October 31, 2014

Get That Freelance Copywriting Business Off the Ground Already

How successful you will be as a freelance copywriter is determined by how committed you are to making it happen.  Your first priority is get that this is not a hobby.  If it is a hobby, that’s fine, and you really don’t need to read this post.  If you are freelancing for a living or to help make ends meet, you must look at this like a business . . . because that’s exactly what it is.  Lots of money can be made, but if you don’t take it seriously, and realize that your time is money, then the level of income you bank will match the level of focus you commit.

Create a Schedule

The next thing you need to recognize is that everything has the potential to take longer than you plan for it to take.  Consider this as you allot time for items in your schedule.  Whether you freelance on a part-time basis or a full-time basis, all of the necessary activities get included in your schedule, including your marketing activities.  Each of your educational or marketing activities should be represented in your calendar with specificity.  Don’t just enter “marketing.”  These activities can include article marketing, cold calling, Tweeting, Linkedin, Facebook for business, attending offline networking functions, blogging, speaking engagements, trade conferences, instructional/industry webinars,  teleconferences, etc.).

Make every effort to only deviate from your schedule if you need the time to work on a project. Monitor and measure your marketing results. If one marketing strategy is working, employ it more than the ones that are not working or that are not as effective.

Start Building Your Portfolio

Each time you finalize a piece of work for a client, grab a copy and add it to your portfolio (and you should be building a portfolio online and offline).  These are your credentials.  Show them off.  If you have nothing to put into a portfolio, create your own marketing materials and add them to your portfolio.  Your own website, if you  created it, is a credential.  Start writing and publishing articles about your niche market. This takes about one to two hours, depending on how involved you get in the subject matter.  Publish these articles to popular online article directories, e.g., goarticles.com and ezinearticles.com.  Post these articles to your own site as well.

Distribute a Press Release

The business world loves niches.  This is not to say that you can only write for your niche market, because, quite frankly, a talented copywriter can adapt, learn and write for any market.   But since niche markets are easier to leverage, let’s concentrate our efforts on them.  So, if you have chosen a niche market and you are one of the few specialist in this area, or if you uncover some unique and marketable skill in this area that you have that others do not, write an SEO press release letting your target market know that you exist and where they can find you.  Submit it online to free or for-profit press release distribution sites.

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Etc.

This is called “social” media for a reason.  Be there.  If you are going to set up automated Tweets for example, and never appear on Twitter, what’s the point of having a Twitter account for your business. That’s not marketing.  Marketing online is about being social. It’s about building relationships. It’s about building trust.  Your potential clients and potential referral sources cannot establish rapport with an automated gizmo.  If you plan to use these tools to enhance your business, but you want to do so in an automated way, you may want to rethink their function and purpose.

As to networking on Linkedin, join a few groups and initiate discussions or offer comments on discussions.  Be seen.  Be heard.  Become a familiar face on your social networks.  Success follows Trust. Trust follows familiarity . . .  It’s a process, but it won’t work if you don’t work it.

Be Easy to Find and Easy to Reach

Make sure all your information is on every marketing tool you use. It should prominently be on your website, in your email signature, on all of your social media accounts.  Also, make sure that you have a dedicated phone service, or virtual phone service to get calls that you are unable to answer when they come in.  Lastly, set up some way of automatically responding to email inquiries that come in.  Then make sure you check your emails regularly so you can respond promptly.  People are not going to wait for you forever.  Yet, they are inclined to wait a little bit, if you have some mechanism to temporarily address their inquiry in a professional (not personal) way, elements of good customer service.

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Everyone Around You Should Know This is Your Job

By “everyoneˮ I mean, your children, their friends, your neighbors, and if you work, your co-workers.  Other people tend not to take the freelancer’s time very seriously. You have to gently, but firmly, make sure they get it.  Set aside time to handle your freelance work (whether it is writing a project or handling an administrative task like repairing your hard drive with your computer geek.  Once you set this time aside, everyone has to respect it.  Your neighbors can’t drop by for coffee to chat.  Your kid’s friend can’t pick your brain about and issue he is having with his mom.  If you have a day job, but do this at lunch time, don’t coffee clutch just because a co-worker wants to share the latest gossip.  This is your time, your professional time. You would not do this (I hope) to your employer if you worked for someone else, so don’t do it to yourself.

Work Administrative Tasks Into Your Routine

There aren’t many of us out here who enjoy reconciling invoices, tracking accounts receivables, filing research printouts, cleaning our email inboxes, but it has to get done.  When you let these responsibilities pile up, they can hamper your progress, because the stress that knowing it needs to get done can weigh on your mind.  Make them a part of your regular weekly schedule and deal with them a little at a time.

Offline Networking Works Well Too

Don’t sleep on offline networking.  Very often, when people physically see the small business owner they are considering delegating their copywriting project to, the trust factor is expedited and the bond gels at a faster rate than it does online. This is especially important when you are new at this.  Once the initial word of mouth has momentum, the trust element will later transfer over to your online business which, itself, will then pick up speed.

I highly recommend joining a serious business networking groups, like BNI, or your local Chamber of Commerce or a resourceful Meetup group (not just any Meetup group). These are just some of the many, many networking groups out there.

These groups have meetings where, as a member or guest, you will have an opportunity to give do an elevator pitch or a presentation about your freelance copywriting business. Once they get to know you and your work product, members will begin hiring you and recommending you to their friends.

You Simply Need to Just Go For It

A freelance practice is within your reach. I started my business by just going for it.  I bought two books, read them cover to cover and just went for it!  And I haven’t looked back.  If you consistently work this business, success will follow, but you have to be willing to continue marketing your freelance practice, even when you have a full roster of clients.

