Learning how to write great copy can be an excellent career move. You can make a good amount of money while flexing your creative muscles and working in a flexible setting.
The best part: You also don’t need any formal education. In fact, some of the most sought after and highest-paid copywriters in the world never took a writing class in their life and clear six figures a year.
In this post, we’ll show you how to get started as a copywriter — even if you don’t have any experience. From there, we’ll share our founder Ramit Sethi’s best tips for sharpening your copywriting skills.
A copywriter is anyone who is paid to write content that entices readers to take action — in other words, copywriters write the words used for marketing products and/or services. This includes things like:
Despite the name, copywriters are more than just writers. They’re writers, salespeople, and behavioral psychologists all rolled into one. To be a good copywriter, you need to learn to master all those elements.
Luckily, it’s easy to start gathering the experience you need.
Copywriting salaries vary a lot depending on what setting you work in (more on that in the next section).
According to Glassdoor, the median salary for copywriters in the U.S. is $58,465/year, but this is for writers who work in house or for an established agency.
When you work as a freelancer, you can make a lot more (or less) depending on the amount of work you take on. The sky’s the limit when it comes to your income as a freelance copywriter, and it’s not unheard of for writers to have steady six-figure salaries.
There are two main settings that you can work in as a copywriter:
And both have their pros and cons.
For this post, I’m going to focus on creating your own freelance copywriting hustle — even if you have no experience.
The art of copywriting (and doing it well) is one you’ll learn with experience — so you might not be great at it if you’re just starting out at first.
You don’t have to have a creative writing degree to learn how to be a copywriter, but you do have to know how to persuade readers to take action. The good news is that this can be learned by studying those who’ve done it already.
These resources are a great place to start:
Now that you’ve learned about copywriting fundamentals and studied some masterclass examples, it’s time to take action by actually practicing your copywriting skills.
Here are some perfect practice opportunities that you can work on today:
With some writing practice under your belt, you can start to get a feel for the niche you want to pursue. Your niche is the specific area and audience you’re going to target as a copywriter.
“But why would I want to limit myself? Wouldn’t I get more work if I open myself up to more people?”
It’s paradoxical — but you’ll actually be able to find more work AND charge more if you niche down your audience and specialization.
So first, think about what role you want to own — and there are a lot of them.
There’s no right answer here. The important thing is you pick what’s interesting to you and get started. And you can always change it later if it’s not the right fit.
Now you’re going to niche down your target market.
This will be your prospective clients. Ask yourself:
Once you have the answer to those questions, you can come up with your niched-down role.
Here are a few examples:
Once you know how you want to approach your copywriting hustle, it’s time to find your first clients.
Finding clients for a copywriting side hustle can be a little intimidating — especially when you’re new.
Luckily, once you find your first few clients, the process becomes MUCH simpler, since they’re likely to refer you to their network (more on this later).
There are a lot of different ways you can find your first client. And you already have a lot of different platforms to find work as a copywriter.
Above, we mentioned one of the most popular: Upwork, a job and gig site catered toward freelancers.
Getting started with the website is simple. You simply create a freelancer profile and start applying for various projects on the site such as copywriting, SEO, social media, and more.
It should be noted that while Upwork can be a great place to find clients and build a portfolio, you shouldn’t necessarily rely on it to find all of your clients.
Instead, we suggest you go to where your clients spend time online. This means going to message boards, forums, and websites your client might frequent can be incredibly helpful.
Start going to these places and providing value. Not only that, but you should be doing it consistently. I’m talking every day for AT LEAST one hour a day.
By being engaged and providing immense value, you’ll build a network of clients organically and develop a rock-steady reputation.
Knowing what to charge for your freelance work can be confusing, especially when you’re first starting out.
There are four main pricing models that freelancer writers can use:
If you’re a beginner, we suggest you charge hourly, because most clients are going to be unsure about whether or not you’ll be able to do a good job. As such, they might not want to give you a fat project fee.
Once you’ve gotten your first three or so clients though, then you can move on to different pricing models.
When it comes to how much exactly you should be charging, there’s no right answer. When in doubt, charge at the lower end of the median when you’re a beginner, and raise your prices from there as you get more experience (by the way, the median hourly rate for a freelance copywriter is $34.16 according to Payscale).
If you want to charge based on the type of content you’re writing, check out this chart from professional copywriter Abbey Woodcock. She surveyed 68 copywriters for GrowthLab to find out how much they charged:
First, there’s a HUGE disparity between a highly experienced copywriter and a beginner copywriter. This should be encouraging for anyone just getting started.
