Joe Peters recently approached us to share this informative and helpful post about building a career around writing:
How to Start a Career in Copywriting: Freelance or In-House
Quality content is in high demand. On the bus, at the gas station, or browsing Facebook, we’re surrounded by content.
Companies want to break through all the “noise” to reach their target audience, and that means quality copywriters are in high demand.
If you have a flair for writing, copywriting is an excellent way to make money from your passion.
When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to decide whether to work in-house or go freelance. The right answer depends on your own personal situation and can change over the years.
Those looking for flexibility or who need to gain experience may prefer to start out freelance. You can tackle freelance assignments while holding a day job if you’re still testing the waters.
For those with more experience, or who want to work for a particular company, in-house writing can offer stability and a chance to master the art of writing for a particular field.
Companies hire copywriters for a wide range of projects, including:
- Website content
- Radio ads
- Facebook posts
- Scripts for salespeople
- Press releases
Working In-House as a Writer
The most obvious benefit of working as an in-house writer is a steady paycheck. You can eliminate the constant hunt for new clients and instead focus on your writing.
Typically you’ll work on a set schedule, though there can be some flexibility. You’ll also gain access to any benefits or perks the company offers.
This reliability is what attracts many writers, especially those with a family to support.
You’ll also have more time to focus on your craft and dive deep into the company’s branding.
As a freelancer juggling multiple clients, you may not get as much time as you’d like to spend on fine-tuning your skills in a specific field.
Yet an in-house job has its downsides too. Your schedule, even when working remotely, is likely less flexible than that of a freelancer.
You work for a set pay rate, which means you can’t raise your prices on more detailed pieces.
Also, you should factor in the time and cost of commuting to work and needing to own something fancier than a set of pajamas to work in!
Cutting Corporate Ties and Going Freelance
The freelance life is both exhilarating and a little scary. Many of the cons of working in-house become benefits for freelance writers.
You can set your own schedule, charge what you’re worth, and tackle a variety of projects from multiple clients.
Freelancing is excellent for parents, night-owls, and anyone who needs to set a schedule different from the traditional Monday to Friday, 9-to-5.
You’ll be working from home, so make sure you know how to set up your work hours, tech and learn what you need to be efficient at home.
Freelance writers can explore a variety of projects ranging from how-to articles to ghostwriting books. The subjects you can write about are limited only by your willingness to research!
However, working contract to contract can have downsides too.
Your volume of work may fluctuate throughout the year, and you’ll have to take care of securing your own health insurance and retirement savings account.
Your schedule will still depend on your clients’ availability to some degree.
Preparing for a Career in Writing
Regardless of whether you choose in-house, freelance, or a mixture of both, there are several steps you can take to start your copywriting career on the right foot.
1. Create a Plan of Action
Much like a business plan, a plan of action is a document that outlines who you are, what services you’ll offer, and how you’ll find clients.
Putting it on paper will help you focus on what assignments to accept or reject, how much to charge, and whether freelance or in-house copywriting is the best first step toward your goals.
Include important details such as:
- How much you both want to work and are realistically able to.
- Subjects and article types you prefer to work on.
- Potential clients and networking contacts who may know of job openings.
- Rates you plan to charge and what you need to earn per month to pay the bills.
2. Build Your Portfolio
Your portfolio is your golden ticket to any job, whether in-house or contract.
If you have already done copywriting work before then those pieces are an excellent place to start.
If you are just starting out, there are many ways to quickly build an impressive portfolio:
- Either by ghostwriting for another blog or starting your own, blogging lets you show off your writing skills and your creativity. Once you’ve launched your writing career, you can still maintain your blog to earn passive income on the side.
- On Spec Writing. Writing “on spec”, short for speculation, means writing before you have a paid offer for your work. This could be a fiction piece you want to submit for publication or a nonfiction article you plan to pitch to a magazine.
Even if an editor doesn’t buy your piece, you can use it to build your portfolio.
- Cheap or free services. While no one likes working for little to no pay, offering your services as a one-time deal can help quickly build a portfolio of pieces. Check with family members, friends, and local non-profit organizations to see who needs your skills.
3. Grow Your Skills
Thanks to the internet and local libraries, you can learn almost anything without spending a dollar.
Seek out free online courses in writing as well as books and articles on copywriting.
There’s also plenty of paid courses, but you might want to wait a bit with those, as they are rather pricey – from $600 to $1000 usually.
Practice what you learn by incorporating your new skills into your next article. Many websites offer freelance writing gigs, and while they may not pay highly, it builds your experience.
Learning to work remotely is a crucial skill for writers.
Whether you work from home full-time or only on occasion, you’ll need some tech knowledge about cloud computing to be able to maximize your efficiency as a writer.
Learning how the cloud improves your remote work and what benefits it brings will help you be ahead of the competition.
Whatever path you choose as a writer, never stop learning and practicing.
The more assignments you complete, the more opportunities you’ll have to take on bigger and better-paying gigs.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters