“What do you do again?”
I’ve been a copywriter for more than eight years now, and most of my family members still ask me this every time the topic of work comes up.
I get it.
There’s all sorts of things in the mix – writing, marketing, clients across numerous industries – not to mention the confusion caused by the entirely unrelated homophone “copyright”.
So I’m here today to clear things up.
In this guide, I’m going to answer the question, “What does a copywriter do?” by showing you the 4 things that we copywriters do on a weekly and even daily basis.
Let’s dive in.
The 4 Main Things That Successful Copywriters Do
There are four main activities that most successful copywriters do on a day-to-day basis:
- Write lots of copy
- Pitch new clients
- Manage existing clients
- Market their brand
Numbers #2-4 are part of being a freelance copywriter.
Copywriters who get hired in full-time positions are able to focus solely on #1, which is why I never discourage new copywriters from looking to get hired for entry level copywriting positions. After all, what’s not to like about getting paid to be trained?
That said, most in-house copywriting employees make a lot less money than their freelance counterparts, so if you want to really make great money in this field, at some point, you’ll need to learn all four of these activities that freelance copywriters do on a day-to-day basis.
Okay, let’s take a look at each one.
1. First & Foremost, A Copywriter Writes Copy
Copywriters write copy.
“Copy” is words intended to prompt action by the reader.
Copywriting is always connected to the act of promoting or selling a business, organization, brand, product, or service, which makes it, by definition, a form of marketing.
If you want a deeper dive into the definition of copywriting, click here.
If you just want to learn how to become a copywriter, click here.
If that still sounds a bit technical, let’s go even simpler.
Copywriting is just persuasive writing that is being structured in specific ways.
And this is what copywriters spend most of their time doing: persuasive writing.
A client will tell you that they need a specific type of copywriting:
- A website landing page
- A sequence of emails
- A strategic blog post
- A facebook ad
- An Amazon product description
- Or one of numerous other types of copywriting…
For example, let’s say the client comes to you and says they need a landing page for a new service they are offering.
Your job as the copywriter is to figure out what needs to go on that page and then write it.
In order to figure this out, you’ll want to think through the following questions:
- What is the value of this service (the unique value proposition)?
- Who is the target customer for this service?
- How does this service benefit the target customer?
- What challenges does this service solve for the target customer?
- How does the service work?
- Why should the customer choose this brand over competitors or alternatives?
You don’t need to supply this information yourself.
It’s your client’s job to know the answers to these questions. But if you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get the info you need.
That’s why kickstarting a copywriting gig with a great questionnaire is so important. Feel free to steal my questionnaire here.
Once you have the info you need, it’s time to plan out the landing page.
The best part is that you don’t need to try to be smart here.
You can just follow a proven framework.
One of my favorite frameworks for landing pages in particular is the Problem – Agitate – Solve framework.
In this framework, we are looking to highlight a central problem that the target customer is facing, agitate it through our copy, and then present our client’s service as a solution to that problem.
In this example, the page could be structured like this:
- The first section would be the client’s service value proposition.
- The second section would highlight and agitate the problem(s) the service solves.
- The third section would present the service as the solution, focusing on the benefits of having the problem solved.
- The fourth section would explain how the service works.
- The fifth section would be focused on social proof, testimonials, etc.
- And then you could end with a “call to action” asking the reader to fill out a contact form.
Once this is done, you go through and actually write the copy.
That’s really all there is to it.
On any given piece of copy, you will have different information available to work with, and you might use a variety of different frameworks, but the core process is basically the same.
- Get the key information needed through asking the right questions.
- Use a framework to plan out the content.
- Write the copy.
One question I get a lot is whether or not there is a specific app needed to write or deliver the copy.
One of the great things about being a freelancer is that there are no “official” rules for how a freelance gig needs to work.
It’s just about what works for you and what works for your clients.
For me, that’s been Google Docs over the last 8 years. It’s pretty much perfect for freelance writing in every way, and I’ve done 99% of my writing, collaborative editing, and content delivery simply using Docs.
But you can use whatever you want!
2. Copywriters Spend A Lot Of Their Time Pitching New Clients
Every business on the planet has two distinct components:
If you aren’t familiar with the word fulfillment, it just means delivering the thing that was sold to the person who bought it.
Most companies have large, dedicated teams (or multiple teams) for each of these components.
As a freelancer, you are your entire company, so you have to handle both.
Writing is the “fulfillment” part of your business, but in order to have orders to fulfill in the first place, you have to first get out there and sell your service.
This is where the vast majority of aspiring and even experienced freelance writers fall short.
They never fully embrace the reality that they are their own sales team.
