When I was still a schoolteacher, I met a guy who was a pretty successful copywriter.
He seemed to have it all.
He had a ton of clients who seemed to value his work. He was making great money (he’s making a LOT more now). And he wasn’t really worried about whether or not anyone wanted to hire him.
Instead, he chose his clients based on who he felt like working with that month.
The guy had a lot going for him.
My experience was a little bit different…
I Couldn’t Get A (Paying) Client To Save My Life
At that point in my career, I was still doing a lot of “free work.”
Which is fine.
In fact, I think starting off working for free is necessary because you do need to prove that you are capable of creating advertisements that sell.
But you need not prove it to your clients.
You need to prove it to yourself.
Once you’ve proved the concept and realize that “Holy crap… people actually want to hire me to do this for them” then life gets a lot better.
This early mentor helped me get the ball rolling.
He basically challenged me and said that for the next 30 days, I’d have to reach out and make contact with 50 clients.
He told me to go on Clickbank, film a screencap video on someone’s sales page and identify some things I think could be improved. The theory was, if they liked my suggestions, they’d ask if I could help them.
At the time, I didn’t have any cool tools like Loom (which I love, so so much).
I had to go out and buy Camtasia.
Then I had to film each video (some of them were 20 minutes long).
Then I had to crawl through these people’s websites to find a contact email I could send this video critique to. Most of the time their contact email was hidden.
Then… I had to not only export the god damn video from Camtasia… I also had to upload to my google drive. Which took close to an hour for each video.
Then I sent it in…. and waited.
I didn’t hear back from many people.
It kind of sucked.
My parents would always ask me what the hell I had been doing down in their basement on the computer for all those hours.
And after sending out my first 20 and not hearing anything back… I kind of felt like an idiot.
What the hell was I doing?
Was this going to be worth it?
Was this really what it was like to be a freelance copywriter?
Would I have to keep filming these videos until the day I died?
Was this how every freelancer got their clients?
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that this was more of a “test of will” than anything else. It was an exercise in habit building. It was meant to test my mettle.
Was I going to quit?
Or would our young hero prevail, against all odds?
One Day, I Finally Got A Client
He had a product on Clickbank that was not selling well, and he said he’d give me 33% of all future sales if I could improve his conversion rate.
You can bet I started doin the math in my head.
I was about to make some BANK BRO!!!!!
Little did I know that if a client ever approaches you and propositions you with an offer this outrageously generous… run for the hills. Because “I’ll give you a third of all future sales if you can improve my conversion %” is just Clientspeak that translates (in English) to: “I have no idea what I’m doing, but hopefully you can work a miracle and if that does indeed happen… I am going to find a clever way to get out of paying you for all your hard work.”
The Big Problem With Cold Outreach
What I didn’t understand was that cold outreach was an absolutely terrible way to go about drumming up business.
It’s also the #1 strategy most misguided freelance copywriters automatically revert to for most of their early copywriting career.
(If I was smart, I would have started on Upwork and followed Danny Margulies’s advice. Going to a place where there are thousands of people who not only KNOW what a copywriter is… they know that they NEED and WANT one and are actively looking for help is always a much smarter proposition that trying to play darts with a blindfold.)
Cold email (or even cold calling) will always be a numbers game. A numbers game that you will never win.
You never know who wants help.
And there are over 28 million businesses in the USA with another ~18,000 being formed every single day.
How are you supposed to know who wants to hire a copywriter?
You gonna cold email every single one of em until you find a few good clients?
That’s not the way to go about it. And I learned this.
After I passed that first test, my mentor started exposing me to other methods of getting freelance copywriting clients.
I also started discovering a few of my own strategies along the way.
And now I’m at the point in my career, where I understand that there are only five viable ways to find high quality copywriting clients.
I’m going to list them for you below and briefly tell you about each method… so you don’t have to go through the trial and tribulations I did to achieve the same result.
5 Ways To Get Awesome, High Paying Copywriting Clients You’ll Love Working With
1. In-person meetings
Live events, masterminds, meet-ups, conferences, seminars, workshops, even bars. These are all incredible places to meet clients.
