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Freelance Writing Mini-Course (Your Top Freelancing Questions Answered)


Neville

AIDA Formula Action

So, you’ve decided to try accepting money for freelance work. That's great!

But you might have a bunch of little questions in your head that hold you back. Well here's 25-ish freelancing questions that are known to stump many new writers and freelancers and block their progress.

Let’s avoid that by figuring out these answers before you hit a wall. This course is for beginner freelancers or copywriters (if we use examples, we'll typically use copywriting as an example, but you can substitute any freelancing skill).

Alright, let’s get started!

 

#1.) What can I do as an absolute beginner?

The VERY first step is to becoming a copywriter is figuring out if you actually like writing. It may seem obvious, but don’t skip it!

Sometimes people like the idea of copywriting. They like the idea of working at home in their underwear. And being their own boss. And deciding their own schedule. But then when times comes to actually put words down on paper, they realize they hate writing.

So, Step 1: Do some practice writing assignments to make sure you like it.

From there, you need to get the basics down. Reading these top copywriting books and applying their principles to actual projects (whether free or paid) will put you ahead of 99% of other so-called “copywriters” out there.

Next is finding your first client…

 

 

#2.) How do I find my first client?

Landing your first client is a HUGE milestone, but it’s also one of the most challenging. Most potential clients will only hire a copywriter with experience, but how do you gain experience if nobody will hire you?

It’s the chicken and egg conundrum.

There are lots of ways to get your first freelance writing job, but the easiest is to tap into your EXISTING network—people who already know, like, and trust you—and offer your new service at a heavily discounted rate.

Maybe your brother-in-law has a lawn care business. Maybe your roommate’s dad owns a chiropractic clinic. Maybe your neighbor’s son runs an E-commerce store.

Chances are, you are already connected to someone who could use your skills.

One way to find them is to simply blast out a post on your personal Facebook profile. Here’s a template you can use:

Here are a bunch of other scripts and templates you can use to help you make your first $100 as a freelancer.

While you’re on Facebook (or LinkedIn), scan your friends list and note down anyone with a business background who may have a network of potential clients. Then reach out to them personally via email.

If you follow these instructions and send out a COMPELLING offer, you should get some bites.

 

 

#3.) What are other ways to find clients?

While landing your first client is a great milestone, your work doesn’t end there. You still have to keep hustling to prevent work from drying up.

The easiest solution is to impress the pants off your first client and uncover other opportunities to help them. If that's not an option, Plan B is to have them refer you to their network.

If all this fails, you'll have to start client hunting again. But this time, you have weapons. Instead of going after clients empty handed, you now have a real sample (and hopefully a shiny testimonial) to prove you can get the job done.

Honestly, there are so many strategies for finding clients that choosing the "right" one can be overwhelming.

I would start by building off your momentum. Whatever type of writing you did for your first project, find clients who are looking for the same thing (Google is your friend here). Create a spreadsheet filled with potential candidates, and start cold emailing them one by one. Remember, this is a numbers game. Don't lose hope if you don't get positive responses right away. Commit to reaching out to a set number of companies each day, and don't stop until you get a bite (actually, if you're smart, you'll NEVER stop).

In addition to cold emails, keep your eye on remote job boards like ProBlogger, Dynamite Jobs, and Flexjobs (subscription required). These will have more competition, but if you're qualified, why not take a few minutes to apply? You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Lastly, figure out where your target client hangs out and get in front of them. Whether that be guest posting on certain blog and industry publications, helping people in forums, or attending (or even speaking at) networking events—the goal is to show them you exist and that you can solve their problems.

 

 

#4.) How do I ask for referrals?

There are two key times when you should try to ask for referrals:

#1.) Right after turning in a project the client is excited about

#2.) After a client gets good results from your work

Basically, you want to catch them at a moment when they’re excited about your work and feel compelled to share it with others.

If you ask too early, they won’t know if you’re referral-worthy.

