3-Step Checklist On How To Become A Six-Figure Freelance Copywriter

How To Become A Copywriter (With NO Experience Or Portfolio)

how to become a copywriter

If you’d like to know how to become a copywriter (with no experience), you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’ll share a bit of my story, and explain exactly how to get started copywriting.

In October 2012, I quit my job and became a freelance copywriter.

While things moved slowly at first, I now make plenty of money (more than enough to live in Sydney, Australia – one of the most expensive cities in the world), but the funny thing is, I don’t live there anymore.

You see, I built my freelance copywriting business using the internet while living, working and traveling around the world. Instead of sales calls and face-to-face meetings, I used email and Skype to forge relationships and build a brand that has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars (for myself and my clients).

And despite rarely meeting clients in person, they all pay my high fees for email copywriting.

If you ask me where I live, my answer will change depending upon when you ask me (ah, the joys of knowing how to copywrite).

12 months ago, I was in Medellín, Colombia.

9 months ago, I was in San Diego, to speak at Traffic and Conversion Summit (one of the top digital marketing conferences in the world).

2 weeks after that, I was in Berlin.

Then Thailand.

Vietnam.

Australia.

And so on…

On top of generating hundreds of thousand of dollars for my clients while traveling and living in stunning locations around the world, I’m an electronic dance music producer, salsa dancer, avid reader, and I LOVE learning about futuristic technologies.

So, life is good.

Really good.

Why do I mention all this?

To show you the amazing possibilities that come with being a copywriter.

Gone are the old ways…

If you don’t want a job, you don’t have to have a job.

If you learn how to copywrite like I did, you’ll be able to enjoy the same freedom I do.

If you don’t want to buy into society’s script, then don’t.

Realize that living life different is not impossible.

Copywriting as a career is simply a choice.

A choice to be different. To strike out on your own. To take the “path less traveled” through the woods.

You CAN live your dream life.

You CAN travel the world, build a business, find the love of your life, read books, write books, or anything else. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre, average life if you don’t want to.

And while there’s a lot of hard work, I’ve gotta say…

…it’s totally worth it:

copywriters

Who’s that, you wonder?

That’s me – in a space suit – with Richard Branson (the founder of Virgin) – dressed up as a flight attendant – at a private party on Necker Island (Branson’s private island). I wrote about that in a different post (including the curious fact of women’s makeup on Richard Branson’s face):

What Richard Branson And 30 Amazing Entrepreneurs Taught Me In 7 Days on Necker Island

Anyhow, in a blog post titled How To Write Sales Copy, Blake asks about how to become a copywriter:

“I am very keen to learn how to become a freelance copywriter but I have no experience. Can you perhaps provide some guidance on a good place to start? How did you get started with writing copy and have you completed any courses etc?”

In a nutshell, Blake wants to know how to be a copywriter.

What Do Copywriters Do?

Copywriting is salesmanship in print.

That is, instead of a salesman selling a product or service, you have words… words on a page, in an ad or email, on a billboard, and so on.

Copywriters are paid to create those words. They’re professional writers (in fact, they’re among the highest paid writers on the planet).

Copywriters can write for anyone. There are digital copywriters, corporate copywriters, freelance copywriters, weight loss copywriters, and so on.

It helps to specialize, so keep that in mind as you work on your copywriting career.

Below, I’ll explain exactly how to get started as a copywriter. Follow the process and you can replace your job, move to wherever the hell you want and live life on your terms.

This will be quick.

The secret to becoming a copywriter even if you have ZERO experience is…

…there is no secret.

You need TWO things:

  1. Mad skillz
  2. Clients

Intrigued? Read on…

#1 – You Need Mad Copy Skillz
(be able to write copy that converts)

First, you gotta be good.

Here’s the thing –

You don’t need ANY experience to get started. HOWEVER, before you can get clients, you’ll need to practice and hone your chops and generate your own experience. No client with deep pockets is going to pay a complete beginner.

But herein lies the amazing thing about freelance copywriting:

You don’t need ANY experience to get started. You simply need some discipline, grit and persistence, plus – as you’ll hear about in a moment – a proven process to developing your copywriting chops.

In other words, the copywriter education requirements (or qualifications) are ZERO.

No college required.

No resumé or fancy piece of paper required.

Hell, I didn’t even finish high school… so if I can figure out how to become a copywriter without experience, without a college or university degree, without evening finishing high school…

…you can definitely make it happen.

copywriting-career-guide

So if degrees and qualifications aren’t required, what makes a good copywriter?

However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to work hard.

