Written By: Mila Meldosian
You’ve just stumbled on the field of freelance copywriting. Being a self-employed writer sounds like the ideal life for you. But you’re wondering, “can I really make a living as a writer these days?”
If you’re dreaming of a life as a freelance copywriter – having the freedom to choose your income, where you work, and when you work – I’ll let you in on a little secret…
There’s a world of opportunities waiting for you.
But, there’s also a lot to learn. And you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information out there.
How can you tell what’s solid advice and what’s not? What if it doesn’t work? What if you’re not cut out for this?
Before starting my copywriting business, I had the exact same worries. Can I actually become a successful freelancer when everyone else seems to be struggling?
I was paralyzed with fear and it was preventing me from taking real steps toward becoming a full-time freelance copywriter.
But, all it takes is some planning, developing healthy habits, and persistence – things that are completely doable.
These are the lessons I’ve learned in my own freelancing career and by surrounding myself with a community of successful self-employed copywriters.
Putting these systems in place allows you to build a copywriting career that brings you reliable income, freedom to work from anywhere, and the ability to choose what your life looks like.
Do these seven things and you’ll be miles ahead of the rest.
1. Define What Being a Successful Copywriter Means to You
The first step to achieving success as a freelance copywriter is defining what success means to you.
Success looks different for different people. I decided I wanted the freedom to work from anywhere I wanted and have enough money to go on yearly vacations.
Visualize and define what success looks like for you.
Does it mean making more money as a freelancer?
Having the freedom to travel?
Setting your own schedule?
Having more time to spend with your kids?
Clarifying the definition in your own mind is crucial to begin working towards a successful freelancing career.
Things to include in your definition:
- How much money do you want to make?
- How many hours do you want to work?
- What does your work consist of?
- How do you feel about working?
- What is your amount of leisure time/vacation days?
- How does your career fit into your lifestyle?
The amazing thing about the self-employed life is you get to create the life you want to live.
You get to live life on your terms.
But getting there requires figuring out what you want your life to look like – not what you think it should look like.
You need to know where you’re going before you can start heading there.
2. How Successful Copywriters Set Specific Goals
You’ve defined what success looks like for you. You’re determined to work towards that vision for yourself. Now you can start setting some goals.
The key here is to set specific goals. A specific goal is unambiguous and well-defined.
Let’s say your goal is to make more money by being self-employed than what you make at your current job. That’s a start, but you’ll need to get more specific. Right now, it’s still unclear…
- Exactly how much money would you need to reach your goal?
- When do you want to reach your goal?
A specific goal has a measurable amount and a set timeframe. For example, “In 12 months I will be making 3 times my current monthly income.”
The more specific you can get about your goals, the more powerful this step.
Goals can also be categorized into long-term and short-term goals.
Long-term goals are where you dream big. You’re building your ideal life for yourself. Be ambitious!
But, having one big, lofty goal can get overwhelming very quickly. The key to preventing paralysis and getting you moving is to set smaller goals that build towards the big one.
Short-term goals are critical to keeping you constantly moving step by step towards your big goals. Hitting smaller milestones allows you to count your successes on the way, motivating you to keep the momentum going.
I like to set an overarching year-long goal, and then set quarterly goals on my way to the year-end goal. Then, I break it up even further until I have manageable action items I track each week.
Focusing on what I need to get done each week takes the stress and worry out of thinking about how I’m going to achieve one big, ambitious goal.
We’ll get there – one small step at a time.
For daily and weekly goals I use this template from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.
Take anything you need to get done and apply this to it: “This week, I will [a specific to-do] on [day] at [time] at [place].”
Example: This week I will send 20 cold emails on Thursday, at 9:00 am, at my desk.
It’s incredibly simple – and it works.
Writing down what you want to achieve and attaching a time and place to it makes you more likely to hold yourself accountable. By setting an “implementation intention” you are up to three times more likely to stick to your goals.
One last word on goal setting. Seriously, this step is so important.
Research shows setting specific and challenging goals leads to higher performance than setting easy goals. You want to set goals that are challenging and maybe even scare you a little. Getting out of your comfort zone is how you grow.
Here’s your new goal-setting checklist:
- Have both long and short-term goals
- Have specific, well-defined goals
- Create a specific plan for each goal with a time and place
- Set challenging goals
Now you’re ready to create an action-based plan to achieve your goals.
3. Create Routines That Motivate You
You’ve set some specific, actionable, and challenging goals for yourself. Congrats! Now you want to have a system that allows you to stick to your plan.
Setting up a daily routine allows you to work more productively, stick to your to-do list, and set up good habits as a business owner.
As a freelance copywriter, you are your own boss. There’s no one to tell you when to get up and when to work on your projects. This is incredibly freeing – but you’ll want to set up some structure to your life to make things easier.
Just like breaking up long term-goals into smaller ones allows you to take things one step at a time, breaking your day into sections is going to save you from feeling overwhelmed.
While I like to leave some flexibility towards the end of my day, I have a structured morning routine to get me organized and feeling productive.
My morning routine:
8:00 AM: Wake up
8:30 AM: Meditate
8:45 AM: Journal
9:00 AM: Review goals and to-do list
9:05 AM: Take care of the most pressing item on my to-do list
9:30 AM: Read/learn new skills
10:00 AM: Write
My morning routine keeps me organized so I can plan my day, and it keeps me motivated because I start my day working on myself and my business goals.
