Copywriting is all the hype right now.
You might be thinking it's the perfect business to run from a cabana in Mykonos.
The barriers to entry are low, it’s not super difficult to learn, and it can pay well.
But don’t be fooled, it’s still a business and you still need to treat it like one.
This article is a step-by-step guide to building a copywriting business without any experience. I’ll also explain what a copywriter actually does, how to price your work and frequently asked questions.
What does a copywriter actually do?
A copywriter is a particular type of marketing expert that writes sales and marketing material for businesses. Their scope of work is broad but they usually have one goal: turn a reader into a customer.
Copywriters understand basic human psychology and are great at evoking emotion.
Some common misconceptions you might have about copywriters:
- They only write blog posts
- Everything they write needs to generate a sale
- They’re amazing wordsmiths (I know epic copywriters and English isn’t their first language 🤫)
Copywriters come from different walks of life and aren’t necessarily English majors. They’re marketers that know how to trigger enough emotion and generate a sale.
Which types of copywriting do businesses require most?
Copywriting requirements change based on the industry and business.
A software tool might need you to rewrite their landing pages, popups, and email sequences. Whereas a services business might only be concerned with google ads. It’s hard to predict what’s required without knowing the industry and business.
The beauty of copywriting is that all businesses (including small local businesses) could benefit from a copywriter.
Here are the different types of copywriting you could offer:
- Social media copywriting
- Video scripts copywriting
- Sales page copywriting
- Website copywriting
- Email copywriting
- Technical writing
- Ads copywriting
- Speech writing
- Blog writing
It’s important to note that some forms of copywriting will require you to be deeply experienced in the industry. You can’t be a LinkedIn ghostwriter for a high-end legal firm if you’ve never had any exposure to the profession.
How to build a copywriting business without any experience
Most people overcomplicate this.
When it comes to building any business, the first step isn’t to incorporate a company or spend three days perfecting a logo. Believe it or not, some of the best copywriters don’t even have a website or logo.
You might feel compelled to start doing things that seem like a good idea at the time but are actually ”busy work”.
It doesn’t matter what sort of business you’re interested in the first step is to validate the idea and find a paying customer as soon as possible.
Everything else comes after these two key tasks.
Since copywriting is a proven business model you don’t need to spend time validating it. Your time should be spent signing new customers and perfecting your skills.
Below are the chronological steps to building a copywriting business. However, it could be as simple as emailing 10 business owners you know right now and asking them if they want their landing page rewritten. This is exactly how I started to write copy for clients. I reached out to my network and landed gigs. Over time they lead to referrals.
Step 1: Learn how to write copy
I know this seems obvious but some people will skip this step.
It's unreasonable to think you can start a copywriting business if you don’t know anything about copywriting. You’ll make your life harder than it needs to be.
How can you expect to land copywriting clients if you’ve never written any copy?
You don’t need an extensive portfolio. You just need to meet some basic requirements like writing copy well enough to add value to a business.
Here are eight things you can start right now to get better at copywriting:
- Learn how to apply the basic copywriting formulas
- Practice translating a feature into a benefit
- Handwrite great copy you come across
- Practice writing (or rewriting) headlines
- Learn the science behind persuasion
- Practice writing every single day
- Build an epic swipe file
- Take an online course
[ Related Article: Copywriting For Beginners: Everything You Need To Get Started Now ]
I also suggest learning about how businesses work. Without having a good understanding of how a business operates it’s going to be difficult for you to empathize with the client, make the right decisions, or even make any money.
Step 2: Choose your niche and services
Ever heard of “riches are in the niches”?
It basically means if you specialize in one industry or service you’re likely to earn more.
A niche is a specific segment of a market. Some popular industry niches include SEO, Law, Property, Marketing, Real Estate, and even eCommerce. The same applies to the type of service you offer. For instance, blog writing, website copywriting, or email marketing.
The main reason for niching is that it helps you become an expert in a field. Businesses will see you as the “subject matter expert”. An eCommerce company that requires an email marketer will spend more money on an email marketing expert than it would on a regular copywriter.
