I get asked from time to time from people who have strong backgrounds in writing – I.e an English literature degree or journalism degree how I became a professional writer. I do not have a strong background in writing and it wasn’t something I actually started doing until the age of about 25 (I’m now 31). It’s something I always wanted to do and was always interested in, but I never actually thought that it would become a reality. If you are looking to become a professional copywriter, I hope this blog will help you out a little.
While writing is not the only service I provide (I get a good proportion of my monthly wage from advertising and social media) it accounts for about 15% of my income.
Broaden your market.
I can’t tell you how to become a professional beauty blogger or travel writer, but I can tell you how you can pay your rent with writing.
I write about things that I have no personal interest in; such as law, health, telecoms and construction. When entering the workplace, people tend to be quite idyllic about what kind of things they want to write about. But expanding your portfolio and being able to write about anything for anybody can really help you get in work that’s going to pay the bills. The company you want to write for might not have the budget, but your local car dealership might.
One of my best friends is a professional writer and her sole income comes from writing. She left uni hoping to become a music writer, but writes about technology as her profession.
I actually have very little competition within the business market, it just seems to be something that people are either unkeen to do or don’t have enough knowledge about how to approach businesses with a pitch.
Develop a portfolio.
When approaching someone, they might want to see a portfolio of your current work. If you have no body of work within the market you think you could enter, develop one for fictional clients. If a client is happy with your portfolio and happy with your prices, then you probably have a deal.
In my experience nobody has really cared about my background, degree or publications. It’s the portfolio that counts.
If you can’t research, write and format an article quickly, then you will end up working for less than minimum wage and be unable to take on enough new clients to support your lifestyle.
In this digital age, everyone wants content that is SEO friendly. Having a good understanding of SEO (you don’t need to be an expert) will really help you secure and retain new clients. Many businesses are looking at developing a regular blog purely for SEO purposes.
If you’re working for businesses, you’ll be selling. Business writing doesn’t need to be flowery or poetic, it just needs to be able to convince somebody that they might need a product or service. I spend a lot of my free time studying leadership, persuasion and charisma.
Develop your personal brand.
Being established as a writer will do wonders for your writing career. Do this by keeping a personal blog, sharing articles natively to LinkedIn and by contributing to other blogs and magazines. The money you get from this may be minimal, but you can supplement it with Google Adsense, affiliate marketing and brand influencer opportunities.
Brands will usually offer me between £50 to £100 worth of products in exchange for a review, or they may send me a freebie to that value or higher. It all adds up.
Remember you are a business.
You’re a writer, but to secure work and earn an income you’ll need to operate as a business. This involves being able to market yourself, do face to face sales and having a good understanding of your accounts and income. Always keep track of how much you’re earning, remember you’re paying tax and have income goals to work towards.
Collaborate with agencies.
Having an agent can really help you to get off the ground, and can keep a steady supply of work coming in. I wrote a guide about how to work with agencies here.
Work with retainers.
The problem with working as a freelancer is that your income can be unstable unless you have monthly retainers. This is why web development agencies charge a small fortune for on-going website maintenance, domain hosting and support. No matter how big your business is and how much you charge, nothing beats a small steady flow of work coming in. If somebody hires you to work on writing a brochure or website, push for regular services such as writing weekly blogs or monthly newsletters. Having 12 newsletters a year can do more for your personal finances than getting one big brochure project – and you have the opportunity to retain the client for life.