As a professional copywriter, you’ll be responsible for making your clients money. The better you are at what you do, the more money you can make for your clients. If you’re a bad copywriter, your clients won’t make money and therefore you won’t. If you’re good (or OUTSTANDING), your earning potential is virtually unlimited (ask any salesman).

So while you don’t need a degree or qualification to do copywriting as a career, you DO need to practice and learn how to write good copy.

But given the amazing benefits – setting your own schedule, traveling, increasing your income as desired – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth investing the time and effort in your copywriting career to become great.

The question is:

How do you become a SHIT HOT creative copywriter with no experience, and quickly?

How do you learn how to write copy fast?

You follow a proven process that works.

I used Gary Halbert’s approach. I suggest you do the same. Forget about everything else… and follow Gary’s strategy to learn copywriting. That’s all you need.

Note: If want to follow the exact process I followed, check out CopyHour. Just click here to get the deetz on CopyHour.

The crux of the strategy is writing out old-school sales letters by hand. Yes, with a PEN and PAPER! I know… it sounds crazy. We have wonderful, time-saving computers… why would anyone waste their time writing old-school sales letter out by hand?

One reason – because they’re committed to becoming a good sales copywriter.

I compiled 10 old-school sales letters and direct response ads into a .ZIP file. Download the 10 old-school sales letters here. (opens in a new window)

The basic strategy is simple, but it requires hard work. Set aside an hour a day and write sales letters out for that entire hour. Do it every day. Day after day. If you need a break, skip Sundays. Track your progress in a spreadsheet.

Dan Kennedy, currently one of the world’s highest paid copywriters, has written out at least 500 sales letters by hand. Ramit Sethi swears by this method, and credits it with his mad copywriting skillz (his latest product was $12k). Gary Halbert encourages his son Bond to do it in The Boron Letters.

I’ve written about 85 old-school sales letters out by hand. And I did it while living in the Philippines and Thailand, so there is no reason you can’t do it. No time? Wake up an hour earlier.

(It doesn’t have to be hard. Instead of spending hours searching for good sales letters, sign up to CopyHour and just focus on writing copy.)

Almost every successful copywriter has used this method.

f you want to know how to become a copywriter quickly, this is it.

Why?

My guess is that it trains the subconscious mind.

copywriting-training-exercises-1

But that’s beside the point.

I did it because the goo-roos kept saying to do it.

I like the strategy because it requires hard work. It requires you to sit at a desk, with a pen and paper, and write for one hour. In the information age, complete with computers, most people are too lazy do something so archaic and stone-age.

“How silly!”, they think.

Since it’s hard work, most people won’t do it. Therefore, if I do it, I have an instant advantage over most people. You will too… IF you use the strategy.

Use Info Marketing Blog when you need more sales letters. Or join CopyHour.

Along with writing out sales letters, there are a number of specific books you need to read. All these books are recommended by Gary Halbert. I hate overwhelm, so don’t worry about reading all the books on his list at once. Start with the follow three books, read in this order:

  1. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
  2. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
  3. The Gary Halbert Letter by Gary Halbert

David Ogilvy, one of advertising’s greats, was writing about Scientific Advertising when he said the following:

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

#2 – You Need Copywriting Clients

Once you have your mad skillz, you need to get paid. To get paid, you need to get clients (related: How To Get Copywriting Clients).

Cold calling, cold emails and advertising are all popular methods of finding clients.

But talk about inefficient…

Go ahead and cold call if you wish. It works, but there is a far better way to go about it.

So let’s talk about my approach to finding to so many freelance copywriter jobs that you have to turn people away.

How To Get A Job As A Copywriter

Think of it as strategic networking.

First, pick a target prospect. At a bare minimum, your target prospect must have money to spend and must understand the value of good marketing.

Next, find someone who has an audience full of those prospects. An influencer. This could be someone with a blog, a list, or in my case, a podcast.

Then, find a way to get in front of them. Essentially, offer your influencer something they want. In almost all cases, they’re looking for ways to help their audience. So what you want to do is this… help their audience solve their problems.

When I went on Dan’s podcast, I explained how we increased email subscribers by 257% by making it harder to opt in. Dan’s readers are interested in email marketing, so I helped them with their email marketing. Then I made them an offer (“Hire me to do the same for your site.”)

Tip: An easy way to break into an influencer’s world is to help them for cheap, or free. Find a problem with their site, email them the details, then offer to fix it for them in exchange for a guest post or interview.

Rewrite their sales letter or landing page. Give them some good email subject lines. Outline an autoresponder sequence. Make their blog convert better.

There’s no perfect way to do this.

Just add value.

Solve problems.

By doing this, you can skip the cold calling and cold emails and jump to the front of the line.

