How to Go Pro This Week

Christy Goldfeder, freelance copywriter here again, and this week I’m giving you my best tips on how to launch yourself into the writer’s life sooner. Yesterday, I showed you how to harness your “secret super power” to find your first writing gig. You can read yesterday’s post here.

Today, you’ll learn how to get paid freelance writing work right now.

Many prospective clients want to see writing samples before they hire you. But, how can you get hired if you’re starting out and don’t have samples? You can answer ads and do spec assignments while you’re still learning.

Spec is the abbreviation of speculation. A spec assignment is where you write something for free, in the hopes of landing the job. Most of the time, the spec assignment is just a small piece of the project – for example, a headline and a lead for a promotion, or a headline, intro paragraph and bullet points outlining an article.

Writing on spec really does work. Many marketers will hire new writers if the spec work is good, no matter their lack of experience.

The trick is that you have to start pitching before you’re “ready.” In the field of copywriting, there’s always more to learn. At a certain point, you have to just start doing.

Marketing managers are constantly in need of new ideas to promote products and services. If you complete the spec and get hired – that’s the ideal situation. It’s the kick-off of your career.

Even if you do a spec assignment but don’t win the job, you’ll have one more writing sample for your portfolio that you can use for your next pitch. And, it’s great practice.

I built my writing portfolio with occasional freelance writing assignments while working full-time. Sometimes I answered ads and wrote spec assignments to win the jobs. Other times, I learned about projects through my friends who referred me. I pitched myself as a freelancer before I was one, and I got the gig. The more writing samples I added to my portfolio, the easier it was for me to pitch and win the next assignment.

While I’m now fortunate to have a few clients that repeatedly call me for work, I still answer ads and do spec assignments. Sometimes I land a new client, and other times I don’t win the job. But each time I pitch, I always learn something new about writing and selling myself.

Today’s Action Step: Look for freelance work and start pitching. DirectResponseJobs.com is a great place to look for gigs and spec assignments. New freelance, part-time, and full-time writing gigs are posted daily. If you’re a PWA Member, you can set up your profile and start marketing yourself right there. Sometimes, marketers will reach out to you privately and ask for a proposal, if they see you have specialized skills or an area of expertise they need.

You can also look for assignments through freelancer websites like Elance.com, FlexJobs.com, and Guru.com. If you want a full-time gig, MediaBistro.com is a good place to look for one.

No matter where you look for work, the best chance you have at winning the freelance job is to follow the instructions carefully and submit your work exactly how the client requests it. Showing that you can follow directions is a major plus for many prospective employers. If you can write well, and you’re reliable, you have a good chance of getting hired.

When will you start pitching? If you declare it publicly, you’ll likely do it. So, declare it over in the comments section.

What if you have trouble winning a copywriting assignment? No worries – tomorrow, I’ll show you how to start making money without a gig.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: April 2, 2014

16 Responses to “How to Go Pro This Week”

  1. Thanks Christy, That is really good advice. I can't wait to hear what you have to say tomorrow.

    I haven't done any spec work yet - but I have re-written some local ads that I've found. One in the local paper and one from a physical letter sent to me.

    The letter people won't return my emails so I'll just use their project as a sample (cutting out any reference to them) and the other I just finished and am hoping to contact the business in the next day or so to ask if they will run it and let me write a case study on it if it does well - which I believe it will.

    Thanks again - you're inspiring...ml

    mluceroApril 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm

  2. Thanks so much for inspiring emails, you make it seem very easy to get started with becoming a freelance writer. I will definitely follow your advice and I believe that it will work out for me. I'm new to the world of copywriting but a salesperson by nature and experience, so with people like yourself and the AWAI team, I know that I'll be successful.

    Thanks

    Tekesha AustinApril 3, 2014 at 10:18 am

  3. I don't really feel ready yet to take on work as a copywriter. I haven't gotten very far in my copywriting studies so far. Nevertheless, I have started "pitching" myself (I'm using Elance.com). And I believe I'm on the verge of landing my very first client as an online copywriter (creating website content). I'm nervous about it, but I know that means it's a good thing, as it's forcing me out of my comfort zone.

    Guest (Jeff Soufal)April 3, 2014 at 1:19 pm

  4. Christy,

    You said in your article,

    "If you’re an AWAI Member, you can set up your profile and start marketing yourself right there. Sometimes, marketers will reach out to you privately and ask for a proposal, if they see you have specialized skills or an area of expertise they need."

    I see no place to do that on AWAI or DR Jobs and I am a member. Can you let us know where the profile area is?

    Thanks!

    Beth SagerApril 3, 2014 at 3:32 pm

  5. @Beth

    Sorry, that was supposed to say if you're a PWA Member. We're fixing it now, thank you.

    JoshApril 3, 2014 at 4:09 pm

  6. Hi Christy, Thank you SO MUCH for your practical advice. It is attainable right now! I'm still in Part 3 of the Accelerated CW program, but like many of your readers, I'm a bit hesitant with neither portfolio nor website to prove competency. At the same time, I wake up every morning and go to sleep at night wanting to just dive in and swim the marathon!

    Ironically, I've spent hours today looking at classified ads for copywriters and responding to a few of them, even offering my service Pro Bono to two of them. If I get any bites I'll be back for more advice!

    Feeling excited!

    Lee

    Lee NourseApril 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

  7. Great series of articles, Christy!

    I've actually been pitching a lot this week (or at least responding to things - mostly on twitter). I've made some good contacts and I have a phone call set up Monday with a potential client.

    I found out today that I'll only have my current job for a few more weeks, so that's definitely a good motivation!

    Maximilian HartApril 4, 2014 at 1:47 am

  8. Copy Writer Available For Hire. Formally trained through American Writers and Artists Inc. I write excellent marketing articles and letters that effectively sells good products and services. Contact me at: gary@bizmoneysmith.com Is the above a good sample pitch for me to post on elance.com; other websites and to send to prospective employers? Please provide whatever suggestions that you have as I desire to find my first copy writing job as soon as possible. Thanks, garysmithengineer@hotmail.com

    Gary P SmithApril 4, 2014 at 7:17 am

  9. I saw Gary's comment above, and though I'm not through my program yet, I just wanted to know if his pitch was on the right track, if so I can hopefully use something similar soon! Good luck Gary!

    Guest (Kari)April 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm

  10. Hi Christy,

    Thanks for the articles and good advice... they are very helpful.

    @Lee Nourse - I can relate :-)

    Good day to all.

    Magida

    Guest (Magida Najjar)April 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm


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