Okay, so you’ve decided to be come a copywriter, awesome!! But learning how to write is just the first step. Many copywriters fail in their first year because they simply can’t find enough clients. Friends and family are a great place to start, but where on earth do you track down awesome potential clients with money to spend?

In this week’s podcast Belinda Weaver and Kate Toon will be giving you their tips on how to find copywriting clients.

Tune in to learn:

  • Our key ways to find clients
  • Whether freelancing websites are worth the effort
  • Our number one new client tip

Listen to the podcast below

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Show notes

Read the transcript

Kate: Welcome to the Hot Copy Podcast with your hosts Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver. In each 20 minute episode we’ll be sharing the secrets of successful copywriters including copywriting tips, shortcuts, writing resources and laughs, all focused on helping you become a better copywriter. I’m Kate Toon and this is my co-host, the lovely Belinda Weaver.

Belinda: Hello again.

Kate: Today we’re going to be talking about how to find copywriting clients. Okay, so without a doubt the question I’m asked most often is how do I find clients? As a newbie copywriter it’s, well, it’s the most important thing for running your business, so that’s why we thought we’d tackle it today.

Belinda: Absolutely, I mean, writing, perfecting your writing skills is a really great way to spend your time obviously, but the fastest way to improve your copywriting is to work on real projects with clients.

Kate: Exactly and let’s go through our ideas, our top tips on how to find clients. Now, my first tip is all around laying the foundations. Lots of writers don’t do this, they rush out, get their logo, get 200 business cards printed and think, “Great, I’ll just sit here now and wait for the work to roll in”. So my number one tip is to build a website. Of course, you can find clients without one, but if you don’t have a professional solid website for people to visit, I really think it’s going to hamper your efforts.

Belinda: I absolutely agree Kate and when you have a website online, obviously, you are showing off your writing skills as well. So one of the questions I get asked a lot is how to get clients when you don’t have a portfolio and showing off your writing skills on your website, especially with a blog, is a great way to do that.

Kate: I agree and I think you don’t necessarily even need to have samples in the old school way of copywriting, you know, a sample of a sales letter you’ve written, a sample of an email you’ve written. Your blog can be your sample and often many of my clients come to me because they’ve read a blog article that I’ve written and they like the style. So think of your own website as a giant portfolio.

My number two tip is to work on your LinkedIn profile. I know you’re going to think that’s boring, most people hate LinkedIn, but I guarantee you that many people will check your credentials on LinkedIn before they book you for work. And the truth is if you’re new to the market and your brand is not very well-known or your name is not very well-known, if someone types in your name your LinkedIn profile may rank above your own website. So make sure it represents you as best as it possibly can.

Belinda: That’s another great tip Kate because I often think of my LinkedIn profile as like the unloved stepchild of my social media marketing, but LinkedIn consistently ranks really, really well. So using language keywords like “copywriter” and “copywriting”, you’ll get a lot of benefit from an up-to-date and personable profile.

So I’m going to jump in with a tip here and that’s actually to let your personal network know you’re open for business. Because you might discount family and friends and say they’re never going to give you a job, but you never know who’s going to need your skills or who they know who might need your copywriting skills. So promote yourself to friends and family, as well as to the outside world.

Kate: I totally agree. I think I sustained my first year just by working on friends of friends.

Belinda: Oh wow, that’s awesome.

Kate: Yes, that’s a really, really good tip. Now another top tip, tip number four I’m going to call it, is working for free. Have you done much work for free?

Belinda: No, I haven’t, but one thing I was prepared to do was approach businesses. Now, from day one I wasn’t comfortable approaching businesses and say, “Hey, I’m going to work for free” but I did have a strategy to actually approach businesses and say, “I just found your brochure and I have some ideas on how you can make it more relevant and improve the results you get”. So you could actually implement a couple of ideas in exchange for a testimonial and using that piece in your portfolio.

So that’s a really nice way to start talking to a business, offer them your skills without actually devaluing your skills by working for free.

Kate: Yes, I agree and really the only instance I’ve ever worked for free is when I’m writing for a local charity. It’s a great way, as Belinda said, to get some nice work in your portfolio, a good testimonial and some good word of mouth and it has maximum credibility. But also from a karmic feel good way, you’re genuinely helping out these small charities who probably have zero budget for marketing, but are trying to do really something great in your community.