Also, even when you’re a relative beginner, you’re still making a good amount of money for your services. Say you write an “About” page for a company and charge $85. If that “About” page only took you an hour to write, that’s a fantastic ROI on the time spent.
The following advice is from our founder, Ramit Sethi, who has been a copywriter for over 15 years. He’s written everything from a New York Times Bestselling book to million dollar sales pages – so he knows his stuff.
This sounds so obvious, right? Aren’t all writers focused on the reader? Nah-ah. Not at all. It’s shocking how often writers lose focus when they’re writing. In fact, a lot of writers sit down at their desk, stare at a blank page for a minute, think, “What should I say? What should I say….?” And then wham! They’ll just dive right into whatever they feel like writing about. They go off on long tangents. They inject their writing with random stories. And they make everything about themselves (this is “I, I, I syndrome”). In the process, they kill their writing.
Mediocre writers talk about themselves. Great copywriters write about what their readers care about. This takes planning. You also must be meticulous about the actual words you use (which we’ll cover later in this post). But it’s important to know: the best writers focus their copy on their readers — not themselves.
Good copywriters never stop improving. They don’t wake up one day and think, “Wow, my writing is perfect; I’ll never have to change it again.” That would be absurd.
Beyond that, they’re constantly investing in themselves. They read books on copywriting and marketing. They buy the newest courses. And they read other copywriter’s stuff to stay in the loop. They know it’s important to stay sharp and always keep up-leveling their skills.
Good copywriters aren’t fighting tooth and nail to defend every idea they have. They’re always looking for feedback. That could mean they show their first draft to a friend to see if it’s interesting. Or it might mean reaching out to customers directly for their take. Good copywriters know that getting feedback on their early first drafts helps their writing improve by 10x or even 100x. They don’t see feedback as criticism. They see it as an opportunity to improve their work.
Notice that I don’t say anything about grammar or editing skills. Those things are important, but you can develop those skills — over time — with practice. What I pointed out are the mindsets that you MUST bring to the table.
You can work on your technical writing skills later on, but if you’re starting out with the wrong frame of mind, you’ll never make it as a copywriter.
So adopt these mindsets. If you do, you’ll already be 90% of the way to being a good copywriter.
Imagine you’re sitting at a bar with your closest friends. You’re having a few drinks and chatting away.
After a few minutes, your friend asks you, “What does your business do again?”
Would you read off the mission statement from a company about page and say something like, “we’re on a mission to drastically reduce process inefficiencies for our valued clients”?
No. If you used stiff words and robotic phrases like that, he’d look at you like you were crazy.
So what would you do? You’d take a sip of your drink and just start talking, using simple words and stories.
Good copywriting works the same way.
It’s not super-dense technical material. It uses short sentences and reads the way people talk.
If you want to be a copywriter, read everything you write out loud. If you find yourself thinking, “There’s no way I would ever say that,” trash it and start over.
Every time you write, you should focus on your reader. One of the best ways to do that is to stop talking about YOURSELF and talk to your audience. That means drop all the “my”s and “I”s in your copy and start saying “you.”
Do you see the difference? When you write to your reader, you turn tired, boring writing into exciting and relevant copy.
Vague copy is might as well not exist. It doesn’t get people excited or even keep them reading. So any time you find your copy drifting into the clouds, you should try to bring it back down to the ground level with some specific examples. Take a look at these simple edits to vague copy that make them exponentially more powerful:
These simple tweaks will make all of your writing much stronger.
And once you understand how to apply these frameworks, you can start earning money right away. Let me show you what I mean.
Copywriting can be a lucrative career, but you don’t have to go all in when you start out. You can earn a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars per month doing it on the side — in as little as a few hours per week.
How? Think about it like this: every company has something they need to sell, but not every company knows how.
They may have an amazing product or brilliant idea, but no idea how to get people to buy it.
That’s where you, as a copywriter, come in. You can help them sell their products and services better.
All you have to do is work with them on the copy in their sales letters, emails, and on their website.
Think of how horrible sales pitches you’ve gotten. You don’t have to be a great copywriter to do better. And as long as you beat the competition you can earn good money.
There are thousands of people looking for these types of jobs every day. The only hard part is selecting good clients to work with (some people just don’t value copywriting — and that’s okay).
Most copywriters end up chasing low-paying gigs and working with clients who don’t value their services.
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