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10 of the best start out tips for freelance copywriters

Alexandra Crossley

Crossley Copywriting

PRO

New to the world of freelance copywriting?

If you’re anything like me when I started out, all you want is for someone to say “these are the most important things you need to do”, right?

I’d like to help you save hours of research with these 10 start out tips and get you ready and raring to go more quickly.

In January I went freelance and set up Crossley Copywriting. After spending most of my career working for others, I dreamt of more flexibility and freedom.

Sounds familiar?

Whilst I wasn’t expecting COVID-19 to arrive, this unusual situation did provide me with the perfect time to set up my own website, undertake research and learn a thing or two about the world of freelancing.

And now I have (finally!) arrived at completing the part I’ve been putting off for as long as possible – adding my own blogs.

SO to help you get there more quickly, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. The fun parts

Set up your own website

This is your opportunity to be creative.

Not sure where to start? Too many agencies trying to make you believe it’s more complicated than it really is?

Here’s how to do it:

Check out other freelancers’ websites

Not only will you learn what they do well, it will also help you work out what you’d like your own identity, name and branding to look like.

4 websites I looked at:

All 4 offer newsletters you can sign up to.  An ideal way to learn more and receive lots of useful tips and information from those already in the know.

A copywriter & web consultant, and one of the speakers I listened to at the recent virtual Procopywriters conference, is Gill Andrews. When you sign up to her newsletter you’ll receive 5 tips that make you instantly check out the home page on your website.

Use a website designer

If you select carefully, they really don’t have to cost the earth and are worth every penny.

I used KH Digital, one of the best and easiest website designing companies to work with. They’re straight-talking, friendly and importantly deliver, charge fairly and make sure you have a secure (https) website.

Not only that, they will help you with your SEO and talk you through what else you need to do to get your website noticed.

KH Digital can train you too so you can manage and maintain the most basic functions of your website yourself thus saving you money, a welcome factor when starting out.

Tip: I chose WordPress as my content management system (CMS) for my website. It’s free, easy to use and one of the most popular website builders.

2. Join a professional organisation

Membership of a professional organisation adds credibility and offers an excellent platform for Continued Professional Development (CPD), networking and support. It shows you value your skills and are interested in staying at the forefront of your profession.

There are a number of organisations you can join – here are some you might like to explore:

The Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) who offer lots of useful information and training.

The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed who work tirelessly for the self-employed business and offer access to events, forums, online groups, tax and legal helplines as well as wellbeing services. The IPSE are a not-for-profit membership organisation.

I joined Procopywriters for the following reasons it:

  • does what it says on the tin. It’s for copywriters like you and me.
  • offers information, support and connections.

And their learning resources, webinars and blog posts are an easy way to listen to and learn from others.

I like their CPD accredited training opportunities and annual conference. I joined in with their virtual CopyCon 2020 this year and enjoyed the varied list of speakers who all brought something of interest to the table. Notes are provided too as well as some very useful free post-conference Q&As.

Copywriter Sally M Fox recently wrote about 4 ideas she learned at this conference that she feels make you a more persuasive copywriter.

In an interview with Procopywriters, a senior freelance copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock, highlighted “I’ve found other copywriters to be the most generous of souls.” He’s right of course, we really are a very down to earth and friendly bunch!

Tip: as a newbie you can grab a free ticket to the Procopywriters’ annual conference – they call it their ‘Scholarship Scheme’.

I actually missed out on this as I did not realise until after purchasing my ticket but hey that’s OK too, it was money well spent.

3. Network

Networking, talking about yourself and being put on the spot tends to make me break out in a cold sweat.

However, attending the Procopywriters’ virtual conference and listening to their podcasts really helped me overcome this.

It made me realise there are so many freelancers out there that are welcoming, kind and willing to share their knowledge. But best of all, you can sit back and simply listen and observe too.

There are lots of other ways you can connect with freelancers. Some examples are:

  • Sarah Townsend in her fantastic book ‘Survival Skills For freelancers’ offers an abundance of useful tips including groups to link up with. It’s such an easy and fun read finding out about freelancing in a no-nonsense and honest way.
  • I joined Facebook groups ‘Freelancing Females’ and ‘Freelance Heroes’. Both groups are really useful to get an idea of the sort of things these groups share and talk about.

