How To Become A Highly Paid Copywriter (with no experience)
Are you a maestro with a keyboard? Does writing make your heart sing? If you enjoy writing and want to turn it into a successful career, then becoming a copywriter is a possibility you should seriously consider—and a highly paid copywriter at that!
In this post, I’ll show you how to get started and share some of my best tips for sharpening your copywriting skills.
Table of Contents
What Is A Copywriter And What Do They Do?
A copywriter is anyone who is paid to write content that entices readers to take action. Simply put, they write the words used for marketing products and/or services. This includes things like:
- Sales pages
- Email funnels
- Landing pages
- Blog posts/articles
- Social media posts
- White papers
- Case studies
- Advertisements (both print and digital)
- Video scripts
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 and skills.
Luckily, it’s easy to start gathering the experience you need to become a successful copywriter.
How To Make Money In Copywriting
Copywriting salaries can vary significantly, depending on what industry you work in (more on that in the next section) and how much experience you have as a writer.
According to Glassdoor, the median salary for copywriters in the U.S. is $58,465/year.
However, 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 and, of course, the rate you charge your clients. 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.
Working As A Copywriter: Freelance vs In-House
There are two main settings that you can work in as a copywriter:
- In-house. Working for a company or marketing agency as a full-time employee.
- Freelance. Working as a freelance copywriter (aka being your own boss) with clients you locate and secure with an agreed upon rate.
Like anything else, both of these options have their pros and cons. Let’s dive deeper into them!
Pros Of In-House Copywriting
- Stable income and benefits
- Mentorship if you work under an experienced copywriter
- Potential to work for big, well-known brands
Cons Of In-House Copywriting
- You get paid the same amount of money even if your work generates millions of dollars
- You’ll have less flexibility in your schedule
- You might have to work on projects you’re not passionate about
Pros Of Freelance Copywriting
- You can start copywriting as a side hustle to see if you really like it before making it a full-time career
- You can choose your own hours, projects, and rates
- You get to be your own boss and work from anywhere
Cons Of Freelance Copywriting
- Unstable income, including lean periods where you might have very little work coming in
- You might have to take jobs you don’t enjoy just so you can pay your bills
- If you aren’t used to working independently, it can be hard to stay motivated without anyone keeping you in check
How To Start Copywriting – From Zero Experience To Professional
The art of copywriting is one you’ll learn with experience. If you’re just starting out as a writer, you might not be great at first. Give it time, be willing to learn from your mistakes, and consult with other, more experienced writers.
1. Learn How To Write Persuasively
You don’t need a creative writing degree to learn how to be a copywriter, but you do need to know how to persuade readers to take action. The good news is you can learn this by studying those who’ve done it already.
These additional IWT resources are a great place to start:
- Top 20 Copywriting Books Every Direct Response Copywriter Should Own
- How to Write Copy That’ll Blow Your Readers’ Minds
- The 6-Part Outline That The Best Sales Pages Have In Common
- How A $100,000 Sales Sage Is Made
- The Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content
2. Practice Writing (and Build Your Portfolio)
You can’t be a copywriter without writing, and you won’t be a successful one without practice. So get into the habit early of honing your copywriting skills.
Some perfect practice opportunities that you can work on today are:
- Write the copy for your newly-formed copywriting business. Even if you don’t have a website, you can still write a solid description of your business.
- Look at well-known ads and headlines—and rewrite them. This is a great exercise for fine-tuning your ability to write copy from different perspectives and using different hooks. Why not start with one of these click-worthy headlines from recent articles about Ramit and see if you can do it differently (or better):
Headline 1, Men’s Health: Ramit Sethi’s Tips For Living Your “Rich Life” Are Shockingly Simple
Headline 2, Lad Bible: Self-made millionaire shares ‘best advice’ for people in their 20s wanting to make money
- Start a blog and commit to writing one post a day. Include topics related to the industries you want to write in
- Offer to write for your friends or family if they have small businesses that need writing help
3. Find Your Copywriting Niche
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.
You might ask, “Why would I want to limit myself? Wouldn’t I get more work if I opened 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. That’s because the more you write in a specific niche, the more expertise you’ll gain and as a result, clients will trust you. This is the start of building a strong reputation.
You should also think about what role you want to own; There are a lot of them:
- Emails / Sales funnels
- Social media / Community management
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Digital advertising (PPC)
- Blog posts / Articles
- Video / Podcast scripts
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.
When niching down your target market, ask yourself:
- What industry are they in?
- What are their services?
- How do they use copy currently?
Once you have the answer to those questions, you can come up with your niched-down role.
Here are a few examples:
- Email funnel copywriter for SaaS companies
- Social media manager for nonprofits
- Blog posts for personal finance websites
Once you know how you want to approach your copywriting hustle, it’s time to find your first clients.
4. Find Your First Copywriting Client
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 more simple, since they’re likely to refer you to their network (more on this later).
There are a lot of different ways and platforms for finding your first client.
Getting started with these websites is simple and you’re walked through the process once you sign up for your accounts.
It should be noted that while Upwork and Fiverr can be great places to start finding clients and building your portfolio, they typically don’t pay well so you shouldn’t necessarily rely on them to find all of your clients.
Instead, we suggest you go to where your clients spend time online. Checking out message boards, forums, and websites that your clients frequent can be incredibly helpful. For example:
- Find a Facebook or subreddit group for small business owners who need your services.
- Start answering questions on Quora regarding your niche.
- Find online groups for businesses in your niche looking to expand their content media.
Go to these places and provide value. And do 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.
Once you’ve built up your confidence, consider writing a pitch email to your dream client —and then, of course, send it!
