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  • Writer's pictureEllen Beardmore

Five tips to help you become a freelance copywriter (or anything, really)

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

The hardest thing about starting absolutely anything is taking the plunge.

That applies to exercise, and also when you are wondering how to become self employed or go freelance.

It was certainly the case before the launch of Edit Sheffield just over a year ago in May 2022.

I knew there was a demand for copywriter services in Sheffield and affordable PR support. And I knew I could write across multiple platforms, work really hard and adapt fast thanks to 16 years in the newspaper industry.

But the thoughts of mastering invoicing, networking and no one guaranteed pay-day on the same day every month were daunting.

With the one-year anniversary of Edit comes much celebration but also some reflection on how that milestone was reached.

So if you are looking to achieve the same thing, here are my five tips to help you become a freelance copywriter (or freelance anything, really.)

  • Build a support network By this, I don't mean hunt down members of the Forbes 30 under 30 list, although sure they would be helpful. I mean speak to existing people in your circle who are already self-employed, people who can help with recommendations for good accountants, advise on choosing a logo or at the very least friends to listen patiently to your list of pros and cons for becoming self employed. If you are used to working with other people in an office, having people you can meet for a coffee or co-work with regularly is also a real boost.

  • Find a niche Food and drink has always been my thing. But surprisingly Edit seems to be building a miniature niche in the equally enjoyable arts and culture industries at the moment. Delivering a successful project for one client in that niche will most likely lead to word-of-mouth recommendations to others, and before you know you'll be knee deep in festivals and concerts, or whatever your niche turns out to be.

  • Talk to (even more) people The concept of networking really terrified me at the start. No idea why. I remember taking deep breaths in the parked car outside my first one, despite having knocked on more strangers' doors than most as a reporter. I decided to act as though I was still a reporter and ask everybody lots of questions about themselves rather than talking about my copywriter services. It worked really well - I met lots of great people, went on to secure a new client, and won a bottle of gin! You don't have to go to the corporate networking events which cost a lot of money either. My favourite here in Sheffield is the Women in Business coffee morning, which is a very relaxed, life-affirming way to make new female connections and costs about £10 including breakfast. The Sheffield Young Professionals events also look amazing, but at the age of 36 I can't claim to meet the entry requirements... Walks and coffees with many contacts have also been really enjoyable and led to collaborations, more connections or projects.

  • Keep upskilling As learning curves go, the last year has been pretty steep. It would be easy to stick with selling your expertise in one area but I've found adding on lots more skills along the way to be both interesting and eventually beneficial as further work has come in. It means Edit Sheffield offers quite a vast range of services - from social media to SEO blogs and journalism lecturing to awards submissions - but then every day is different, just the way it should be. One of the skills I'd especially recommend working on is cultivating a thick skin: not everyone will want to work with you, and not everyone will pay on time either. Being prepared for that from the start is a bonus.

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd be giving lectures to university students I would have laughed long. Long and hard. Pushing myself out of my journalist comfort zone, which is writing and interviewing other people about their stories, has been genuinely scary. Public speaking was the equivalent of jumping off the highest diving board BUT it has opened up a new set of opportunities. Hopefully that will continue - here's to year two in business.

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