how to become a freelance writer with no experience Copify 2

Want to know how to become a freelance writer with no experience? We’ve got you covered…

When people leave college or university, they so often come up against the age-old problem:

“You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without having a job.”

Luckily, for those who want to be a freelance writer, there are plenty of options to get you around that particular dilemma.

So if you’re out there, wondering how to become a freelance writer with no experience, read on for how to get started.

We’ve written before about the basic steps to starting your own freelance writing business, including becoming self-employed and registering for taxes – not the exciting bit about being a freelance writer. The good news is it doesn’t take long to do, and then you can get down to the fun stuff of actually getting your first client and building your business.

Once you get set up, it’s time to start thinking about exactly what you want. This is your business, so unlike when you work for someone else, you don’t have to slog through boring tasks that you hate, just because your boss has told you to do them. You ARE the boss! And that’s the attraction for so many people – you get to choose.

To niche or not to niche?

how to become a freelance writer with no experience Copify 1If you search for that question, you’ll find a host of conflicting opinions from freelancers who are utterly convinced that having a niche is a must and from those who love to generalise and find that strategy works for them.

And in the end, that’s what it comes down to – what works for you?

You can earn more with some niches (finance, technical writing, legal, medical, etc) and it is easier to market yourself as the ‘go-to specialist in X topic’, but being a generalist gives you a lot of variety. One day you could be writing about hypnotherapy, for example, then the next about digital marketing for engineering companies, and the next about hotels in The Seychelles.

If you don’t have a particular preference for any subjects right away, try writing in a variety of different fields until you find what you like and then niche from there if you want to.

Writing for an agency, like Copify, is a great way to get good experience and find out what you enjoy by trying different topics and types of writing, and working with different clients.

What do you want?

This is your business and you can shape it however you want, so don’t think traditionally and assume you need a ton of money to get started and that you need to rent an office and pay a receptionist from the beginning. You don’t have to do that straightaway, or even at all if you don’t want to.

Work out what suits you. When do you want to work? How many hours a week? Do you need to finish by 3pm so you can pick up the kids, or are you more of a night owl, working best until the late hours?

Where do you want to work and what are the right surroundings for you? You might find you work better in total silence at home, or that having music on helps the words flow. Working in a coffee shop or a co-working space might suit because then you get some background noise and personal interaction.

And here’s a really big decision – what kind of clients do you want to work with? Not every client is your ideal client. Some will give you free reign as long as you include a particular keyword, and some will pick over every sentence you write with a fine toothcomb. Some will pay you quickly and give you amazing feedback and some you will have to drag money out of.

Here’s the thing. Don’t think you have to live with bad clients, because you don’t. If a client doesn’t treat you well, you can simply decide that you won’t work for them any more and move on to a better one.

All of the questions above are individual so we can’t answer them for you, but when you have your ideas together, then you’re ready to work out your pricing and put together your copywriting contract.

What on earth do I charge?

how to become a freelance writer with no experience Copify 4Again, we’ve covered this in our article on getting started as a freelance writer, but basically, you need to work out how many hours you want to do, and then work out how much you need to live, including paying taxes, National Insurance, and having enough to cover holidays and sickness.

Then you get to decide how much you WANT to make.

After that, it’s a case of doing some sums using Brennan Dunne’s handy calculator to figure out how much you need to earn per hour to achieve that.

Two things on pricing

1. You do NOT have to ‘pay your dues’ by writing for less than a penny a word. There is no law in place that says you have to do that at all. If you can go out there with confidence, knowing that you offer value to your clients and can show them samples to prove it, then there’s nothing to stop you charging what you want straight out of the gate.

2. It’s better if you don’t price per hour, but rather per project, because you will get the odd client who will try to beat you down on how long they think writing their copy should take, and also because the more you write, the faster you’ll get, and you don’t want to be in a position where you are penalised for writing fast. Think of the value and the skills you are providing, and charge for that, bearing in mind your minimum hourly rate only as a starting point.

Setting up your copywriting contract

Get a freelance contract sorted and a statement of work, and use it with every client. Yes, even that little one that only wants a 300-word blog post. Why? You need to have a copywriting contact because it protects both you and the client if something goes wrong.