 

Good luck!

 

Stacey Mathis

P.S.  These two books I read to start my business were: The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells and Start & Run a Copywriting Business.

 

Streamline Mobile Web Content Writing

Copywriting for today’s mobile readers demands quick, short and strong text.  Even though mobile users spend a lot of time idling and doing frivolous stuff on their mobile devices, they still want to do it in a hurry.  And they get agitated when they can’t do it in a speedy fashion.


Also, mobile users want only the information that is absolutely necessary for them to achieve their immediate goal.  Reading on a mobile device is hard enough as it is, but then when you have to scroll through an unnecessary number of words to get where you’re going, it’s maddening.

This increases the writing challenges for the copywriter.  The copywriter now has to think in terms of digesting a copy message, not writing it in the traditional sense.  When you are crafting mobile copy and you have second thoughts about whether text should be there, it’s probably best to omit it.

Freelance Copywriting Rates: Getting Paid What You Deserve

Freelance copywriting jobs can mean fast business and a nice chunk of change, even for the beginner freelance copywriters. Of course, this is if the newbie understands ways to strategically charge for their freelance copywriting services.  Setting a rate is often sticky and tricky, especially for beginners, because you don’t want to be forced to turn folks away and certainly want to get what you’re worth.

Why You Must Charge at Least $50 an Hour
Before we even begin, this is 2011.  Do not work for less than $50 an hour. If you plan to, keep your day job and stop freelancing, because it’s pointless, unless you are doing this just because you like the challenge and you don’t need the money.

Seriously, if you don’t think your copywriting talent is worth $50 an hour, wait until it is, then start your business. More than likely, if some little bird told you that copywriting is what you should be doing, then you are already worth $50. What “little bird” do I mean: You have proof that you get this copywriting thing and have proof on some level that you’ve got what it takes because a client told you, or you have repeat business from a client, or because you asked and were told your work product brought in business. The bottom line is, anything less than $50.00 is insulting.

You also have to consider that there will be factors relating to running your business and getting your projects completed that will take time and incur expenses, like marketing your business, administrative work and minor outlays that will eat into your $50 an hour.  That $50 when it’s all said and done, may end up really amounting to $25 to $35 an hour.

DON’T start out by undercutting yourself.  Word gets around, and it will be harder for you to raise your fees later. Equally important: It’s not about your price; it’s about your value!

Please note:  This is not the same as working pro bono to get experience when you have absolutely nothing to use to demonstrate your copywriting skills.

Flat Fees

For straightforward, run-of-mill projects, you can set a flat fee. A flat fee does not change. Charge a flat fee for example, when a client asks you to revise a flyer or create a sales letter and provides you with pretty much everything you will need to complete the job; or when you are asked to critique a web page or write a blog post, etc., for which you don’t have to do much research, and they are clear as to exactly what they want.

However, when you are uncertain as to the time it will take you to finish your client’s project due to uncertainty about the client’s objectives or you expect a series of delays and rewrites on their part, charge an hourly rate.  Also, tell your client there is a minimum for which they will have to pay. In other words, you tell them, for instance, the minimum is four hours even if it only takes you an hour. This is not uncommon in business.  Just make sure you are clear, up front and honest. And put it in writing!

When you set your copywriting rates, consider and apply the following important steps:

1. Justifying Your Copywriting Rates
People see the end result in their mind and don’t take into account all of the labor that goes into reaching that powerful result. Show your client the value they are getting for the money they are spending by detailing the individual tasks you have to perform in order to complete the assignment from the beginning of the project to the very end. Note the interviews, file organization, telephone calls, creating rough drafts, conferences, researching their competitors, reviewing background data and other material, editing, proofreading, redrafting, travel time, etc.  Incidentally, this specific information should appear on their invoice, as well.

2. The Type of Copywriting Services or Type of Project Can Influence Price
The type of copywriting project you work on can shape your copywriting rates.  A blog post, white papers, Facebook wall entries, brochures, newsletter articles, press releases, Youtube and PowerPoint scripts, radio ads, case studies, print advertising copywriting will require different types of preparation, the research methods and writing styles. Other necessary components that add value to your copywriting services, e.g., using HTML or designing a piece for search engine optimization mean you can charge more.

3. Subject Matter Can Affect Copywriting Rates
The topic will also shape your copywriting rates.  A blog post written on a general topic, for example, may be charged at a lower rate than a blog post focused on a specialized idea. If your background is in a specialized field such as law, medicine, fitness, non-profit, bio tech, finance, botany and you have esoteric knowledge that a general copywriters don’t have, that adds value to your service and thus your price should be higher.  Additionally, the more technical, involved and complex the writing is, the higher your rate can and should be.

Use the Following Price Ranges as a Gauge for Flat Fee Billing

Articles used as web content: $50 to $500 for a 500-word article
Press releases $100 to $600
Sales letters $200 to $2,000 per letter
Flyers $50 to 300
Case Studies $500 to $1,000
Print Advertisement $500 to $2000
Web pages $100 to $500 per page
Brochures $50 to $300 per panel

Use the Following as a Gauge for Billing Hourly

Beginner $50 – $75.00/hour ($100 for specialized background)
Mid-level $100-$200/hour ($250 for specialized background)
Veteran Freelance Copywriters $250-$450/hour (unlimited for specialized background)

If projects are ongoing, you can charge a lower copywriting rate than you would for an assignment where you are hired on one-time basis.

As you can see, there are many factors that account for the rate charged by freelance copywriters, so think hard and take everything into consideration before blurting out a price that committing to a contract you’ll be stuck and unhappy with.