It’s easier than you think, too.

You see, most people overestimate the competition.

This is a HUGE thing to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how to get into copywriting.

Most people (ie. YOUR competitors) assume that an influencer is hounded by people like this. Yes and no. Yes, they receive a lot of requests for this type of thing, but most of those requests suck. Most of those requests are entirely focused on the person sending the email, not the influencer’s problems. That will never work. When you contact influencers, solve their problems and don’t for a second talk about yourself unless it’s relevant or you’re asked.

Not sure what to copywrite? Use my email template:

Hi NAME,

I LOVE your website!

My favorite is how you [mention something you like about their website or blog].

Anyhow, I noticed a few problems with your main email opt-in that are killing your leads. If you fix the following issues, I’m confident that your conversions will increase:

  • Problem 1 -> Solution 1
  • Problem 2 -> Solution 2
  • Problem 3 -> Solution 3

If you end up trying any of these fixes, let me know if they work!

Cheers,

John

Getting copywriting clients isn’t rocket science 🙂

Further reading: How To Get More Clients: The 4 Most Effective Ways to Get High-Paying Copywriting Clients

The trick is being friendly, offering value WITHOUT asking for anything (especially in the first email), and making it personal.

If they reply, see if you can help them some more. And if they have a podcast, offer to share some more tips and strategies on their podcast.

BONUS TIP: Find A Copywriting Agency

Instead of hunting for copywriting jobs yourself, one idea is to hook up with a copywriting agency and have them send you their work.

Often, agencies will outsource copywriting projects to freelance copywriters (both offline and online copywriting). Getting agencies on board is one of the fastest and easiest ways to go about starting a copywriting business.

How can you land one of these positions?

  1. Make a list of all the online marketing agencies in your city or town
  2. Go into their office and introduce yourself as a copywriter looking for freelance work (visiting them in person is best, however, you can also try emailing them or cold calling them)
  3. Follow up

The agencies may or may not be a copywriting agency. They might do web design, or paid traffic advertising. The key is finding agencies that have people who might need your services. It’s easy for a web design agency to upsell people with copywriting, because everyone with a website needs good copywriting.

Want more templates? Post a comment below with your template requests, and I’ll update this post.

. . .

That’s it – that’s how you become a six-figure freelance copywriter (even if you have no experience).

Simple? Yes.

Easy? Hell no.

Props to ya if you go and do it!

I wrote a post about how to copywrite for your copywriter career on CopyHour. Click here to read it.

John

P.S. If you want to know why Gary Halbert called himself the world’s best copywriter (and got away with it), read this.

P.P.S. UPDATE: I made a video about how to get into copywriting with no experience:

here's how I became a freelance copywriter with no experience

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Joe

Great post! Writing the letters out by hand sounds strange but if it works, it works!

Good luck in Chiang Mai.

Reply
Masafumi Matsumoto

Hi John, I found you via Jet Set Citizen, and I immediately signed up for Copy Hour. I’ve been having a blast with Copy Hour, and am excited to learn more about copywriting… through copying successful sales letters by hand! Thanks John!

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Nice one Masafumi! While I’m not using Copyhour this time, I’ve been getting back into it. Dan Kennedy and Gary Halbert are both rumored to have written out 500 sales letters. Talk about commitment! Derek mentioned you wanna aim for it. Set up a spreadsheet and track your progress. One line to a sales letter, with an automatic total up the top. Perfect for motivation.

    Reply
Andrew

My dude…

The McIntyre Method is golden. No better “how-to” out there.

Keep up the great work

Reply
TJ Nelson

Hey John. I’m about to start diving into the world of Copywriting once I move out to Asia.

Question I have and maybe other people have: What do you do WHILE you are writing the letters? You just writing them out? Are you analyzing them as you go? Get the overall feeling and insights why the letter worked afterwords?

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Depends.

    Sometimes I analyze them as I go. Sometimes I just write and zone out. Sometimes I try and consciously “feel” what I’m writing.

    There’s no magic to it. The secret is putting in the time to do it. If you write out 100 sales letters by hand and do the same (sometimes analyze, sometimes zone out, etc), you’ll be better than all the people you’re trying to get as clients (people who’ve never taken the time to study even ONE good sales letter), and that’s what counts.

    Mix it up. You’ll get bored. Write a bunch down. When you get bored, write some bullets. Then go write some headlines. If you feel like it, focus and analyze. If not, just write.

    The key is doing it.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply
Drew Jackson

Awesome shit.

That Copy Hour link is dead.. Curious to know what it said!

I’m 3 letters and 1 book in and already feeling a difference. I can’t imagine 10+ more books and 50+ more sales letters. Just gotta persist.

