Getting into freelance copywriting can be daunting – it’s a field that’s already quite saturated, and the relatively low barrier to entry will only see this increase over the years.
This is why learning how to become a freelance SEO copywriter can give you a huge edge.
However, if SEO (search engine optimization) seems like an alien concept to you, fear not. As long as you have the will to learn and some time, freelance SEO copywriting can be picked up quite quickly. You’ll just have to put in the hours to master it!
3 Steps to Become a Freelance SEO Copywriter
Nail Your Writing!
There’s nothing more important than being a good copywriter if you want a regular inflow of money for your talents. Learn how to write well, and keep practicing as much as you can.
A (small) selection of resources where you can improve your copywriting and learn new techniques:
- Our list of the best books for copywriting – From beginner to advanced, some great reads to get you started on your journey.
- CopyHackers – An industry-leading site with info-rich blog posts, resources, and courses to get you going.
- Lukas Resheske’s Mentorship Program (Free) – A fantastic video course that covers the building blocks of copywriting in great detail.
- Alan Sharpe’s Copywriting Masterclass on Udemy – One of many great Udemy courses, with 25 hours of foundational content to keep you busy.
- (Bonus) The Boron Letters – 25 wisdom-filled letters written from prison by legendary 1980s copywriter Gary Halbert to his son Bond Halbert.
Don’t expect your progress to be lightning-fast, but practice writing a variety of content types, and try to write every day.
Remember that copywriting is a science as much as an art.
Already have some inherent writing talent? That’s great. But understanding how you can build upon it and better understand your audience takes both time and knowledge of how people think and will respond to your words.
Learn SEO and Understand User Intent
Besides being a good copywriter, you also need to understand how SEO influences and interacts with your copy. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and is simply the term for the methods used to create and optimize websites and their contents to rank as highly as possible in search engine results.
Fortunately, the basics are fairly simple. But as with anything, you’ll find yourself getting faster and more intuitively understanding things the more you implement them.
There are numerous resources out there for learning SEO. A few I can recommend are:
- Google’s SEO starter guide – Google is the search engine king, so it pays to listen to their advice.
- Ahrefs beginner’s guide to SEO – Ahrefs is a fantastic piece of SEO software, and its beginner’s guide and blog overall are info goldmines.
- Moz beginner’s guide to SEO – A great all-round intro to SEO from another SEO software leader.
- /r/SEO subreddit – An SEO-focused community with a focus on beginner issues.
- /r/BigSEO subreddit – Primarily hosting more advanced SEO discussions, BigSEO is nonetheless a great place to observe and learn. (You can also check out the other best subreddits for freelancers to see where you can pick up general skills and info.)
One of the best ways to continually practice both your SEO and copywriting skills is on your own website. This could be a separate website you run purely just to practice ranking pages and seeing how your copy works live, or your portfolio website (which I’ll touch on below). As part of this, you should become acquainted with the best SEO tools for freelancers and small businesses. They’re invaluable in helping you with gathering data and continuously evaluating your site.
The main thing to remember is that SEO takes time, and is best seen as a continual experiment in getting search engines to recognize your site as the best and most relevant on a given subject. Don’t be disheartened if your first attempts at ranking your content take time – it’s not unusual for websites to initially take months to rank on Google. Your niche and how competitive the keywords you’ve chosen are will all massively impact this, but you’ll find out all about that in the resources above.
You don’t need to wait until your own content is ranking highly to start taking on clients. However, once you do, these pages will act as great case studies and proof of your expertise to future clients.
Even if you’re a pro at freelance SEO copywriting, one of the hardest parts of the job is maintaining a steady flow of clients. Technically, you can choose to take consistent work from just 1 or 2 clients, but it’s often the case that you’ll take on more regular and smaller assignments from several clients.
Some good ways to start marketing your services:
- Your portfolio website – To specialize in SEO copywriting you can’t really escape having your own website, since it’s practically your bread and butter. Ensure it’s fast, up-to-date with the latest SEO best practices, and shows off your past successes and/or case studies. (Focusing your site on local clients is also a good bet.)
- Freelance job platforms – Upwork, People Per Hour, and Fiverr, are just some of the freelance job platforms where you can make a name for yourself. It may start slow, but once you get rolling these sites can be amazing sources for recurring work.
- LinkedIn – Establishing yourself on LinkedIn can be a great way to attract and interact with clients. Posting your thoughts and the occasional article here is also a good way to get some eyes on your work.
- Other social media – Especially for local clients, Facebook or Instagram can be a great way to get your name out there. Especially Facebook is a great place to get happy clients to leave you a review, and can reduce the complexity of clients getting in touch with you, since all they need to do is open the chatbox.
- Cold call and/or email – Although the dream is having clients come to you, sometimes it’s unavoidable to pitch clients in this way. It’s a pure numbers game, but just remember that at the end of every email could be someone desperately in need of your services.
General Tips to be a Freelance SEO Copywriter
You want to begin acquiring the relevant skills and taking on your first clients? Brilliant; here are some additional tips that may help you on your freelance SEO journey.
Don’t Undervalue Yourself
It’s easy to start your freelance SEO copywriting career by thinking you’re at the bottom of the ladder and need to price yourself as such – this is a mistake.
Although I personally did some free work at the beginning of my freelance career, this was purely to quickly build up my portfolio and get my foot in the door to other, well-paid opportunities (although I know other freelancers who disagree with this approach, too).
