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How to Become a Copywriter and Work Remotely from Home
June 2, 2020
Copywriting is a way to make good money working from home. There’s a lot of work available if you know how to find it, and you don’t need an advanced degree (or any degree, really) to do it. You don’t even have to be an expert to start. There are simple ways to get better fast, while you build a solid client list. The problem? The disparity in pay can be absurd.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to become a copywriter, how to get entry-level copywriter jobs online, and then how to move on to high-paying freelance copywriting jobs. You’ll also see how much time and effort it takes, so you can decide whether this career is right for you.
Full disclosure: I’ve been working remotely as a copywriter (and sometimes remotely working) for 5 years. I make a very healthy living. I also spoke with several other high-earning copywriters to get some inside insights into how to make this fun, exciting, and freeing remote-work career a possibility for you.
1. Know what copywriting is (and isn’t)
You may think copywriting is “writing copy for companies,” but it’s more specific than that. Copywriting is sales writing. Companies need it for emails, websites, video scripts, ads, white papers, presentations, product descriptions, and more, and there’s a time-tested technique to do it right.
Copywriters work to persuade readers to buy something, or take some other sales-related action. You may write a mass email to convince readers to sign up for an online service, or write a video script for an infomercial. In copywriting jobs, you’ll work hard to generate interest and turn it into action.
Copywriting is not blogging or content marketing. That’s creating interesting content like the article you’re reading now. Don’t get me wrong, those are other types of writing that companies and agencies pay money for, so don’t write it off (so to speak), but copywriting is a specific genre.
2. Understand the pay (you can make it huge)
How much do copywriters make? Don’t be fooled by median salaries that you see online. While it’s true that entry-level copywriters don’t earn much, you can make well into six figures if you stick with it and work hard.
How long does it take to make good money? You can earn a meager living after a few months of working at it. It usually takes a year or more to hit the $100,000 mark. (It took me 4 years, but that’s because I stuck with a low-paying job for half that time.) Making a good living through corporate or freelance copywriting jobs online comes down to learning on the job, networking the right way (I’ll show how below), and writing a lot.
3. Plan your copywriter business
How do you become a copywriter? It’s no harder than any other job. The first step? Sit down and create a plan. How much time can you afford to spend? How much do you have to earn in order to live right now? Decide between these options:
- Work part-time: If you’ve got a day job, you can start by copywriting online nights and weekends. Plan on at least 8 hours a week. The more time you can spend, the quicker your income and client list will grow.
- Go full time: You may decide to look for full-time copywriting jobs, especially if you’re unemployed. Plan to make scant money the first few months with entry-level copywriting jobs, but don’t wait long to shift to higher-paying clients.
- Work remotely: Are you looking for remote copywriter jobs online? Working from home narrows your options, but not as much as you’d think. More and more, agencies and businesses are hiring freelance remote copywriters.
- Corporate: Corporate copywriters work for a single company or agency. They apply, get interviewed, and (hopefully) get hired. They may work in a brick-and-mortar office or as a remote copywriter from home. They can earn $60K to $115K a year.
- Freelance: Freelancers do it all. They create their own remote copywriter jobs, find clients, and run the business. They may face feast-or-famine workloads. They can earn more than corporate copywriters because they constantly replace lower-paying clients with higher-paying ones to ratchet up their income.
- Agency: Partnering with an agency as a freelance copywriter is the best of both worlds. Many agencies pay high rates and find clients for you. An agency will assign large amounts of regular work to a freelance copywriter they trust.
“Writing is a business, and you have to treat it as such. It took me 2 years of really hard work and lots of rejections before I was able to replace - and then earn more than - what I made at my day job,” Jeanette Hurt, full-time writer.
4. Find entry-level freelance copywriting jobs (it’s easy)
Think it’s hard to find entry-level copywriter jobs? It’s not. Expect to make anywhere from $0.03 to $0.10 a word at first. Jump at the first gig you see and you’ll fall to the lower end. Digging for higher-paying work takes longer, but the extra time pays off in extra pay. But don’t work at entry-level copywriting jobs longer than 3 months. You just need to make a little money while you earn some street cred. Then move on to higher-paying freelance copywriting jobs.
Here are the best ways to find your first remote copywriter jobs:
- ProBlogger: This is a great job board where people post online writing jobs. Log in daily and apply to all the new ones. You’ll have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince, so be selective. Write 1 to 2 articles for each one, or more if you like the client.
- Upwork: Not just for copywriting jobs online, Upwork is full of freelance work of all stripes.
- The Cult of Copy Job Board: This is a Facebook group where businesses list copywriter jobs online.
- Cold emails: Yes, these work. Find websites and businesses online that have badly-written copy and cold-email them. Say you’re offering a one-time low rate. You should hear back from about 1 in 50, so send a lot of emails.
- Facebook and LinkedIn groups: Can’t find paid work? Get a foot in the door by searching groups on Facebook and LinkedIn for ad agencies and marketing teams. Then post that you’re running a special price on copywriting to get jobs.
