5 skills you need to become a successful freelance copywriter

Matt Press, director of copywriting company Splash Copywriters, is guest blogging on the ICS blog this week to advise freelance copywriters on the skills they need to be successful:

5 skills you need to become a successful freelance copywriter

Whenever I tell someone that I’m a freelancer, they usually look at me through worried eyes. They think freelancing is unstable, both in terms of salary and job security. However, if you put the right pillars in place, being a freelance copywriter is a brilliant way to earn a living.

For starters, it can be extremely lucrative, since you’re the boss and you’re in charge of what projects you take on. And equally, with the right relationships and strategies, freelancing can be very safe; safer than many full-time, permanent positions in fact.

I’ve been a freelance copywriter for a few years now and I think that there are 5 skills that you need to have if you’re to be a successful freelancer. And these things apply to any freelancer – they’re not just applicable to the copywriting industry.

Skill 1: You must be disciplined

Being your own boss is great, but with that comes great responsibility. There’s no sick pay or holiday pay, so if the work isn’t done, the bills don’t get paid.

You’re not chained to a 9-5 as a freelancer, but you’ve still got to be professional and put the hours in. The harder you work, the better your results. Ultimately, it’s like anything in life: you reap what you sow.

Skill 2: You must be thick-skinned

As a ‘normal’ employee, it’s sometimes easier to take constructive criticism on the chin. When you’re out on your own trying to create the lifestyle of your dreams, setbacks can seem like a knockout blow.

Over time, I’ve managed to desensitise myself a little. I’ve come to realise that, just like when I was in the corporate world, every day is different.

Some clients are easy to work with, a few are difficult and most lie somewhere in the middle. Some days I’ll get great feedback, occasionally I’ll get a request to improve something and most of the time people are too busy to discuss anything.

It’s just how life is.

Skill 3: You must maintain a healthy work-life balance

I spoke earlier about having to put the hours in, but you must also know when to switch the laptop off. A freelancer is, essentially a business owner. As such, it’s easy to stay up all night doing something.

For me, if I’m not involved in client work then I’m creating content for my own website. Or perhaps I’m checking out the latest marketing news or nosing around on social media.

Grab a diary. Clearly plan your work schedule week by week, month by month. And when you finish work for the day, make sure you really are finished…

Skill 4: You must not be a one-man band

Occasionally, freelancing can get a little stressful, just like they can in any role.

With that in mind, don’t try and tackle every aspect of freelance life yourself. Accountancy is a great example. When I made the decision to become a freelance copywriter, I quickly realised that I wasn’t prepared to become overwhelmed with filing tax returns.

I had neither the time nor the inclination to learn a new skill. Plus, it’s not really something you can risk getting wrong.

So do yourself a favour and outsource these kinds of jobs to professionals. It’ll make your life so much easier in the long run.

Skill 5: You must be able to recognise your achievements

If there’s one thing about traditional office life that I don’t miss, it’s appraisal time.

I used to work in an environment where, although my managers were nice people, their hands were tied when it came to bonuses.

Pay rises were more related to company success, not personal achievements. And when they were dished out, they were done so in batches.

Only 3 or 4 people were rewarded in the office every year and managers were under pressure to share the love, so to speak.

In other words, if it wasn’t your turn for a bonus, you wouldn’t get one. And that’s irrespective of what you had accomplished during the previous 12 months.

This kind of strategy offers no incentive, which is a dangerous thing. Therefore, it’s really important to reward yourself when you can, especially when something’s gone well.

About the author

Matt Press is an experienced copywriter who has written words for some of the UK’s biggest brands, such as Sky, Three and Vodafone. He now helps other copywriters find jobs and improve their skills.