Start a Copywriting Business in 10 Simple Steps

Of course, the actual process of building a successful copywriting business is long and challenging. But the steps it takes to get there are straightforward and repeatable.

And that's coming from someone who has actually built one.

Is copywriting a profitable business?

Since you don't have to spend any money to get it up and running, you can start your own copywriting business while retaining nearly 100% of your margins.

Google Drive is all you need to start. No inventory, no rent, no employees.

As you find your niche and improve your skills, you'll invest in tools that improve your workflow, supplement your work, or help you run your business more professionally.

There are many ways to make money writing copy, for example:

  • SEO software
  • AI tools
  • Email/social media automation
  • Design software
  • Booking and calendar tools
  • Small business accounting software
  • Communication platforms
  • Project management
  • A simple website or funnel
  • A copywriting course

Still, these would be the only business expenses you have. And you can easily purchase them all for <$300/month. In fact, a lot of these have free alternatives.

5 stages of a copywriting business

It's worth noting that freelance copywriting businesses are insanely profitable. If you decide you don't want to be a one-man show anymore, however, you should know agencies aren't the most scalable.

They require lots of manual work. That's why the benchmark profit margin is only about 20%.

Let me show you what I mean:

  • Your first client — Landing your first client is simple. You have nothing to lose, and cold outreach only costs you time.
  • 5-10 clients — Now, you have a full slate. Client management will become more of a priority. You'll need to build systems and invest in low-cost tools.
  • Raising your rates — If the value is there, raising your rates is easy. And, it makes you even more profitable.
  • Outsourced agency — Once you have systems, you can hire a VA and start building a team of freelancers. At this point, you're spending around 30% to 50% per project/client.
  • In-house agency — Now, you're hiring employees and full-time contractors. You're paying them regardless of the amount of work. You're also risking a ton of money on business development and benefits.

Basically, you'll take home more as a freelancer than an agency owner in many cases. Some of my 115+ students have made over $70k in a month, and I've personally made over $50k at <95% margin. That's unheard of for most agency owners.

Is starting a copywriting business hard?

Starting a copywriting business can be hard, if you don’t understand freelance copywriting basics.

It also depends on how you look at it. It's not exactly digging ditches or working in a coal mine for 8 hours a day

On one hand, you don't need to take much risk to start a copywriting business. It costs nothing, and you can do it from anywhere with an internet connection.

But, I'm not gonna sit here and act like it's easy. There have been months where I've profited $50,000+, but it took years of falling on my face and honing my skills to get there.

You will face a few challenges:

  • Short-term sacrifices (e.g., no more partying so you can remain laser-focused on your business)
  • Learning to write persuasively and effectively (it takes time and practice)
  • Hunting down clients
  • Staying motivated in the face of rejection
  • Dealing with the high and low points as clients come and go
  • Managing your finances as a business owner

While some might consider this "hard," the reality is that success with a copywriting business is 100% non-discriminatory. Anyone willing to put their head down and commit will see results.

Successful Copywriting Business Ideas

I like to think of the freelance copywriting business as the perfect gateway to entrepreneurship. It's great for inexperienced business owners and people who hate risk. And it gives you tons of options — you can scale it into an agency or use your developed skills/network to build something else.

To set you up no matter what the future holds, you want to start a copywriting business that's both scalable and enables you to work closely with other business owners and entrepreneurs. That way, you can peek around the curtain and learn how business works.

These four copywriting niches are the best for 2023 and beyond:

Social Media Ghostwriting

Social media copywriting is the niche I chose a few years back (Twitter, more specifically). There are others out there, but here's why I say it's the best:

  • It's the perfect mixture of copywriting and content writing. You get to tell stories, create persuasive messaging, and build rapport with customers.
  • You work directly with business owners. Being more educated about how others make money is one of the best things you can do as an entrepreneur.
  • It's both a scalable AND boutique niche. You can eventually build an agency around it, but many businesses will pay top dollar for your individual services if (when) you prove you're good at what you do. I've made $12,000/month from one client.
  • A lot more people need it than supply it. This is the only niche where you're early to the game if you start now.

