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The start of the copywriting journey: The DIY myth

I have a confession to make.

When I first decided to go freelance as a copywriter, I thought it would take a bit of time to build up work so I’d have time to sort things out around the house: do a bit of painting, or even have a nosey at Netflix.


The DIY remains unfinished (although I did lag some pipes recently), and client work has been building right from the start.

One sunny Friday in May, I set out for my first interview as a freelance copywriter, less than 24 hours after leaving my office job.

I’ll be honest, I had a bit of a spring in my step and was pretty pleased with myself, but the enormity of what I’d done wasn’t lost on me either.

Despite having clients lined up and some transitional work already complete, I still felt pretty nervous when it struck me that I was truly on my own.

But the last seven months have been incredible.

I’ve written (probably tens of) thousands of words and interviewed people across four continents for almost 20 clients operating in various industries from oil and gas to construction and agriculture.

And my overwhelmingly positive experience made me think about what advice I’d give to someone starting out.

  • Love what you do and do it very well
  • Have a couple of bob in the bank: This should tide you over until the cashflow kicks in
  • Don’t be greedy: Do your research and set a fair rate for you, and your customers
  • Build your network: Meet new people, listen to what they have to say, always learn something new
  • Be visible: At events, meetings or online. Whatever works
  • Be flexible: Dismiss the 9-5 mindset (not that I ever had one of those jobs anyway). If you need to knuckle down every weekend and most evenings, do it
  • Don’t be afraid to say no: If you don’t have the time to produce great work, despite working those evenings and weekends, don’t commit to a project
  • Ask for advice and pay it forward: Speak to others in a similar position, even form a collective, and help others when you can
  • Know where you’re going: Stay focused and motivated. Write a business plan, revisit it, update annually, repeat
  • Be upfront about invoicing: If you’ve done the work and the client’s happy, send the invoice

What do you think? Feel free to contribute.


Photo credit: Alan Cleaver/creative commons