Think about what would happen to a company if the sales team decided to only work every other month… the company would very quickly go out of business.
The same is true for freelance copywriters.
If you want to land clients consistently, you need to be selling consistently… or in other words, you need to consistently be pitching your services to new businesses.
This is why I’m basically a broken record with my mantra of “20 pitches per week”. It’s why I’ll never STFU about pitching.
So how do you pitch?
Pitching follows the following simple process:
- Identify and list businesses to pitch.
- Deliver a great pitch to at least 20 businesses per week.
- Follow up with your pitches every week until they respond
- Repeat every single week.
It’s really as simple as this.
The businesses you select to pitch can be specific OR they can be random. It’s a numbers game either way, so don’t overthink this part!
The pitches you send should not be long or time consuming. In fact, 90% of the time, if your pitch is over 100 words, it’s too long!
You absolutely cannot skip the followup. You are never going to be the top priority for someone you are pitching, even if they are actively looking to hire a copywriter, so you need to assume that everyone is a potential client until they respond and say, “STOP MESSAGING ME!”
And while pitching is a fast-results strategy, it still stacks on itself a bit. The people you pitch this week might not respond to you until you followed up for the 2nd time three weeks from now. The people who like your pitch this week might not hire you until next month.
Just like losing fat or gaining muscle, you really need to be putting the work in consistently for a full 1-2 months before you really start to see the fruit of your labor.
But once the harvest starts rolling in, it REALLY rolls in.
I don’t make my readers many guarantees, but the closest I can give you to a guarantee is this:
If you send out 20 pitches per week (with followups) for the next 3 months, there is a very high probability that you’ll be earning full-time income within 90 days.
That’s not a guess.
Over the last two years, I’ve worked with just over 1,000 students as part of my premium training, and I’ve had over 4,000 conversations with aspiring writers…
… and I’ve seen this work time and time again:
- Pitching consistently = explosive freelance growth
- Inconsistent pitching = inconsistent growth and feast & famine income
If you decide to pursue copywriting, make sure to put yourself in that first category!
3. Client Management Is A Big Part Of Being A Copywriter
At this point, we’ve covered the staples.
Writing and pitching are going to take up the vast majority of a copywriter’s time especially through the first few years.
Client management is the next item on the list that most copywriters will be doing on a weekly, if not daily basis.
Client management activities include:
- Onboarding new clients
- Working collaboratively with the client on certain bits of copy
- Responding to revision requests
- Adapting to mid-project adjustments
- Collecting payment
- Collecting referrals or testimonials
If you are doing things right, and your clients didn’t arrive on the redeye from hell, then client management won’t take up a whole lot of your time or attention…
… but that’s a BIG IF.
The harsh reality for newer writers is that you’ll be starting at the bottom of the barrel, and you are much more likely to deal with clients from hell in the early years.
That said, most of the worst clients come from job boards and 3rd party platforms like fiverr and upwork – aka the platforms most new copywriters default to. If you follow my methodology of pitching businesses directly, you can skip most of these terrible client ordeals.
That said, it’s unlikely you’ll get off scot free.
One of my worst client experiences came as the result of a high quality referral and was part of a very lucrative project ($14,000 total).
The project was already fairly large in scope – covering around 300 pages with varying lengths of copy required for each page.
Midway through the project, the client revealed a hidden folder with an additional 100 pages that hadn’t been discussed in the initial contract. When I told him I wasn’t going to do that extra work without additional compensation, he demanded I give him back the $7,000 he’d already paid me or he’d sue.
This sounds like a pretty scary situation at first glance.
And it certainly felt a bit scary in the moment, even though realistically, it’s unlikely he could have sued me successfully.
Many new freelancers make one of two mistakes, depending on whether they have a fight or flight response:
- They treat the client as the enemy and burn it all down.
- They roll over and just take whatever abuse the client wants to dish out.
I’m decidedly in the first category – the fight category – but instead of just responding out of that impulse, I stopped and realized that this guy was just a concerned business owner trying to get his project done and scared to death at the prospect of having to hire a completely new copywriter after already shelling out $7,000.
So instead of fighting or rolling over, I extended an olive branch and acknowledged that we both had the same interests and would benefit more from working out a mutual solution as opposed to becoming enemies.
He immediately agreed and we worked out a solution.
Obviously, a situation like this immediately elevates “client management” from something you do on autopilot an hour a week to a big, all-consuming issue that takes up your time, your attention, and your energy.
But situations like these don’t happen often.
This is the worst it’s ever been in 8 years, and it was resolved amicably.
Best of all, once you get to the point where your ongoing pitching is bringing in a steady stream of clients, it makes it really easy to just say “bye” to a bad apple client on the occasion one comes along.