If you ask too late, they’re excitement will wear off, and they’ll have moved onto other projects.

Here is what I’d send to a client right when they are excited about their results:

 

 

 

#5.) Do I need to make a website to show potential clients?

NOOOOO!

You absolutely do NOT need a portfolio website before you can start landing clients. This is one of the biggest mistakes new freelancers make. You’ll waste time, spend money, delay earning money, and might even get frustrated and give up.

The solution is to create a simple Google Docs portfolio. It takes like 10 minutes, and let’s you start landing clients and earning money as quickly as possible. Besides, 99% of clients won’t ask to see your website if you provide them with some strong writing samples.

website vs google doc portfolio graph

 

 

 

#6.) How do I land clients if I have zero experience?

If you have no experience, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing ANYONE to hire you. Nobody wants to waste money on someone they doubt can get the job done.

The solution is stupidly simple: Get some experience.

There are 3 easy ways to do this:

 

Just remember, keep this phase short and sweet. Once you go from zero experience to a little experience, start charging for you work.

 

 

#7.) What questions should I ask my clients to make the project go smoothly?

The questions you ask your clients can make or break a project.

You want to be 100% sure you’re on the same page. This will help you avoid:

  • Confusion
  • Wasted time
  • Sucky results
  • Pissed clients
  • Loads of revisions

Your best bet is to stay in constant communication. Here are some key questions to ask at each phase of your project:

questions you can ask your client

 

 

 

#8.) What’s the difference between a freelance copywriter and an in-house copywriter?

inhouse vs freelance

 

 

#9.) What are the best ways to learn and practice copywriting?

 

If you’re new-ish to copywriting, the key to quickly improving your chops lies in these 4 steps:

For maximum efficiency, do all these steps at the same time. For example, wake up every morning and spend...

  • 30 minutes reading The Adweek Copywriting Handbook
  • 30 minutes hand-copying a successful sales letter and analyzing WHY it was successful
  • 30 minutes practicing writing your own copy using what you’ve learned and getting critiqued

Commit to this 90-minute/day schedule for one month straight and you’ll be light-years ahead of other new copywriters.

 

 

#10.) How Do I accept Payment As A Freelancer?

If you're starting out as a freelancer, don't get hung up on how to accept payments.

Here's my quick tips on what to do:

#1.) Accept simple payment methods like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, Checks etc.

#2.) Don't try to look big. They KNOW you're a freelancer.

#3) 50/50 Payments. This means 50% payment upfront, and 50% payment on completion.

#4.) Don't worry about tax issues if just getting started. Make lots of income first then worry about that.

#5.) If they don't pay (very unusual) you can:

#5.1) Email them (so there's a paper trail).

#5.2) Email + Call.

#5.3) Call them out on social media.

 

 

#11.) What’s the difference between copywriting and content writing?

The difference between copywriting and content writing is often misunderstood.

To put it simply:

Content writing is meant to inform or entertain, but not necessarily to sell. (e.g. a blog post about how to change a tire).

Copywriting is designed to sell something or get people to take an action (e.g. click, subscribe, call, etc).

Both are valuable to a business, but since a copywriter directly influences sales, they can demand higher prices.

When looking for jobs, remember not all businesses understand the difference between content writing and copywriting. Many companies post jobs for “copywriters” when what they’re really looking for are content writers.

That said, if you’re just starting out, don’t shy away from content writing jobs. It’s easier to get your foot in the door with content writing, then transition to copywriting from there.

 

 

#12.) What types of jobs do copywriters do?

As a copywriter, you have the potential to work on all sorts of projects like...

▶ Video sales letter (VSL) scripts

▶ Social media posts

▶ Social Media Ads

▶ Autoresponders

▶ Cold call scripts

▶ B2B Brochures

▶ White papers

▶ Case studies

▶ Sales letters

▶ Email blasts

▶ Cold emails

▶ Direct mail

▶ Radio ads

▶ PPC Ads

▶ And more...

