How to Start Making a Living Writing Copy

12 replies
Okay, so I've read a few of the recommended books from the sticky at the top of this forum. I know, I know...I've got a long journey ahead of me. But, for what it's worth, these are the books I've chosen to start out with:

The Copywriter's Handbook by Bob Bly
Web Copy That Sells by Maria Velosa
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Like I said, I'm well aware of where I stand and I'm not trying to hide the fact that I'm still a beginner. Hell, I've yet to write my first sales letter.

But anyway, here's my question. I know there's not a finite answer to this but I just have to get some sort of idea. How long will it take me before I can start writing copy (as a freelancer) for a living?

This question is ridiculous, I know. How can you possibly know how long it will take me to become a freelance copywriter who can support himself well enough to quit his current job? Well, let me help. Or at least let me try to help. I'm single. I've never worked in the field of marketing or copywriting. I don't have any kids. My rent is cheap. I don't have any debt. My current job doesn't pay very well but I still find a way to live somewhat comfortably. In short: I can survive off less than most people. At least for the time-being.

I'm not looking to get rich. I am looking to work towards my maximum potential. I am looking to do the best possible work for my future clients. I am looking from home (yes, it is one of the draws.).

If I can earn an average income doing this, I will be a very satisfied person.

So, what do you think is realistic? If I work hard, can I expect to be doing this in a couple years? One year? Six months? Just give me your opinion based on your experiences. That's all I'm asking.

Thanks in advance!
#copy #living #making #start #writing
  • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
    I got started 7 years ago by placing one ad for copy. I was, all in all, a beginner. But I got several takers right away. Things have changed a bit since then - back then I was essentially the only one offering copy for a few hundred bucks. Now there are tons - but fortunately not me, anymore.

    So there really is no time frame. It'll come down to how good you are at getting clients and how good you are at keeping them happy. If you can do that your first month, you can start making a living writing copy.

    Yes, there will still be a learning curve before your copy is solid. But frankly, if you can write better copy than the client can write themselves, then you're doing them a service.

    You should definitely charge to your skill level, but you'll be valuable right away.

    Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

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  • Profile picture of the author Dean Jackson
    If you're going to write for online clients, it's going to help you BIG TIME if you understand how IM works. I'd really recommend just throwing up a product and figuring this stuff out for yourself first.

    It'll teach you stuff from the school of hard knocks - things that no Ebook or report can teach you.

    ... Once you understand how this works online, then I think you should learn copywriting. Because then you'll understand how to apply it to your marketing.

    Realistically, if you don't have experience in IM, it's going to be at least a year before you have chops and experience good enough to sell. Unless you pick things up very quickly, this is going to take some time.

    You do have good writing skills... unlike many who come here thinking copywriting is some kind of get rich quick scheme.

    I'd also recommend getting familiar with and saving up some money for John Carlton's "Simple Writing System" which helped me speed up the learning curve a while back.

    All the best in your journey!

    NEW: CRAZIEST Copywriting offer ever offered on WF
    My top student WILL make your sales go BANANAS!
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  • Profile picture of the author briancassingena
    Testimonials are key. I did a number of copy jobs for $1 for a few business friends, just for the experience, and the testimonials. One of those testimonials has become one I use often as it's a great financial result testimonial.

    I also did a lot of writing on rentacoder, you can try elance, odesk, etc. You won't get premium fees, it's even worse now than before, but you can get plenty of experience, results, testimonials, just make sure you work to move the client OFF the site, and working with you directly. (Without letting the site know you're doing it hehe). THat way you save on the site's commission on your fees, you can get more repeat business, and you control the entire process.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    Originally Posted by mjsing3r View Post

    Hell, I've yet to write my first sales letter.

    But anyway, here's my question. I know there's not a finite answer to this but I just have to get some sort of idea. How long will it take me before I can start writing copy (as a freelancer) for a living?...
    Two things: First, why are you not writing everyday?

    Write sales letters as if you had a client right this minute. Re-write crummy Clickbank letters, (there's plenty) write letters to GET CLIENTS, write, write, I make my point?

    Lately, what I tell aspiring copywriters is, "read fewer books, write more letters"...

    Second, as to how long it would take to make a living at it? I don't know.
    Depends what a 'living' is. Since you mention you don't need much, crossing the 'living wage' threshold shouldn't be too hard or take too long.
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    If you do it right, by the end of this year you could be rolling in some pretty good cash.

    When I started in the mid 80's, we didn't have computers, facebook or twitter. I learned pretty much everything from library books - still the same principles we use today.

    That was the days when I'd go to the hobby store and buy lettered stencils, then take a pencil and rub the letters off onto paper and make an ad... as Clayton says - "I can now spread the work across acres of virtual desktop: A 32" monitor flanked by two 24-inchers!

    Plus, we have peripherals out the wazzoo: Five network printers, two scanners, a computer-driven fax machine, three high-rez digital cameras, a complete computerized audio studio, a projector for presentations …

    … And all the software needed to write and design direct mail promotions, print ads, Web pages and HTML e-mails for our clients."

    Things may be different now, and a little easier, but the following idea could still be used.

