If you love writing, you may be considering launching a copywriting business to combine your passion with your income.
If so, here are seven tips to help you get it off the ground.
(And the best part? Many of these will work to launch or grow a variety of service-based businesses.)
1. Assemble a portfolio.
It’s difficult for most people to hire a professional without seeing samples of his or her work.
When I first started Creative Concepts and Copywriting LLC way back in the day, I hardly had any samples. Of course, that meant every prospect who came to me wanted to see them. I knew I still needed a portfolio, so mine consisted of every little piece of professional writing I had ever done.
Now, far fewer ask me for samples. That’s likely due to word-of-mouth marketing and the professional reputation I’ve built for myself over the years.
However, from time to time, I still show samples, so it’s always important to have a portfolio.
If you don’t have any, try doing a couple of jobs for a vastly reduced rate or even for free (but definitely not for too long). Nonprofits are always looking for ways to keep their costs down and might be the perfect opportunity for a win-win. Offer to write a brochure or put together website copy with the understanding that you can feature the finished project in your portfolio.
2. Ask for testimonials.
Don’t worry—this is easier than you think. Most people are happy to give you a testimonial (just as long as you did a good job for them). Even if you don’t plan on using them right away, get them anyway. You’ll be amazed at how often they’ll come in handy.
Of course, since you’re just starting out, you may not have gotten a paying job yet. Remember those nonprofits? After you finish those projects for your portfolio, ask your contact for a testimonial. And don’t forget to get permission to use your contact’s name in the testimonial.
Ask for a referral, too. Nonprofit staff members or volunteers usually know lots of entrepreneurs, and they’ll probably be so thrilled about your project together that they’ll be happy to help you however they can.
3. Practice your “elevator pitch.”
Your “elevator pitch” is your answer to the question, “What do you do?”
Keep it short—around only 30 seconds—which also means it needs to be interesting and memorable. I’d suggest writing something out, and then practicing it on a few people to get their reactions and feedback.
4. Get vocal.
Give everyone you know your “elevator pitch.”
This will go a long way in getting the word out there about your new business.
5. Join communities.
Join professional associations (like PRSA and IABC) and business organizations (like Chambers of Commerce and BNI) and other industry associations.
Attend meetings and mixers as much as possible (even zoom or virtual ones.) Network like a champ. Make a point of meeting as many people as possible, and then send a note or an e-mail as a follow-up to everyone you met.
6. Start volunteering.
Rather than simply attending meetings and mixers, get involved with them.
Join the board, volunteer on a committee, donate time, whatever you need to do to start making an impression. Professional associations and business organizations are where many of your (local) potential clients are, and they are much more likely to hire you once they get to know you.
If you volunteer for a project or a committee, potential clients also get a taste of how you work. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing. If you don’t take your volunteer work seriously and miss deadlines or fail to follow through, you may ruin your reputation and end up losing potential work. However, if you treat it like a paying job, it could be your ticket to tons of paying work (I know many, many copywriters and consultants, including myself, this has worked for.)
7. Utilize the media.
Do what you can to get the word out about your new business. Send a press release out to all your media contacts, including any radio or television programs. Even if you only get a small mention in your paper, it’s something (and it helps you start to establish yourself as a media expert).
I’m confident if you put these tips to work for you, your new copywriting business will be off the ground before you know it!
Getting a copywriting business off the ground doesn’t have to be difficult. It just requires patience, dedication and perseverance. Oh, and these 7 tips can help as well.
And, if you want to brush up your copy chops, you may want to check out one of my Love-Based Copy Books.