There’s a ton of information out there on how to close a sale and raise your rates as a freelance copywriter. But most freelancers struggle to find clients in the early days. Some give up after a couple of months, and others are stuck in a hole barely scraping by because they earn too little.
Perhaps you made the mistake of joining a platform like Fiverr, and you can’t get out. Or you’re tired of having nightmares that you won’t make rent next month if you don’t work 14 hours a day. There’s more to life than writing for peanuts or scavenging the internet looking for gigs that pay a decent fee.
I’ve written this piece for freelance copywriters who want to work and get paid a professional rate for their copywriting services.
Let’s dig in!
February and March – Figuring Out My Shit
Identify Your Target Audience
The first thing you need to do before getting active as a freelance copywriter on LinkedIn is to figure out your target audience.
Who do you want to sell to?
What type of content will engage them?
The answer to these questions IS the difference between freelancers who succeed without burnout and those who flounder for an eon.
My target customers are small and mid-sized business owners in finance, construction, real estate, digital marketers, and CEOs of drug and alcohol rehab centers.
Before I launched my website, I used LinkedIn Premium (they offer a one-month free trial) to add prospects from my target audience. Please read this piece to understand how LinkedIn Premium is a gold mine for freelancers.
Use Storytelling for Genuine Conversations
I made my first post announcing that Zenith Copy was open for business, but it was the second post that put my voice out there.
Storytelling is your biggest tool for having conversations with your target audience. The first story about my experience working remotely and how I overcame challenges was well received.
This post brought in my first client from LinkedIn, Boma (great guy).
Sometimes, clients don’t really know what they want. Or they have a vague idea but need clarity. He got cheaper offers from other freelancers, but he chose to work with me because my value prop was better.
I also put the word out on Whatsapp, and that brought in my first referral. A friend knew someone who was looking for a copywriter, and she made an introduction.
I earned around $1,500 from both projects. Not bad for a newbie freelancer still figuring out her shit.
Storytelling is great. You’ll see results, but only if you do it well.
Most of the storytellers on LinkedIn were awful. They’re either bragging about their grass to grace accomplishment or how they are nice bosses who let employers arrive late to work and take an extra six weeks off when they need it.
Puleaaaasseeeeeee. How does that help me?
You have to be careful with what you LET IN, or you’ll become sheep. You know, those people who say yes and well done on every LinkedIn Expert’s post. So borrrrriiing.
How can you tie your value proposition to a story? How do you highlight the biggest problems your audience faces and solve it right there in the story? Your stories must connect to a point you’re making.
If you do this successfully, you’ll build authority the natural way, and people will flock to your inbox, wanting to work with you.
But first, you must figure out WHO you want to work with. Don’t send requests just for the sake of it. Don’t tell sob stories to attract pity.
Tell stories your audience wants to hear. Everything you do should be geared towards building trust with your audience.
How Much Should You Charge?
These early months are so important because if you don’t get it right, you’ll be walking around lost for days unending.
Two weeks after becoming active, a prospect in the UK reached out to me. I was excited. He wanted ghost-written content for high authority websites. I looked at the samples he sent and quoted $50 for 1,000 words ( I charge waaaaaaaay more now).
He said, “That’s ridiculous. How can you charge that much? I can pay you $20 and no more.” I may have been naïve, but even I knew that $20 for 1,000 words was ridiculous.
It was the first time I said no, and it would happen many more times down the road. This article should help you figure out your website copywriting rates.
April to June– Going Fishing on LinkedIn
By April, I was thinking of quitting my remote copywriting job and going all-in as a freelance copywriter.
But where to find clients?
LinkedIn Feed was an easy fix.
If you’re a freelance copywriter like me, you’ll want to check:
Hire a copywriter
Narrow the results to content – last 24 hours
The pic above is a random result, but this was how I landed my first US client. He posted that he was looking for a copywriter to cover SEO and Digital Marketing content. I sent him a few samples, he loved it, and we’ve been working together for almost a year.
The next client was Ben. He wanted to hire an SEO copywriter, and I sent in this simple pitch.
I worked with Ben on my first SEO Copywriting project. I learned a lot from him about SEO content planning, topic clusters, and on-page SEO. This gig brought in around $2k.
Your pitch doesn’t have to be fancy. Send a connection request with a note stating that you saw their post for a copywriter, and you’d love to show them samples.
When they accept your connection request, share a few samples. It’s super important that you read the requirements carefully. The samples you send should relate to the niche and content type the prospect wants to create.
Don’t do free trial runs. That’s what samples are for. Ask for 50% upfront before putting pen to paper.
Through this method, I worked with businesses in Estonia, Australia, and Canada. The trick is to get in first before anyone else.
May – June – Facebook
There are several groups on Facebook where copywriters find work. My top recommendations are
Fair warning, you’ll be competing with tons of other writers for low paying jobs.
Eeeeh… depends on what you define as low paying. I earned $150 for a trial product description and the client wanted to pay $300 going forward. But I turned it down because the rates were poor for the high-level of research the project required.
However, I do not doubt that he found someone who took the money and did a fine job.
I also found a client who reached out to me after researching copywriters on Facebook. My business page turned up, and he booked a call with me. It was a landing page for a roofing company that wanted to sell an offer.
Create a business page, post content there, and add available hours. Invest the time to grow your page followers and nurture them into paying customers.