Belinda: That’s a really great idea.

Kate: Okay, so tip number five, I think we’re up to tip number five Belinda, is that right?

Belinda: We are, we are.

Kate: We are. Okay, tip number five is local SEO or local search engine optimisation. Don’t freak out, this isn’t going to be technical, this is pretty basic stuff. Just think about when you type “copywriter” into Google, a lot of sites are going to come up, so how can you make your site come up in the rankings and be found by potential customers? One way of doing it is by creating a smaller pond. So rather than being a tiny fish in that giant copywriting pond, you reduce the size of your pond by reducing the location you’re going after.

So you do this by simply adding local keywords to the copy on your site. So say if you’re a copywriter in Newtown, use the word Newtown or New South Wales or Sydney in the copy on your website. You also make sure that you list on any local directories and have an address prominent. You could write case studies about local businesses. You could write articles about your local area. All you want to be known for is being the copywriter in your particular town or particular suburb, rather than trying to go after the entire Australian continent.

Belinda: And the thing about that as well is that a lot of businesses still like to meet the people they’re working with. So they look for copywriters and designers and people like that in their local area, because they want to actually get together in the café or in the office and talk about their business face-to-face.

Kate: Yes, exactly. Most of my early clients definitely wanted to meet me and the fact that I was in the local area was a bonus, so tip number five local SEO. Tip number six is kind of an anti-tip in a way and it’s all about freelance websites, sites like oDesk, which is now called Upwork, and Elance where you could bid for copywriting jobs. Have you ever used any of these Belinda?

Belinda: No. Oh actually no, I tell a lie, I did respond to one job on Elance but I actually submitted my regular proposal and it was just priced way too high. Because that’s the danger of a lot of these websites, you might get a lot of writing experience but it’s a really double-edged sword because you’re competing against other copywriters who are really, really cheap and often the customer focus, the people posting the jobs, their focus is just about getting the cheapest price. And when the lowest bidder wins it can be very demoralising because your skills, your writing skills become this commodity and you don’t have any chance to talk about the real value you offer as a copywriter.

Kate: Yes, I agree and remember you are competing with people who are charging $5 for an 800 word blog post, and they can afford to do that because the cost of living where they are is possibly lower. So if you can avoid freelancer websites do. Now I understand that sometimes we all need money and you get desperate and it might be worth giving it a pop but, as Belinda said, they can just make you feel pretty depressed. So if you can avoid them try not to use them and instead, which is tip number seven, how about going after networking groups?

Again, that might cause some people to have the heebie-jeebies. I’m a bit of an introvert myself and face-to-face networking doesn’t come naturally, but one way of getting around that is to join some online networking groups and to try to be the copywriter in that group. So possibly the group is a business networking group, it’s got an accountant and a lawyer and a designer. Well, you can be the copywriter in that group and then everybody in that group is going to turn to you when they need some words for their business.

Belinda: I think this is possibly one of the most valuable tips. Networking is definitely the way to go and even if you are an introvert, I mean, I don’t think anyone really loves the idea of face-to-face networking, it’s still really beneficial because when you make connections and you build relationships you leave yourself open to the work that’s going around. And when you look for a plumber you more often than not ask your friends and family first, and that’s the benefit of face-to-face networking. When someone says, “Hey, do you know a copywriter?” the people that you’ve met in these groups, online or offline, they think of you, and that’s the whole point.

Kate: Exactly and I’m just going to bring the old SEO thing up again, if you type in “copywriter” into Google it is very unlikely that you’re going to rank, but if someone types in your name into Google because they’ve met you and they remember your name or they have your business card, then it’s very easy for them to find you. So that’s another good reason for getting your name out there.

Belinda: And number eight tip is kind of continuing this theme of networking, but think about the clients who would refer their clients to copywriters. I’m talking about web designers and graphic designers, they’re the kind of people who are always looking for copywriters and it can make it a lot easier and you can build connections with those kinds of people on social media.

So the number eight tip for me is freely share your knowledge and advice on social media so you can be the copywriter people think of and you can connect with the kinds of people who need your services or could refer their clients on to you. Social media is very useful.

