“What if I had to start over again with absolutely nothing?”
That was the question that flickered across my mind while I sat in traffic yesterday. I’ve been blessed with uncommon success in my copywriting career. Last year, for the third year in a row, I crossed the six-figure income line as a copywriter. And now, I think anyone can do it.
(I’ve come a long way from writing $0.01/word articles while on vacation in China!)
Since 2014, I’ve supported my family in two of the most expensive areas in the US – the San Francisco Bay area and LA/Orange County.
Who ever would have thought an English major could find this kind of success?
I know what I’ve achieved isn’t common. In fact, there are maybe only a few hundred writers in the United States earning more than $100,000 per year.
But I earnestly believe this is something anyone with basic writing talent can learn to do.
To prove it, I challenged myself to write a plan for how I’d rebuild my writing career if everything was taken away from me – no computer, no website, not even a penny to my name.
If I had to start over today, knowing what I know now, here’s what I’d do:
Preparing for Success
First, I’d get access to a little bit of money. Maybe I’d take out a credit card (or unsecured loan). These are risky, and I’d be better off borrowing from a parent (or student loan). But for this thought experiment, let’s say I’m not a student and I don’t have parents.
I’d buy an inexpensive (~$300) Chromebook. That’s all I need to write and produce client work. Then I’d head to my local public library or Starbucks for free wifi.
I’d get web hosting from Siteground and Google Apps. This would cost $20-120 for website hosting and a domain name for a year, along with $5 for Google Apps for Work.
I’d then set up a simple one-page website. On this site, I’d create a simple overview of who I am, what I do, and how i help my ideal clients. No samples, no blog, just a homepage and contact form. (I’d probably use the Themify Ultra theme since it’s really easy to use.)
I’d spend a day writing three solid samples targeted at my niche. This would require looking to see what’s working now, then creating my own versions. Remember, these don’t have to be amazing, just good enough to show my ability.
Next, I’d set up that Google apps account. This would let me send emails from my website domain, not Gmail or Yahoo mail. This would also give me a Google Drive account to use to deliver client work.
Finally, I need to get paid. I’d sign up for a freshbooks trial, stripe account, and PayPal account. I’d connect all three to my bank account.
Finding Copywriting Work
Now it’s time to find work. I’d search craigslist, classifieds, and LinkedIn job postings for writing gigs. I’d approach them with a message addressing their problem to show I understood it. Then I’d tell them I can help solve their problem, and I’d like to share specifics how in a phone call. In fact, I’d say, I could see two or three quick keys to their success.
I’d also drop a link to some samples just to get them satisfied I can deliver.
I’d keep doing this until I found a client.
During the call, I’d spend most of the time talking about their problem (80%) and how my copy/content could solve it (20%). I’d make sure they understood my process of writing an outline, then a draft, then a final draft to set expectations.
Then I’d negotiate rates and ask for payment upfront. I’d send over a service agreement (sourced online) and an invoice through Freshbooks.
Writing for Clients While Growing My Business
Once the agreement was signed and payment was sent, I’d get to work. I’d deliver an outline for review within three business days. After receiving feedback, I’d write another draft within two days. Finally, I’d deliver the publishable article within two to three days.
While working, I’d continue finding clients as hard and fast as I could until I maxed out my availability. But I’d keep looking for new clients. With each new client, I’d raise my prices 25% or so until I got in the “always too expensive” area.
When a higher paying new client would agree to hire me, I’d phase out a lower paying client. I’d also be setting aside a third of that in savings or for taxes.
I’d continue this cycle until I hit $10,000/month gross.
Can You Learn to Do This Too?
How long would it take me to get there? 2-3 months of intense hustle.
I have the advantage of having done this before. Once you’ve achieved a goal once, it’s easy to do it again. (Just look at English 101 homework when you’re a senior or grad student – you could probably finish a semester’s worth of material in three days.)
Plus, I’ve learned how to talk to clients. But if I, the son of an awkward professor, can learn to close a sale, then you can learn this too. It’s a skill, not an innate ability.
This roadmap is exactly what you can do to become a highly-paid copywriter. Yes, there are lots of little details to fill in. (How do you know which clients pay fairly? What’s a good rate for a blog post? And should I ever “fire” a client?)
But this roadmap is the path.
Want to learn more? I want to share it with you. Join my exclusive Facebook group English Majors Who Want Jobs to get more details this Thursday.