In addition to the skills copywriters generally need, you'll have to learn how to grow accounts using social media algorithms. And, you'll have to figure out how to write for someone else.

If you're serious about running your own business but aren't sure how to get off the ground, I've created a cohort for a few aspiring social media ghostwriters. Apply to join. If we're a good fit, I'll be right there with you on your copywriting journey.

Direct Response Copywriting

If you're a witty fella with a knack for creative writing, direct response is your niche. It's the most prestigious and widely-known type of copywriting.

Direct response copywriters write ads, sales pages, video scripts, and other marketing materials for small businesses, entrepreneurs creating information products, and established brands like Harry's Razors or Dollar Shave Club.

You can charge $10k+ for a single funnel project if you're good enough.

It's also comparatively easy to get into. Plenty of advertising agencies are always hiring copywriters. They'd give you a shot on a test project or a few free months of work.

SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting is the easiest to learn because it requires less creativity (though the highest-paid freelance copywriters will be exceptional in this regard, too).

There are, however, a few drawbacks to offering SEO copywriting services.

  • AI can write blogs, too. If you objectively can't write better than a robot, you're gone. There simply isn't any room in this market for average.
  • Blogging takes a while. I can sometimes write my tweets for the week in a day or two. Writing one blog will take a couple of hours — and that's if you're fast.
  • Others are doing it. Most freelance copywriters get into blogging.
  • The effective rate isn't great at first. If you're getting paid two cents per word and write 1,000 words an hour, there's a math problem there.

On the plus side, every business owner and their mother knows they need a blog. And even big companies don't want to hire copywriters internally. So finding your target clients is easy.

For example, location-based small businesses need local landing pages on their site for SEO reasons. You can easily charge $1k-$5k per page plus ongoing maintenance.

For a blog post, you can easily charge $300 to $800 once you get good. For established writers in this niche, $1,500+ per article is standard.

Email Copywriting

Email copywriting is kind of a mix between direct response and social media copywriting, but it's more character-limited and delivered to a smaller audience.

The best part about email copywriting is that it's the least technical skill I've listed so far.

Typically, you can just write emails like you're writing to your friend John who owns an ecom business. But instead of sending the email to John, you're sending it to his business's 90,000 email subscribers.

It's a great jumping-off point for people who don't want to do tech-related gigs like SEO copywriting or direct response sales pages just yet.

It's also easy to track revenue performance from your campaigns, so pay is high when you're good.

Note: There are other freelance copywriting businesses you could start and still be successful. For example, someone skilled in software development could hop straight into technical writing and charge fairly high rates.

How I Would Start A Copywriting Business As a Complete Beginner

Anyone can start freelance copywriting with no experience. I know because I've done it, made all the mistakes, and found a way to earn high six figures.

If I had to start over, here’s how I would build a $10k/month copywriting business:

  • Pick a niche
  • Develop the skills
  • Craft an offer
  • Work for free
  • Get one case study
  • Price your offer
  • Build authority on social media
  • Get 2-3 more clients
  • Get more case studies
  • Build out your team

If you take these steps one at a time, I promise you: you'll be a six-figure copywriter by this time next year.

1) Pick a Niche

If I were you, I'd start looking for potential clients and see who bites. Being married to your "niche" will cause you to ignore great clients too early in your career.

That said, there are a few places you can narrow your focus that will make it easier to find clients.

  • LinkedIn/Twitter ghostwriting — Marketers, salespeople, entrepreneurs, and B2B founders are most interested in hiring a social media ghostwriter. They also tend to be on Twitter and LinkedIn a lot.
  • Direct response copywriting — Online course creators, niche ecommerce store owners, and SaaS startups. They usually advertise on Facebook.
  • Email copywriting — Ecommerce businesses with large lists.
  • SEO copywriting — Everyone with a blog. B2B SaaS and affiliate marketing sites (broad, I know) will pay the most.

Again, you'll find your niche as you go along. Unless you're already a specialist (e.g., a lawyer, doctor, or software engineer), you honestly don't need to worry about this too much.

2) Develop The Skills

This is the more important step. Getting better at copywriting should be your goal every day from this day forward.