4. The Most Successful Copywriters Invest In Marketing Their Brand
Pitching is the first path to consistent profitability for a freelance copywriter.
It’s the ONLY path that works in the short term, and I have never met a single six-figure copywriter who didn’t spend a decent portion of their career pitching.
But that said, in the long term, there is a better way to bring in copywriting clients, and that way is called “inbound marketing”.
Inbound marketing is essentially the process of creating content that builds your brand and brings clients directly to you.
Here’s a few examples of what that might look like:
- A client sees your posts on LinkedIn, follows you, and is impressed by a case study you post, so they reach out when they need a copywriter and hire you.
- A client searches for a copywriter through Google and finds your website.
- A client’s friend shares an article you wrote on copywriting tips for a popular publication, and they are so impressed, they realize they need better copywriting, and they hire you.
This happening once or twice is going to be nice, but it’s not going to make a huge impact on your income in most cases.
With enough content and enough time, however, this type of scenario can begin happening 10, 20, 30 times per month, and all of sudden, you have more work than you can handle… month after month after month.
This is superior to consistent pitching for a few reasons:
- Clients who come to you are easier to sell on hiring you
- Clients who come to you are willing to pay more on average
- Clients who come to you are going to see you as the expert, which leads to a better client management experience
The big catch here is that this doesn’t happen overnight… or even over 200 nights.
The average timeline for inbound marketing to begin paying off is around 1 year, and you probably won’t see it really revolutionize your business until 2 or even 3 years down the road.
Inbound marketing is about consistent work that pays off over time:
- Posting on LinkedIn or other social channels 3 times per week
- Posting a longform blog post to your own blog 1-2 times a month
- Guest blogging 2-3 times per month
- Posting a new Youtube video or podcast every week.
It’s a slow building process, but once it’s built, it’s actually not a ton of work to maintain and the payoff is immense. The most successful copywriters I know (myself included) have leveraged one or more of these inbound channels to secure a yearly six-figure and even multi-six-figure payoff essentially on autopilot.
Next Steps: Can You Do What A Copywriter Does?
It keeps getting better for copywriters.
Not only are we one of the highest paid professions in the world, but now, more than ever, business owners understand the value of good copywriting.
With the pandemic drying up other marketing channels, these business owners are doubling down on content. They can no longer ignore the fact that online sales have doubled in the last year, or that people are using websites like google at least 50% of the time before making a purchase.
Left to themselves, these business owners are just praying that their limited writing ability is enough to resonate with people who visit their website, persuade people who read their emails, and rank their blog posts in Google search. They’re missing out on thousands… even millions of dollars… and many of them are beginning to realize that mediocre writing isn’t going to cut it anymore.
This is where we copywriters come in to save the day.
Our job is simply to help these business owners turn their ideas into great content, communicating with clarity and including a little of that secret sauce that gets people to open their wallets.
We don’t need to write academic articles or sound like intellectuals. In fact, the best articles often read like a friend chatting about a topic that interests them.
This isn’t rocket science.
It took me a couple months to become good enough to start writing for clients, but that’s because I hardly ever wrote, apart from the occasional sports blog, college essay, or long winded Facebook rant. The only reason I even gave copywriting a shot was because I’d always been told by my teachers and friends that I was a good writer.
Now, I’m writing for big brands during the morning and hanging out with my family care-free in the late afternoon and evening. I can’t imagine ever going back to a lifeless office, soul-sucking commute, and overbearing boss.
I get to work from home, steps away from my two kiddos, giving them that sweet, sweet “goldfish on tap” life. Bills are paid, retirement saving is covered, and my wife gets to make parenting and career decisions without any financial pressure.
It’s a good life, and if it sounds like your cup of coffee, I want to show you how to make it your life as well.
I’ve put together a free video training series to help you transition from whatever you’re doing right now to making a full-time income as a copywriter in just 3 months.
There has never been a better time to write for a living!
Enter your email below to watch the first video!
Always an awesome post Jacob. Love your content 🙂
Love this post. I’m quoting “mediocre writing isn’t going to cut it anymore” on my instagram right now!
Your blog is amazing and I’m interested in purchasing your copywriting course. I am, however, based in the UK, so I just wanted to ask if the course is suitable for me as you’re in the US.
Hey Phoebe, thanks for the kind words! Yes, there are very few differences to running a freelance business in the UK vs the US.
It’s really an informative and motivational post.
The scope of copywriters has increased even more after the global pandemic as digitalization in every sector is booming.
I have some questions to get clear knowledge from you.
I have a blog website and with the help of that how I can pitch to clients?
What are the best platforms to pitch to clients?