Freelance copywriting allows you to unleash your creativity while enjoying the freedom of being your own boss. All you need is a laptop and wi-fi, meaning you can work from almost anywhere, sharing your words with the world from a poolside lounge in Thailand or even just the comfort of your own bed.
All this sounds great in theory, but you’ll soon discover that pools and laptops don’t mix well, and sitting in bed all day will leave your mind fuzzy and your back sore.
That’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful places to work from or beautiful days of creative vigor to be enjoyed as a freelance copywriter. However, it’s important to have a realistic idea of what you’ll be in for if you choose to pursue this career path.
To help you get a feel for the industry, we’ve constructed this list of all the pros and cons of being a freelance copywriter.
What are the benefits of being a freelance copywriter?
Let’s take a realistic look at all the benefits the freelance lifestyle offers for talented copywriters.
1. Multifaceted freedom
Though you will still have plenty of work to do and deadlines to meet, you get to be in charge of when, where, and how you go about it. This means you can ditch the alarm clock and get into whatever rhythm suits you best.
On those days when you sleep late, you won’t have to rush your morning routine to start work at a regimented time. Instead, you can shuffle your schedule around to suit. You also get to be in charge of when break times occur, how many you take, and whether today is a pants-wearing day or not.
Manage your freedom well, and you’ll be able to say “yes” to impromptu excursions with friends and construct the kind of work-life balance you’ve been dreaming of.
2. Endless learning
As a freelance copywriter, you will spend your life learning new things and sharing them with the world. Since you’ll likely have a mix of clients with varying levels of work, you’ll get to learn the ins and outs of many different industries and specialities.
To be a writer, you need to have a natural thirst for knowledge, so this will likely end up being your favorite aspect of the industry. It also leads us nicely to the next benefit of being a freelance writer.
3. No two days are ever the same
Unless you have one massive client supplying all your work, it’s rare for you to fall into any sense of monotony as a freelance writer. One day you may be interviewing artists for a magazine, then the next, you might switch to creating product descriptions for an organic food company.
Though much of the copy you write will likely go online, you can also work on everything from product labels and packaging to signage and development proposals.
Some writers do prefer to specialize in a certain niche. However, if they choose this path, it’s usually because they have a deep passion for the subject matter. So, whichever way you approach your freelance writing career, you’re bound to have days full of endless learning and variety ahead of you.
4. High earning potential
Many top freelance copywriters are earning six-figure salaries. However, it’s important to note the word “potential” in the title. For every high earner in the industry, there are twenty writers scraping by on a much lower income.
Though you may need to take on lower-paying work when you’re starting out, it’s important to keep your sights set on the possibilities for growth. As the quality of your portfolio and reputation develops, be sure to explore all the avenues available for finding higher-paid copywriting jobs.
5. Creative growth
Whether you spend your days writing sales pitches and development proposals or crafting resumes and cover letters, you will discover that your talent for writing grows with each passing day.
Most freelance copywriters have creative projects on the side, and you will soon see the incredible impact daily copywriting has on your skills and artistry overall.
If you think about it, being paid to write copy is like being paid to practice guitar or take painting classes. You’ll be developing as an artist every day, meaning you get far more value out of the work than your invoices suggest.
6. You get to help people achieve their dreams
You will probably have a mix of one-off jobs and regular clients throughout your career. Though the one-time gigs can be rewarding, there’s something special about the relationships a copywriter develops with their loyal long-term clients.
You will get to see people grow from humble startups to established multinational businesses, and the best part is, you know you played a part in their success.
Be scrupulous about who you choose to work with, and you get to live with the beautiful sense of calm that arises from using your talent to do good in the world.
If you really want to make this feeling blossom, you can dedicate some of your time each month to writing for charities and non-profits. You can offer quite a substantial amount of value this way, and as a bonus, these projects are a great addition to your portfolio.
What are the challenges of being a freelance copywriter?
Okay, enough with all the mushy feel-good stuff! Let’s get into the challenges freelance copywriting with throw at you.
1. With great freedom comes great uncertainty
The question “how much money will I make as a freelance copywriter?” is analogous to the old “how long is a piece of string?” One copywriter might earn $10,000 a month while her friend earns $500. In fact, that same copywriter who earned $10,000 last month might only earn $500 this month.