Take a look at our post, where we walk you through how to create a copywriting contract and give you some resources to help you.

Your writer website and that whole ‘lack of experience’ thing

how to become a freelance writer with no experience Copify 5This is where we hit the problem that you don’t have any experience yet, so you can’t talk about your previous clients or show off a polished portfolio. Still, here’s some excellent advice from Carol Tice at Make a Living Writing to get you started with what to put on your new writer website. Carol also has an article with samples of writer websites that convert and get clients so you can get some inspiration.

Carol Tice does advise not to make up some writing samples for your site, but you may want to start a blog instead as you can show off your writing skills there.

For further ‘clips’ as they’re known, do you have anything you can use from previous employment? If your old employer will let you use it, anything you’ve written in terms of ‘how to’ guides, training manuals or posts on their intranet could be used as a writing sample.

Or you could approach your favourite charity and offer to do some writing for them for free, in exchange for using the results in your portfolio.

And when you’re ready to build your portfolio, our post has some advice on how to do that.

Where to find jobs and get that all-important experience

We’ve already talked about Copify, where you can try out a variety of different writing jobs and see what suits you. You’ll get a lot of experience from writing for so many different clients, learn to read client briefs and understand what information you need to do a job, and you could even get some great testimonials from clients that you can then post on your new website for social proof.

There are also some really good job sites out there for freelancers, where prospective clients have to pay to post a job. This tends to weed out the scammers and untrustworthy people who are keen to rip off freelancers.

Here are just a few of the job boards you might use:

  • ProBlogger Jobs
  • FlexJobs
  • BloggingPro Job Board
  • Media Bistro
  • Journalism Jobs

When you apply, read the brief carefully and do what the client asks. So many people don’t that it will put you ahead of the pack. Then make it clear why you’re the best person for the job.

Want some more advice? Check out our blog post on how to find freelance writing jobs in 3 easy steps.

Growing your business

how to become a freelance writer with no experience Copify 3

As you get more experience, change up your clips in your portfolio to better and better ones that really show off the range of what you can do. And keep adding client testimonials to your site as you get them.

Aim to keep attracting better-paying clients and keep raising your rates over time. Don’t be afraid to let go of clients who can no longer afford your new rates. You’re not a charity!

Think about how you can package your offerings to add more value so that you can charge higher prices. Instead of selling one-off blog posts, try this instead:

Offer 3 separate packages where clients sign up for the long term. Package 1 might have 4 blogs per month, package 2 could have 4 blogs per month, with 4 social media posts done for each blog, and package 3 could have 4 blogs per month, 4 social media posts for each blog, with images provided and the HTML done so clients can just paste straight into WordPress and then share without having to do any more work.

Price it carefully so you don’t find yourself doing too much work for less money overall, and you should find you’ll get a steadier income that you can rely on, and you won’t have to keep marketing over and over again.

Keep learning, and think about other skills you can add so you can provide more value and other services to clients, which will, in turn, add more to your bottom line. Think SEO, technical writing, WordPress, social media management, etc.

You’ll eventually get into a routine that works for you, where you’ve planned time to market yourself, do the writing and think about how you’re going to grow your business, and you’ll hopefully find you enjoy this crazy, varied, and fun freelancing life.

 

Main image credit: Porapak Apichodilok
Image credits: pixabay.comAcharaporn Kamornboonyarushpixabay.comrawpixel.com

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how to become a copy editor - Copify 2

How to become a copy editor

As a copy editor, you might work for a publishing company, a magazine or even a small business, or you may set up your own business and work for authors as well as a variety of different companies. It’s up to you which way you go and will depend on your skills and experience, and quite simply, your preferences.

But if you’ve never worked as a copy editor before, how do you get started? Read on to find out how to become a copy editor:

First of all, let’s talk about what a copy editor is…

What a copy editor does

how to become a copy editor - Copify 3A copy editor is someone with a high degree of accuracy and an excellent grasp of the English language (or whatever language you work in), grammar and punctuation.

Copy editing takes an author’s draft novel, a magazine’s article, or any other form of copy and turns it into a final finished product that’s ready to be published.

