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What Is Copywriting? Turn Writing Into Your Freelance Career

What Is Copywriting? Turn Writing Into Your Freelance Career

Last updated: September 9, 2019
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If writing is your superpower, you have the opportunity to turn it into a sustainable, profitable, and flexible career. To begin cashing in on your talent, there’s only one question you need to ask: What is copywriting?

Freelance writing isn’t all about hoping for a book deal or investing long, unpaid hours to monetize your blog. Even in the age of multimedia, the demand for writers is growing as business owners recognize the power of great copy for brand recognition. With competitive salaries and diverse opportunities offered throughout the job market, now is the perfect time to become a freelance copywriter.

In this article, we’ll explain what copywriting is and how you can make it your career.

What Is Copywriting?

What is copywriting: Some tools of the trad including a laptop, notebook, and pen

Copywriting is writing primarily of advertising or marketing. The copy you write will typically link directly to a company’s goals, perhaps encouraging potential customers to purchase a product or to sign up for an email list. Because this is a results-driven role, basically all companies can benefit from having a dedicated copywriter.

Different types of copywriting include:

  • Taglines: Snappy one-liners are often what copywriters are known for.
  • Social media copy: With the growth of social media among new generations of buyers, you will likely be asked to write short copy for Tweets, Facebook ads, LinkedIn posts, and more.
  • Commercial scripts: Writing copy for TV and radio ads is a standard part of copywriting work. As viewers move toward the web, you may find yourself writing scripts for online video ads more often than not.
  • Press releases: While the task of writing news releases will often fall on a PR agency, some smaller companies may ask copywriters to prepare a statement to send to news outlets in hopes of getting covered.
  • Website copy: Web copy is a huge part of boosting search engine optimization (SEO), which helps future customers find your client. Good web copy also gets a reader to fully read a page and click on calls to action (the links throughout or at the end of an article).
  • Marketing collateral copy: Unlike website copy, this form of copywriting is focused on printed promotional materials. You may write content for brochures, whitepapers, direct mail, sales presentations, and more.

No matter what type of copy they create, a good copywriter will always be able to captivate and persuade audiences while taking on the voice of whichever business they’re writing for. Modern copywriters also have to consider how copy can perform across channels, optimizing for social media, Google, and more.

Copywriting vs. Content Writing

Man typing on a Mac laptop

Two terms that are often confused are copywriting and content writing. While they’re not completely exclusive ⁠— copywriting is a key part of content marketing, after all ⁠— they’re not synonymous either.

While copy directly helps a brand succeed in its marketing and sales goals, content writing will more likely help a business become an authoritative voice on a specific subject. In this sense, effective copywriting creates quick results, while content writing is more likely to build trust over time and bring in loyal customers. Sometimes, content writing doesn’t have to directly mention the business to work well, as its main priority is to educate or entertain.

Copy also tends to be short, whereas content may take the form of 1,000-word blog posts or even e-books. Copywriters can be described as the Don Drapers of the world, offering brief and witty copy to help people remember a brand.

On the other hand, content writers offer a more subtle marketing approach, usually with thoughtful, longer-form content that tells a story or allows people to view a brand as a leading voice on a topic.

Some professional copywriters will occasionally perform the functions of both a copywriter and a content writer. This is because some forms of writing like social media posts and email campaigns can sometimes fall under both, and SEO is a basic consideration for all types of digital marketing.

Still, the basic distinctions between the two crafts still stand. As you start to think about the services you want to offer as a freelancer, consider these differences as well as where your skills fall under.

How to Become a Freelance Copywriter

People taking notes on what is copywriting

Becoming a freelance copywriter is much easier today than in the past, with many new sites connecting freelancers to business owners. Here are a few of the next steps you can take to become a freelance copywriter.

Setting Up a Business Website

This can be a simple landing page where you direct prospective clients. Make sure your website is SEO-friendly, as this will not only show off your skills but also attract clients that you may not directly sell to. Also, make sure to compile your best writing samples on the website.

Find a Niche

Most successful copywriters focus on a specific set of subjects that they are experts in, and offer a select set of services as well. Marketing yourself based on your niche can be attractive to companies, especially if you’re skilled in more technical subjects, like science, health, or programming.

Sign Up for Freelancer Websites

Fiverr and Upwork are two common places where freelance copywriters find work. These websites are also great for helping you find freelance editing jobs if you want to expand past copywriting.

Sign Up for a Copywriting Course or Webinar

With fast-paced internet culture quickly shaping the copywriting industry, you need to keep up with trends in your industry and get to know SEO. Finding local classes or online courses from copywriting experts who offer similar services can help you out. Some great courses can also be found for affordable prices on Udemy and Skillshare.

Start Networking

Join in meetups, conferences, or networking events in your area to connect with business owners — all of them can benefit from copywriting, after all. Bring your business card and other marketing materials, if relevant, and make sure your LinkedIn is fully set up.

Frequently Asked Questions
Wood table with a Mac laptop, cup of coffee, iPhone, notepad, and pen

Copywriting is easy to enter when you already have strong writing skills to show off. To help you start your writing career, here are our answers to a few common questions:

1. How much should I charge as a copywriter?

This depends on your experience, but it’s fairly common for new copywriters to charge at least $45 per hour and for highly experienced copywriters to charge up to $200 per hour.

As a freelancer, a general rule of thumb is to take into account how much you would be paid per hour at your skill level in a traditional job and multiply that hourly wage by three. This final number will be enough to cover your self-employment taxes, health insurance, and other benefits that would no longer be covered by your employer.

Also, take into consideration the types of services you’re offering. Companies are usually more willing to pay extra for good technical copywriters and for larger-scale projects.

2. How much money would I make as an agency or in-house copywriter?

The average salary of a full-time copywriter who is employed by a marketing agency is just over $47,000 for junior copywriters and $88,000 for senior copywriters.

The average salary of a copywriter who is directly employed by the business they’re writing for is slightly higher for junior copywriters but lower for seniors.

What makes agency and in-house earnings similar is that basic employee benefits are covered in their income. At the same time, these copywriters tend to experience minimal salary growth until they jump to a different company.

On the other hand, as a freelancer you can quickly raise your income over time but it won’t cover benefits.

3. Do content writers or copywriters see higher demand?

This is hard to determine because content writer and copywriter positions are often misnamed or looped into other marketing positions. However, it is fair to say copywriting is a basic necessity for any company, while content writing is more likely part of a next-level marketing strategy. Regardless, both types of writing offer a large amount of potential clients.

Make Money With Your Superpower

It’s time to make money now that you have the answer to the question, “What is copywriting?”

Freelance copywriting is a great opportunity to be your own boss with minimal (if any) startup costs. If you’re a talented wordsmith and can quickly adapt your voice and captivate an audience, this is a great career for you to enter.

More than ever, writers are in high demand across all industries, which means you’re bound to find your first client in no time.

Once you’ve launched your copywriting services, you can continue to earn money as a sole proprietor. However, there are many benefits to turning your copywriting business into a limited liability company. Learn how to start an LLC in our guide.

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