If you’re looking to land big clients ASAP, here’s the path I recommend you take to lead to a waterfall of big-name clients.
First, I recommend joining the Copywriter Accelerator by The Copywriter Club. It’s run by Rob Marsh and Kira Hug, and they’re both awesome at passing along potential opportunities. It’s been two years since I was last in one of their programs, but they’ll still reach out with potential gigs. Plus you’ll be in a group with other writers you can network with.
(That’s my affiliate link, but I’ve been promoting them for free for years because I genuinely recommend the program. So why not get a kickback for something I’m already doing?)
By the way, I recommend networking your way to a big logo ASAP for any copywriter in the first year of their business. Here’s what I mean.
Just this morning, I closed a $22k project without showing any samples or previous work. I was able to do that because of a string of experiences that made me look like a safe, reliable choice for this client. And it all started with one project at the beginning of my career.
After I’d been casually studying copywriting for about a year, I started posting quippy lines and observations on Facebook. This caught the attention of a college classmate who was working at an ad agency. “We need someone to write for this fun Intel copywriting campaign,” he told me. “Interested?”
Of course I said “yes”. The pay was fine. And the campaign didn’t even have measurable results I could use. But what I really earned was a big logo I could include in my experience.
This ended up making my entire career. From there, I was able to say, “Yeah, I’ve worked with Intel and other brands” when approaching clients. And then they were willing to hire me on the spot.
This was weird to me at first. “They don’t even know if I can bring results, why would they hire me?” But then I learned about why many businesses really hire copywriters.
Why Clients Really Hire Copywriters
I used to think that businesses hire copywriters because they wanted the copy. They needed the words. But now I realize they’re looking for the outcome of the copy. And there are two types of outcomes to consider:
- The outcome to the BUSINESS – how well your copy converts, how many sales come from it, etc.
- The outcome to the PERSON – whether hiring you is a good choice for them.
You’re never actually interacting with a business, you’re interacting with people. These people want similar things:
- To look good and smart to their bosses
- To avoid confrontation, risk, and stress
- To avoid headaches and unexpected difficulties
So while the person hiring a copywriter may be saying, “We need someone with a track record of high-performing copy,” they’re really saying, “I want to show my boss I’m smart, and my plan to do that is to choose a safe copywriter that my boss won’t question be about.”
It’s like the old adage, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” Choosing the safe, reliable option helps these corporate types look good and advance their careers.
This was the big paradigm shift. The “A-ha!” moment that’s opened so many doors for me.
Because all you really have to do is show you’re the decision-maker’s “safe” option.
How to Showcase You’re A Safe Hire
Now, there are a few ways to showcase why you’re a “safe” bet:
- Results you’ve previously earned for clients
- Brands you’ve worked with in the past (this is what the Intel logo showed my potential clients)
- The specific, predictable process you use to write copy
You’ll usually use a combination of the above.
What you DON’T want to do is try to win gigs on the strength of your copy alone. Unless you’re a savant in the top 1% of copywriters, there’s going to be someone else who has written better than you. So you need to change the conversation to not be about your raw talent, but how you’re the safe, low-risk choice.
Here’s my big point: everything you do early in your career should be focused on getting the one big logo or win that shows you’re a safe bet for your future clients. But if you can’t get a big logo, then you can have a reliable process.
Getting The “Big” Logos Early On
But how do you get the big logo or early career win? You can reverse-engineer what happened to me. It was a classmate working at a big ad agency that was able to open that door. And big agencies are most often the ones working on projects for brands potential clients have heard of (and look safe).
So what YOU can do is something like this:
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile and mention that you’re looking for copywriting opportunities with [insert ideal client industry here] brands, ie., “Freelance copywriter looking for opportunities to write high-performing copy in the tech industry.”
- Search for people who went to school with you and are now working for marketing agencies. Lots and lots of English and Comm majors end up in agencies.
- Once you find some people you used to know working in agencies, reach out. “Hey So-and-so, I’m pivoting to a career in copywriting and looking for opportunities. I noticed you’re at an agency now – congrats! Would you be willing to do a virtual coffee and tell be a little about what the copywriters at your agency do?”
- At this point, you’ll either get ignored, or they’ll say something like, “Sure, when?” Or maybe they’ll say, “I don’t work with copywriters, but let me get you in touch with the creative director/copy lead/etc.” The goal is to just have a face-to-face conversation and let them know you’d love to work on a project just to get the experience.
By having the conversation, you’re building a relationship. You’re looking like a safer freelancer to bring on for an agency project because you’re a real person, not a random name on a job board like Fiverr. So you’re removing the risk we mentioned earlier.
And who knows, maybe you’ll reconnect with an old friend.
For me, that old classmate at that agency led to about $10k in work over a couple of years. Not a lot, but having the Intel logo led to other big logos.
- The Intel gig helped me land a whitepaper project for a Panasonic team
- The Panasonic team project opened a door to write an article for Bloomberg
- That Bloomberg article helped me land a gig writing a couple of articles for the Huffington Post for another classmate at an agency
- Which landed me a gig writing an article for Entrepreneuer
- And so on.
You can even say, “I know I’m getting started, and I’m willing to work at a preferred rate to get the experience collaborating in a big brand project.” You’re making it clear to them that you just want the logo.
This Process Works for Freelance AND Full-Time Jobs
By the way, you can use this same process to network for whatever experience your ideal clients need to see to feel safe. As long as you’ve done the job before, even once, for a similar client, it’s so easy to get the gig, even before you have awesome samples.
- Want to work with big brands? Find someone who works with a big brand and ask them about it.
- Want to work with conversion copy clients? Find a conversion copywriter or someone working for a results-driven company on LinkedIn the same way you’d find an old classmate.
You may have to approach a few people, but it’d definitely going to be the fastest way to get that “win” that leads to more client work.