How To Become A Highly Paid Copywriter in 2024 (With No Experience)

I’ve taught copywriting to hundreds of business owners – but in this post, I’m going to show you how to actually become a professional copywriter in 2024. Let’s get started:

Table of Contents

The two main pathways of professional copywriters:

You can choose one of two paths for your copywriting career:

Freelance or in-house.

As a freelancer, you are worth as much as the value you can bring to your clients AND how well you can communicate and demonstrate it.

Being a copywriter is just as much about selling yourself as it is selling other products.

If you’re good, this is where the money is… because you’re not necessarily tied down by the amount of clients, your workload or speed.

You could write a sales page in a few hours and get paid a few thousand for it.

However, the line that separates the wheat from the chaff is whether you can land clients.

As a freelancer, you’re subject to more unpredictability, and you might have to take some less glorious jobs now and then until you’re in a place where you can be pickier.

On the other hand, you can go in-house, which means working at an agency or an individual business.

According to Glassdoor, the median salary for in-house U.S. copywriters is $58,465/year, ranging up to $70-120k.

You’re trading potentially high profit margins and freedom for a stable income, though far less flexible and much more like a regular 9-5 job.

But, you’re also not locked into either path. You can start with one and switch to the other, or even do both at the same time.

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Defining Your Price As A Freelance Copywriter

Since you’re unlikely to get hired at an agency right off the bat, you’re most likely going to start as a freelancer. But knowing what to charge can be confusing, especially at the beginning. 

These are the main pricing models copywriters typically use:

By The Word:

Just don’t. Copy is about keeping it succinct. You don’t want to pad it out just to pay your bills or fight against the lowest possible bidder. It doesn’t help you or your client.

By The Hour:

I highly recommend starting here. If you’re completely brand-new, you can start a flat $15-20/hr. It’s simple, easy, and not too much of a risk for you or your client. When you have more experience, you can slowly raise your rates. $20-50 is the average range for intermediate copywriters, and $50-100+ for more experienced copywriters.

Note: I specifically say ‘experience’ and not ‘years of experience’ as it’s completely possible to get very, very good fast, and this industry rewards that.

By The Project:

Level up to this once you’ve gotten some experience under your belt and you know what you’re doing. This is a great way to make more than you could with hourly pay based on your speed, if you’re good. As a rough beginners guide, you might charge:

  • $200-500 per sales page
  • $20-50 per email or ad
  • $50-100 per landing page
  • $50-100 per website page

Of course, this is completely negotiable based on project complexity and many other factors.

By Retainer:

This is definitely more of an intermediate-advanced step, where a client will pay you a set amount monthly to ‘reserve your hours’… whether or not they use them. If you’re able to get retainers, it provides the kind of stability that an in-house job would provide. Sometimes you’ll have the same set deliverables, and other times you’ll have to do something different each month to justify the retainer – it just comes down to what the client needs, and what you can negotiate.

By Commission/Bonus:

Risky. This might be on top of a base fee… or you might only get paid if your copy makes the client money.

Since there are a LOT of other factors (like the offer itself) that you don’t control, I don’t recommend doing this until you’re confident enough in your skills and how to evaluate if it will be a loss or not.

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Why It’s Possible For Beginners To Quickly Raise Their Rates

As legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz said, “Copy is not written, it is assembled”.

The majority of copywriting is simply getting the structure right, which means you can rely on proven templates and formulas and go from ‘complete beginner’ to ‘pretty alright’ very quickly.

And it’s formulaic for a reason: it still works.

However, if you want to get into the real money, you’ll obviously need to graduate from templates… which is something that will come from experience anyway.

Overall, even if you’re not the best of the best, you can easily make a great income or side income by being pretty alright.

Practice Writing (Which Will Also Build Your Beginner’s Portfolio)

Even if you haven’t landed your first client yet, you still need to show them you can do the job. By practicing first, you’ll get a sense of whether you could see yourself doing it long term AND get some beginner pieces to show prospective clients.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Study free swipe files online of successful copy. Try to experience it as a customer, then think critically about why it works, and then write your own version.
  • Take random objects around the house and imagine you’re selling them.
  • Use your newfound persuasion skills to convince a friend or family member to watch a favorite movie, try a new restaurant etc.
  • Do some copy exercises available online.
  • Challenge yourself to something crazy, like writing 100 headlines every day.
  • Optional: enroll in a copywriting course, ideally one that gives you feedback, or hire a coach
  • Look at job posts on Upwork with specific project details and practice writing for them — and bonus! You can use this in your proposal later on as a free example for them.

