How to Make $50,000 in Your First Year as a Freelance Copywriter

When many think of freelancing, they think starving artist, low pay, no benefits, long hours, etc. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Following are 6 steps to ensuring at least $50,000/year in your first year as a freelance copywriter.

1. Do the Numbers: Believing you can do it is the first part of the equation. Once you break down the numbers, I’ll bet you’ll say, “That’s it? I can make that!”

So, $50,000/year divided by 52 weeks equals roughly $962/week. Easily achievable once you establish your going rate, which we’ll discuss a little later.

$962/week divided by 5 days (building in weekends off) equals roughly $192/day. Any determined person can make this. And, if you pile on education, experience and the Internet, you should be saying to yourself, “This will be a breeze.”

It won’t, but you should at least be giddy at the realization that this is a more than achievable goal.

2. Charge Enough: Don’t go into freelancing with the attitude of I HAVE to take low-paying jobs. You don’t! My mother used to say, “How you begin is how you will end.” She wasn’t talking about jobs, but I take this advice to heart in almost everything I start.

A personal story: When I realized that I was going to run this year’s marathon (Thanksgiving Day, Atlanta, GA), one of the first things I did was print out a training schedule.

My point: I took my goal seriously enough from the beginning and figured out what I needed to do to be ready. In the case of figuring out what to charge, this means figuring out how much you have to make each day, week, month to achieve your goal. With your goal clearly mapped out, you will be much less likely to stray.

So, let’s do some hard numbers. Figure a 9-hour work day – in the beginning, you will much likely put in more than this (I never said it was going to be easy). That’s $21.33/hour you need to make.

When you consider that, on the low-end, professional copywriters make $50/hour, you can see how feasible it is to make $50,000 year. FYI, you may only spend 4 hours on a project, but 5 hours doing marketing work to bring in that project – but, it all evens out.

3. Target a Niche: The reason I believe in targeting a niche is that it is so much easier to promote your services – especially if you have some type of experience within that niche.

For example, I target realtors, mortgage brokers and insurance agents. In my professional career, I’ve been a real estate agent and a mortgage broker. These two industries get you highly familiar with the insurance industry.

No experience in your targeted niche? With the advent of the Internet, it is fairly easy to become knowledgeable enough about a sector to market to it.

How to Choose a Profitable Niche

a) Pay: Not only do you want to target a niche, you want to target one that pays well. This usually means turning to the business community. Again, the Internet makes it easy to service clients worldwide – not just those in your community. So, don’t let living in a small town scare you.

b) Plentiful: Eg, there may not be enough organic gardeners to target, but real estate agents are vast and plentiful. Don’t have any ideas? Look through the Yellow Pages. Why? These are all the types of businesses you would find in any community. And, there may be businesses that you may never even have thought of in there who could use your services.

c) Evergreen: Try to choose niches that are evergreen – eg, those that will be around forever. Lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, auto dealers – these types of businesses aren’t going anywhere. Once you establish yourself as an expert, getting business will be easier and easier. Notice, I didn’t say easy, I said “easier.”

4. Prepare a Marketing Plan: It doesn’t have to be 30 pages. A basic one will do, eg:

Who: is your target market?

What: do they need? How will you reach them? This will also tell you where you will be spending the bulk of your ad dollars (online or off).

Where: as, in, what geographic area will you service (eg, will I target only a local market, or go national/international (eg, solicit business via the Internet?) )

When: is their season (eg, is it slow during the summer, busy during the fall, etc.)

Why: should they choose me (figure out your USP (Unique Selling Proposition))?

Put this where you can see it every day. I break my marketing plan into quarters. At the beginning of each quarter, I map out what I should be doing on a weekly basis. Sometimes projects interfere and I may not complete everything on my list daily, but I try to get all scheduled tasks done within that week.

Don’t forget to figure in startup costs – eg, primarily getting a website. A basic one will do. Just make sure that it is professional looking, grammatically correct and doesn’t have bells and whistles (eg, no flashing graphics). Most visitors will be looking for information – make it easy for them to get it.

A marketing schedule keeps you on point. Robert Collier, one of America’s original “success authors” said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. . .” A marketing schedule does just this.

5. Prepare Your Marketing Material: Get a website, get a website, get a website – this should be one of the first things you do! I think websites have progressed to the point where telephones used to be.

Ie, would you do business with someone who doesn’t have a phone? Probably not. Now, I think a lot of people feel that way about the internet. Further, how can you talk to someone about web copy if you don’t even have a website yourself? Ostensibly, this could be the only “promotional item” you need.

But, I would also do a basic introductory letter, a brochure, business cards (of course), a professional bio and a few samples. Don’t have samples? Do freebies until you get 5 or 6. All of this can be on your website.

Why different kinds of marketing material? Different situations call for different types of handouts. Eg, you may be at a Chamber of Commerce meeting one week (give out that brochure) and at the dry cleaners the next week (hand out business cards).

6. Implement & Follow Through — Consistently: Many freelancers give up before they even begin. I look at freelancing as pushing a boulder up a hill – it’s hard going up (think of this as the ramp up of your business), but, once you get to the top, the ball rolls downhill by itself.

Freelancing won’t be that easy – and don’t believe anyone who tells you that it will. BUT, with sustainable effort, you will begin to get assignments, and then referrals will seem to come in effortlessly.

If you follow this plan, you should start to get assignments within 30-60 days. Good luck!

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