Kate: I agree. And talking of social media, we have a community, the Clever Copywriting Community on Google+ and often in that community people ask a lot of questions about cold calling and emailing. So our tip number nine is all around cold calling and email. Have you ever done this Belinda?

Belinda: Again no, although as a marketer I would have to create cold campaigns, direct mail and email campaigns to generate leads. But in that last marketing job as well, the MD of the company thought he’d maximise my usefulness by making me a sales person for one of the products and I hated it. I hated it so much. I learned a lot, but what it means now is I focus all my marketing knowhow and energy on not having to have those crushingly awkward moments on the phone.

So as a freelance copywriter I’ve never done cold calling, but it doesn’t intimidate some people in the way that it intimidates me. So if you’re up for it you shouldn’t discount it, but I think there’s plenty of other ways to get clients without having to bother people on the phone.

Kate: Yes, I agree and I think our earlier tips can help with this in that you warm people up before you make that contact. I never think anybody appreciates a phone call about something that they’re not expecting, but if you’ve been interacting with someone on LinkedIn, you’ve connected or you’ve been interacting with someone on social media who maybe is a graphic designer, I think there’s nothing wrong with sending them an email saying, “Hey, we’ve been chatting on Twitter, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve got some time coming up and I could help with any copywriting you have going”.

It’s not in your face, they can say yes or no, and they already know you a little bit, so it’s not coming completely out of the blue.

Belinda: That’s right.

Kate: So that could be a way of making cold calling tepid calling or warm calling.

Belinda: [laughs] That’s such a good point.

Kate: A little bit less awkward, you know?

Belinda: Yes, that’s right.

Kate: And our final tip for the day, although there are probably lots of other things we could think of, but our top tip for today is job listing websites. There are heaps of them out there, Rachel’s List is one, ProBlogger Job Board, we have some jobs on the Clever Copywriting School job board and in the Freelance Jungle on Google+, and these can be great places to find potential jobs. Even on the sites like Seek you’ll find short copywriting contracts now and again. So those can be really useful.

Have you ever found that any work through those kinds of sites Belinda? I mean, again, I’ve never used them, but from what I hear they can be really great.

Belinda: Well I think, I mean, no, I haven’t. All the work I did in my early business years was content marketing and social media marketing. So you mentioned just before, building relationships with people, getting to know them and then introducing yourself. That’s kind of how I got all my clients, but I think these job listings aren’t a bad idea and people might be wondering, “Well, how is a job listing website different to an Elance freelancer’s website?” And they do feel very different. I feel that the jobs that come up on job listing websites have much more reasonable rates and price doesn’t seem to be the only focus for these jobs.

So I think they’re a really good thing to keep an eye on. They shouldn’t be your sole focus – to be honest, none of these tips should be your sole focus, I think you should be trying all of them – but these are places where people are actively seeking copywriters and you should be there to put your hand up if you find the right job for the right price for you.

Kate: Exactly. I’ve just thought of another which is the Flying Solo forum. Often people post in there for copywriters as well. But yes, you mentioned there that most of your jobs came through social media. Most of my jobs, just to be honest, most of my clients have come purely through SEO, through people typing stuff into Google and finding my website. So I guess my number one tip out all of this would be having a good website and networking.

And Belinda, if you could sum up your top tips which would they be?

Belinda: I do have one final tip – we’re just adding these tips as we’re talking – but you have to make time to market yourself. I know a lot of copywriters who say, “I’m so busy I don’t have time to write a blog” or “I don’t have time to be on social media”. But when that work runs dry and you don’t have any more work it’s a lot harder to start getting new clients from scratch.

So I would tell people to start marketing and then make it just as important to your business as sending invoices out, you know, something you always make a bit of time for.

Kate: Look, admittedly getting work in the early months can be tough and you may find yourself compromising on price to win jobs, but it does get easier and the best way to keep work flowing is to get repeat business. So be careful not to focus too much on winning new business so much so that you neglect the great clients you already have.

Well, that’s it from us, thanks for listening. If you like the show, please don’t forget to leave us a rating and review on iTunes and Stitcher – your review will help other copywriters find us. You can also head to HotCopyPodcast.com and leave your comments on the blog post for this episode. Until next time, happy writing.

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