And if you’re still interested by this point, congrats! You’ve done a lot of the hard work already, so now it’s time to profit from it.

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Optional, But Highly Recommended…

Before getting paid, you might want to consider starting for free – not to devalue yourself to a serious client, of course, but to kickstart your search for one.

Basically, try to write some copy for friends, family and acquaintances who have businesses (or want to start one someday).

The work will be much lower pressure than doing it for your first, real, paying client. But you can still add the work to your portfolio.

And if you really want to level up your skills fast, try to find a more established copywriter who will mentor you.

If you can land a good one, this is the BEST way to get started in this industry. You’ll not only be getting constant feedback on your work to improve, but potentially the opportunity for referred clients from their network as well.

So, make sure you can prove your value to them first. Otherwise…

How To Find Your First Copywriting Client

There are many, many ways to find clients. But I want you to focus on this on step:

Go where your clients already are.

As a beginner, you don’t need the added stress of convincing someone they need copy in the first place, let alone that you’re the right person to do it.

So go to freelancer marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr, search LinkedIn and other social media sites and look through job boards.

Use your examples (or ideally a tailored example specific to their job) to hook their interest and start a conversation.

You could offer guarantees on your work, such as unlimited revisions until satisfied, no upfront fees, or pay by performance to lessen their risk.

Here’s some tips on crafting a winning proposal:

  • Do exactly what the job ad says. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that ignore basic instructions… and don’t get hired as a result.
  • Don’t blast out a copy and paste template. Take the time to stand out from the crowd. A few well-crafted proposals is better than 100 bad ones.  Plus, this is also part of copywriting.
  • Don’t try to land the client in one message. It’s better to try and pull them into a conversation where you then can sell them on yourself over multiple messages.
  • Keep your positioning in mind. Someone who offers helpful, actionable suggestions is going to signal to the client that they know what they’re doing, vs a boring ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ proposal.

Follow these principles, and you’ll land a client sooner or later. While there is a great volume of competition, there isn’t a great quality of competition, which is great for you!

Even something as small as being the only person who spelled the client’s name right can make a big difference.

Use your first client to land more clients

After you successfully complete your first project, make sure to ask for a testimonial. The more you collect, the easier it is to sell your services to new clients.

A testimonial doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just a sentence or two from the client praising your work is more than enough. 

If your client already left you some praise in an email or text, you can even just ask if you can use that as a testimonial instead of asking them to write a new one – sometimes the unplanned ones come out better. 

Then, you should see if your existing client has MORE work for you. You might be able to point out where they could use help. And if there’s enough work that needs to be done, then who knows, it might turn into your first retainer deal.

Finally, you can ask for a referral. See if your client has anyone in their network who would be interested in your services. This is a great way to branch out.

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Going From Beginner To Advanced

From here, it’s really just rinse and repeat.  Continue learning and growing your skills, building a portfolio, pitching clients, raising your rates etc.

When you’re ready, here’s a few ways you can stand out:

  • Consider picking a niche. For example: If your previous job was being a veterinarian, consider specializing in copywriting for the pet industry. General interests and passions work here too. And remember: you can always switch your niche if it isn’t working, so feel free to try a few different ones until something clicks.
  • You can also niche down by copy type, such as specializing in email marketing or sales pages.
  • Branch out into adjacent skills, such as automation or webinars, or incorporate ones you already have to add value to your skills. 
  • Partner with other adjacent professionals (such as graphic designers) to refer work to each other.
  • Finally, start building your own brand. Put up a website, a professional logo, start a blog or email list, give value on social media etc.  Get your name out there as an expert with something meaningful to say.

Keep improving your copywriting skills

The better your work, and the more types of copywriting you can do, the easier it will be to keep getting jobs and raising your rates.

If you want to level up your skills, these additional IWT resources are a great place to start:

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.