How to become a freelance copywriter

Looking for a low-cost start-up opportunity? If you’ve got a way with words and business nous, find out how to start a copywriting business here…

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What is a copywriting business and who is it suited to?

Whether in the form of direct mail, a web page or even a jingle, the copywriter’s job is to use persuasive language to sell or raise awareness of a product, idea or service – a skill that is very much in demand by some of the biggest brands in the world.

Intelligent, powerful copy can convince the casual consumer to switch brand allegiance, generate leads and supercharge sales – the success of a campaign hinges on the quality of its written content.

Requiring only an internet connection and a laptop, as you will see from our section on costs, copywriting represents a very affordable start-up opportunity for someone with a good grasp of grammar and a way with words.

Need a loan to start your copywriting business? Find out more here

Helen Dibble, founder of Incredible Copy, describes the copywriter’s job as one that “helps you explore and understand your brand narrative, telling your story in a way that appeals to your target audience, and finding a tone of voice that fits.”

A comprehensive understanding of the English language is a must – a major marketing campaign could become a laughing stock at the mercy of a stray apostrophe – but not just any willing wordsmith can make it as a copywriter; as Laurence Blume explains, a freelance copywriter with 20 years of experience in the trade:

“Copywriting is a business skill, involving an interest in and understanding of business […] along with a facility for sifting and organising information, communicating clearly and persuading by a variety of more or less overt means. It’s not like being a novelist, poet, playwright, essayist […] or even a journalist,” he states.

In fact, “people with experience in business and marketing often make better copywriters than those who come from a writing background.

Of course “you’ll need to love language”, claims Howard Smith, founder of No Sloppy Copy, who defines his role as providing “a professional writing service to support a client’s advertising, marketing, branding and public relations.” But as well as adhering to good writing practice, professional copywriters need to “use techniques that make their copy arresting, engaging, credible and persuasive.”

“You’ll also need to be a quick learner as you’ll come up against new concepts, products and services all the time – some of them technical,” continues Smith. But there’s one more essential tool in the consummate copywriter’s toolkit: “Most importantly […] you’ll need to understand people – their concerns, priorities and the language they respond to.”

Dibble thinks the right mindset is essential: “There is agony to writing, the struggle to find the perfect fit, the perfect words. Sometimes that’s crucial, sometimes not so much. It depends on the output. But a mind that can adapt to the demands of the piece – its purpose – is essential.”

Blume has one final warning for the aspiring copywriter: “Do not harbour any misapprehensions that you are an artist”.

If you’re happy sacrificing art for salary, consider yourself a competent writer and have a solid understanding of business and marketing then read on to find out how to set yourself up as a copywriter.