  • Learn basic frameworks like PAS and AIDA
  • Follow great copywriters' blogs and newsletters
  • Save copy you really like to a swipe file
  • Write as much as you can
  • Take copywriting courses
  • Reverse engineer marketing funnels

Focus a lot of your time on learning the art. And get into the habit of noticing the world through a marketer's eyes. You'll never run out of ideas.3) Craft An Offer

3) Work for Free (Seriously)

You won't land high-ticket clients with no experience. You don't even know what you're offering yet.

If you're going to pitch other businesses, you need something low-risk. That's why, while you're still in the beginner phase, your best bet is to work for free.

Once you know you're working for free, all the stress of cold outreach goes away, too! You know someone is going to take a chance on free copywriting services.

4) Get One Case Study

It might not be your first client. It might not be your fifth. But after you've done a few projects for free, you'll find someone who loves your work and agrees to give you a testimonial.

Now, imagine how easy pitching will be with testimonials like this:

"Don't sleep on Growth Ghosts. Dakota is second to none when it comes to building a brand and the Twitter game as a whole." - Tyler Fasig

Once you have that first "big break," work on a case study with them. Get copies of all the success metrics they're seeing with your work and get their permission to publish it.

Add that to your copywriting portfolio and start using it to sell future clients.

5) Craft an Offer

If you're wondering, "How much does a freelance copywriter charge?" I've got some tough news...

...setting copywriting rates is a crazy, confusing, inexact science.

As you get better at working with clients and more efficient at what you do, the right offer will come to you. I don't know a single freelance copywriter who had one right away.

At the beginning, just know you should be selling results, not hours. It's not about time spent staring at a Google Doc. It's about the $$$ they pay you vs. the $$$ your work pays them.

When I say “results,” I mean things like:

  • Signed contracts
  • Revenue generated
  • Qualified leads delivered

I've sold results in the form of more followers/engagement, brand awareness growth, and new leads/business opportunities generated through Twitter.

6) Price Your Offer

Once you've been in business for a few months, you'll probably have a system down. You've got a case study, and you know the results you can drive for clients.

You're ready to start pitching a "menu" of what you offer.

The easiest way to do this is:

  • Figure out how much value you can confidently and systematically deliver.
  • Set a goal of landing one or two clients per month (to start) to hit the income you want.
  • Price everything per project or monthly, based on value and what's profitable for you.

As a Twitter ghostwriter, I charge my clients a retainer fee starting at $4,000. That includes a fixed amount of tweets and threads per month.

If you're an SEO copywriter, it might be as simple as $0.20 per word.

7) Build Authority On Social Media

copywriting business

This right here gets me 95% of my client inquiries.

A personal brand is free lead gen and it guarantees you're recession-proof. Everyone trusts the person with thousands of followers and tons of info right on their feed.

  • Write from your perspective as a freelance copywriter
  • Engage with others in your niche
  • Publish information that's useful to your target clients
  • Post consistently (3x per day, bare minimum)

Over time, this is the best investment you'll make. I guarantee it.

8) Get 2-3 More Clients

The hard part is over. Now, you've got to accelerate the already-spinning wheel.

For the most part, this is rinse and repeat. But, with more experience under your belt and a few clients to vouch for you, it's easier!

You'll probably get referrals from happy clients and inbound leads from your socials.

You can also start having fun with different cold emails/DMs.

9) Get More Case Studies

An arsenal of social proof makes you an even easier sell to clients. And as you prove yourself time and time again, you'll attract higher-paying clients.

Bigger impact for them, bigger payout for you.

Now, you're starting to make it in the copywriting world.

10) Build Out Your Team

Your final step is to automate your client delivery process as much as possible (another thing I teach in my cohort).

This means building out a team of freelancers you can trust to help with work.

  • Content writers
  • Designers
  • Social media ghostwriters
  • Virtual assistants

At this point, you're in business and geared up for long-term growth.

And guess what? You don't have to stop at copywriting, either.

Who is Dakota?

I show you how to build a high-paying creative business without doing work you hate.

Don't be a potato. Sign up to my free newsletter.
Join 11,000+ based individuals who are receiving actionable content on writing, business, and content creation every week.

Our latest posts