So here’s what to do next.
1. Choose your service
The first step would be to choose a service you’re most comfortable with. This could be blogs, emails, ads, or websites. Either way, research them, practice them and choose which you prefer. In most cases, you won’t know until you’ve tried it. Pick something and roll with it. You can always change.
If you need some guidance, web design, WordPress, and Shopify are listed in Upwork's top 10 most in-demand skills. This is a good indication that website copywriting is in high demand. Email marketing and Facebook were also listed in the top 10 most in-demand marketing skills.
2. Choose your niche
This one can be tricky. You could niche by industry or by service or both. Here’s how it could look:
- Niching by industry: eCommerce Copywriter
- Niching by service: Email Marketing Copywriter
- Niching by industry and service: eCommerce Email Marketing Copywriter
The more niche you go the harder it will be to find clients in the short term, however, it will be easier to land them and charge more in the long term. Having a specific target audience will also reduce your marketing efforts if you decide to do cold email outreach. Your target market will be so specific the customer acquisition cost will naturally be lower.
Step 3: Create a business plan
As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Usually, I would avoid a business plan this early because it’s an easy way to get stuck in analysis paralysis.
However, if you know the services you want to offer and the niches that interest you I think a business plan is a great idea. It will provide the right direction and guidance.
It will also keep you on track when you feel like things aren't working out. They aren’t supposed to be rigid but rather navigate the direction you take when you feel stuck.
Use this free copywriting business plan template below to get started:
Step 4: Set up your business's operating structure
This step is optional when you’re just getting started.
You could easily skip to step 4 and start looking for clients. However, at some point in the future, you will need to consider the legal entity of your business, website, accounting, and all the other boring administrative tasks.
1. Build a website:
This can seem like a daunting task for most people who aren’t experienced. However, there are many different platforms that offer drag-and-drop functionality with guided tutorials that make it easy.
Here are the basic steps I would take:
- Come up with a business name (or just go by your personal name as I have)
- Buy a domain name using GoDaddy or NameCheap
- Create a logo in 5 minutes on Canva
- Build a website using either Ghost, Carrd, Wix, or WordPress (this will take the longest)
- Connect your domain to the website by following the prompts
I’ve personally used all of the website builders mentioned above.
Here’s my take.
If you’re a beginner, use Wix. If you have some experience, I suggest using WordPress with the Elementor Hello theme. I personally use WordPress with the Elementor theme and I’ve had plenty of success. If you struggle to build the website create a document of what you want and hire someone on UpWork to build it for you.
You might be wondering what Ghost is. It’s a new platform that's been flying under the radar for a little bit. It’s very simple, powerful, and has been the #1 Product of The Day on Product Hunt numerous times. You could easily buy a theme (such as Ali Abdaal’s) and plug in your content and domain. It’s affordable and beginner friendly.
2. Determine if you should be a freelancer or form an LLC:
If you plan on starting out as a freelancer (which I highly suggest) you can skip the part where you set up an LLC, or similar depending on where you live.
Freelancers don’t need to deal with all the additional red tape of an LLC (limited liability company). They’re more expensive and require you to track and submit your figures. The main benefit of an LLC is that you can legally separate the business from yourself. This has tax and insurance benefits but it is not essential when you’re starting out.
3. Have a process for tracking your income and expenses:
There are going to be some costs associated with starting the business.
Maybe you spend $500 setting up your website, or $1,000 on marketing. Either way, you need to track this. It’s easy for businesses to lose track of how much money they’re spending vs making.
Create a simple google sheet or excel sheet to track how much you make and how much you spend each month.
Step 5: Find clients
This will be the most difficult part of starting your copywriting business.
Finding clients is challenging. Especially when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a huge online portfolio of work and a network of previous clients.
In my experience, the fastest way to land clients is to reach out to everyone in your network and ask for work. It’ll work best if you have a website for additional credibility. Oftentimes your network won’t need your services but they’ll know someone who does. This is why it’s important to appear as credible and legitimate as possible.