It’s very reassuring to read how other freelances face some of the same challenges as yourself and how they overcome them.

And past employers and assignments can help too in extending your network.

Which brings me to the topic of testimonials.  Include them.

Of course, this is a typical ‘catch-22’ when you first start out. You cannot add one until you’ve completed your first freelance job and some clients may be very slow completing one. However, we all have to start somewhere so simply add one and start building up from there.

4. Invest in yourself

I love this part. Learn or read something new every week. Invest in your own continued professional development.

Procopywriters offer some excellent CPD options. There are lots of free online courses to extend your skillset.

Google online training. I recently discovered that Google offers various free courses and (apparently) they even send you a certificate at the end of it – clients love this.

Or just read, watch or listen – you can do lots of this for free. Whether it’s via some of the platforms outlined above or by digging into a book, watching a video or listening to podcasts on copywriting, it will all help broaden your knowledge and horizons.

And now

The boring but important bits

5 . Get insured

Yawn? Yes, but you do need this. And that’s a yes too for getting up to speed with all matters concerning data protection.

I registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office who could not have been more helpful.

Insurance wise you can use one of the online comparison sites but I found Direct Line very helpful who offer a specific copywriting insurance policy.

6. Your terms and conditions

I’ll be honest, this was quite a challenge and took me a bit of time putting together.

However, Procopywriters offer some useful examples. IPSE also offer some templates or you could ask the help from a solicitor.

7. What to charge?

I discovered that the majority of freelance copywriters charge per project. Some state daily rates and only a very small percentage charge per word.

Procopywriters offer a detailed annual report which provides guidance on this too. You can check out their latest 2020 report on this website. I found it to be extremely helpful in lots of areas.

Problems with clients paying you?

Having listened to a number of webinars the general advice is to either charge all upfront or, like the majority of freelancers, charge a 50% deposit with the remaining balance payable at the end.

8. Register with HMRC and get an accountant

It will save you money and stress plus free up valuable time to focus on your other tasks as a freelancer.

First of all, you will need to register yourself as self-employed (sole trader – you are solely responsible for your business) with HMRC. You can read more about all that is required here:

You will be required to complete annual tax returns and whilst I keep my own records etc. I use an accountant (MA Partners) to complete this for me.

They’re friendly, approachable and offer great advice on any questions you are likely to have in your first year. Nothing is ever too much and they have been a breath of fresh air in the world of accounting.

And their newsletters are extremely helpful too. These summarise the latest UK Gov rules and tax changes in a way that I can digest and understand. It makes me feel informed and reassured that I am in the know.

Almost there, the last few hurdles

9. Commit to your blogs

I knew I needed to start writing blogs for my own website to add more substance and drive traffic to help with my rankings. But if you’re anything like me you’d rather be writing for clients.

Promoting myself – do I really have to?! I much prefer word of mouth and whilst referrals are your golden ticket to other projects, blogs are, not surprisingly, important too even if it’s just one every so often. Some is definitely better than none.

“What am I supposed to write about?” I’d ask myself.

I spent hours reading other people’s blogs. In the end, it was Honor Clement-Hayes’ talk at the recent CopyCon 2020 conference that made me ‘get on with it’ and write this blog.

So I took her advice and told myself:

Stop procrastinating. Write. Aim for good. Publish.

Good enough is good enough. Perfect isn’t real.

Tip: Henneke Duistermaat swears by the time management Focus Keeper app to make sure you:

  • stop sitting glued to your screen for too long and regularly get up giving your eyes and bum a much-needed break
  • stretch those legs
  • refresh your mind

I find this really helps me. Like many of us, I can easily let time run away with itself!

10. Keep going

So you’ve done the fun and boring bits and made it over the last few hurdles. Now what?

Keep investing in yourself, research, write, network but above all enjoy your new freelancing life.

If you’d like some help or simply would like to have a chat, send your message to hello@crossleycopywriting.com.

Originally published on crossleycopywriting.com.

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