This is aimed at people who have already worked as agency copywriters, particularly in the UK, but are looking to make the move from permanent to freelance. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten pieces of advice for going freelance.
- Avoid content mills and any request for lots of articles/blog posts that pay next to nothing. You’ll work your typing fingers to the bone, go crazy and still be badly off.
- On the other hand, it may well be worth accepting a small, low paying gig if it’s likely to lead to bigger, better things. But watch out for people who promise the earth but are really just looking to pay peanuts for one-offs.
- Contacts, contacts and more contacts. Make them and keep them. Try not to buttonhole them only when you need work. Stay in touch regularly if you can anyway – send them relevant news items, catch-up emails, Christmas cards.
- Register for VAT. You’ll look more professional, and once your annual earnings are over a certain level, you’re legally obliged to. With Flat Rate VAT, you can even make money. (You’ll have to declare your profits from it in your Tax return, though.) Which brings me to…..
- Keep records of everything and register with the tax office straightaway. You can’t hide from them for long, and when they do find you, they won’t appreciate the delay.
- Get a website. Bleedin’ obvious, you would have thought, but you’d be amazed how many writers don’t have them.
- Learn all you can from other writers – the internet is a great source of advice, hints and tips. A couple of decent books wouldn’t harm, either. The Well-fed Writer by Peter Bowerman is a good start.
- Hunt out as many examples of work that you’ve already done and have them ready at hand. Yes, even those ones you don’t really rate. Sometime, somewhere a prospective client is going to want to know that you’ve experience in writing about that particular service or product.
- Check out online copywriting forums, Linkedin groups and so on. Again, lots of assistance, and you can sometimes pick up jobs there as well.
- Get to know a good art director, designer and production person or two. You never know when you might need them. As for account people, receptionists, planners…from now on that’s going to be part of your role. So be organised, be flexible, and be prepared to learn.
Finally, good luck – it’s worth making that leap!
That last point is worth re-iterating: be flexible. From emails to direct response to brochures, ads and apps, you have to learn to do all kinds of copywriting.