Ask a Copywriter: Freelance Copywriting Q+A with Minneapolis Copywriter Kayla Hollatz
If you’ve been following along with my Instagram Stories, you’ve seen me mention this blog post for a few months now. It’s my formal way of saying “oops” because it’s taken me this long to put it together.
Good things come to those who wait, right?
Let’s just go with that.
I’ve been receiving SO many sweet emails from aspiring and new copywriters who ask me to mentor them or at least give them some tips on how to get started.
I always respond back, but sometimes I’m so flattered that I hardly know what to say. I’ve been answering emails and DMs privately for months now, but I wanted to start creating more a public resource for people who want to get started with freelance copywriting.
I decided to take five questions that I’ve received from different people through private messages and make my responses public so everyone can benefit.
Joyce: How do you get past the fear of putting yourself out there as a new freelance copywriter?
Before I began working as a copywriter, I published weekly blog posts for three years. Before that, I was sharing my (sometimes angsty) poetry online for hundreds of thousands of readers on a Tumblr blog. (If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find it… happy hunting!)
I mention this because it would be easy to say, “Well, I’ve always been good at sharing my work”, but it wouldn’t entirely be true. I had years of practice writing for myself before I ever thought about writing in someone else’s voice. This kind of practice is invaluable for writers.
That’s why I always recommend new copywriters spend time building and writing for their own personal brand before they start writing for others. This is how you’ll discover your style, build your expertise, cultivate a community, and start laying the groundwork for a successful business.
The more you understand the nuances of your own voice, the more skills you’ll have developed for writing in someone else’s voice. Your ideal clients will be the people who already resonate with the style of your voice, but they will bring a different tone, story, and mission that is unique to them.
To get past the fear of putting yourself out there, start cultivating your talent behind-the-scenes and share your work publicly. Just get started where you are and with what you have!
Faith: What is something you wish copywriters knew before becoming copywriters?
I would shout this from the rooftops if I could. Start detaching your value and worth from your work as quickly as possible. Seriously.
This piece of advice may seem odd, but when you work as a copywriter, clients will constantly be critiquing your work. Even the most talented copywriters receive edits from clients. It’s a part of the job, but it can be hard for some of us who are sensitive to criticism (like me!).
My friends and family know me as a highly sensitive creative who reportedly came out of the womb seeking approval. Maybe you can relate to feeling hyper-sensitive to the thoughts, emotions, and comments of those around you. But it doesn’t have to keep you from building a profitable, sustainable copywriting or freelance writing business.
The reason I recommend taking your value and worth out of your work is because you can’t go into a client project expecting perfection. This self-inflicted pressure is usually why most new copywriters either quit or never get started.
Be proud of the work you are producing, but don’t put your whole identity into it. Take it from someone who did and went through the roller coaster of a lifetime. I want to save you from that wild ride!
Helena: Where have you found most of your clients (outside of referrals)?
This is one of the most common questions I receive in my Instagram DMs! Here are some of the places I’ve been able to find clients. Some of them may surprise you!
Good ol’ Google: Most of my client leads now come from Google, which is wonderful because that means my site is #winning at SEO. It’s also been a great selling point of my copywriting services because clients can see I know a thing or two about using keywords. *wink*
Instagram Stories: Yes, that’s right. I’ve met some of my favorite clients not from my Instagram feed but instead from my (sometimes goofy) Instagram Stories. I share videos that show who I am, what I’m working on, how I’m building my business, and what a day-in-the-life looks like (even though it’s not glamorous at all). I’ve had a few clients say that my Instagram Stories sealed the deal when they were looking to work with a copywriter.
Local groups and masterminds: When I had a consulting business, 95% of my work came from online relationships. Now it’s a little more 50/50 or 75/25, depending on the month. This is also great practice as you start to tailor your elevator pitch. The more you know how to sell what you do (in a non-icky way, of course), the better!
And yeah, the rest are referrals!
Kelly: What are your best practices for choosing ideal clients?
Most people recommend niching down to a specific industry, which is a great move for copywriters who want to stay really specialized. It’s not good to be a generalist, but I’ve learned it’s okay to work with people in different industries, too.
Take me, for example. My most ideal clients are usually people who are visual creatives (like photographers, designers, artists, etc.), but I happily work in other industries too. I have a background in working with tech and SaaS companies, which I absolutely love throwing into the mix.
I’ve also found that working style and communication has a LOT more to do with how "ideal" a client lead really is. Too many of us focus on niching down in an industry rather than niching down audience characteristics. Both are important, but there's always some wiggle room.
I learned quickly that I like working with people who are hands-on in the vision and voice development process, but who can also be hands-off when it comes to the actual writing process. I like to collaborate on items upfront, and then I like to be left alone to do my thing. It’s not a style for everyone, but that’s the point. It works really well for the right people, and that’s how I find the right clients.
I’ve had clients that say my month long website copywriting process isn’t long enough since they are used to working with agencies that have a three month turnaround time. That’s fine! They just aren’t my ideal clients. The same goes for client leads who say my process feels too simple. It’s been streamlined for a reason!
Listen to what your client leads are asking for and see if it aligns with how you work. What you write is important, but I’ve found that the relationships and communication behind the writing can matter even more when you’re in the copywriting business.
It’s about the tangible product and the overall experience, so keep tweaking it until you find people who fit whatever your best work environment looks like. It takes some practice, but you’ll get there.
Obi: How did you determine what your copywriting style is?
I love this question! I often tell this story to new copywriters I mentor. When I was transitioning my consulting business into a copywriting business, I wondered if anyone would resonate with my style of writing.
Everyone around me seemed to fall into two categories of copywriting: (1) feminine, romantic, poetic, Mary Oliver-type copy or (2) sassy, explicit, in-your-face, no-BS copy. There didn’t seem to be an in between at the time, so I definitely was an outlier.
I wasn’t overly witty or charming. I didn’t cuss, but I wasn’t necessarily super buttoned up and professional either. Instead of feeling like there wasn’t a market for my style of writing, I looked at the success of my blog as an indicator that other people loved what I was creating (which is another reason to write for your own brand first!).
To determine your copywriting style, you first have to accept that it won’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s style. If you try to emulate the way someone else writes, you’ll start to cultivate a style that doesn’t even feel like you. And who wants that?!
You will probably find that your style has aspects of different styles. For instance, my tone is very warm and welcoming (which I consider to be my “Minnesota Nice” charm rubbing off) but it’s also concise, purposeful, and story-driven. Oh, and I throw in a few goofy side notes to add some personality to otherwise educational, helpful content.
It’s a style that works for me, and I’ve been able to find 40+ clients (and counting) that it works for too. You’ll also be able to find a market for your style. Just keep cultivating your voice!
Record yourself speaking, ask your friends and family to look over your copy to see if it sounds like you, create your own writing project, find accountability partners as you begin to write, take yourself through your own brand voice development process… the possibilities are endless!
DO YOU HAVE A BURNING QUESTION TO ASK ME?
PS: I'll include a few questions in my next post in the Ask a Copywriter blog series!