Generalist copywriters might be responsible for writing all these types of content. If you decide to niche down, you could specialize in just one (ex. email copywriting).

Speaking of niches...

 

 

#13.) Do I need to choose a niche?

Yes and no.

When you niche down, you’re essentially saying that you’re a “specialist” in either…

  • A specific type of project (email writing, VSLs, white papers etc)
  • A specific type of client (eCommerce owners, course creators, chiropractors, etc)
  • A specific industry (finance, health supplements, dating)
  • A specific audience (people in wheelchairs)

As a specialist, you become a big fish in a small pond and don’t have to duke it out with a zillion other generalist copywriters who write about anything.

Find your niche

That said, it might not make sense for you to niche down YET.

When you’re just starting, you can’t be picky. You don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself before you even get started.

Here’s how to figure out what to do:

to niche or not to niche

If your first gigs aren’t in your preferred niche, that’s ok. All you have to do is create a strategic plan to get to where you want to be.

For example, let’s say you want to be a travel writer but the first gig you land is about pool care products. By leveraging the samples from each project you do, you can gradually move to where you want to be.

 

Pool care ➡ Swimming ➡ Fitness ➡ Fitness on the road ➡ Travel

 

 

#14.) What’s the best niche?

The easiest niche to break into is the one you’re already an expert in.

Brainstorm areas where you already have a natural advantage over others.

Work for 5 years with an insurance company? Start in the insurance niche.

Are you an ex-bodybuilder? The fitness niche would be a good choice.

Hold a degree in accounting? Finance it is.

Not only will leveraging your current expertise save you from having to master a new field, but you’re also more likely to have contacts who can help you get off the ground.

But what if you’ve lived in a bubble your entire existence and don’t have experience in anything?

Well, in that case, you’ll have to choose a promising niche and learn as you go.

If the niche you choose falls under the umbrellas of health, wealth, or relationships—you’re probably in good shape. People spend a FRICKTON of money in these industries, and there are plenty of companies with big marketing budgets.

Or if you want something with a bit less competition, you could try a new beginner-friendly niche like software documentation writing.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to change paths. Choosing your niche isn’t a permanent decision. You might have to bounce around a bit until you land on a winner.

 

 

#15.) How do I price my copywriting projects?

This is one of the hardest parts of freelancing. You don’t want to undercharge and work at slave wages. But you also don’t want to overprice and scare away potential clients.

So how do you find the “sweet spot” where you are charging the maximum amount your client is willing to pay?

The answer is simple.

Always give multiple options. By using the three-pronged pricing technique, you let the client choose which package best fits their needs.

The cheap package includes bare bones services and costs just enough to put you in your “Minimum Happiness Zone”.

The medium package is your standard bundle and is a bit pricier.

And the expensive package is the super luxury VIP treatment.

Three Prong Pricing Stickman

If you need help creating your three-pronged pricing options, check out this freelance pricing calculator.

 

 

#16.) Why can’t I find any jobs that pay well?

If you can’t find jobs that pay well, you probably have one of four problems:

#1.) You need to demonstrate a higher ROI. In order to get paid big bucks, you need to provide big value and DEMONSTRATE that value. When quoting a client, first show them how much money your work could make them, then quote a small fraction of that amount. If the emails you write could earn them $5,000,000, they better be paying you more than $100/email.

It’s easier to demonstrate ROI with direct response copywriting than it is with content writing.

#2.) You need to specialize. This comes down to simple supply and demand. If you are only one of 10 freelance writers specialized in a certain niche, you’ll be able to ratchet up your prices. But if you’re competing against millions of other generalists, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

#3.) You’re looking in the wrong places. If you’re competing against those millions of generalists in places like Upwork and Fiverr, prices will get driven down. There will always be someone willing to work for less than you.

#4.) You need bigger clients. A bootstrapping solopreneur won’t be able to pay you $5000 for an autoresponder. But for a Fortune 500 company, $5000 is a drop in the bucket. There’s nothing wrong with starting small, but keep working your way up the client ladder.