A copy editor checks for grammar, spelling, errors, repetitive phrasing, inconsistencies, missing information, missing words, and more. They check that the piece is easy to read, suitable for its audience, completely accurate, error free, and the best finished piece it can possibly be.

Does that sound like you? Does finding all those errors and correcting them set your grammar nerd heart aflame or are you bored already at the idea of painstakingly going through manuscripts and other pieces of copy for the rest of your life?

If you’re bored already, chances are this isn’t the job for you, but if you’re thinking you could do this and it might just be what you’re looking for, read on!

How does copy editing work?

A copy editor will first look over the copy as a whole to check everything that’s needed is present. Is the copy finished? Is the index or table of contents complete and does it match the chapter titles throughout the piece? Are there any images or graphics to go with the copy, and are they all present and correctly listed in the work?

The copy editor will then remove any redundant or unwanted formatting, set up the pages, fonts and spacing correctly and produce a stylesheet to work from.

An overview of the copy gives the editor a good idea of what the piece needs before they begin to focus on the tiny details.

how to become a copy editor - Copify 1

The copy editor will then go through, as above, checking for grammar, punctuation and spelling, passive voice, paragraphs and sentences that are too long, use of exclamation marks, bold and italics, etc. They’ll fact check, sort out numbering, make sure everything is consistent in terms of punctuation marks and tenses, and look for consistency in description. That last one is particularly important in fiction, where no one wants to find the character was called Nancy for the first 3 chapters and then Nelly for the rest of the book!

Think you’re done there? Afraid not. A copy editor needs to also look at the piece as a whole, including the structure and if the piece reads logically and in the right order.

  • A copy editor will check if a glossary and a bibliography are needed, look at the placement of those items and any appendices, check clickable links work, make sure headings make sense and check if there are enough of them to break up the piece and make it more readable.
  • Illustrations, images, graphics and tables all need to be properly labelled and captioned, and a copy editor will also check that they’re in the right place in the text and that the copy adds to the inserted elements rather than just listing what the tables, etc, already say. A good copy editor will also know if the graphics, etc, are of high enough quality for the web and for printing, and will check that permission has been given for use, or licenses bought, and that any acknowledgement wording is present and correct.
  • Dates and references and quotations, oh my! Copy editors have a very good eye for factual errors, inaccurate quotations, incomplete references, wrongly spelt names and more.
  • A copy editor will also need to know enough about the law and about the company or publishing house standards they are working to so that they can query or flag anything that’s a problem. Copy editors will note plagiarism, obscenity, incitement to racial hatred, libel, and copyright breach, as well as picking up on house rules, such as particular subjects that the publisher won’t accept.

Here’s a handy copy editing checklist from Writer’s Digest to get you started.

That’s only some of what a copy editor might do, but it should give you an idea of whether the job is for you.

If you’d like to explore other types of editing, either to expand what you can offer clients or because you think you’d like to try a different editing job, read our earlier article on what you need to know howto become a freelance editor.

Copy editing courses

Looking at the job description above, that’s a whole lot of knowledge you need to have before you can become a copy editor, so here is a list of courses that should help you get started:

What writers look for in an editor

how to become a copy editor - Copify 4Obviously, no matter who you work with, they’ll expect you to have the skills outlined above in the job description, but in varying degrees to suit the role. Fiction writers, for example, usually have less need for glossaries, bibliographies and references, though there are exceptions there, such as high fantasy or science fiction novels, with detailed world building.

You’re also going to have to be very good at working with people and at persuading them to consider and accept your changes. Writers – particularly fiction writers – can get very attached to their words and you’ll need to be able to listen, suggest, and be adaptable to bring the copy to an excellent finished state.

You should know that fiction writers also get very attached to their characters and their worlds, and can be sensitive to criticism. Not everyone’s like that, and in fact, some writers will tell you to be brutal and to utterly shred their work to make it the best it can be. That’s why you need to be adaptable and a brilliant people person to do this job.

Writers want someone who is reliable, accurate and can keep to deadlines, but also someone who understands their genre and can work with their writer’s voice and style to polish it to excellence, rather than out of existence.

Getting started and finding jobs

You’ll first have to decide whether you want to work for someone else or set up on your own as a freelance copy editor.

