Become a freelance copywriter

copywriter

If you have a talent for writing then you may want to put that to good use to write copy for clients. This type of work can be varied and interesting, and the pay can be decent too. ‘Copy’ can be anything from newspaper advertisements, to website articles, to employment summaries. The list of written copy that people will pay writers to complete really is endless.

The main difficulty with copywriting is that freelance copywriters are in charge of finding their own work. However, some agencies now exist which provide work for you. Although these tend to pay less than direct clients, they bring a lot of advantages in the form of regular work and administrative assistance.

If you have an academic qualification, such as a degree, then you may be interested in our academic writing jobs, which tend to be higher paid.

Summary

Type of job: Writing

Skills: You will need good spelling and grammar, a talent for at least one type of writing (whether that’s news articles, product reviews, advertisements or any other), and good typing skills or dictation ability. As well as writing skills you will also need to be a keen researcher and be able to analyse data.

Hours: Flexible. A freelance copywriter is able to choose their own hours, completely flexibly. However, once work is undertaken it must usually be completed to a deadline.

Equipment: Minimal. A computer with internet connection and word processing software such as Microsoft Word. If you prefer to dictate, or your typing isn’t super fast, we also recommend a professional dictation software such as Dragon.

Pay: Varied. Experienced copywriters can make £100 or more per hour. However, when you are just starting out your earnings will be much, much lower. Copywriting jobs on freelance sites tend to attract the lowest rates (and could be just a few pounds per hour). Once you have a stream of clients you can expect to make around £25+ per hour.

What does a copywriter do?

A freelance copywriter writes ‘words’ to order. Clients can be obtained directly, or through agencies. Companies will pay writers to write all sorts of copy, not limited to but including:

  • adverts
  • articles
  • summaries
  • reports
  • marketing materials

The content written by a copywriter will usually have some form of practical aim, eg persuading the reader to buy a product or giving the reader some further information. As internet marketing has developed, and particularly as people have started to try to earn money through information-providing websites, the line between journalism and ‘copywriters’ has become blurred. Often, copywriters are now expected to be able to write ‘marketing’ materials which resemble journalistic or editorial content.

Advantages of being a freelance copywriter

  • Work from home! This site is all about jobs that you can do from home, so as you are already reading this you probably already know about the advantages home-based working brings. If not, you can read all about the advantages and disadvantages of working from home.
  • Accessibility. Particularly if you use agencies, you can often find work based on merit rather than formal qualifications. As you gain experience you can achieve higher fees, regardless of any formal training.
  • Flexibility. As with many online jobs, you can choose to work the hours that suit you. Additionally, being a freelance copywriter allows you to choose how much work to take on. This will obviously depend on the availability of work, but again, when using an agency there is usually plenty of work available.
  • Variety. A copywriter can expect to take on a wide range of tasks for a broad spectrum of clients. One day you might be writing short product reviews, while another you might be writing a large-scale corporate report.
  • Creativity. If you enjoy writing then earning money from doing it can be a dream job. You will be able to add your own personal ‘flair’, even to the most practical assignments. This provides an outlet for your creative talents whilst allowing you to earn an income at the same time.

How to become a copywriter

One of the easiest ways to try your hand at copywriting is to sign up for one of the agencies listed below. This allows you to gain experience and see what the work is like. However, beware that pay rates through agencies, particularly when you are just starting out, can be low. You may have to persevere with this for a few months before you have the confidence and experience to source your own work and charge higher rates.

Once you are ready to deal with clients directly, you may still find work on sites such as www.freelancer.com, www.upwork.com and www.peopleperhour.com. You will need to present yourself professionally and make your bid for work stand out on the basis of your previous portfolio if you want to earn a decent wage.

Alternatively, you could set up a website to advertise your services, detailing all your experience and any particular specialisms that you are focusing upon. You may also decide to approach local (and not so local) companies directly for work. James Brown wrote a post for MakeALivingWriting.com which detailed a really interesting way of gaining clients. By noticing bad copy and then emailing the company involved, he gains work by suggesting he could do a better job for the client and improve their results.

