Start Your Own Copywriting Revolution

We've been talking all week about building a profitable freelance business.

We've covered everything from practicing your craft to loving what you do to "finding the gap."

All are important for building a strong foundation.

But to make it profitable, I'm going to suggest one massive shift:

Start your own copywriting revolution!

Turn things upside down, do the opposite of what most freelancers do (and what I've often done in the past), and really take control of your business.

Let me explain …

For most of us, it's against our nature to be assertive and take charge. It's easier to sit back, refine our craft, submit spec assignments and proposals, and wait for clients to "give" us work.

I'm not saying it's bad to do those things. I've spent my share of time operating in that mode. I still do sometimes.

But if you operate for too long like that, you become passive. You end up doing piecework and being at the beck and call of your clients. You don't earn what you're worth.

This year, my goal is to flip that model on its head and instead follow Nick Usborne's advice:

1. Take control of the steering wheel. You be the driver.

I recently slipped into the passive trap. "Can you do a brochure?" the client asked. "A short bio for the newsletter? An 'About' page for my wife's website?" I kept saying yes every time he called because I needed the business. But I didn't enjoy it, the money wasn't that great, and I felt like an employee again, doing whatever my boss asked me to do.

A better approach is to take charge and make things happen instead of waiting for clients to give you work.

I did this with my very first client three years ago. A friend of mine who ran a sales training company invited me to their monthly meeting. Without knowing anything, I spoke up and proposed a monthly editorial schedule using email marketing. I was in the driver's seat, and it set the tone for an ongoing, profitable relationship for both of us.

2. Charge for your value, not for your time. This ties in with being in the driver's seat. Prospects may ask you for your hourly rate, but you shouldn't have one. As soon as you quote an hourly rate, it lets them unfairly compare you to another copywriter who's quoted them a rate.

Charge for the value you provide to the client instead. A quick example: a client asked me to do a three-minute online video script. It only took me about an hour, they were thrilled, and I made $300. But if I had told them my rate was $300 an hour, they probably would have walked away.

A few factors can influence your value. If you were referred to the client, their perceived value of you is higher. If you have success stories you can share with them of other clients who had similar needs, you can base your fee on that. It's not an exact science, and if anything, I prefer to quote a little high. If it's out of their price range, you can always do part of the project for less or negotiate a middle-ground price if you want the business.

I would only caution against pricing too low because the client will base their perception of you partly on the fees you're charging.

3. Make more money with each project. A passive copywriter listens to what the client wants, does the work, gets paid, and moves on.

It's a passive approach.

When you're the driver, you look for ways to add value to the client while increasing your pay.

I had a client in the fitness industry recently. At first, she asked only for a critique of their website copy. Very simple project, only $200. I did a thorough job and then suggested a different approach, including writing an online video script. I also proposed a series of six autoresponder emails and a new version of their landing page.

I turned a $200 job into a $1,700 one. The client was thrilled, and my work increased their sales. More important, they viewed me as more of a professional because I stepped up and advised them on how to grow their business. I didn't just wait for them to give me an "assignment."

The Revolution Starts in Your Head

I didn't start doing these things overnight, and I still have a long way to go. It's not always comfortable to stretch out of your comfort zone. It's not natural to act as a consultant, get paid a few hundred dollars an hour, or take control as a "driver."

It all starts, I believe, with thinking of yourself as a professional who brings immense value to every client. You have unique skills that can't be compared with anyone else.

The shift starts in your mind.

How do you know what those skills are worth? Check out my article "How to Determine Your Value in the Marketplace" for some ideas.

Have you made that mental shift? Are you ready to start your own revolution? Any small (or big) success stories so far? I'd love to hear from you. Leave your comment below.

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Published: February 16, 2012

13 Responses to “Start Your Own Copywriting Revolution”

  1. Steve, this is really helpful for those of us in the initial stages of reaching out to clients and I really like your encouragement that we should think of ourselves as professionals with unique skills - bringing value to clients. As a newbie can we present a package or job quote rather than an hourly quote? We'd really have to get our marketing package together for that. An impressive & convincing presentation ... any advice on gems to include in a formal job proposal? Thanks again.

    JudyB-RaleighFebruary 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  2. I enjoyed this piece very much.T Thanks, Rebecca

    Guest (Pembabec)February 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  3. Hi Steve, I like this article! As a newbie, it is such a sound reminder to 'lead'.

    The 'passive' approach you explained doesn't sound very empowering and, as you said, leaves you at the mercy of the client and what they initially understand you are able to do for them.

    This may be doing them a great disservice!

    I often find it difficult NOT to come up with additional ideas or identify areas of 'improvement' and put these forward. I get excited when I see the possibilities for their business.

    MalcolmFebruary 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

  4. You know I receive a lot of your sales letters, but rarely do I see samples of sales letters that are industry-specific and problem-specific, so that I can how a sales letter solves a problem for a company that makes aluminum, for instance. I like to see what to do before I decide on are what seem to me empty promises. Thanks for reading this.

    Guest (Michael )February 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

  5. Steve, This is something important for all of us to remember. I like how you put it--'the revolution starts in your head'! Sometimes we tend to get in the way of our on success.

    Anthony SFebruary 17, 2012 at 8:14 am

  6. Steve,thanks so much for sharing this advice. I'm in the process of making the huge mental shift from passive employee to assertive freelancer, so this article was very timely. I look forward to more from you.

    Kim BooklessFebruary 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm

  7. Thank you for such a motivational and inspiring lesson that really hit home with me. I'm trying to launch myself into a niche as an Interacticve Copywriter; although I'm having difficulty presenting my past professional experience in a manner that relates to my current objectives. Basically, I need to develop a consistent online presence and personal brand to get my foot in the door of the Career that involves doing exactly the same thing for a client that actually has something worth talking about. I feel as if you spared me from a slump and I think that your article is a good example of the value of effective Copy.

    Guest (Lisa Casica)March 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm


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