When you can shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye, exchange stories and all that – it really gives you a great shot at forming some kind of emotional bond… which could one day lead to money changing hands in exchange for a copy project. If they can’t hire you – but they still like you – they might even refer you out to someone they know who could use your help.
If you have a sales funnel, send direct mail letters to a list of businesses, or run Facebook ads that advertise your freelancing business, then you have a chance of attracting some pretty amazing clients to you.
The key with this approach is making sure that you are super clear on who you are, what problem you solve, what result you get… and make sure you have the right kind of proof to demonstrate to these people that you can deliver what you say you will. This approach can be scalable and predictable once you know your numbers.
The only downside is you need to put money up front to get the machine going. Most freelancers will never have the stomach for this.
3. Organic means
You go on a podcast, you write an article, you have an SEO optimized website or you post a bunch of unsolicited business advice on Facebook – and someone magically finds it and reaches out to you.
Most freelancers choose the route of posting stupid (and usually horribly misguided and completely out of context) business ‘advice’ – and I use the word advice very generously – on their personal FB newsfeeds to drum up business.
After they have alienated all their friends and distinguished themselves as the blacksheep of their family, they usually do manage to drum up some client work. This approach IS the easiest way to get started with the lowest barrier to entry (which is why so many people do it – most people are lazy, and marketing yourself on your FB profile is the lazy way to do it). But with such a low barrier to entry, it’s kind of hard to yell louder than everybody else. If you’re willing to make 5-10 social posts a day, then yes… this can work for you. But it’s a race to the bottom.
Most high-level clients aren’t going to hire you off a FB post. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – it does. But the numbers are not in your favor.
I’ve had a lot of clients. None of my favorite clients have come from posting on FB. Maybe your experience is different – I’d love to be disproven, but I don’t think I will.
I’d much rather produce content in a context where I’m positioned as an authority… so my words DON’T blend in with everyone else’s noise.
I’ve learned that clients will reach out if they see an article you wrote, a podcast you were on, or if they hear about you somehow and check out your website. Those are much better ways to attract high-quality clients, if you’re going to go the organic route.
4. Job Boards
There are a lot of job boards out there. Some are good, some are bad. Copy Chief has probably the best one you’ll find. I can’t vouch for the efficacy of others. Most big businesses will post jobs (full time, part time, remote and freelance) on the big job boards like Monster and Indeed.
Most freelancers don’t look here, because they are somehow “above it.” They’ve convinced themselves that they are entrepreneurs, don’t understand that being a freelance copywriter automatically makes you NOT an entrepreneur. They also don’t realize that copywriting is a job and that their chief role is to function as an employee – albeit a well paid, highly respected one.
You will have to jump through some hoops, update your resume, and probably go on a few interviews to land a job board posting – but these are usually where the biggest, best companies go when they’re looking to hire someone to join their team.
My final and favorite method for landing copywriting clients is letting other people say nice things about me to someone else… and then having that “someone else” ask to be introduced to me. You get a chance for your mutual friend to “preframe” you and build you up – which always makes closing easier.
People who refer clients your way will usually, automatically act as a filter – they don’t want to introduce you to people who they don’t think you’d enjoy working with, because they don’t want to tarnish the relationship you have. I find 90% of my clients through referrals.
The only drawback to this approach is that you have to not only build a network…. you have to do great work. If you are connected and people know you rock at what you do, you can enjoy a never-ending stream of referrals for the rest of your career.
Are There Any Other Methods Of Client Acquisition?
There are not.
But if you’d like to argue with me about it in the comment section below, please feel free to start that discussion.
Seriously though – my main goal with this article was to help you narrow your focus down to the five areas you need to concentrate on to grow your freelance copywriting business.
It’s easy to go down the client-getting rabbit hole and convince yourself that there are millions of ways to find clients.
But really, there are just these five ways.
And you don’t even have to use them all.
Just pick a few you like, try em out, and keep improving on what you’re doing.
If you put the work in…. and if you work hard enough at this, then you’ll be able to become a well paid, well-respected, habitually booked out freelance copywriter.
Just get started.