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How to Make Real Money as a Copywriter

Updated on September 3, 2012
JohnMello profile image

JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

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They say that copywriters aren’t born, they’re made. Fortunately, where money is concerned, the opposite is true.

In order to make money as a copywriter you need a certain number of components in place:

  • You need to be able to write copy
  • You need to know where to find copywriting markets
  • You need to know what to charge for your expertise
  • You need to be able to deliver quality work on time

Obviously if you can’t write copy, you can’t be a copywriter. There are lots of online copywriting courses that will guide you on the right path if copywriting is something you really want to do. Every piece of copy you write – even if it’s part of an assignment – can become part of your online copywriting portfolio to show to potential clients and to help you land copywriting jobs.

Once your skills are up to scratch, it’s time to test the water… by writing some copy. Copy refers to text designed specifically to persuade people that read it to take an action. That action might be to click on a link, purchase a product, download a file or visit a web page. Copywriters traditionally write the text used to sell an idea, a product, or a vision, and can also use their skills to portray individuals or companies in the best light possible.

Finding Paying Copywriting Markets

If you’re a copywriter you’ll probably work in one of two ways:

  1. Writing general copy as and when jobs come along
  2. Writing copy for niche markets that you wish to specialize in

When you start out as a copywriter you may very well have to accept any paying jobs on offer. That’s only natural and to be expected. But as your skills progress you’ll undoubtedly develop your own style and your own preferences. And that’s when you should consider tailoring your work to specific, niche markets.

There’s plenty of copywriting work available, but there are also plenty of copywriters going after that work. That’s why it might pay in the long term to become a specialist. Once your skills and reputation are established you’ll be the “go to” copywriter in that field – which will also mean you’ll be able to charge more for your time and abilities.

Here are some of the niche markets in the copywriting world today:

  • Alternative health market
  • Baby products market
  • Christian market
  • Commercial construction market
  • Commercial or residential furniture market
  • Education market
  • Financial market
  • Green/Eco clothing market
  • Home maintenance market
  • Jobs market
  • Self-help market
  • Senior healthcare market
  • Small business software market
  • Solar commercial solutions market
  • Travel market
  • Wine and food market

Do you work in education? In the restaurant business? Make your own software? Spend a lot of time traveling? There’s bound to be something on this list that you’re either familiar with or that you’re passionate about. If there is, write about that. Get some articles together and bang them in your portfolio, making your expertise known and giving you the chance to apply for related jobs when they come along.

If you’re a HubPages author, consider writing ten or more hubs all based around the same topic, such as home maintenance or senior healthcare. These are the evergreen topics that are always popular. By writing a series of articles you’ll be able to hone your skills while simultaneously learning more about the topic in question.

How Much Can Copywriters Charge?

Setting fees for your copywriting services is a delicate balancing act. You don’t want to price yourself out of the game, even if you know you’re worth it – and you don’t want to end up working for peanuts.

Some sites such as eLance require that you bid for jobs. That’s a lot easier to do when you’ve been writing copy and getting paid for it for a while, but it’s not so easy when you’re just starting out. You need to bid for the amount of work involved, your time, and any research needed to complete the task. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you think the job is worth, even if other writers are bidding well below that amount. The cheapest bid doesn’t always win: quality work delivered on time is the key to success.

One of the best ways to get work is by word of mouth. If a client has been particularly effusive about the work you’ve done for them, be sure to get a testimonial. Place it in your portfolio so that future employers can find it and read it with ease.

Copywriting work can come to you in a number of ways. You might be offered the chance to write web pages for a site, or to write product descriptions, or to write reports or ebooks. In some cases the fees will be decided in advance while in others you’ll be able to charge an hourly rate. Whichever is the case, make sure your fees are agreed up front before you begin the project. $5 for a 500-word article isn’t going to make you rich, even if you write hundreds of them. Working for $50 an hour, on the other hand, gives you some sense of stability and is probably a better reflection of your actual value. And, of course, if you can churn out enough articles, you’ll be earning $50 an hour anyway.

Copywriter Earnings Table (approx)

Yearly
Monthly
Weekly
Hourly (8-hour day)
120,000
10,000
2500
62.50
96,000
8,000
2000
50
50,000
4,000
1000
25
30,000
2,500
625
15.60

Setting Your Copywriting Fees

You can decide how to set your fees before you get your first copywriting job. Here’s how to do it:

  • Think about how much you’d like to earn a year. Let’s take $50,000 as a starting point.
  • $50,000 a year breaks down to about $4,166 a month, or roughly $1,000 a week. That equates to $200 a day for a 5-day week, which is perfectly feasible.
  • Suppose you work 5 hours a day. At $200 a day over 5 hours, your hourly rate will be $40. If you work 8 hours a day, your hourly rate will be $25.