Either way, you’re likely to need a degree in English Language, Literature or Journalism, as well as taking practical courses like proofreading to give you the skills you need, and any experience you can get is likely to stand you in good stead, too. Perhaps you could do some free chapters for a few authors or work for a favourite charity to get some practice in.

If you want to work for someone else, it’s a case of applying for jobs like you would with any other career. You’re likely to be up against quite a bit of competition, and you may need to take an entry-level position to get started, before working your way up.

If you want to work for yourself, you’ll need to set up a website and build a portfolio showing examples of before and after copy that you’ve edited.

After that, you’ll probably want to find your own clients by pitching to companies or authors. Another place where you may have some success is Copify.

Think about what type of copy editing you want to do. If you love reading fiction, it makes sense to work in a publishing company or with authors directly, rather than wading through technical and legal copy that would have you poking your eyes out with a sharp stick within a few months. Play to your strengths and your interests to find the editing job that’s right for you.

 

Main image credit: Pixabay
Image credits: rawpixel.comStartup Stock PhotosSnapwire

 

 

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How to break into freelance writing - Copify

Ever wanted to know how to break into freelance writing?

Freelance writing can be a fantastic and fun career, with plenty of freedom in the way you manage your life and your time. It does, however, have a bit of a reputation for being hard to break into. One of the reasons for that is that there’s so much advice out there on the internet – much of it conflicting – that it can be difficult to know who to trust and how on earth to get started.

The other difficulty is that there isn’t just one way to get your freelance writing business going. We can’t give you a neat and tidy checklist that works for everyone, where if you follow all the steps in order and tick everything off you’ll have the freelancing career of your dreams in 90 days. Sadly, that checklist doesn’t exist. It can’t, because there are so many different paths into the writing business – as many different ways as people who want to do it.

You could look at that as a negative thing. You could get stuck on the fact that it’s not neat and tidy, and all sewn up in a bow. Or you could re-read that paragraph above and take away the huge positive that if you really want to write for a living, there is a way in that will work for you.

1. What do you want to write?

One of the best things about a freelance writing career is the huge variety of things you can write and people you can write for. If you’re bored with what you’re doing or want to learn something new, then there are so many more options out there to choose from. When you’re looking at how to break into freelance writing, the first thing you need to do is decide what type of writing appeals to you, and what type of companies you want to work for.

How to break into freelance writing - Copify 4

So, what do you want to write? Blog posts like this one for different companies? Magazine articles? Travel blogs? Business writing, like web copy and white papers? Long form sales copy letters? Technical writing, such as maintenance manuals? The list really is endless.

What topics are you knowledgeable about or good at researching, and what do you enjoy writing? You could choose a niche and only write finance articles, engineering blogs, or books on pets, or you could choose to be more of a generalist.

Then consider what sort of companies you’d like to write for. The big corporates are often the ones with the huge budgets, but does your style of writing fit with what they want, can you adapt to their tone, and will you be happy forcing your writing style into ‘management speak’ if you’re more of a chatty, ‘write as you speak’ blogger type?

Startups can be great fun to work for and highly appreciative of your writing skills, but do they have the budget to pay your going rate?

Ideally, what you want is a good balance of interesting work that you enjoy and will want to keep doing from companies that have the budget to pay.

At first, you may need to take work that you don’t enjoy quite as much in order to get started, bring in testimonials, and more importantly, money! But eventually, you should be able to shape your freelance writing business into something that suits you down to the ground, where most of your jobs are the type of writing you prefer to do on topics that you enjoy.

You can read more about the different types of copywriting in our blog post.

2. Start where you are

How to break into freelance writing - Copify 3You could spend 3 years taking a technical writing degree before applying for tech writing jobs, or you could start off writing on subjects you already know you can do now to bring in money while you learn on the job, get those all-important testimonials, and build up your portfolio and experience, while taking a degree part-time.

It really is up to you but starting now with what you have will get you earning money and building your business a lot quicker.

If you don’t have any experience or really don’t know what you want to write, try signing up to a site such as Copify, where you can find a variety of job types on different topics for a whole host of companies. You’ll gain experience, find out what jobs you enjoy doing, and start to build your testimonials and your confidence.

