I often get many questions. Of those, the most common is when aspiring copywriters ask me how to get started in the copywriting business.
It’s not about how to write copy specifically but about the marketing aspect of the freelance copywriting business.
There are three things I recommend if you are just starting in the copywriting field. In fact, I did these three myself when I first started out, which springboarded my career.
1. Pick a Niche
Niche marketing is extremely powerful. People often have the erroneous assumption that by narrowing their focus to a specific market, industry, or specialty, they are lessening the chances for more business. It’s paradoxical, I know.
But nothing can be any more wrong.
Niche marketing creates instant credibility because you specialize in a specific field, industry, client type, etc. You’re a specialist, and therefore you’re perceived instantly as an expert. Not by experience or education, but by expertise. By specialization.
Take a mechanic. Rarely would you call a general mechanic an “expert,” unless she has invested a considerable amount of resources in branding herself that way, or in educating herself deeply in the world of mechanics, backed by many years of experience.
On the other hand, it would be easy to dub a mechanic — even a new one just starting out — that specializes in imported car brakes as an “expert mechanic.”
A side benefit is, clients with unique needs will prefer to go to a copywriter with a specific understanding of their needs or industry, rather than going to a generalist or a one-size-fits-all copywriter who may not necessarily appreciate their unique situation.
Plus, non-targeted clients will refer clients to you when they come across someone who falls into your target market. Why? Because you come to mind instantly!
The more clients you target, the more generic you are and the broader your copy must be in order to target everyone. The broader your message is, the more people will think you don’t understand them, their needs, their goals, their unique circumstances.
But since you don’t have to cater to everyone, your message will be more specific, targeted, and meaningful to your target market. As a result, your conversion rate will increase tremendously, because you have developed a certain affinity with your market.
Do you want 10% or more of 100 targeted prospects? Or less than 1% of 1,000?
A copywriter specializing in in alternative health will get more business than a general copywriter will. A copywriter specializing in online software will get more clients than a standard web copywriter will. (These are not just examples. They actually exist.)
For example, there’s a copywriter I know who specializes in martial arts schools. He not only gets a ton of business, but also he calls himself “The Black Belt Copywriter.”
Yanik Silver specialized in cosmetic dentistry early in his career. When I first started, I focused on cosmetic surgeons. I called myself the “Success Doctor,” because I helped doctors become successful. (Today, The Success Doctor, Inc. is a busy agency.)
Likewise, by targeting a specific niche, over time your reach will expand as did mine.
2. Create a Portfolio
A portfolio is one of the most effective marketing tools in your arsenal. It will help communicate who you are, how you work, what you do, and what kind of experience you have — all in one fell swoop. So start developing a portfolio as soon as you can.
Your portfolio is your key to getting real busy and commanding higher fees.
If you’re new, then start with the three “F’s.” Start by writing either copy:
- For free,
- For friends, or
- For fictitious companies.
In the case of the latter, always say it is fake when asked, of course, but use it to demonstrate your writing ability. “Mock” copy is aways far better than no copy to show off.
Do jobs at a discount in exchange for inclusion in your portfolio. Offer to work for free or at a reduced rate in exchange for a testimonial or addition to your portfolio. Preferably the latter (i.e., discounts). If you’re targeting a niche, the latter is possible.
More important, write your letter for hiring… YOU!
Give them something to chew on. Write a direct mail piece selling yourself. If you have a website, write a salesletter. Your web copy itself is a sample of your work and a reflection of your ability. But also, start adding samples and particularly testimonials to it.
Granted, a portfolio is important but not as important as a track record. So a great way is to market yourself to your niche and track everything, even your own test results.
Results speak for themselves. Therefore, track and use every statistic, every bit and piece of data you can collect, to your advantage. Because it’s all important. Even when the results are from your own marketing efforts for your copywriting services.
For example, let’s say you’re a copywriter specializing in chiropractors.
You can say, “I offered an information package to chiropractors in [state] for my copywriting services. Out of 456 doctors, my direct mail piece (see sample attached) received a 34% response rate. In other words, 155 chiropractors called for the information kit.”
3. Develop Strategic Alliances
Joint-venture with another business targeting a same market. Think of a service provider, retailer, or any business that targets your market but without directly competing with you. If you focus on a niche as expressed earlier, this will come easier to you.
If you visit, say, a wedding planner who also creates invitations, offer to write copy for the invitations or thank-you cards at a discount in exchange for all her clients’ copy needs.
If you partner up with a local printer, become their copywriter of choice when their clients need one, and in exchange you will refer your clients to them for their printing needs.
You can easily do the same thing with a mailing house, a typesetter, a web designer, a graphic artist, a commercial producer, a photographer, a specialty advertising firm, etc.
Bottom line, you can create almost fully automated referral systems between you and a non-competing partner in some way or another. The possibilities are endless.
For example, create service packages. If you’re a web copywriter, bundle your services with a web designer. For the client, it’s one price, one service, one place. But for you, the design is done by your partner, and you write the copy. You then split the profits.
When I first started out, I created partnerships with conference room rental companies in exchange for offering free seminars at their locations — where I offered free seminars in which I promoted myself as a copywriter and marketing consultant to small businesses.
While at the same time driving traffic to their conference rooms, thus giving users a taste of what my partner had to offer in terms of conference room rentals, this arrangement created more business for me. It was a win-win opportunity for both of us.