July – The Dreaded Dry Spell
Freelancing had gone really well for me until July. In July, I worked with two customers, both repeat businesses, but no new clients. First time ever.
The dry spell happens to copywriters in the early days. Use this period to write blog posts. Build out topic clusters for keywords you want to rank for and create social media content months ahead.
There’s a ton of backend stuff to do when you run a freelance business.
- Conduct an outreach campaign to earn backlinks for your blog posts
- Reach out to High Authority bloggers for guest post opportunities
- Send a series of cold messages to your target audience
- Write fresh content for your website
Seriously, the list is endless.
But this was the first time I had gone three weeks without work, so I did something stupid. I joined People Per Hour.
I call it stupid because the quality of work on these platforms is terrible. You’ll see clients advertising complex gigs that will take days to complete and offering $50 as payment.
For instance, I put a bid on a $3k product description gig. The client wanted 100 product descriptions. I assumed these were 100 words max, but she wanted a word count ranging from 600-700. That’s $30 for SEO product descriptions. Insane!
I found one client who was willing to pay my rates. ONE client.
Never mind that I was sending out bids every day like a crazy person or the time I wasted researching prospects before sending bids on projects. I earned around $700 from the project. Great client though.
Platforms like PPH scare me. They give clients all the power and take their cut from your earnings. Not worth it for copywriters who want to build wealth.
August – November Best Earnings
A prospect reached out to me saying she loved my style of writing on LinkedIn, and she wanted a similar style for her client’s website. She paid well but the gig was cut short due to location difficulties.
The next client was through cold messages.
Let’s Dig Deeper into LinkedIn Cold Messages
I have worked with some amazing clients using cold pitches.
Ignore those LinkedIn experts who tell you pitches are a waste of time. They work when you do it right.
I would add a target customer and wait 30-60 days before sending a cold pitch. For the sake of personalization, I had a different pitch for each segment.
I started my pitch with a nice compliment — something I noticed by looking at their website or LinkedIn profile.
I asked if they collaborated with freelancers since they offered XYZ services. Questions make it feel more like a conversation.
I told them a bit about my experience relating to a service and I followed up with two samples of previous work. I was specific with my offer and my process to achieve results for them.
Most LinkedIn experts talk a long game about short pitches. But I do long pitches for industry experts who need more convincing and shorter pitches for small businesses who don’t understand industry jargon, only results.
The next client was the absolute best, a dream client, the type you pray for, but they only come around once a year. She found me through a review I wrote for another copywriter.
Crazy stuff, right!
I was involved at every stage, and she incorporated the changes I asked her to make.
It sounds basic, but you’ll be surprised at the number of clients who kick back against changing elements on their website, even though it will increase conversion.
After working with my dream client, I did two one-off projects for a Nigerian fintech startup (found me through LinkedIn search) and a Dutch Sports Marketing Agency (pitching).
- Pimp your LinkedIn profile. Clients sometimes come to me through keywords like blogger, SEO copywriter, and freelance copywriter. Go read that article I wrote on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
- Publish content on LinkedIn. Not just random stuff but insightful content targeted at your ideal audience. They’ll read it when you pitch them.
- Post regularly on LinkedIn. It’s how you build authority. Don’t forget to engage with your target audience when they post too.
- Avoid content mills like Upwork and People Per Hour. You’ll have better luck refining your pitch, building your connection list, and landing higher paying gigs.
- Get active on Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Find ways to help them for free in the comment section.
Blog like a maniac. Answer questions people ask during calls or inquiries.
Prospective clients ask me questions like “What is SEO?” and “Why is copywriting so expensive?” I have these answers on my website.
It’s not the end of the world when work isn’t coming in. Use that time to refresh your website content, plan content and catch up on some books you’ve abandoned. If you keep developing and growing, freelance copywriting is a career that pays well.
19 thoughts on “Everything I Did to Make Money in My First Year as a Freelance Copywriter”
This was a premium read.
You did give very relatable insights
Thank you, Chima!
Praise, I’m glad you found it useful
this is very informative and interesting, thanks for sharing
Chima, thank you for sharing these resources!! They’re incredibly helpful for me as a newbie freelance copywriter! I’ve read many blogs and tips from experienced copywriters on this and that, but you are the first to share specific links, examples, and solid value I can relate to. I came across your LinkedIn profile this morning and can’t stop reading your blog articles! They are so relatable, fascinating, and provide so much valuable insight! I hope to one day write as effortlessly as you do.
Your article is top-notch. I appreciate the value here. I’d put them to practice and give you feedback soon
Thank you, Marvellous. Let me know how it goes!
I like your writing style, Chima. And all the points in this article are spot on!
Thank you for your kind words Chi
Just so you should know, I read more than twice. Perhaps due to not wanting to leave any details aside.
Well, I’m sharing this.
Thanks for the insights therein.
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing this blog post, Ridwan!
Nothing beats storytelling.
Thank you for this post, Chima.
I’m glad you found it helpful Dominic
So, Chima is a friend and colleague, but after reading this piece, I want to hire her just for the sake of hiring (will figure out specifics later, ok?)
You should hire her too!
Thank you for being so awesome Richmond!
Well done, Chima! Keep the flag flying high!
Thank you Olatunde!
Significant value in this writing…
I’m in this stage of my Copywriting career and it feels like I just got the best advice ever…
Thank you Chima
I’m glad I could help Chenemi