5. Create a simple portfolio (it’s fast)
Don’t work for months on an expensive website. Nobody will see it anyway. You just need examples to show when someone asks to see your work. The easiest way? Add all your articles to your LinkedIn profile as “publications.” You can also make a fast portfolio on SquareSpace, Wix, or Jimdo.
Want to look more professional? Spring for a paid WordPress website later, after things are taking off. Warning: don’t just link to your articles online and expect they’ll be there when you need them. Preserve them with the free Print Friendly & PDF browser plugin in case your client deletes it.
6. Switch to high-paying remote copywriter jobs (you can do it)
Don’t work at low-paying freelance copywriting jobs for long. Get a few big credits in the first 6 months, even if they’re cheap, free, or take a lot of time. I’m talking about well-known brands or blogs, or glossy magazines. I can’t stress the importance of this step enough. Even 2 or 3 “wow” publications will boost your rate per word or rate per project through the roof.
I spent months trying to break into Boys’ Life and probably made $5 an hour on my first piece. But well-heeled clients respected me a lot more after that. Once you’ve got a couple of big credits, find companies and agencies that pay big bucks. Search Google and LinkedIn for terms like ad agencies and marketing agencies. Then send letters of interest (LOI) to offer remote copywriter services.
Network like a pro
Seriously, network. Join a professional association like the American Society of Professional Copywriters or AWAI. Then, volunteer immediately. Volunteering in an association lets you rub elbows with the right people in a non-awkward way. When those new contacts get too busy, guess who they’ll pass fat jobs to? That’s right, you. For more info, read the great book Never Eat Alone.
“A friend once offered me $7,500 per article to write for Cisco Systems. She said, ‘I do kind of owe you. You got me this job’ What? ‘Don’t you remember? Cisco called you first and you didn’t want to work for a corporate magazine. You recommended me.’ I ended up writing for her for years, transitioning into primarily corporate work, and making a heck of a lot more than I ever did as a staffer,” Howard Baldwin, retired corporate writer.
7. Build niches (they’re your lifeblood)
“Oh, I write everything.” Oh, no you don’t. Not if you want anyone to hire you. Why not? People believe you can do what you’ve already done. And they want specifics. If you show someone you wrote an article about spine injuries, they’ll believe you can write articles about spine injuries. And nothing more.
So, be an expert. Know the highest-grossing industries and the ones you’re most passionate about. Then target your favorite. You’ll get more work because A) clients will believe you can do it and B) you’ll have less competition. Think that’s too limiting? Don’t sweat it. Just build more niches down the road. Then target freelance copywriting jobs in all of them.
8. Hone your copywriting skills (it’s not magic)
Can you be a great, high-earning copywriter? Yes. But you have to write. A lot. You’ll get better over time. To speed things up, take a class or read lots of great writing. (Check out SwipeFile for examples.) Plus, use the excellent resources in the list below:
- The Boron Letters: This book is like a pair of X-ray glasses that let you see through a copywriter’s eyes.
- This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better: A cheap, fast way to learn to write better.
- Advertising Secrets Of The Written Word: Get up to speed with Joseph Sugarman’s ultimate copywriting work resource.
- Ogilvy On Advertising: The seminal work on advertising by the original mad man.
- On Writing Well: Why say “precipitation” when you can say “rain?” A short, crisp book on short, crisp writing.
- The Freelance Content Marketing Writer. A great book on how to build a solid writing business.
- Hemingway Editor app: Hemingway wrote notoriously short sentences. That’s key for copywriting jobs. The app will flag your run-ons and big words.
9. Get faster and grow a thick skin
One way to make more money at freelance copywriting jobs is writing faster. You’ll go broke writing 2,000 words in 3 days. The best way to write fast? Steep yourself in excellent research until writing great copy is almost as fast as talking. Blaze through your first draft, then spend the most time rewriting and polishing.
Also, don’t let rejection get to you. You’ll get rejected many times before you get a single attaboy. Who cares? This is business. This is craft. Shake it off and churn out another 500 words. And when an editor makes 50 margin comments, learn from it, then shake that off, too. It’s all part of getting better.
“Don’t be a diva. If an editor or publisher wants something a certain way by a certain time, then do it,” Jeanette Hurt, award-winning author.
10. Land consulting gigs (added bonus)
Want more money? Who doesn’t? Once you’re the subject matter expert, things get easier. Send emails and LinkedIn messages to podcast hosts in your niche. (They’re free advertising, and they’re fun!) Start a podcast yourself, or teach a few free online classes. Then start charging for your time.
Consult to businesses to share your expertise on copywriting or on the niche or niches you’ve begun to dominate. It’s not rare for consultants to earn $150 to $700 per hour, just for coaching companies and employees through the rough spots.
Anyone who can write can find remote or freelance copywriting jobs online. Now that you know how to become a copywriter, what will you do with it?
Can you find a few entry-level copywriter jobs today and apply to them? Can you build up 10 or 20 low-paying examples of your work, then start to raise your rates? If so, you’re on your way. Welcome to one of the most fun work-from-home jobs on the planet.
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About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.