From Side Hustle to Success: What You Need to Know About Starting Your Copywriting Career

So, you’ve been side-hustling your way around the world of copywriting, right? 

You’ve had a taste of how great life can be when you’re writing copy for a living. 

And you’re ready to take the next step. 

Whether going full-time and launching a copywriting business was always your intention or you’re now ready for more, it’s a completely different ballpark when you upgrade from a side-hustler to a full-time brand owner. 

That’s why I’ve created this article, that walks you into the world of full-time copywriting without the sheer overwhelm and panic. That way, you can enjoy the benefits, get a head start, and become one step closer to dominating the world of copywriting for your copywriting career.

From Side Hustle to Success in Copywriting

Let’s jump in.

Freelancer vs. Business Owner

The first lesson I want to address is a form of self-identity. 

Many side-hustlers will have labeled themselves a “freelancer” or “freelance copywriter”. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

But, as you walk into full-time copywriting, my advice would be to shed this label.

Or, at least, add it to your primary title of copywriting business owner.

This may seem unimportant, and some people use the terms synonymously. 

But the way you view your career will differ depending on what you label yourself. A freelancer feels different to a business owner, doesn’t it? 

And, even though it’s just you, you’re still running a brand.

Just like your clients, you need to make time to promote and market your brand.

You have to do all the things a business owner does.

Because you are, from this moment on, a business owner, too. 

Set Goals And Expectations 

If your copywriting career has been a side hustle for some time, you may not have set specific goals yet.

If you have, then fantastic. 

But now that you’re about to embark on a full-time journey into your copywriting career, you’ll need to take these goals far more seriously. 

Setting goals may feel redundant at first. But, as time goes by, you’ll realize quite how important it is to put aside time and set them. 

Some brand owners will set financial goals. However, my advice to you would be to form your goals around your client intake. As a copywriter, you’ll likely be charging on a project-to-project basis. 

You can include financial goals, too, but I’d recommend you have a large focus on the number of clients you want to onboard within the time frame.

Try to set monthly goals, quarterly goals, and annual goals.

But setting goals does very little unless you reflect on them.

Once you’ve set your goals, work backward to write a list of strategies that will help you reach them. 

Then, reflect on how well those strategies performed. What can you improve? 

Be diligent about this. Don’t, like so many new copywriters, underestimate the importance of setting and reflecting on your goals. 

Uplevel Your Skills

If you’ve been creating copy as a side-hustle, chances are you’ve been working hard across 2 or more jobs. So, it’s unlikely you’ve had much time to dedicate to your own professional development. 

As you head into your full-time copywriting career, make sure you put some time aside to brush up and strengthen your copywriting skills.

Enroll in some copywriting courses, read copywriting books, and listen to copywriting podcasts – they’re all there are at your fingertips. 

The best copywriters, even those who have decades of experience, always dedicate time for their professional development. Marketing isn’t stationary. There are always new things to learn, and as technology continues to advance, the way consumers are interacting with products or services is changing, too. 

As a full-time copywriter, you need to be aware of these changes and stay ahead of the game. 

Determine Your Copywriting Niche 

A controversial topic amongst copywriters: niching.

Should you niche? And how do you do it? 

While some copywriting courses will tell you that niching narrows down the number of opportunities you’re exposed to, many copywriters will confirm that brand owners prefer specialists. 

My advice? Niche.

Not only will niching allow you to position yourself as the expert copywriter within the industry, but you’ll also be able to choose a passion and truly enjoy what you’re writing about. 

You can niche in a few different ways:

  • By industry (i.e.: health and wellness, pets, medical, etc.) 
  • By copywriter type (i.e.: direct response copywriter, creative copywriter, SEO copywriter, etc.) 
  • By audience type (i.e.: copywriter for teachers, hairdressers, restaurant owners, etc.) 
  • By deliverable (i.e.: website copywriter, email copywriter, etc.)

The beauty is that the decision lies in your hands. It’s completely up to you how you’d like to niche. 

A generalist copywriter may need to write product descriptions for the latest lipstick on Monday and cover kitty litter on Tuesday, followed by an all-inclusive trip to Mexico on Friday. There’s a great variation, but it can be tricky getting clients as your messaging will be diluted. 

Once you have chosen your niche, you have a clearer idea of who you are talking to. That way, your marketing will resonate a lot more, and you can start to spring to mind when the industry thinks “I need a copywriter.” 

Build Your Copywriting Portfolio 

Next up: your copywriting portfolio

Chances are, if you’ve been writing copy as a side hustle, you’ve already got a few bits and pieces for your portfolio.

That said, if you’ve picked a niche to narrow yourself into, your portfolio needs to reflect that. 

If you, for example, want to become a medical copywriter, but your current pieces surround construction, you’ll struggle to attract the right clients. 

But how do you change what you’ve done?

You can’t.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. 

You can add to your portfolio whenever you want. And the beauty is that you don’t even need to have worked for a client that reflects your niche (yet). 

That’s the wondrous magic of spec work

Spec work is work you have produced with the aim of showing your capability. It’s work that hasn’t been produced for the brand. So long as you label it as “spec work” on your portfolio, you can write for any brand in the world. You can even make a brand up. 

The aim is to ensure the pieces of writing reflect your niche and demonstrate your writing ability. 

Map Out Your Process 

Copywriters work with brands every single day. Just because we’re B2B (business-to-business), it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to follow the same rules.

Customer service is just as important to us as it is to every other brand out there.

In fact, some could argue that it’s even more important because you’re working 1:1 with a client on something that has incredibly high stakes.

That’s why it’s so important to know your own process inside and out.

You need to have a clear idea of what you offer to your clients. 

So, create a list with project milestones. These milestones often include:

  1. Onboarding
  2. Research
  3. Drafting
  4. Editing
  5. Offboarding

You should then understand what tasks are involved in each phase. So, signing a contract and paying a deposit may fall under your onboarding phase. And revising drafts and making changes will fall under the editing phase. 

The better you can articulate your process, the more in control you sound. No prospective client will trust a copywriter who can’t explain their process. 

So, do the leg work in advance.

Plus, this allows you to set better timeframes when potential clients ask you how long a project will take. 

Become a Copywriter Today

Copywriters – although, I admit I’m biased – have the best gig in the world. Utter independence and freedom at every turn, the chance to use our creativity every single day, and being able to work wherever, whenever – it’s a super appealing lifestyle.

But I won’t lie:

It takes work.

And you have to remember that, at the start, you’ll have a lot to do. You’ll need to brush up on the basics, work at building a brand, and perfect your process.

But nothing has to be perfect from the get-go.

So, don’t delay getting started because you want it all to be “just right”.

In the world of copywriting and business ownership as a whole, that doesn’t exist. 

Value progress over perfection, stick to the guidelines set out in this article, and go get ‘em!