simply not good enough to say you are a good writer. It’s pretty subjective anyway.
So before you read this article any further you need to work out exactly what you are offering and just as importantly who are you offering it to?
What do you do that is different than the rest, what can you offer that only you can, what magical little extra are you providing?
Digital Marketing pro Tara Tamiko doesn’t just offer copy, but digital and social media marketing consulting too. Sure, there are other people out there who offer similar services, but not as well as Tara does.
Her tagline is ‘I build, you grow‘. It’s different and memorable.
We are all unique in what we do. Remember that; it will serve you well in the future.
This is such an important step…it goes before and beyond everything else you do.
2. Research Research Research
Guess what. Research is a BIG part of a copywriters job.
When you are writing for a client you need to research their target audience, you have to get into the mindset of that audience.
So here’s a thought; how about getting into the mindset of your target audience?
What are they looking for, what are their needs, what pain will you be eradicating?
You may have a niche or you may be a generalist, it doesn’t matter…either way identify exactly what it is you are offering and just as important, is there a market for it?.
Which leads me nicely on to…
3. Have an elevator pitch
Or whatever one likes to call it nowadays.
You know what you do and what you offer, so now it’s time to express this as clearly and precisely and in as short a time as possible.
Let’s face it, not everyone will know what copywriting is…did you when you first started out?
I am guessing probably not.
So you have to be able to describe what you do and more importantly, how it can help others.
You don’t have to be in an elevator of course, you could be at a social gathering, or sipping tea around your aunt’s.
But when someone asks what you do (especially a prospect), you need to have a compelling answer.
As a prospective client, I don’t want to know that you are a great writer, hard working and meet deadlines…I expect that as a minimum requirement.
I want to know how you are going to help me.
What problem do you solve?
For example ‘I help generate leads to grow your business‘. Hmm. Maybe a bit flat.
How about: ‘I transform your words into a language your audience will love, help generate quality leads and grow your business‘.
Great…where do I sign! (That’s mine by the way).
The key here is; before you start using your copywriting skills to help sell stuff for others.
Learn to sell yourself first.
4. Get yourself noticed. Be found. Be findable.
You don’t necessarily require an all singing all dancing website, but in this modern age, you do need somewhere online people can easily find you.
It might be your LinkedIn profile, a one-off landing page, website or other social media profile (e.g. Facebook business page).
But you do need somewhere you can direct people to so they can look you up and find out a little more about you.
Make sure that when people do go to your profile its congruent with what you are offering.
Let’s take the example above, you have just told me you help grow my business…but when I went to your website there was a blog about which star signs make the best lovers? Nothing about copywriting or business marketing tips.
Unless I have a horoscope business it’s not really relevant.
Online or offline, the fact of the matter is networking works.
Despite what you may think it’s not a modern day social phenomenon where people stand around awkwardly drinking coffee while you stick your business card under their nose.
Networking (or connecting) is actually something that has been around since the dawn of time.
Experienced copywriting professional Sue Kelso Ryan has some very good advice for those new to copywriting and strongly recommends networking with other copywriters:
“Networking with other copywriters can be rewarding: sharing wisdom, tips and hints — or just grumbling. One of my best colleague relationships came about because I contacted a fellow writer for advice. Out of the blue, he asked me to contribute to a project and we now work closely together, with my strengths complementing his. Look out for #copywritersunite on social media to find fellow copywriters and make mutually beneficial connections.”
I cannot stress how important gathering contacts (leads) and building connections is. You should always be building on this, adding new connections to your list, whether you are building an email newsletter list or a prospects list, you need to be working to add people to them constantly.
No man is an island, and without connecting with others you will fail.
So network, network and then network some more.
Oh and by the way, networking is NOT about promoting yourself at every available opportunity, it’s about providing value and helping others.
It’s a two-way street.
6. Cold calling/emailing
Want to know one sure fire way to sharpen your copy and sales skills like no other?
Get working on your cold list.
If that means picking up the phone, Skyping or shooting off an email to a potential client, this time old method works.
Nowadays a simple Facebook ad can work just as well, but you still need to craft that sales message for the Facebook ad…and ads cost money…a lot when not done properly.
Yes, cold contact is hard work but can be very profitable when done right.
You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but the more you do the better you get.
You’ll get to develop a second instinct for who will buy your services and who won’t, who is ready now and who you can contact later on down the line.
Plus, when it comes to warm leads or people who contact you, you will be much more comfortable and successful at closing the deal.
We may live in a virtual world, but physical contact or hearing someone’s voice over the phone is still a powerful way to connect.
Practice makes perfect, right?
7. Facebook Groups
I am using Facebook groups as an example as it is the one I have the most experience of, but the principle works in any social media group really.
First, don’t think you can join any old Facebook group and start dropping links to your services, that definitely does not work.
You need to research which groups to join, where are the people you want to serve?
For example, if you write copy for florists…then there must be a florist group which you could join and add value (for free) helping those florists better market themselves and/or write better copy?
These are also great places to research where people are having problems.
The reason I wrote this post in the first place was because this was an ongoing question in the now archived The Copywriter Facebook Group where new joiners were asking how best to break into copywriting.
I am just giving the market what it wants.