Though there’s plenty of work out there, and high-paying jobs for those with the talent and persistence to secure them, you can never entirely escape the unpredictability of the industry.
For example, 2020 saw sweeping global lockdowns as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though freelance copywriters were still able to work just fine from home, many of their clients had to close up shop, meaning work dried up for a lot of people. Conversely, some writers saw an explosion of work due to the industries their clients worked in.
Even without a global pandemic, there’s always the possibility that you will stumble into an unexpected work slump. If you’re the kind of person who craves consistency or lives pay-to-pay, this will be a challenge.
Then, of course, there are those months where every client hits you with urgent work all at once. This swing between feast and famine can happen regularly for freelance writers, especially when you’re just starting out. So, it’s something you need to be prepared for, both mentally and financially.
2. The strange time-suck of working from home
All the freedoms of working from home come with a time-sucking dark side. Without the structure of the 9-5 office environment, it’s easy to lose little parcels of time to sleeping in, working out, doing the dishes, and all those other little odd jobs that snake your attention when you’re hanging around the house. Before you know it, ten minutes here and half an hour there can add up to a full day gone with barely any work done.
On top of the daily time-suck, you may also find that your work bleeds over into weekends and vacation time. As an employee, your vacation time is truly your own. As a freelancer, by contrast, it can be difficult to put the work away and focus on enjoying yourself. After all, you have clients and an income you need to retain.
To combat this, it’s essential to develop your own productivity-boosting work-day structure and have the discipline to stick to it. The simplest way to go about this is to use a calendar app to block out everything you want to get done each day. Placing it in an hourly structure like this is far more effective than simply writing the tasks on a to-do list as you’re able to get a visual of what you can realistically fit in.
Of course, you may find that a different way of organizing time works better for you. The one thing you can’t do is wing it. If you want to make this career path stick, you need to give shape to your freelancing freedom with a bit of carefully planned structure.
Even if you’re a J.D. Salinger type who loves nothing more than being holed up in the comfy confines of your home, over time, you may eventually miss the camaraderie of working in a creative team.
Though the general sense of isolation can be combated by spending time with family and friends or even popping down to your favorite coffee shop, these forms of company don’t address the creative community you miss out on by turning away from the office environment.
4. Troublesome clients
Remember those delightful clients we mentioned earlier? The ones whose dreams you get to help build? Sadly, they aren’t the only people you will encounter as a freelance copywriter.
Clients can be tricky in any number of ways. Maybe one business owner is super friendly but always pays you late. Another might pay promptly but they offer such vague briefs that you have to spend hours clarifying what they really want from your work.
Though troublesome clients are challenging, you do have options. You can either view them as an opportunity to develop your communication and negotiation skills or, if they really are too much to handle, you can exercise the freedom of being your own boss and let them go.
5. Creative claustrophobia
Though you do get a lot of creative freedom as a freelance copywriter, there are times when clients will miss the genius in your ideas and insist on doing things their way. Some clients can wrap your creativity up so tightly that you’re left feeling like a robot stringing words together on an assembly line.
Though it’s important to be able to explain and “sell” your ideas so that your clients grasp the value you’re offering, it’s equally crucial to know when to let something go and proceed along the line your client has laid out.
6. You are responsible for everything
As a freelance copywriter, your responsibilities extend far beyond the writing side of things. You must handle all your own administration, marketing, sales, and customer service. You have to set your own prices and negotiate your rates with each new client, and every bit of business troubleshooting that needs to be done will fall to you.
If this sounds like a lot of pressure, that’s because it is. However, you will get used to it, and all these skills will become valuable tools for your ongoing success. As you (and your income) grow, you’ll also be able to outsource any tasks you really don’t enjoy, thus freeing up your time to focus on the more rewarding aspects of your work.
Freelance copywriting: final thoughts
Though it takes time to find any sense of stability as a freelance copywriter, it’s undeniably rewarding to work on your own terms and earn a living from your craft.
If you’re as flexible as you are creative, and you thrive on adventure and uncertainty, then freelance copywriting may be the perfect career choice for you.
Do you have any questions about freelance copywriting? Or did we miss any of the pros and cons you’ve experienced in the industry. If so, let us know in the comments below.