My Journey to Becoming a Professional Copywriter
Things to Go Over Before We Get Started
If you were interested in reading this article, then you must have a desire to learn about what it actually takes to start earning some real money as a freelance copywriter. I suspect those of you who are reading already have more than a basic understanding of what it means to be a copywriter and have at least one year of experience.
To be quite honest, when I first started out attempting to do something I thought was writing, I had not a clue as to what Search Engine Optimization was back then, what the Associated Press Writing Style was or even what the job I was trying to was called - basically, I was greener than a young sapling.
Paying Your Dues
The first writing gig I landed I found on Craigslist. Looking back, I feel so damn embarrassed; at the same time, I am thankful that the woman who hired me, not only gave me a chance but kept using me even though my skill level was far below par. Looking back, she must have been really hammered with projects to keep using me. Nevertheless, though it may have seemed a failure to me then, I now see it as a necessary step towards where I am now.
When my time writing for her was finished, I was scrambling trying to find a writing job. Like most freelancers, I signed up for Upwork, Freelancer, Writing Bunny, Blogmutt, Textbroker and many others. At the end of the day, at the skill level (rather the lack thereof), I was only given a chance to write for Textbroker and Blogmutt.
Working for content mills like Textbroker and Blogmutt have their own different sets of pros and cons: Blogmutt actually pays way higher than most content mills, especially compared to Textbroker. The thing that kills Blogmutt is how their system is set up, which pits you against several other writers and the Blogmutt's client is allowed to choose which article they like the best.
It goes without saying that for those who have below average writing skills, writing all of that content only to have anonymous clients rip your work to shreds and have the money go to someone else, can be quite disheartening, to say the least. Yet, again, every article that was "recycled" taught me a little something that I was able to take with me in order to get better.
After some time writing for Blogmutt, I reached a drought. No one purchasing my articles, which means they were actually rejecting them - and it was the rejection that depressed me more than no money coming in. This caused me to try and find another content site that would accept me. Most rejected me accept Textbroker, one of the lowest paying content mills out there.
At one point, I was only making like .01 an article. In order to place that in monetary terms, it means I was writing 700-words for $7. Blogmutt paid $8 for 250, but absolutely no guarantee anyone would purchase it. I was stuck in a rock in a hard spot. To further aggravate things, the editors at Textbroker kept pointing out all my errors and threatening to reduce my level even further.
Then that is when I had an idea: Why am I sulking about the errors the editors are pointing out? I can use this opportunity to learn and get better. That is when I read one of the editors talking about Associated Press Style Guide Book. What in the world was that? After Googling it, I was finally able to purchase it online and began to study it.
As time went by and I improved on my style, the Textbroker editor comments slowly decreased, until there were barely any. Then, all of the sudden, a light bulb didn't just come on, it smacked me right across my face.
Copywriting Blunders: Do You Make These 10 Common Mistakes
From Content Mills to Clients: This Is a Great Trick!
As most seasoned content mill copywriters know, every article you accept makes you feel like a cheap whore. We've heard the stories about copywriters who are getting paid $75 - $100 an article (depending on the complexity and length of the content). Hell, we would be happy with $20 for 600-words right about now. The question that goes through all of our heads is, How do I attract real clients?
There are tonnes of tutorials out there (most written for SEO purposes by people just like us) promising to hand us the Holy Grail of copywriting knowledge - offering us free copywriter proposal templates as long as we give them our email address or phone number, only to find 100 junk emails in my spam box from that very website. The more you click "unsubscribe," the more it seems they send stupid offers to join their copywriting course.
Point is: All of those silly tutorials out there are simply trash, full of general information and packed full of keywords and bought links so they can get ranked on Google. They are not designed to actually teach you what you really need to hear.
What they aren't telling you is that there are millions of clients out there desperately seeking writers with average to good skill and knowledge to create content for them. Most of these customers are looking to meet writers through these content mills. The smart clients have devised certain methods in contacting savvy copywriters who are writing for content mills like Textbroker.
How to Know When You Can Approach a Client You Met Through a Content Mill
For the most part, clients are simply business owners or managers who want to add content to a company blog. They really have no idea what it is they want or how they want it - this shows through their wishy-washy attitudes towards writers.
But there are a lot of SEO people on there too. Whether they are freelancers just like us or they're working for an SEO company, they need content for their SEO material. Most of the time they will include within their instructions their client's website in order for you to check it out and get an idea of what tone they want you to write in. You can't really attempt to contact the owners of these sites because it might backfire on you.
If the SEO company feels you are trying to step on their toes by contacting their client, they'll report you to the content site. You know what happens next - you won't be writing there again, along with the possibility getting blacklisted from other sister sites.
The clients you are looking out for do what my client did: I accepted an order on a content mill some time ago. Right away I noticed that this guy had placed at least 100 different orders in various categories. I knew it was the same guy because most of the instructions were repeated in every order, with slight changes here and there.
By chance, this guy, an SEO person, had chosen me as one of his preferred writers. He sent me an order that read: "This is an order for my private projects. Here is a link to my blog." Bingo! Once I visited his blog, I had his name, which I searched for on LinkedIn. The rest is history.
He and his friend order $2,000 in articles monthly, sometimes more. If I had not been proactive in every phase of my career as a copywriter - from reading and learning what the editors found wrong to not allowing rejection to deter my drive - I would not be here today.
Maybe we all have to start in the gutter. But we don't have to stay there if we are willing to pick ourselves up keep trucking.
If your dream is to become a successful freelance copywriter, just know the road isn't easy. It takes heart to starve and live off pennies until you learn the game. But once you earn your stripes - once you have hung in there for a good long while - then you will start reaping the benefits.
Most of my articles are meant to be inspirational; my articles are meant to make people think. There are some authors who know me from my Blogmutt days who don't like my attitude. They probably think that I am arrogant. Sometimes people just don't understand pure drive.
As you grow and develop in the copywriting industry, people are going to kick you down; people are going to refuse to teach you; your friends will say you don't have a real job; you won't have a life, sitting in front of a laptop for hours and hours on end; and by the time you get through all of that, then start seeing real money - yeah, you earned a right to be arrogant.
© 2017 Russell William Fry