Why not check out Copify’s guide on how to become a copywriter?

3. Talk to other writers and follow their work

One of the best ways to learn is to follow what successful freelance writers are doing. They’ve already done what you want to do, and if you keep reading and learning from them, you can shorten the time it takes to build your own successful business by avoiding their mistakes.

How to break into freelance writing - Copify 2

Check out our blog on the top copywriting experts to follow.

Don’t be scared to chat to other freelancers and build relationships. Join some writers’ groups on Facebook, read the posts and learn from them, and comment when you can to help out other writers. It’s a great way to learn, you’ll feel a sense of community and know that you aren’t on your own, and as your reputation grows, you may even get referred work when other writers have too much on.

Here are three groups that you might find useful:

This is a paid option, but you could also join Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den. It’s around £20.00 per month, but the forums are highly active and incredibly helpful, and you can get advice from Carol herself on your website and your pitches. She also includes a whole range of courses inside the Den that are perfect, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been writing for years.

The Den isn’t open all year round, but sign up for Carol’s newsletter from her other site, Make a Living Writing, and you’ll be notified when it’s open. You’ll also learn a great deal from her site for free, so do take the time to browse and learn.

4. Build your portfolio

This is where it can get tricky, because if you don’t have previous writing experience, how do you get a portfolio to show potential clients?

Well, there are some solutions to that, too:

  • You could start a blog and use your posts as examples of your work at first
  • You could guest post on other people’s blogs and include those in your portfolio. Check out Kissmetric’s guide to guest posting or Quick Sprout’s video below on the subject of how to find guest posting opportunities.
Courtesy of Quick Sprout
  • You could approach a local charity or two and write some posts for free to get clips
  • Approach some local businesses and offer to do some work for a lower rate to build your portfolio. And if you’re wondering how to put a portfolio together in the first place, our article has you covered.
  • After all that, it’s a case of learning to pitch and market to your ideal clients, then continuously learning to hone your craft.

Building a freelance writing business is a marathon, not a sprint, so buckle up and settle in for the long haul, creating a career and lifestyle that you’ll love.

 

Main image credit: Mabel Amber
Image credits: Kaboompics .comPixabayrawpixel.com

 

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becoming a professional writer what you need to know Copify 1

Becoming a professional writer – what you need to know

If you Google ‘becoming a professional writer’, there are almost 12 million results, and on the first few pages, most of the results are about writing a fiction book. So, if you’re searching for how to get started with freelance writing, you could be forgiven for being confused.

However, some of the advice that applies to becoming a fiction author also applies to choosing freelance writing as a career:

1. You are running a business

becoming a professional writer what you need to know Copify 2Whether you’re working on the next NYT bestseller or on becoming a freelance blogger, you’re still running a business and you have to deal with everything that comes with it.

You absolutely can work in your pyjamas all day if you want to, and you can set your own hours to a great extent. If you write better by getting up at 5am, jumping into an ice bath to start your day, dictating your work for the next four hours solid and then having the rest of the day off, then great. Do it, if it works for you. But you do have to take what you do just as seriously as you would if you worked for someone else.

There are lots of advantages in working for yourself. Yes, you totally can take the afternoon off on a weekday, go and see the latest Star Wars and then idle an hour away in a coffee shop (guilty as charged!). If you want a holiday, or need a doctor’s appointment, or you need to be at home to let in workmen, you don’t have to ask anyone permission. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to tell you if you can do that. It’s totally down to you – as long as you’ve met your deadlines, finished everything you need to do for that day, and you’re not keeping clients waiting.

Want to know what else is down to you? Everything. Sorting the accounts is on your to-do list, marketing your business, dealing with sometimes difficult clients, sorting out the legalities of your business, including paying tax, chasing invoices, and the admin that goes with running a business – all down to you.

And if you’re not making money, that’s on you, too.

2. You need to be professional

All the things you’d do in a ‘normal’ job where you work for someone else, like dressing appropriately, turning up on time, being polite, respecting other people’s points of view and their time, meeting deadlines, etc, are things you’ll still need to do when you run your own freelancing business.