Legitimate copywriting jobs from home

When you are just starting out as an at-home copywriter, finding work may seem a bit daunting. One of the easiest ways of gaining experience, though not necessarily of becoming rich, is to use writing agency websites to get work. There are normally plenty of jobs available, and usually the rate will be advertised from the start.

Crowdsource / OneSpace

Crowsdsource, which is a popular copywriting and content writing agency, has recently been rebranded as OneSpace. They normally have plenty of writing work available, and pay is as advertised and on time.

One of the main advantages of this agency is that they pay you as soon as your work is reviewed and approved by the editing team, which is normally just a day or two after submission. They issue payments to PayPal 7 days a week, so there is no need to wait for your money.

One of the reported difficulties with this agency is that they have a somewhat inconsistent editing team, with people sometimes having their work and pay penalised for minor issues or for things that aren’t properly detailed. Definitely worth a try for the consistent work and quick pay, but may not be a long term or full-time solution.

GetACopywriter

GetACopywriter is one of the harder agencies to be accepted at. They advertise that they only accept around 20% of applications for copywriting positions. However, because they tend to be more selective in terms of their writers, they keep the quality of their product high and are therefore able to pay more than some of the easier agencies.

Once you are accepted you will be expected to ‘pitch’ to clients for individual work. A good tip is to focus on what you will cover in the specific work, rather than simply listing the type of work you have undertaken before.

GetACopywriter don’t have as much work as Crowdsource, but the work tends to be more interesting, and some writers report earning around £25 per hour or more. Payment is made every Friday, with a one week delay from your project submission being accepted.

Scripted

Again, Scripted is fairly picky about who it accepts to be a writer. Indeed, it advertises that only the to 2% of writers are accepted to work for them. However, once you are accepted you will gain access to fairly well paid work, with writers reportedly able to make £20 and more per 400 word article. Pay is twice per month, though it can take a week or two for your work to go through the editing process. The result is that pay isn’t as quick as some other agencies, such as Crowdsource / OneSpace.

The editing process is less traumatic for writers than Crowdsource / OneSpace. In fact, once you have built up some experience as a writer you can apply to be an editor also. This can increase your hourly income and also the amount of work available.

One reported problem with Scripted is that there simply isn’t enough work to go around. Clients can ‘favourite’ particular writers, who then get priority on jobs from those clients, so you can work to build up a client base. However, in the early days you may find it more challenging to make a good living on this website alone. For that reason it is more of an add-on than full time employment.

Copify

Copify is a UK based company which advertises that it pays up to £25 per 500 words. However, the average pay is lower than this and may be as little as half the average rate of GetACopyWriter and Scripted. On the positive side, it does appear easier to get accepted, so it may be good while you are starting out and building up experience.

As a side note, when researching Copify I came across a brilliantly written blog review of the company by Alexander S H Velky. Read it for a giggle.

Do check jobs boards

If you are already an experienced copywriter with a strong portfolio, job board sites such as The Writers’ Job Board also list home-based copywriting jobs within their general jobs listings, so don’t forget to keep a regular eye on them.

Copywriter tips and tricks

  • It is a good idea to use agencies when you are starting out and gaining experience (and sometimes later for additional work) but don’t expect the pay to be high or the work to necessarily be consistent.
  • Use freelancing sites to get a good idea of what clients are looking for and to build up an initial client base.
  • Do set up a website to assist with marketing yourself to better clients.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach local businesses directly, particularly if you can see that they will genuinely benefit from your services.
  • When working out pricing, do it by the project not by the hour. Clients want to know what the whole project will cost them, and may be scared off by your ‘hourly rate’.
  • In pitching to potential clients, outline in detail how you will go about the work (for example, that you will conduct interviews or do research) rather than just listing your previous experience. Each client is likely to have received many pitches listing previous projects and probably won’t be able to meaningfully distinguish between them.
  • If your typing isn’t that fast, consider investing in a professional speech recognition software such as Dragon.