5. Defining Your Price As A Freelance Copywriter
Knowing what to charge for your freelance work can be confusing, especially when you’re starting.
There are four main pricing models that freelancer writers can use:
- Hourly. You set an hourly rate and a client will pay you per hour. The benefit for the client is that they mitigate their risk since they can just stop paying you whenever they want if they’re dissatisfied. The benefit for you is that it prevents the clients from piling on work without paying you.
- By project. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting paid for and have more concrete deliverables for the client. This method is handy because when you’re done with the project, you’re done. You might also end up getting paid more than your hourly rate. However, on the flip side, you run the risk of the client adding more work to the project as you move through it. When working on a project, communication about what is entailed is important.
- By retainer. Your client will pay you a set amount monthly. This allows the client to have access to you at any given time during that month. As a beginner, you’re probably not going to find a client who is willing to hire you on retainer until you’ve built up enough of a reputation or experience working with them. However, it’s a good goal to have and something to keep in mind as you get into freelance marketing.
- Commission/bonus. This payment model can work in conjunction with all of the other ones and can provide a healthy incentive for you to get your work done—for instance, if your client promises you a $1,000 bonus for attaining X amount of leads with your landing pages.
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.
If you’ve read this far, you’d LOVE Ramit's New York Times Bestselling book
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How Much Should You Charge Per Hour As A Freelance Copywriter?
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. According to Payscale, the current median hourly rate for a freelance copywriter is $34.16.
How Much Should You Charge Per Page As A Freelance Copywriter?
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 IWT to find out how much they charged:
You can see that 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 you spent on research, writing, and editing.
Tips For Improving Your Copywriting Skills
I’ve been a copywriter for over 15 years, everything from a New York Times Bestselling book to million-dollar sales pages. So, I have some tips to share with you as you get started in your career (or side hustle) as a copywriter.
Tip #1: Focus On The Reader
This sounds obvious, right? Aren’t all writers focused on the reader? Not at all. It’s shocking how often writers lose focus when they’re writing. A lot of writers sit down at their desks, stare at a blank page for a minute, and think, “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. But it’s important to know: the best writers focus their copy on their readers, not themselves.
One of the best ways to do that is to stop talking about YOURSELF and talk to your audience. That means to drop all the “me” and “I” in your copy and start saying “you” instead.
- NO: My customers don’t like studying — maybe I can help them shortcut the studying process!
- YES: Do you hate studying and do anything to avoid it? Do you wait until the last minute even if you have an exam the next morning to even touch your paper?
- NO: I’m proud of the results that I’ve helped my readers achieve.”
- YES: You will see extraordinary results. Our team has helped thousands of people, just like you, create breakthroughs after breakthroughs in their business. Now it’s your turn.
- NO: I know you’d benefit from our services. I’ve helped dozens of people lose weight.
- YES: If you skip a day of going to the gym, who holds you accountable? That makes it easier to skip two then three then suddenly, you wake up and find you haven’t worked out for a month. Well, make sure never happens to you again so you look and feel incredible.
Do you see the difference? When you focus on your readers and write to them, you turn tired, boring writing into exciting and relevant copy.
Tip #2: Focus On Learning More
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 copywriters’ stuff to stay in the loop. They know it’s important to stay sharp and always keep up-leveling their skills.
Tip #3: Be Humble
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.
Tip #4: Use The Bar Stool Test
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, were you on a mission to drastically reduce process inefficiencies for our valued clients?
No. If you used stiff words and robotic phrases like that, they’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.
Tip #5: Bring Your Writing To Life With Specifics
Vague copy 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:
- Boring: I don’t like commuting.
- Specific: Every single day, I wake up and think Oh God, I can’t take yet another 45 minutes of sitting through gridlocked traffic just to get to some job that I don’t even like.
- Boring: You’ll have freedom and flexibility.
- Specific: Want to take a break from work and see a movie at 1 p.m. on a random Wednesday? You can do that. Have a friend in town and want to meet him for lunch? You can do that, too and no you won’t have to ask your boss if it’s okay.
- Boring: You’ll look great.
- Specific: You’ll finally be able to fit into your high school jeans and be the envy of all your friends.
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.
Tip #6: You Can Earn Money While You Practice Your Skills
Copywriting can be a lucrative career, but you don’t have to go all in at the beginning. 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 the 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).
Often, new copywriters end up chasing low-paying gigs and working with clients who don’t value their services.
How Do Beginners Learn Copywriting?
It is possible to learn copywriting by yourself. You can read books, listen to podcasts, join a good course, and attend webinars, but this takes time. A good way to learn is to hire a coach who can tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve your writing.
Can I Be A Copywriter With No Experience?
You don’t need extensive experience to be successful as a copywriter. Many high-income freelance copywriters started closing big-ticket offers with little or no experience.
Is Copywriting Hard To Learn?
Copywriting is a skill that can be learned, but it takes work. To be a great, high-earning copywriter, you must be willing to put in the practice, experimentation, and dedication. Copywriters also need to understand the market and their target customers to be effective.
How much do copywriters make?
Copywriter earnings span a broad spectrum, influenced by their experience, where they’re located, and whether they’re freelancing or on staff. Here’s the breakdown:
Newbies in copywriting? They’re looking at $35,000 to $45,000 a year.
Those in the game a bit longer, the mid-level folks, pull in around $50,000 to $70,000.
Top-tier or niche copywriters, especially in high-demand areas like digital marketing or tech, can hit $75,000 and above, with some stars breaking the $100,000 mark.
For the freelancers out there, rates can vary wildly from $50 to $200 per hour, hinging on their skill level and the gig’s demands.
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