Truly awesome.

Reply
Kristi Kilber

Great blog post! 🙂 Looking forward to being on your list

Reply
JJ

Hey, good article! Just a quick question. The copying copy by hand, is this for people who want to focus on advertising copy, or is it of benefit for people who want to write all types of copy?
Cheers! JJ

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Hey JJ.

    I’d say it works for understanding persuasion and sales. Writing out sales letters by hand will teach you the marketing mindset… how to position things in the minds of your audience to have the biggest impact.

    So if you’re doing anything where you need to persuade or lead someone, you’ll benefit.

    Learning to write copy has done amazing things for my general communication skills.

    Reply
      JJ

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your reply!
      I´m currently teaching English in Barcelona, and want to make the switch to copywriting by the end of July. My contract finishes in June, so it´s very important for me!
      So far I´ve read Scientific Advertising, Adweek, by Sugarman, and am currently reading The Collier Letters, which I´m finding a little bit boring! I´ve also read The Boron Letters. I think I´m lacking direction, I have a lot of energy and motivation to succeed, but am unsure where to direct it!
      I´m going to read Breakthrough Advertising like you suggest. And continue copying the ads. I´ve been doing it every day this month, apart from 3 days.
      Then come next month I will start looking for clients, in the way you suggest, by offering pure value at the start, and then offering my services.
      I´m itching to get out of the daily grind and have the liberty that you have!
      I feel like I´m taking a gamble, but he who dares! 😉
      Thanks for your help!
      JJ

      Reply
        John McIntyre

        JJ – you’re on the right path. Keep it up and there’s no way you can fail.

        Reply
          JJ

          Hi John,
          JJ again! 🙂
          I have read the books and have been copying the ads for over a month. Now I am going to start looking for clients!
          Can you please give me some examples of a target prospect? It´s a little unclear to me!
          I was also thinking of contacting websites in emerging economy markets, and seeing if they needed help with their sites! First by telling them I have already done some work for them, with compliments. And if they actually want the work THEN I would do it and give it to them. And ask at a later date if they would like some more pages done! What do you think?
          Thanks a lot,
          JJ

          Reply
          John McIntyre

          JJ –

          You just gotta pick someone. Best place to start is your current network… who do you know that might need your new skills? You’ve already got established relationships and rapport. These people already know, like and trust you.

          By far, that’s the easiest place to get your stripes.

          If you don’t know anyone, go to a few meetups in the area. Most people cannot write copy to save their life, or they’re just plain lazy. Let them know you’ve got some chops, and that since you’re just getting started, you’ll give them a steep discount.

          Keep up with the mcmethod email marketing podcast – I’ve got some episodes coming soon with some bigtime consultants. You’ll get some good ideas from those episodes.

          Reply
          JJ

          OK John. Thanks! I´ll keep you updated!
          JJ

          Reply
          Javier

          John: Thank you for the article! It is insightful. I’m going to practice writing sales letters longhand now.

          JJ: I know it’s been two years, but I really empathized with your discussion starting out (I’m in that boat now). Where did your copywriting journey take you? Thanks and best of luck!

          Reply
          John McIntyre

          Great to hear Javier! Best of luck.

          Reply
          JJ

          Hey John, how´s it going? I haven´t gone to any meetups. Instead I have spent the last few weeks trying my hand at affiliate marketing, and contacting sites to see if they need help. I feel very tired of it all. I have put a lot of effort into reading all these books, and doing the rote learning method. And I haven´t made a penny. Is it actually possible to make a living like this?
          Regards,
          JJ

          Reply
          John McIntyre

          Of course it is.

          I’m doing it and hundreds of other people are doing it. You need clients. You need to network and meet people who need your services. That’s the easiest way to get started.

          Reply
          JJ

          OK, thanks! I´ll let you know how I get on! 🙂

          Reply
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Reply
Sophia

Hi John,

nice article : ) by the way, the images for the zipped file are not opening up – it says that the images have either been relocated or deleted.

is there any way that you can fix that?

– S.

Reply
M G

I find it amazing that anyone who uses words like “skillz” can be a copywriter. I would think that a basic understanding of proper spelling and grammar would be a must.

Reply
    John McIntyre

    That’s probably why you’re not a copywriter.

    Reply
    Josh Denning

    Slang used properly in copy creates a relationship and build’s personal character.

    It depends on your market. Like a options trader or private equity firm may not use that in their copy.

    But someone looking to grow a relationship based business in marketing benefits from doing that. It’s also about who you want to attract. Are you seeking cool people that aren’t picky about small details? or people that are ultra conservative that want to be spot on correct with everthing?