Hopefully you can see how this works. It’s not always possible to make more money just by working longer hours, at least not when you’re freelancing. The trick is to set up a system that will provide you with a reasonable return for the effort you put in – say $40 an hour – and stick with it. That way you know you’re achieving your goal ($50,000 a year) without killing yourself. You may have to work smarter, but you shouldn’t have to work longer.

Money Making Tips for Copywriters

1. Set Achievable Targets

Know what you can do, how long it will take to do it, and what you think it should be worth for your efforts. Avoid taking no work just because it’s offered to you. Always make sure you can complete projects on time and to the best of your ability. That way you’ll guarantee that you’re offered more work in the future.

2. Know Your Worth

Will you be afraid to ask for $50 an hour? If you don’t ask, you won’t get it.

Let’s face it: no one is going to pay you $50 an hour if you ask for $25. You’ll often be able to negotiate prices based on the quality of your work and your past achievements. What you don’t want to do is price yourself too low, which might force you to take on additional work at the same time just to make sure you earn enough to get by.

3. Manage Your Time

In order to be successful, you need to be disciplined. If you’re a freelance copywriter working from home there can be plenty of distractions to lure you away from the desk and stop you making money.

Structure your day so that you’re working in a manner that suits you and your lifestyle. Some writers prefer to write in the morning and do research and other related activities in the afternoon. Others work in blocks of two or more hours, taking short breaks in between to recharge their batteries and clear their mind. ANY routine is a good routine, as long as you manage to stick to it.

4. Write As Much As You Can

The more you write, the better your writing will become. The better your writing, the faster you can work. And the faster you work, the more money you make.

Copywriting is a skill, and like any skill it improves with practice. Writers generally enjoy writing and working with words, but there is always something new to learn. By writing every day you’ll hone your skills and be able to get more accomplished in a shorter time, which gives you the potential to make even more money.

5. Keep The Work Flowing

Copywriters only make money when they’re writing. A few days without any work can seriously affect your ability to make the income you need.

Some writers get around this problem by taking on as much work as they can handle. The more clients you work for, the greater the chance that there will be some repeat business in the future. Once a client asks you to write for them a second or third time, you know you’ve cracked it.

The other crucial ingredient is effort. Even if you take on a low-paying job, the client still expects to receive work of a suitably high standard. Once you agree to do the work, then you’ve entered into a contract to provide your client with the best writing you can, no matter how little it might end up paying you.

Remember that smaller jobs can lead to larger ones, and satisfied clients will tell others about how wonderful your work is. That should lead to more work and, ultimately, more money for you.

Conclusion

Writing isn't all about making money, but it helps. There's nothing wrong with getting paid for what you do, particularly if you do it well. You'll find plenty of copywriting work online at various job sites, so don't be afraid to spend some time at the beginning of each week or month doing some research.

In the beginning the work won't come to you: you'll have to hunt for it. You'll have to find copywriting clients who are willing to pay you fro your work. Once your reputation begins to grow you'll probably be offered work, but you can't simply sit back and wait for it. Do that and you won't make any money whatsoever.

Some of the information included here can also be found in my own book The Ultimate Copywriter. Also be sure to check out the rest of my hubs on the subject of copywriting.

Thanks for reading!

Comments

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    • greencha profile image

      greencha 

      5 years ago from UK

      Thankyou John.

    • JohnMello profile imageAUTHOR

      JohnMello 

      5 years ago from England

      Thanks greencha. Normally experience is more important than qualifications. A good portfolio of work helps too. I got jobs doing the same thing (no charge if you don't like it) when I started, so by all means give it a shot!

    • greencha profile image

      greencha 

      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks John, very interesting. Do copywriters need to have a qualification in copy writing before work is offered? Would it be a silly thing to go to a company and offer to do a copywrite for them on a 'they don't like they don't pay' basis? Thanks regards..

    • JohnMello profile imageAUTHOR

      JohnMello 

      6 years ago from England

      Thanks The60life and Claudia Tello! High praise indeed.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      6 years ago from Mexico

      This is one of the clearest and most orderly hubs I have encountered in Hubpages. One of the few I´ve read from A to Z. Everything is well explained, in a direct and succinct way, congratulations. Voted up and useful.

    • The60life profile image

      The60life 

      6 years ago from England

      John, many thanks for your clear and succinct hub outlining basic essentials on how to make money copywriting. I am reminded of how useful HubPages can be in the process of developing particular writing skills, in this case persuasive writing that calls readers to action. I do like the idea of a series of ten or more hubs for a niche market. Thanks also for the guidance on charging for copywriting services.

      A vote-up from me, too.

    • JohnMello profile imageAUTHOR

      JohnMello 

      6 years ago from England

      Many thanks Judi Bee!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      I'm still weighing up whether or not I have a future as a writer and found this very interesting and useful - I'm sure other people will too, so voting up and sharing.

    • JohnMello profile imageAUTHOR

      JohnMello 

      6 years ago from England

      You're welcome... and thanks for reading!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Figuring out how much to charge is really the trickiest part of any freelance gig. Thanks for the handy chart!

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