Here are the seven easiest ways to find copywriting clients fast:
- Reach out to your network (my favorite)
- Leverage copywriting job boards & marketplaces such as Pro Blogger Jobs
- Submit guest posts on high-traffic sites (see an example here)
- Build a website and invest in SEO
- Become a thought leader on social media
- Cold email outreach to businesses in your niche
- Join a business or copywriting community (I’m in Trends and Superpath)
[ Related Article: How To Find Copywriting Clients Fast: A Tactical Guide For Beginners ]
Step 6: Refine your skills and processes
Once you land a few clients you’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t.
This means you’ll likely update your processes, and pricing and figure out which resources you need to get the job done.
“Innovation comes from long-term thinking and iterative execution.”Reid Hoffman
One key aspect of building a successful copywriting business is always refining and iterating. It’s unlikely you’ll be successful in everything on your first attempt.
Maybe your pricing is off or your delivery takes too long. Regardless, you’ll need to review your business and find areas to improve.
This is an essential step if you’re serious about growing your business.
How to price your copywriting projects
What you can charge for a copywriting project varies heavily depending on the scope of work and your experience. The most common pricing methods are hourly rates and value/project-based pricing.
Here are two rules of thumb I like to apply to pricing
- Price often determines quality in the eyes of the customer
- Value-based pricing is the easiest method to earn more from a project
Use the rates table below to help you determine the price of your copywriting projects.
|Cents Per Word
|Project / Value-Based
|Expert / Agency
Frequently asked questions about starting a copywriting business
Which skills do I need to be good at copywriting?
Successful copywriters usually possess the following skills:
- Ability to solve problems
- Ability to self-manage
- Ability to empathize
I would also suggest you put effort into the following:
- Understanding customer problems
- Understanding how businesses work
- Understanding how to apply copywriting frameworks
Should I start a copywriting business?
Not everyone should start a copywriting business. Even professional copywriters.
Being your own boss and doing something you love sounds amazing.
Although, there is going to be a lot of work involved and not everything you do will be enjoyable.
If you have the skills mentioned above or you’re willing to learn them then this could be a great option for you. If you’re already writing copy the next step would be landing a client and delivering your first project. This is the easiest way to know whether or not starting a copywriting business is a great idea for you.
How much money can you make with a copywriting business?
Good copywriters such as Jacob McMillan earn over $15,000 a month. Although, this isn't the cap or the norm. You can still make a good living writing copy.
You could earn much more than $15,000 a month if you were to outsource your work to other copywriters and build a system for signing on clients. More experienced copywriters won’t even take on clients unless the project is at least $15,000. Other copywriters charge $0.07 a word and struggle to make $1,000 a month.
Your ability to earn money as a copywriter really depends on how you position yourself, your services, and your goals. However, it is very possible to make six figures a year if you work on this full time.
Do I need to write copy myself?
The short answer is no.
Here’s the long answer: you should write the copy yourself for your first couple of clients so you deeply understand how everything works. I wouldn’t suggest outsourcing this to other copywriters without knowing how it works.
How expensive is it to start a copywriting business?
This is like asking “how long is a piece of string?”
There's no single correct answer.
You could start a copywriting business for $0 if you decide not to build a website. You could also spend $5,000 getting a custom website built. My suggestion is to spend the minimum amount of money you need to land a client.
Do you need a bachelor's degree to be a copywriter?
There is no formal education required for you to be a copywriter. It would help if you have studied business and marketing. However, these can easily be learned for free on sites like Youtube or Coursera.
What is the easiest way to find copywriting clients?
In my experience, the easiest and the best way to land clients is by reaching out to my network and letting them know I’m taking on clients.
It works best if you offer some free work.
I’ve found that if you rewrite the above-the-fold section of their website they’re more likely to take you seriously and work with you on paid projects.
What is your best advice for a beginner getting started today?
My advice to anyone who wants to build a copywriting business is to set aside a month to learn how to write copy. If you don’t enjoy it then I don’t suggest you build a business. If you do enjoy it I suggest you reach out to your network and try to land a client.
Once you’ve delivered work for your first client you’ll be able to gauge whether or not you want to continue with this.