In this article, I’m going to share the step-by-step approach I took to building a copywriting business from scratch to a $50,000 annual income within six months.
A little about me…
I’m a Personal Trainer living in a village near Manchester, England. In 2016, we had a referendum and my fellow countrymen voted to leave the European Union. This sent the economy into temporary confusion.
My business was unaffected but it was a wake-up call that I had all of my eggs in one basket and I needed to diversify my income – a personal trainer is a luxury expense after all.
I decided to get into copywriting. I have a blog that was getting 50,000 monthly visits, so I knew my words resonated. With 400 articles on my site, I’d refined my style, and now it was a question of building my copywriting business.
These are steps that you too, as a freelance writer, can duplicate for yourself.
Step 1 – Find the early work
I did a google search for fitness sites offering paid guest blogging opportunities. Once I’d started writing for them, I offered my services on a monthly basis, where they’d pay me a retainer – one article per week for $200 per month. I wasn’t looking for a one-off pay day, I wanted a steady income, not a lump sum. This approach landed me 5 long-term clients, or $1000 per month income.
With regular income, I could start being more selective about clients and markets. I didn’t need to search for a lot of work so, instead, I focused on the higher-quality work.
Step 2 – Increase your services (and your rates)
With a portfolio of work in publication, I went after bigger fish – businesses with bigger budgets – so I could increase my rates.
I approached independent gyms (always better going to independents than chains), and offered them different package deals – blogging alone ($400 per month), blogging + newsletter ($600 per month), and blogging + newsletter + social media content ($800 per month). This gave me different pricing options, and brought in higher value clients.
I was billing $3000 per month from this work.
Step 3 – Look for equity deals
I looked at small companies with a product to sell (bigger companies tend to have in-house content teams). I’d subscribe to their newsletters, see their sales process and, if I felt I could improve it, I’d offer my service.
Here’s where I would do it differently though: I’d offer to write the emails for free, in return for 5% of the sales. I found that an average email could make me around $100-$150 for even a small company.
As a rookie, you want to work with companies with a low-mid priced product. It’s easier to sell a $50 product than a $5,000 product.
When I’d proven the concept, I rolled it out to other businesses. I now have equity deals with four different clients, where I write emails for free and take 5% of the revenue generated. Basically, I make money when they make money.
Step 4 – Grow your reputation to make marketing easier
With a reputation and a portfolio of published work, I approached industry magazines. I now do guest articles in a number of fitness magazines and, although it’s a one-off payment, it’s worth its weight in gold from a reputation standpoint.
If I can show potential clients I’ve been published in mainstream media, it opens doors much more quickly.
Copywriting saved my bacon…
Last year, my copywriting business alone made me around $50,000. It will make more this year. It has been a lifesaver in lockdown, allowing me to provide for my family.
Some other tips to help you succeed:
1. Go for smaller, independent companies – they’re less likely to have professional content teams.
2. Always look at analytics – data beats opinion when it comes to effective sales copy.
3. If you’re doing an equity deal, ALWAYS ask for an account on the company email software. It’s far more transparent.
4. Stay up to date with industry trends – if you fall behind, you’re irrelevant.
5. Always deliver good work. Don’t get sloppy.
6. Never, ever miss a deadline.
Steve Hoyles is a specialist fitness copywriter working with clients all over the globe. He has been published in dozens of magazines including Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health and has appeared on the BBC. His website is www.hoylesfitness.com.
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