What do people in your area of expertise want?
Add value to groups, join in the conversation and find out.
I have been approached by many clients via Facebook, sometimes when I haven’t even commented on anything. People remember the value you gave and contact you when the time is right.
This is where the real gold lies.
I would say 80% to 90% of my new business is from referrals…which is great. My happy clients do my marketing for me.
And this is why the same percentage of my work is repeat business.
Once you have successfully completed a project, don’t forget to follow up.
Although previous clients might not have any work for you at the moment, they may be happy to refer you to others.
Word of mouth is still the best recommendation you can get.
Oh and also always ask for a testimonial straight after the project when your stellar work is still at the forefront of your client’s mind.
9. Agency work
Of course, if you would rather sign up to an agency to get work then this could also be a lucrative option which works well for many copywriters.
Simply search online for copywriting or digital marketing agencies, or better still, (see point 5 re networking) ask a fellow copywriter for a recommendation.
But you still have to sell yourself and putting your eggs all in one basket isn’t perhaps the best route to success.
What happens on the days, weeks, months when there is no work? A lot of freelancers work on a feast and famine type cycle. Is this a smart way to work when you have monthly commitments?
Think ahead. Always be looking for the next gig. Have a backup plan.
Of course, the best way to earn money from an agency is to probably set up an agency yourself.
Why limit yourself?
10. Online freelancer sites
Here I am talking about online freelancer sites such as Upwork.
Some people dismiss such sites prima facie as they don’t pay much.
However for someone starting out this is an excellent way to learn how to market yourself, get better at your craft and earn money.
The best thing about these freelancer sites is the potential connections you can make. Also, it’s a great way to prove yourself.
Never say you won’t drink out of the same well. You don’t know what might happen down the line.
Such sites have saved many a writer’s bacon, so don’t dismiss them. What’s more, with a workable system in place they can prove profitable.
11. Content marketing
Seeing as this is most likely the area you will be working in, it will reward you handsomely to start with yourself.
Start marketing your own blog posts and articles on the internet.
Content doesn’t mean just the written word either, it can be anything from podcasts (a good marketing podcast I really find valuable is Roger Edwards MPAF one here) to Instagram stories to sharing your day (or content) on Snapchat.
How about guest blogging on another site or being a guest on a podcast or even setting up your own?
Be prolific. Show people you are out there.
It’s also saying to potential clients ‘look how well I market myself, maybe I can do the same for you?’
It’s a great way to showcase your talent and your unique positioning.
What’s more, this can all be done for free.
Haven’t got a website? Fine, publish on Medium. Don’t have the latest video software? No problem, pop out your smartphone and go live on Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook Live.
Sounds a bit old fash I know, but blogging isn’t dead, in fact far from it.
Your clients will want content for their blog, so work out how to do it on your own first; what works what doesn’t.
Plus it’s a good way to showcase your work.
You don’t have to become an SEO specialist but great if you do (one more string to add to your bow), but you have to have some knowledge.
Times are a changing, and having just one skill set just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Fortunately, there are some great resources online where you can get a ton of free useful actionable information. My favourite resource is Amanda Webb’s Spiderworking. She helps small businesses with their social media and also has a podcast about blogging.
In fact, her tagline is ‘social media help for small businesses‘ (see point 3). She tells you what she does on the tin.
A real life copywriting tip right there!
Which brings me nicely on to…
13. Social Media
You don’t have to be on every single platform out there.
For a start, you simply would not have the time to do it effectively and secondly, you have to be where your clients are. So, where are they?
Where are your peers and influencers to connect with?
Choose a channel (or two) and totally nail it.
Social media is an engagement tool, and when utilized properly can be one of the most powerful tools out there.
It’s not all about growth hacking your way to getting the most followers possible, although if this is your goal there are certainly effective ways of doing this, but that is outside of the scope of this guide for now.
It’s about making the right connections, as well as sharing valuable content (not just your own!).
14. Hire a coach/mentor
You already know how to write, and while I believe you should constantly be updating your skills and learning more, don’t get into the trap of enrolling on lots of courses until you are ‘ready’.
The real learning is in the doing.
A good copy coach can really help you kickstart your copywriting career, not just with your copywriting but also mindset issues and being that extra bit of support when you feel you are banging your head against a brick wall.
Hiring a coach is definitely worth considering when starting out, someone who is on your side but can be objective too.
I offer limited coaching sessions per year, but it is important you find the right person for you.
15. Don’t stop
Seems like a meaningless platitude I know. But…
Good really is the enemy of the great.
There is no time to rest on your laurels in business, but that’s part of the excitement of running your own show.
Always be looking for ways to attract new leads, the more successful you are, the more successful your clients will be because you will be using that knowledge to help them too. It goes round and round and gathers momentum.
Remember, there is more than just the one way to find new clients, and what works for one person does not necessarily work for another, it all depends on so many factors.
At the end of the day you have to work at it and find what works for you.
It’s tough out there unfortunately, but on the plus side…the need for good quality content is probably at the highest it has ever been…the work is there…keep on going!
It’s impossible to list all the ways to find clients in this short guide, but hopefully, this will give you some serious (and helpful) food for thought.