Copywriting is one of the most competitive writing fields in the industry, but also one of the most lucrative and rewarding for those at the top their game.
Copywriting is simply the art of writing persuasive sales copy for purposes of advertising and announcements, such as print ads, brochures, press releases, catalogs and website content.
Experienced copywriters are also hired to write commercials that run on radio and television. They use words persuasively to attract attention and sell a product, service, idea, or brand.
If you have a flair for words, are passionate about writing, and committed enough, you should seriously consider starting a copywriting business, although it can be very competitive.
Why Start a Copywriting Business?
One of the best things about starting a copywriting business is that copywriters are always in demand, you can start your copywriting business with just a little up-front cost, and you can even run your copywriting business on a part time basis or as a freelance copywriter.
Companies and advertising agencies are always looking to hire exceptional copywriters capable of producing the right words to effectively send out brand and company messages. Agencies and companies spend fortunes on advertising in different media just to get heard and make sales, including advertising on newspapers, magazines, brochures, blogs, and websites.
When a company spends a fortune in advertising, it expects the copywriter to get the words right. For example, it costs thousands of dollars just to send out one direct mail campaign. Pick up a direct mail photo and call the mailing list printer or broker and enquire about their pricing. You will be surprised to learn that sometimes a single direct mail campaign can run into tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of pieces sent.
It makes sense, therefore, that the company sending out direct mail advertising messages should want their sales and marketing copy done by a professional to ensure they recover their advertising investments and also make a decent profit from their campaigns.
The professional these companies seek is you – the copywriter. Your job as a copywriter is to write excellent and highly persuasive sales copy that increases the response rates and converts prospective customers in paying customers or clients.
How Much Do Copywriters Make?
The average copywriter can earn anywhere from $250 to $750 for a single website page, and anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 for producing short sales letters.
Longer sales letters can cost up to $5,000 or more a piece. On the other hand, a hardworking “per-hour” freelance copywriter typically charges between $50 and $100 an hour.
According to data from Payscale, as of 2023, the average copywriter salary in the United States hovers around $57,012 annually.
Additionally, experienced copywriters tend to get a percentage of their work’s turnover as royalty. Not bad for a career, huh?
Of course, how much you make as a copywriter will vary depending upon many factors, like where you are located, the location of your clients, your charges, your experience, your certification, and your reputation in the industry.
Some copywriters out there undercut the rest and charge ridiculously low prices for copywriting services. But this should not worry you too much. If you work hard and ensure the quality of your work is always top-notch, you'll get clients who will match your asking price.
How to Start a Copywriting Business - Key Steps to Launch a Copywriting Career
Starting a copywriting business or a career in copywriting (freelance or not) is much like starting a career in most other professions. You will do well if you are certified and have excellent work track record and contacts in related industries, such as public relations, marketing, and advertising.
To get your copywriting business off the ground, you might even consider using an online service like LLCBuddy to handle the creation of your business entity, so you can focus on your passion – writing.
However, even without those advantages, you can still start a copywriting business and break into the industry, quickly establishing yourself as a successful copywriter by following some key steps:
1. Learn everything you can about copywriting
It is absolutely crucial that you have a solid knowledge base in copywriting to succeed. Read copywriting books and websites, and consider enrolling for reputable copywriting training courses where applicable to learn everything you can about copywriting from experts.
For example, "The Copywriter's Handbook: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells" by Robert W. Bly and "The Adweek Copywriting Handbook" by Joseph Sugarman are two excellent copywriting books for beginners to start with that reveal valuable copywriting insights and techniques for writing commercials, ads, and direct mail that's clear, persuasive, and impactful.
"Advertising Secrets of the Written Word" by Joseph Sugarman is yet another insightful guide for anyone interested in copywriting. This is a particularly useful guide on how to position copy costs about $30, which is incredible value considering that copywriting courses can cost as much as $1,000. It's one of the top copywriters' go-to books, so devour it voraciously.
Get your new copywriting career to a flying start by leveraging other copywriting resources like "Ogilvy on Advertising" by David Ogilvy that offer great copywriting info and traditional advertising advice as well.
Also, read quality copywriting blogs online that help writers transform into true wordsmiths and that deliver valuable information, tips, and tricks about copywriting from practicing experts.
2. Pick a copywriting niche
There are many types of copy you can write as a copywriter. The most common type of copy is direct mail, which is the sales material we all get on a regular basis in our mailboxes. You can also write media copy, which is copy written for broadcast media, like television and radio.