    Since I didn't have any clients, I took the Sunday paper, took a couple ads from it, and re-worked them. Then I approached the business owner and told them I was starting a new business. I showed them the new ads and asked if they'd be willing to try it in exchange for a certain fee for every customer that asked for info from the ad (direct response ads).

    Was a win win proposition.

    Was a great way to add new customers since I didn't have any record to run on.

    I quickly added customers, lots of referrals and letters of recommendation... could do something similar.

    The reason I say by the end of the year, is because if you start now you'll be in a good position when the holiday season rolls around - you'll have some customers, and a track record to run on.

    Best wishes.

    P.S. In addition to the books already mentioned, one I'd suggest is "Think And Grow Rich", by Napoleon Hill. Not a lot to do with copywriting, but a good one to get your mind motivated for success.
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  • Profile picture of the author peewhy
    My advice would be this; don't get caught in price wars, competing with inferior writers budget prices just isn't worth it.

    There is more money to be made rewriting their junk for real money!
    Marketing & Promoting Websites Since 1994 for open and honest WSO reviews
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    • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
      You should also focus on the business side of copywriting.

      I highly recommend Steve Slaunwhite's How to Start and Run a Copywriting Business and the Wealthy Freelancer. These are excellent books on how to run your copywriting business.

      Don't forget Peter Bowerman's The Well Fed Writer. It's excellent as well.

      Best of luck.

      Thomas O'Malley
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    • Profile picture of the author Jaymark
      You may want to check out some of the information and programs offered by Angela Booth. She's been writing for years and has developed a very successful practice. She also offers a bunch of different courses and support to help writers to find lucrative work.
      Article Writers - American article writers, sharp pricing, quick turnaround, quality articles and web content
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  • Profile picture of the author wordydiva
    I don't think there is any set answer for how long it should take you to start making a living. You will just have to start writing on a regular basis to find out how much money you can consistently make part-time. Wait until you have some money saved and are comfortable with the amount you earn writing before quitting your full-time job. I've known some people who were completely independent after 6 months, and others who never quit their full-time job.
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    • Profile picture of the author mjsing3r
      All of these responses are great. Thanks to everyone for the helpful insight. I really appreciate it.

      If anyone else has something to add that might be useful, please don't hesitate to chime in!
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  • Profile picture of the author eddyjoy
    What is holding you back from getting into copy writing right away is the uncertainty of cash-flows in your new venture. You need to start writing as soon as possible. You do not have to wait until you have a client, write as if you already have one. Take time also to learn about IM because I have come to appreciate that IM is a holistic system and one needs to understand how it works. Otherwise you take more time getting where you are headed.
    Just to encourage you, I just cleared campus was offered a job in the corporate market by a reputable company which I declined. Why? my passion lies in this stuff. This is what I want to do. But at the same time I have to survive, so I need to work as I learn as much as I can. I do some article writing work as I continue learning and getting experience.
    Feel encouraged also to ask questions here. This is the best IM community online. Guys at warrior are very generous with info and that I can testify.

    All the best and remember you are not alone.

    I do SEO for a Web Host and a SAAS

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    • Profile picture of the author DougHughes
      I can only share my experience and I hope it helps.

      When I set off freelancing, I quit a six figure plus executive management position. I did it on principle because the DR company I was working with ran into merchant processing problems and I felt bad for the CSRs who'd gone 3-4 weeks without a paycheck. Someone at the top needed to lead the charge.

      Due to the circumstances of my departure I was offered unemployment compensation even though I quit. I turned it down determined to make my own way in the world.

      I will say, that I was not green to direct response and having seen and written thousands of pieces of direct response copy in 12 years working for others in a variety of capacities.

      But, I left with no clientele, and really no idea of what it took to make ends meet on my own without a weekly paycheck.

      I was hungry. I read a bunch of books and put a plan in place of who I wanted to target, and the types of projects that got me excited.

      The first year I was desperate. I didn't understand that one good job may be worth five not so good jobs. I attended networking events, seminars, and took every opportunity to get in front of people with my services.

      To be honest, going from six figures plus to a bit over $55K my first year on my own was depressing, and I had major money problems.

      But, I figured things out. Listen, If you've got the skills people will pay you. You have to hold firm. Yes, you will lose a lot of jobs and run into many dead ends, but if you hold your ground and become a partner to those you work with, allied in your mutual need for each others success you will get jobs and you will eventually figure out how to get the money you want/need.

      Like others have said. Bob Bly and Steve Slaunwhite's books helped me with marketing my services. Though If I could pick only one book I would say Bly.

      This is a game of perception and positioning. You have to be confident and make your pitch. It doesn't matter if you have experience (really, even if you have skill) as long as you have balls YOU WILL SELL some people.

      There are a number of copywriters who in my opinion do not sell well. I've read their stuff and would not feel comfortable putting that in front of people were it my own. Not to say that my copy is the ****, but I've had some good hits.

      Anyhow, where you're concerned. Put it out there and be bold. Your copy WILL fail. Maybe even most of the time. But if you can get some serious direct response hits under your belt these will carry you a long way. to how long it will take, that depends on how hard you work and think through your business. But, you have to take risks. No risk, no reward.

      If I could get back to my previous income in a couple of years, You can get to an income level you're okay living with too. Brucerby said. Stop reading so much and start writing.

      Good luck!

      I write copy. Learn More.>>

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