If you miss deadlines without good reason, turn up late to client meetings, and produce sloppy work, you will not have clients for long, and certainly not repeat clients.

Professional writers don’t wait to be inspired. They write as if it’s a job because it is! You wouldn’t go to your employer and say ‘Oh, I can’t weld that today. I’ve got welder’s block,’ or ‘I’m not feeling it today, boss. I’ve got plumber’s block.’ And if you want a professional writing career, you can’t do that either. Write anyway. Fix it later. That’s what editing is for.

3. Your ‘to-do’ list will never end, and that’s okay

becoming a professional writer what you need to know Copify 3If you can’t live with the idea that you’ll never get to the end of your ‘to-do’ list and be finished, don’t start running a business of any kind. And that certainly goes for a freelance writing business.

There’s always something to do, from the actual writing to marketing, speaking to clients, editing, sending pitches, learning new skills and growing your business.

That might sound daunting, but that’s one of the advantages of this profession. Every day is different. There’s always something new to learn and more ways to develop as a writer.

4. Always be learning

If you only ever write sales emails for widget manufacturers in Bognor for the rest of your life, you’ll get bored, and quite possibly go crazy!

There’s a whole world out there of different types of writing and different ways to do things to improve your marketing, streamline your sales funnels and build your business.

Check out what we’ve said about the best copywriter training courses to help you develop and learn. And one of the best things you can do is follow other successful freelance writers and learn from them. Here’s our list of the top ten copywriting experts to follow.

Never, never stop learning. Your competitors won’t.

5. Rejection and criticism are part of a freelancing life

becoming a professional writer what you need to know CopifyYou won’t win every pitch you send. You’ll have days where you feel like you can’t win anything! Sometimes potential clients will write back and tell you how much they didn’t like your pitch and exactly why. And I’m not going to lie. That can utterly suck.

It’s hard to get a ‘no’ when you really wanted that job. It’s especially hard when that ‘no’ comes with a criticism of what you did wrong.

Not only that, but you have to be prepared for edits when you send off a piece of work. Sometimes (occasionally!) your work with go through with no changes at all, and other times you’ll wonder if the editor cut their finger and bled all over your page when there’s more red pen than actual copy.

There’s no getting away from these aspects of freelancer life, but you do need to be prepared for them and find your own way to deal with them. Take your time when you get criticism. Don’t fire off an angry reply. Think about what’s been said and see what’s justified and what you can learn. In general, editors don’t say things to upset you. They correct things because they know the edits will improve the piece. Take what they say that’s valuable, keep learning and implementing, and you will be a better writer for it.

6. You have to get used to marketing

As soon as the word ‘marketing’ is mentioned, some people get an automatic image of a sleazy salesperson pushing rubbish that nobody wants and bullying people into buying it.

Drop that image out of your mind right now, because marketing – proper, ethical marketing – isn’t like that at all. Plus, you do need to do it if you want to eat and pay bills. Nobody will come and find you and give you jobs and money – you have to go out and get them.

You have to market yourself consistently and regularly to keep bringing in the work, and you should keep marketing even when you’re really busy so that you don’t suddenly run out of clients and have nothing new coming in.

So much has been written about marketing that we couldn’t possibly cover it all here, but when you’re talking to new clients, bear this in mind: You’re not trying to bully them into something they don’t need. You’re offering them an incredibly valuable skill that will help them develop their business, and it is worth money. What you can do is worth paying for, so don’t sell yourself short. Keep in mind that you are helping your clients and talk about what’s in it for them. And if you struggle with the dreaded imposter syndrome, here’s an article from CopyBlogger to hopefully knock that on the head, once and for all.

If you’re just starting off with marketing and wondering how to get your first clients, here’s a great article from Brent Galloway of Digital Freelancer covering just that.

We’re not saying all this to put you off. Freelancing is great fun. It’s satisfying, it’s creative, you have so much freedom in how you manage your time and what sort of clients you work for, but it is work. We don’t spend all day swanning about in our fluffy dressing gowns and slippers while staring vacantly at Netflix. What does a copywriter do? We write, we market, we keep learning and growing.

 

Main image credit: bruce mars
Image credits: rawpixel.comBreakingpicenergepic.com

 

 

 

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