 

 

#17.) How much does a typical copywriter earn?

This is a toughy because the salary range is HUGE.

We talked about the difference between in-house and freelance copywriters earlier, now let’s look at their salary differences.

Neville scraped a crap-ton of copywriter salary data from the internet, and this is what he found for in-house copywriters:

most common copywriter salaries chart

The most common copywriter salary is around $55,000/year, with the potential to increase substantially with more experience.

Now, freelance copywriting is a whole different story.

Since you run your own business, there’s really no minimum or maximum. If you’re lazy and write sucky copy, you might earn $500/year. If you’re a workaholic, know how to market yourself, write fast, and consistently achieve awesome results for your clients...you could potentially make millions.

That’s the wonderful thing about freelance copywriting—you decide how much you make.

 

 

#18.) How can I make myself more valuable to clients?

The key to making yourself more valuable is making yourself stand out among the sea of other writers. You need to offer something above and beyond what everyone else offers.

This might mean making yourself a triple threat:

Or it might mean positioning yourself an advisor instead of an order-taker

Another value-booster is simply having experience in many different areas.

For example, before getting into copywriting and consulting, Neville owned eCommerce companies, helped build AppSumo, and maintained a popular personal finance blog.

These seemingly random experiences made his writing far more interesting.

You also might want to mix-n-match skillsets to become a full stack writer. This means you learn new skills that make you more powerful as a freelancer:

stick figure building muscles new with new skills

Common "Full Stack Writer" skills include:

📝 Writing text in an editor.

🖼 Creating and editing images.

🖥 Knowing how to upload an article to a website.

🕵️♂️ Understanding very basic SEO.

📊 Understanding how to promote an article once released.

▶️ Bonus: Knowing how to create videos.

💻 Bonus: Knowing how to edit basic HTML or CSS.

The reason it’s labelled as "Full Stack Writer" is because you understand the whole technology stack required to finalize a piece of content.

 

 

#19.) How can I improve my copy?

When just starting out as a copywriter, you might lack confidence and wonder if you’re “doing it right”.

Fortunately, writing good copy doesn’t have to be confusing.

All you need is to follow a few proven principles (like the AIDA formula), crank out an uncensored rough draft, then put it through a systemized editing process to polish it up:

There are also elements like scarcity and social proof that will almost always make your copy more convincing.

And if you’re completely stuck, scan through this list of 103 copywriting tips to jumpstart your brain.

 

 

#20.) How can I be more productive and get more done as a freelancer?

When you work from home as a freelancer, your productivity is directly tied to your income.

Apart from your typical productivity advice like blocking your work, taking frequent breaks, and learning to write faster—there are two other productivity keys that are guaranteed to boost your efficiency.

The first is maintaining a copywriting command center. This should include…

  • An easy-to-update portfolio
  • Names and contact info of other copywriters
  • Names and contact info of potential clients
  • Links to jobs boards, copywriting groups, and other resources

Having everything organized together at your fingertips will make life 100x easier.

The second key is making sure you are using the right tools. Just like a skilled carpenter needs a hammer and nails to build a house, you as a copywriter need your own copywriting tools to work efficiently.

 

 

#21.) What are the benefits of becoming a freelancer?

Freelancing gives you freedom.

Case in point: Last week the entire world locked down due to COVID-19. My wife and I were traveling through Cambodia and decided to head to a small island paradise to escape the madness. Now we’re trapped here.

Most other “island refugees” are worried because they weren’t financially prepared to pay for an indefinite vacation.

But me?

I’m having the time of my life!

We’ve got an entire beachside bungalow resort to ourselves. And as long as the island’s internet doesn’t completely shut off, I could continue making money from my hammock forever.

mitch in hammock working

Squeezing in some freelance work #quarantine

The point is, freelancing gives you ultimate control.

You control who you work with.

Where you work from.

When you work.

And when you don’t.

