Copywriting, particularly freelance copywriting, shouldn’t be scary or intimidating. If you’re just starting out on your journey, here are some tips for new copywriters that you should consider as you begin:

1. Read Everything, and Then Read Some More.

Check out the tried-and-true standards such as Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising and The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells, but don’t forget to browse the Internet to keep up with what’s happening.

2. Ignore Everyone Who Swears That You Must Find Your Niche Now.

As someone who is just stepping out into the world of copywriting, your time is best spent exploring different niches until you find a good fit. Choosing a topic is something that should come naturally to you as you continue to build expertise. It’s not something that should be unnecessarily forced in the beginning; you have no conceivable idea to know what you would enjoy writing. Even topics that you think are interesting may prove to be repetitive and painful to write about once you do so many articles about that particular subject.

3. Learn to Write Better Headlines.

Headlines are what grab a reader’s attention. Show your reader what he or she will lose by clicking the “back” button on the browser, and he or she will likely stick around to read more. As a personal favor to me and the rest of the online community, please don’t resort to click-baiting headlines such as those that you find on viral sites. (“This girl has been in a coma for 24 years. You won’t believe what she just did!”)

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Working for the Man

While there’s something to be said about being your own boss, in some cases, getting your copy past corporate gatekeepers can actually hone your skills. Don’t be afraid of working a full-time job at a brick and mortar company as you start out; until you get your business going, you will likely enjoy the benefits and steady paycheck.

5. Find a Mentor.

Spend some time talking about freelance copywriting with someone who has been in the business. A true mentor is willing to assist you to become a better copywriter without taking all of your money. If you don’t have one, please don’t be afraid to accept criticism or think too highly of yourself. Even the most seasoned writers are able to successful take critiques and apply these ideas to their work to continuously improve their content and techniques.

6. Create an Awesome Space for Your Freelance Work.

Designate a specific space where you will write, or you may risk losing your sanity. Create an office from a closet if you have to, but making a separate and inspirational space away from your personal living quarters. If you don’t, you’ll likely find it difficult to separate your time from your clients’ time, and whether you’re working all day or catching up on your soap operas, you will feel like you’re working all day.

7. Start Building Your Portfolio. Now.

When you’re just starting out, one of the most important tips for new copywriters is to create a portfolio with each article you write. As you gain more experience, it will benefit you to pick and choose the projects that wind up in your portfolio. For now, gather it all. I’m a big supporter of the online portfolio, and you can find mine here. You can also use your LinkedIn profile to showcase your work. I always create a separate PDF portfolio for each of the jobs to which I apply, tailored specifically for that job. Do what works for you, but make sure you keep it up-to-date and avoid throwing something together at the last possible minute.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Away Gigs.

Sometimes, a potential client will reach out to you, and you just won’t feel that project. It’s important to understand that it’s okay to say, “No.” After all, it hurts both you and the client if you churn out sub-par copy, regardless the reason. There are several factors that could prompt you to turn a client away, including:

  • They can’t pay you what you’re worth
  • You need a vacation or a break
  • You don’t believe in the product
  • You don’t have enough time
  • They set off your “jerk” radar (trust your gut on this one)

9. Use Professional Invoices.

Use an online service like PayPal or simply make them in Microsoft Word. Slap a real logo on the top of the invoice, and make sure you assign identifying, unique numbers to each one. Keeping track of your payments can be tricky, especially if you are juggling multiple projects for the same business or person.

10. Just Write.

If you need further explanation on this particular tip, you’re probably not copywriter material. Seriously, though, if you don’t have a client, update your website copy, write a blog post, apply for an open gig, send a sales pitch, or compose a few tweets. Don’t just sit there and twiddle your thumbs.