Moreover, you can write newsletters, catalogs, sales copy, postcards and self-mailers. Each of these types of copy has its own application and represents a copywriting niche you can enter.
Narrow your niche options for better focus at the start of your career. Pay attention to persuasive and advertising messages that you read in newspapers, magazines, billboards, email, and on the Internet to get a feel for the different types of sales copy you could specialize in.
Which types of copy work for you? Why do they work for you? Which ones don't? What turns you off about those that don't? Which do you think would be fun to write?
Once you answer those questions, you'll be better placed to pick one or more copywriting niches that work for you. Focus on them at the start of your career-you can always branch off later.
3. Practice writing sample sales copy
Now that you have learned the all the fundamentals of a copywriting business and narrowed down your niches to focus on, practice your new craft.
Write sample sales and advertising copy to develop confidence, skill and a writing habit. The sample copy might be for an existing business in your locality or for an imaginary business.
Work on a brochure for your own copywriting business and make it good. Keep a swap file of your entire sample sales copies since they might prove useful later on in your career as samples for potential clients to check out or for use on your own copywriting website.
4. Build up a solid copywriting portfolio
The first question potential clients usually ask when you query them for a copywriting gig is: “Can you send us some samples of your work?” This question is often dreaded and quite unnerving for new copywriters.
You could gather the nerve and tell the client that you are new in the business and don’t have any samples yet, but you promise to do a good job. If you are in luck and the client is desperate enough, they will hire you at a substantial discount and there you will have your first work sample!
Alternatively, adopt a more proactive strategy to tackle this question by building a creative portfolio on your own website or on reputable portfolio sites beforehand. The hallmark of any serious online entrepreneur is a professional, money-making business website.
Your copywriting website is where you will tell more about who you are and your service offerings, publish your best sample sales pieces and send prospective clients to to see your work. It will help in creating consistent business and provide support for your pitches.
Look at free website builders and publishing solutions like WordPress, Drupal, Weebly and Wix to build your website relatively inexpensively or hire a web designer to help you design and build your copywriting website from scratch.
For your website hosting, we'd recommend a reputable web host company like Hostgator and Dreamhost. A website speaks volumes about your level of seriousness and professionalism as a copywriter, and it allows you to reach a wider audience online, including overseas.
5. Get down to it—write actual sales/ad copy
Finally, get down to the real thing – find paying gigs and write actual sales copy.
To find paying gigs, be proactive. Make a list of businesses locally and internationally that you think might be willing to pay you a small fee for helping them raise some extra funds with your ad or sales copy. Select the most viable clients from your list and approach them with an offer to write for them, including advertising agencies, media companies, sports clubs, and even charity groups.
Send sales copy pitches and query letters to the organizations you pick out from your list and inform them about your copywriting business and copywriting services. Direct them to your copywriting website to see samples of your work if you set one up. Follow up on your query with a telephone call to discuss any arising issues further or to offer clarifications where needed.
Also, browse websites with copywriting employment opportunities, like the Guardian jobs, Journalism.co.uk, Indeed, CampaignLive, and SimplyHired. Also search copywriting job listings on LinkedIn and other social media sites, as well as online job boards regularly to see what's there.
If you are still struggling to get your first copywriting assignment, consider developing something “on spec.” This is where you agree with the client that you will develop a sales or marketing piece for them and they will only be required to pay you if they like it and actually to use it.
Key Copywriting Principle to Remember...
Writer Eric Graham explains a military training course that taught him how to kill someone with a gun: Take two shots to the heart, then one to the head. The shots to the heart provide the easiest target while the shot to the head is harder, but useful insurance if the target is wearing body armor.
Graham extends this rather gruesome analogy to explain how effective sales or ad copy works. When you write copy, you are not trying to end someone’s life, but rather to get a sale, a conversion or accomplish whatever other goal has been set for you.
Targeting the "heart" with words that arouse emotion helps spark interest for your product and is easier than targeting the "head" with logical explanations why your product is different and better than competing products. Copywriters normally apply both emotions and logic to justify a buying decision, but consumers often apply logic to justify the emotional decisions they make when they buy.
Build up the emotional justification for a buying decision with your choice of words and then weave in logic to justify the buying decisions in order to “kill” the sale. This is a proven strategy that makes for excellent sales writers. If your copywriting services are excellent, you'll be surprised at how quickly your business can grow and bring in desired results.