To establish your pricing, consider some of the following:
- Understand the value you bring to your clients – If your client could do the work themselves, they likely would have already. Your work is the culmination of many hours spent learning your skills, and should be priced as such. There’ll always be competition out there trying to undercut the market, but if you know your worth, you’ll be able to convince your clients, too.
- Hourly or fixed – Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if a project is unstructured and will go on for a while, hourly might be best; meanwhile, a fixed rate can be great for shorter and more well-defined work.
- Consider how much you need – Before you think about what your clients want to pay, think about what the minimum is you want to receive. Freelancing isn’t cheap; you need to pay for your own materials, admin costs, and much more. If your income isn’t enough to sustain you, you need to reconsider what you’re asking for, and make sure that’s the bare minimum you get.
- Build an attractive brand – While you don’t need your freelance business to look like a megacorporation, you also don’t want a logo that looks like it was made in Paint or a website straight out of the 90s. Put a little care into your branding and it will pay dividends down the line.
Focus On Local Clients
As you get started, the idea of finding clients can seem daunting, since you’re competing with freelancers from around the world. However, there’s one place everyone’s not looking: in your own backyard.
Especially while you’re starting out, local clients come with several benefits:
- They’re easy to find and get in touch with. Whether by phone call or even email – a small local company is far likelier to enter into a conversation with you compared to a larger or international firm.
- You can target your website to your locality for more effective SEO – Your potential local clients are likely to search for something like “SEO copywriter YOUR TOWN“. If you’ve optimized your website for this area rather than trying to take on the whole world, your chances of having clients come directly to you skyrocket.
- There’s a wide choice of companies with weak SEO and copywriting. Smaller local companies often don’t dedicate much time to SEO and copywriting on their website – you might be the first to show them how they can benefit.
- Basic improvements can have a large impact. Due to the often poor quality of copy on local companies’ websites, changes that are simple for you can actually bring notable results to the client.
- They’re likelier to trust you. Although it’s not always important, it can be a nice bonus to be able to meet face-to-face with a client while you negotiate the scope of your work. This allows for greater trust and makes you easier to recommend via word of mouth once you’ve established a relationship.
Pick a Niche
While you’re first learning, it can be useful to try out a bit of everything to get a feel for different types of copywriting and elements of SEO. However, when nailing down a client, you’ll often find that they prefer a specialist in their given issue as opposed to a jack-of-all-trades.
An example of this could be targeting specific types of small businesses all over your state or country. For instance, you could pitch your services to (non-competing) plumbers in numerous towns who have their own websites but with badly-optimized copy and/or SEO. This way you’ll quickly learn how to tailor your content to the general public who is in need of a plumber, and can utilize a lot of the same techniques, keywords, and approaches across locations and businesses.
Alternatively, you could specialize in ranking Etsy or eBay stores (which both have their own subset of SEO techniques), as opposed to websites. Within these platforms, you can also focus on specific types of shops, which can be especially useful if you already have knowledge of certain subjects (like DIY, electronics, fashion, etc.). Just be careful not to take on clients that are directly competing with each other on these platforms – it’s not the most ethical approach and is generally frowned upon.
Have a Rainy Day Fund / Don’t Quit Your Day Job Just Yet
As tempting as it is to quit your 9-5 and dive head-first into freelancing, this technique can also see you returning back to a regular job faster than you’d like.
It’s best to build up some part-time freelancing hours while you maintain your regular job before you commit – for 2 reasons. Firstly, you’ll know if you even enjoy it. Secondly, it will give you a good idea of how quickly you can expect to acquire new clients, and once you’ve reached a level you’re financially happy with, you can think about quitting entirely. However, you have to fully understand your obligations towards your current employer prior to starting freelancing. Check when and how you can start freelancing while employed.
If you’re really committed to starting from scratch without a job to back you up, you’ll realistically need a “safety net” fund of at least 3 months (and likely even longer). However, a lot depends on whether you already have the necessary skills to start and will be pitching to prospective clients immediately, or still need time to learn what you’re doing. If it’s the latter, I highly recommend you keep working some hours at a regular job on the side. It’s not ideal, but stressing about whether you can pay the bills every month is unlikely to lead to you performing your best work for your new clients.
Generally, I recommend you maintain this rainy-day fund even when things are going well – clients can be unpredictable and you don’t want to be caught out if you have a few slow months.
Having the skills and knowledge to run your freelance SEO copywriting business is one thing, but being a freelancer comes with several other responsibilities, too. Read our how to start freelancing checklist for an in-depth guide on everything you need to know to make the leap into freelance life.
FAQ – Become a Freelance SEO Copywriter
Freelance SEO copywriters can get paid surprisingly well. Pay-tracking company PayScale reports that freelance writers earn an average base rate of $24.74/hour. This can range up to around $62 per hour for the most in-demand freelance writers. (Figures accurate at the time of writing.) On an annualized basis at 37.5 hours per week, this is in the range of $44,500 up to $111,000 – not at all bad.
Of course, this is extremely dependent on where you live, where your clients live, your existing experience and skillset, and the complexity of the jobs you take on. However, it does show that there’s a high upper limit!
Yes! To be a copywriter all you need is a laptop for writing and an internet connection (technically even just pen and paper while practicing). If you prefer working from your home or anywhere else, freelance copywriting is an ideal role to take on.
Yes, extremely. For instance, every company with a website or online store has the potential need for a freelance copywriter – even better if you understand SEO to help the online face of their business.
Just think of the amount of businesses local to you and realize that many of them are hopelessly in need of a good copywriter who understands how to rank their website.