[Advice for New Copywriters] How To NOT Get Taken Advantage Of Yesterday, I saw a post by /u/fencheeks who was basically about to be send out two months worth of copy without a single promise of payment.
I don't blame him/her. S/he's new. Got that fire that we all start out with to prove ourselves, get our foot in the door and make a career.
But here's the problem: the guy on the other end knew that, and sounded ready to exploit the shit outta him/her.
It's a good thing that I, /u/medoane and /u/JimmyTheGiant1 hopped on to talk some sense into OP.
But I think it's very telling that the 2nd most upvoted post in that thread is a question asking more experienced copywriters if 60 social media captions and 4 blog posts as a sample was normal.
I'm not the most experienced copywriter. But I know enough to not get taken advantage of.
And I've got five tips that I want to share to anyone reading this.
Tip #1: Never Pay For A Course Until You've Had 1-3 Client Projects
• Buy books that are highly recommended.
• Find a community of experienced writers.
• Follow, connect and interact with experienced people in LinkedIn.
• Use Google and YouTube to search for answers.
So help me god, don't you dare think some $2,000 course will be the solution to all your problems.
Would you spend $10,000 on home gym equipment without ever working out?
Would you spend $20,000 building a swimming pool without even knowing how to swim?
Yet, in what world, do you think you can have any sense of what is truly worth paying hundreds/thousands of dollars for with ZERO clients under your belt?
In the 5 months I've been a copywriter, I have paid for 3 info products. In order of when I bought them:
• A content marketing guide, because it is part of my long-term marketing strategy (and have validated it has financial potential) so it is very important to get it right early on.
• A pricing guide, because I spend too much mental energy wondering what to charge and have no real sense of what's out there.
• A course on how to write copy faster, because copywriting is a part-time job, my delivery speed is slow, and I need to obviously make up for that inefficiency.
Do you see that these purchases are motivated by actual challenges I'm facing?
You don't have the same level of judgement as a fresh newbie. So anything and everything looks good to you, especially since they are written by copywriters that KNOW how to hijack your brain.
As a hard rule, don't spend more than $50 on any SINGLE course/info product unless you've already got client work. Starting out, this means the only thing you can (and should be) pay for is books.
Tip #2: The ONLY THING a client gets for free is a SAMPLE.
And what do I mean as a sample?
A sample is a very small chunk of the full work that should take you no more than 2-3 hours to make and/or should not be more than 5% of the entire project scope.
Heck, that 2-3 hour limit is just because you're gonna be slow at it since you're new.
If the job is 10 emails, write one email subject line and lead.
If the job is 60 social media captions, write three.
If the job is 4 blog posts, write an outline for one.
If the job is a homepage, write a couple headlines.
In fact, if you're starting out, I strongly recommend you offer a sample especially if someone asks you for a portfolio or past clients.
Client: Do you have a portfolio I can look at? / Do you have references?
You: I'm a big believer in "try before you buy." So I offer a free custom sample to help clients decide whether we want to work together or not. If you don't like it, no hard feelings. [List your prices.] Do you want to proceed?
Tip #3: If you're gonna do free work OR a client tries lowballing your prices, MAKE SURE you're getting something else out of it.
Odds are, you're at least competent enough to charge for cheap. And if you are charging, you are probably undercharging.
Regardless, if you're going to do some work for free or lower than your rate, MAKE SURE you are getting SOMETHING out of it:
• a testimonial (especially a video testimonial)
• a new type of copy you haven't done before to add to your portfolio,
• a sample of work to help you break into a new industry,
• a recognisable brand name to add to your client list, or
• maybe its something that means a lot to you and you'll enjoy.
If it doesn't tick any of those boxes, WALK AWAY.
"But Victor, this one person is the first person to show interest in me."
Then comes my next tip.
Tip #4: ALWAYS be finding and talking to new prospects.
You will never get hung up about one prospect if you have 5 others you're talking to.
Here's what I suggest.
Get a Client Relationship Management (CRM) to make sure you're following up on ALL your prospects. I personally use Streak for Gmail.
Use different methods of finding new prospects.
• Connect and message Founders on LinkedIn. Automation tools exist for this.
• Make helpful, meaningful posts on Facebook Groups.
• Write good content and share it on Reddit.
• Make sure your email signature has a link to your website and/or your most powerful work.
These are methods I've used to get paid work. And there are many more methods that others have found success with.
So don't get stuck in that mindset of, "But where else can I find someone interested in hiring me?"
There are more out there. If you got 1 person interested, you can get 100 interested. All you need is time and to cast a wider net.
So if anyone is dragging their feet, leave it up to your Client Relationship Management (CRM) to follow up with them and keep finding new prospects.
Trust me, they're probably talking to AT LEAST 2-3 writers as well. So you should be talking to 5-10 other people for work at any given time.
Tip #5: Unless MAYBE they are a repeat client, ALWAYS get a downpayment UPFRONT.
A downpayment gets them invested and shows they are serious about following through. It stops clients from changing their mind halfway through the project and leaving you out to dry.
And even if they abandon the project, at least you got something.
If you do any work without a downpayment, not getting paid is your fault.
I was in your shoes literally a couple months ago.
My first ever "real" prospect? I wasn't prepared. It was a guy claiming he'd launch a national CBD cigarette brand. He reached out to me because he read my story about the Camel cigarettes launch in 1913.
It really resonated with him because he saw himself in R.J. Reynolds and he believed he was going to be the next big thing on the market.
As I got on calls with this guy, I thought, "If I land this guy, I'm probably set for life."
I spent about 7 weeks and over 14 hours on the phone, going back and forth HOPING I was going to land a retainer, possibly a revenue share.
I kept pushing to talk about payment. He kept pushing that I write his homepage for free to "show his investors" before he could hire me.
I sent him a draft that I'd slaved, worried and lost sleep over.
And he ghosted me.
Follow-up. After follow-up. After follow-up.
On one hand, all the best to him but f*** that guy.
On the other hand, I let this happen. I let my naivety and eagerness to prove myself get me played for a fool.
And I'm sharing this as a lesson to you.
If you are NEW to copywriting (or ANY field out there), you are a target. People will see you as a sucker and try to take advantage of you.
Remember, NOBODY will fight for your benefit more than you (or your parents/siblings, if you're lucky).
Ignore this advice at your own risk.
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