    In my personal opinion in most cases some well placed slang will improve conversion almost always.

    Josh

    Reply
Starsky

I loved this blog….thanks for the info

Reply
Casey

For the Sales Letters strategy- Do we create our own in the style of an old-school sales letter or are we actually copying down those old ones word for word?

Thanks. Great article.

Reply
Nick

Hey

Reply
Sun Lee

Thanks so much for the article. FYI, the 2 (same) links to Gary Halbert doesn’t work, BUT if you change the N in Newsletter to lower case, it works!

Reply
Mary

Hey John, great article. I have done a stint of CopyHour too. But i still fee like i may not be good enough, how do you know that you are good enough to start doing client work? How do you show results and your worth if you haven’t done any projects yet. I find that there aren’t any blogs post on these starting phases. How can you tell that copying out the letters is having any effect or making you better? Would be great to get some feedback.

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Start before you’re ready. You’ll never be “ready”.

    Best place to start is through your existing network, and through networking.

    Reply
abhishek

Hey john great article, thnx for sharing your knowledge. 🙂
Can you shed more details on writing sales letter by hand?
Like,
Do i have to complete one letter in one hour?
Do i have to write a sales letter one time or repeat it after an certain interval?
And do i need to keep all my hand written letters safe?
Again thanks for writing this 🙂

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Approve.

    *John McIntyre*
    Director
    The McMethod
    +1 (775) 964-8597

    What others say about me:

    Reply
    John McIntyre

    Hi thanks. You don’t have to complete the letter in one hour, just hand copy for one hour. If you don’t finish in that time, just start where you left off the next day. You can repeat letters later if you’d like down the road. You don’t really have to keep them safe. I wrote out mine in your typical spiral notebook.

    Reply
Claire Macke

thanks babe, needed this!

Reply
eat sleep conquer

Hey john , I want to write copies, can you please tell me how to analyze whether I can become a good copy writer ?

Reply
Sarah May

Great article John… I remember you made a video about this a couple years ago, it inspired me to take the jump. Did you start getting leads right away after you did your first interview?

Reply
    John McIntyre

    My first podcast interview? Yes! That’s what started it all for me, and lead to everything else. That’s why I cannot overemphasize the benefit of meeting people who might need your help.

    Reply
Samuel Muriithi

am fresh from college and am very interested in this field where should i start in terms o acquiring the right content s for my pieces and how to progress from there..

Reply
Greg

The article is incredible 🙂
I think that increasing your qualification as the copywriter is the main thing of becoming successful and well-paid.
I know that there are a lot of methods but I’ve chosen changing my specialisation to linguistic copywriter. Now the things are going better cause I’m demanded on my workplace – https://2polyglot.com/copywriting-services. Sharing a link with other “lingualancers” 😉

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Thanks for tuning in Greg. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Interesting link, and niche. I’d never thought about multi-lingual copywriting. I’ve been asked to write copy in other languages, but it’s not my speciality (given that I’m not fluent in anything other than English). I’m sure there’s a big need for great multi-lingual copywriters. Spanish and Mandarin being the big ones IMO.

    Reply
Kanbanery

Thank you for such a good article 😉 It is always a pleasure to read interesting stuff 🙂

I will add one more- stay organized. Many people claim that work organization might kill their creativity. We don’t agree with them 🙂

Many of our customers use a kanban board to schedule their work. Is a simple way to meet deadlines and work smarter, not harder.

We are aware that most of the creative people know nothing about Agile, so… we decided to help them and write about it:)

Here are Kanban tips for copywriters:
http://blog.kanbanery.com/kanban-tool-in-creative-works/

Enjoy 🙂

Reply
Lady Barbara

Trying to make my way as a freelance writer, and have gotten interested in copywriting. I signed up for CopyHour and will try that technique, but I’m not really clear on the second step. Do you have other posts/videos/suggestions for getting in front of people (literally or figuratively) and networking and finding”sources” for clients?

Reply
    John McIntyre

    Not specifically on that topic, but it’s not difficult to think of places to meet people.

    You want to make contact with someone. Online or off, it doesn’t matter (though offline is better). Someone in a market where there is a need for copywriting and that isn’t crowded. Good thing is that most markets for copywriters aren’t crowded. There is ALWAYS need for GREAT copy.

    If I were you, I’d hit local business meetups and start there. Also try conferences in your area. The key is putting yourself in environments where you’re likely to meet potential clients. So just think about where they hang out, what conferences do they go to, meet-ups, websites, Facebook groups, and so on.

    Reply
Rahul Digital

Hi
Thank you so much for this article. I’ve got so many ideas from this.

Reply
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