Pretty great, right?

But as with everything in life, there’s two sides to the coin...

 

 

#22.) What are the downsides to freelancing?

Freelancing isn’t all lollipops and dandelions...

#1.) Getting started can be confusing. Most new freelancers struggle to get off the ground (which is exactly why we created this course!). There’s no one “correct” path to success, and the endless number of possible strategies to follow can be paralyzing.

#2.) Feast and famine isn’t fun. It’s common to find yourself in a feast and famine cycle—one month it’ll be raining cash, and the next it all dries up. This is especially true if you only do one-off projects and aren’t constantly marketing yourself (I recommend having at least two long-term clients that give consistent work).

#3.) It’s expensive. You have to pay for self-employment taxes, health insurance, marketing costs, office space and equipment, and other business-related expenses you normally wouldn’t be responsible for as an employee. And if you don’t factor all this into your pricing, your take-home pay is gonna suck.

You will also spend a good chunk of time on marketing and administration tasks, which you won’t be paid for (so you gotta factor that into your price as well)

#4.) It’s not always glamorous. Until you start filling up your pipeline, you might have to work with sucky clients or do projects that bore you to tears.

Speaking of bad clients...

 

 

#23.) How do I avoid BAD clients?

The easiest way to avoid bad clients is to not be desperate.

If you’re broke, jobless, and need to eat tonight...you’ll probably take any job thrown your way—no matter how horrible it is.

begging for work

Here’s how to not be desperate:

#1.) Build an F.U. fund 🖕. By having an extra cushion of emergency cash to get you through slow times, you’ll be able to say NO to bad offers and wait until the right one comes along.

#2.) Keep your day job. If you don’t have an F.U. fund, keep a “real job” while you start your freelance business on the side. This extra layer of security gives you the luxury to be more picky about the clients you take on.

#3.) Never stop marketing. The more you market your services, the more options you’ll have. And the more options you’ll have, the easier it is to tell bad clients to scram.

Apart from not being desperate, here are some other red flags to look out for in clients:

🚩They ask for free work

🚩They give vague feedback

🚩They fight you on your rates

🚩They don’t respect your time

🚩They take forever to respond

🚩They won’t pay you at least 50% upfront

🚩They have a sucky personality or treat you like scum

🚩They are indecisive and constantly change their mind

🚩You’re scared to ask them questions or voice your opinion

🚩You just get a bad vibe or dread working/interacting with them

If you have clients like this, ditch ‘em! There’s plenty more fish in the sea.

 

 

#24.) What do I do if a client is stubborn and won’t take my advice?

Once you start working with clients, you’ll quickly discover some are stubborn and stuck in their ways.

stubborn client remarks

It’s frustrating. Especially when you KNOW if they listened to you, they’d see better results.

One thing you can do in this situation is propose a harmless experiment.

Convince them to test your approach on a small sample of their audience to see what happens.

For example, you might send your version of an email out to just 10% of their list to see how it performs.

Once they see your way gets better results, they’ll go all in.

 

 

#25.) How can I get more help with my freelancing skills?

Feel like you’re in over your head, unqualified, and have no business giving marketing advice to big companies?

Don’t worry—this is NORMAL.

We all suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time.

When just starting out, it’s intimidating to sell your services to big fancy business owners with million dollar companies. After all, they must know way more than you, right?

WRONG.

They might be an expert in how to run their business, but odds are they’re NOT an expert copywriter.

You should start building with a solid foundation reading the classic books, practice writing your own copy, and have it critiqued by other copywriters (like we do in the Copywriting Course Member's Area):

You might not be an A-list copywriter, but relative to the average business owner, you’re a fountain of knowledge.

By following the basic principles of marketing, you CAN improve their business, and they NEED you. Remembering this will instantly boost your confidence.

 

Hope this helps!

Contributors: Mitch Glass, Neville Medhora

 

P.S. If you have more questions you want personally answered or live help with, join our Members Area!


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