Find a routine that works for you and keeps you organized. The structure takes any guesswork out of what you should be doing at any given time.
4. Work on Your Mindset While Working on Your Craft
Once you start writing, you’re going to have some days where you think, “Wow, this is the worst thing that’s ever been written.”
When those feelings of doubt creep in, it can be so hard to shake them off. But all writers experience doubt at some point. You are not alone.
But, when you let it stop you from moving forward, you’re in trouble.
Writing is a skill you develop over time, through practice. This means, to become a good writer you need to write.
To be a successful copywriter, you need to constantly be learning. But don’t get stuck reading about writing and copywriting techniques forever. Much of that learning and growth comes from the actual writing part.
I’ve seen so many people get hung up worrying they won’t be a good writer, that they can’t get themselves to start.
You need to get past the mental block of being afraid of what your first draft is going to look like and write it.
The Ugly First Draft is a real thing. When in doubt, remember Ann Handley’s writing rule #9.
“The Ugly First Draft isn’t a pass you give yourself to produce substandard work. But it is a necessary part of the process of creating above-standard work.”
You just have to do it and get through it.
It’s so easy to compare your first draft to someone’s completely polished, final copy and feel like giving up.
But if you keep showing up and making consistent effort, you will improve. And I bet you’ll start seeing improvements faster than you expect.
Working on your mindset also applies to other aspects of your freelance copywriting life – from client calls to cold emails.
Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow.
Even after 100 rejections, the 101st cold email can be the one that turns into a “yes.”
5. Pick a Copywriting Niche
Picking a copywriting niche is the way to position yourself as an expert.
You’re thinking, “But I don’t want to miss out on potential clients by narrowing my focus!”
I hear you. As a new freelancer, it can feel like you’re shutting out opportunities by specializing.
While it seems like a good idea to present yourself as a copywriter who can do it all – when you try to speak to everyone, you’re actually reaching no one.
Picking a niche, whether it’s by industry or type of copy is key to positioning yourself as the expert in your field.
This allows you to show you’re a specialist, and you become the go-to person in your niche. There are three main benefits to this.
- You become recognized as the authority in your niche by developing expertise in a specific subject area.
- You become deeply familiar with your niche, honing your skills in speaking to your ideal audience.
- You’ll become more efficient as a writer. You are familiar with the language, research, and trends in a niche, so you’ll work faster. Triple wins!
One final note about niches, picking a niche doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for eternity. I spent too much time overthinking this step as a new copywriter, it was stopping me from moving forward.
Choose a niche you are drawn to. And remember, if it doesn’t work out, you can always change your mind. Just keep moving forward.
6. Show Up and Keep Your Promises
Unfortunately, freelancers have a reputation for being, well, flaky. Luckily, your own reputation is completely under your control.
Show clients how great it is to work with you. And how you make their lives so much easier.
Like the excellent copywriter you are, anticipate the client’s fears, objections and pain points. And address those early on.
Demonstrate how you bring value to your client. Be professional, helpful and stick to your deadlines.
Even if your client doesn’t have a hard deadline for projects, set your own personal deadlines, and stick to them.
Earning respect as a professional is key to sustained success as a freelance copywriter. Show how you make your clients’ lives easier and they’ll be begging you to keep working with them.
Your reliability and the value you provide for your clients will set you apart from the sea of other freelance copywriters.
This reputation is what will make you a sought after copywriter. Clients will refer you to others because you’ve demonstrated you’re someone they can trust.
7. Find a Mentor and Copywriting Community
Freelance writing can be a lonely path. Surrounding yourself with other self-employed copywriters keeps you motivated, builds your network, and helps you grow.
I can’t recommend connecting with other copywriters enough!
A community is there to help you out when questions come up – which will happen. You’ll grow as a copywriter much faster than if you tried to do it all alone.
I’m part of an accountability group that meets weekly. We get together to discuss our goals, our weekly wins, and ask each other questions. It’s been a game-changer for my career in so many ways.
Whenever I have a question, I know I can reach out to my group. Connecting with other copywriters has been critical to my success.
Through the internet, it’s easier than ever to connect with others across the globe. Join groups where other freelancers, copywriters, and creatives hang out.
Network and connect with those who are doing the things you’re doing. Together you’ll learn faster. Your success will skyrocket because you have a wealth of knowledge to lean on.
Also, find someone farther along the journey who can help guide you on your career. A mentor has been there and done that already. They remember what it was like to be new, and they know what it takes to be successful.
A copywriting mentor can truly take your freelance copywriting career to the next level.
If you’re ready to surround yourself with a group of likeminded people living their copywriting dreams, definitely check out Write Your Way To Freedom.
Not only do you get Sarah Turner’s step-by-step guidance on building a business from scratch, but you gain access to the most amazing and supportive group of freelance copywriters.
You’ve Got This
You deserve to build the life of your dreams – and you’re capable of it!
Set yourself up for success and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll reach those dreams.
Following these seven secrets to success will catapult your freelance copywriting journey and get you where you want to go.
Now all you have to do is start.