My Journey To Copywriting – Chapter IV Behind The Scenes (II): The Art Of Negotiation

My mission to become a sassy freelance copywriter was almost accomplished. My last challenge was to send out a marvellous pitch to land my first client, deliver a superb copy, and kick start my new glorious career. 

Easier said than done. Unfortunately, boldness isn’t enough to thrive. You need to master a few additional tricks. But sometimes it’s more about common sense than actual magic. 

1. Stay away from scam-like ads

If your primary client acquisition channel rests on online platforms, pay massive attention to the adverts you respond to. 

Any time you read an ad on sites such as Upwork or PeoplePerHour, look out for the following red flags (some adverts carry them all!):

  • The client labels their ad as “urgent” and hurries the freelancer to complete the work “immediately” or with “a quick turnaround”;
  • They say – or imply – they want the freelancer to submit the finished piece instead of a proposal;
  • They don’t include detailed information about their project upfront;
  • They want the job done for a ridiculous (often fixed) price.

Sounds familiar, isn’t it? The next time you stumble on an advert like that, ignore it and move on.

2. Value quality over quantity

Avoid email blasts

If you go cold-pitching, be selective. Avoid email blasts and pick your cold email recipients carefully. Base your selection on your interests and writing niche

If, for instance, your area of expertise is “beauty”, look for beauty brands which may need your help for their campaigns. That holds for any sector. 

The more specific your target, the higher your chances to get hired. Clients who value your services are the ones you want to work with. It takes longer and involves some sweating to find them, but it’s worth it.

Customise your pitch 

Targeting your prospective clients is pointless if you send a standard message to all of them. Tailor each pitch you send out instead. 

Do your homework: research their website, look at their social media pages, and read what the press is saying about them. This information will help you understand each business and their needs on a deeper level.

When drafting your pitch, try to answer the following questions. Be as specific as possible.

  • Why them? – What’s about them that caught your attention and made you excited about working with them?
  • Why you? – What skills or expertise can you offer that somebody else can’t?
  • What’s in for them? – Look at what might be the main issue for the potential client and suggest some solutions. Show how you can solve the problem. Tell what you would like to do for them and explain how your services will have a (positive) impact on their sales, brand image, etc.

Again, it’s a lengthy process. But it works.

3. Learn how to pitch

That’s a tricky one. You need to sell yourself, but not “too much” as not to look cocky. Your proposal must stand out, but your services are very much alike to those of the other thousands of copywriters out there. Your call for action must be catchy enough to make your target willing to get back to you, but it shouldn’t sound too pushy or needy.

Don’t panic! Drafting an effective pitch is difficult but not impossible. Follow a 3-paragraph structure:

Introduction

  • Briefly introduce yourself;
  • Establish credibility, i.e. explain what you have done in the past; what you are known for; what’s your most significant achievement in that field;
  • Include a personal story or say something about you that relates you to the business. Tell them you are a blogger, a millennial, a mother, a chess champion, a pet lover – anything that shows you are a relevant fit.

Samples, Testimonials, Services

  • Provide relevant samples or links to your best work. Published work is desirable but not essential. Your own blog or some of your unpublished writing samples will work just as fine.
  • Provide testimonials. These are extremely important to build a strong reputation. If you are starting out and you don’t have any testimonial yet, don’t mention it. Just share your writing samples. Make sure your pieces are flawless and engaging. With no other “rating system” available, that’s the only way a prospective client can assess whether you are a good fit for their project.
  • [Optional] Outline what you are going to deliver if hired, e.g.
    • A fresh, informative, and trustworthy content;
    • A benefit-oriented product description that focuses on the product’s USP; 
    • Examples, stats and resources when applicable;
    • Etc.

Items may vary depending on the scope of the project, but the bullet list helps your prospective client to assess the actual value you will provide with your work. 

Call to action

  • Provide links to your social media profiles and business website page and invite your prospective client to check them out.
  • You may also ask a direct question to solicit a reply or urge them to contact you if interested.

It’s a lot of work, I hear you. But it’s the best investment you can make to kick your freelance career into gear. Get ready to cringe hard at first, but you will get better at it, and the whole process will get smoother over time.

4. Learn how to set your rates

That’s the hardest part. The market for freelance copywriters is so diverse – and crazy – it encompasses expert rates as high as $100 per hour and entry-level rates as low as $10 per hour.

There is no finite answer to the question, “How much should a freelance copywriter charge?” Your rates depend on your experience (the wider, the pricier), your writing niche (the more technical, the pricier), your target market, your client’s budget, the skill set required for a specific project, your turnaround time, and so on.

Long story short, you need to figure out “your value” by yourself. But here are some tips that may help you with the task:

  • Charging per project is always the best solution;
  • If you can’t charge per project, setting an hourly rate is preferable as you price in all the activities that aren’t measurable by the finished copy (e.g. research, revisions, etc.);
  • If you can’t either charge per project or hour, charge per word. Keep in mind that $0.1/word should be the minimum – even for beginners;
  • Repeat with me: “Someone who wants to pay $0.02/word does not value my work and is not worth the effort;”
  • If you reckon some of your services are high in demand – and you are good at them –package your copywriting services and sell them at a “package price” (here is a flavoured example of what I mean);
  • Never ever e-v-e-r settle for something below your lowest acceptable rate to win the gig. In the best-case scenario, you stick to your commitment, but you get bitter and frustrated with your work. In the worst-case scenario, you grow tired of being exploited and try to re-negotiate your rates at a later stage. You lose your client’s trust (and future work) as you may no longer be seen as a reliable working partner.
  • Don’t charge the same rate to different clients for different projects. 
  • Raise your rates over time – once every six months on average.
  • Use this chart put together by the Editorial Freelancer’s Association as your baseline.

5. Always ask for testimonials

As mentioned earlier, testimonials and writing samples are your calling card when it comes to your work.

Always ask your clients for a testimonial at the end of each project. The best way to get a good one and get rid of the hideous back-and-forth is to send your client a draft “testimonial for approval”. They will edit it or rewrite it as they please.

How to write an effective testimonial:

  • Avoid broad statements and generic language (e.g. “Nadia did an amazing job, and I would definitely hire her again” – Name of the client).
  • Structure testimonials as a case study and include:
    • Initial project goals;
    • Tangible results delivered.
  • Focus on tangible results, such as “increased website traffic,” “higher social media engagement,” and “more paying customers”.

Once approved, include the testimonial in your portfolio and use it as a track record for your competence in that specific field. Success is guaranteed!


And that’s all, folks! My preparatory journey had finally come to an end, and I could hit the ground running! 

In my “copywriting series” I shared with you what I learnt and what has worked for me so far. There is still a long way to go and many more challenges ahead, but I am ready to tackle them all!

I hope this short guide will help you get cracking as well. You can make better sense of what I have been babbling about by checking my portfolio and testimonials pages. 

Good luck!

Published by Nadia Musumeci

Copywriter. Millennial. Expat. And a lot of questions.

3 thoughts on “My Journey To Copywriting – Chapter IV Behind The Scenes (II): The Art Of Negotiation

  1. Great insight! Thank you. I especially enjoyed the section on “tailoring each pitch,” this is something that I have done with each new job or client. A portfolio/pitch always needs to align with the posting/industry… it goes a long way with employers. Looking forward to your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jeffrey! I couldn’t agree more. Clients and employers notice if you took the time to “polish up” your pitch/portfolio before sending it. The much-talked-about “attention to detail” does make all the difference after all! Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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