I am very lucky. I love my job, and I feel a shy-but-glowing sort of pride when I think to myself, “People pay me to write.”

I have dreamt of being a professional writer since I was a little girl and now — after quite a few detours — that is what I am.

I’m here to tell you that you, too, can become a copywriter.

Becoming a successful copywriter in San Francisco — or anywhere — is doable as long as you meet these two simple requirements:

  1. You love to write and
  2. You are willing to work like crazy to make it happen

I’m also going to throw down the gauntlet when I say this: I am about to give you really great advice you probably won’t take.

Ready? Here we go!

Step 1: Get a Business License

The first thing you need is a business license. There are several excellent reasons to get a business license, some of which are practical and some of which are psychological. For one thing, you don’t want to eventually get in trouble from the IRS or the local tax office. As important, getting a business license makes you feel legitimate. Writers always struggle with legitimacy. When you have a business license, you’ll have taken official steps towards achieving your goals. It feels good. It’s a milestone. You can blog about it and start improving your website SEO right away.

Step 2: Create Infrastructure

Invest in yourself and your business by creating a great working space for yourself and setting up the systems that will make your work life easier. You’ll want, among other things, a dedicated phone, an ergonomic work setting (no, I’m not kidding — think: repetitive stress syndrome), a laptop or tablet for working on the go, and other comforts that will make your life as a copywriter feel pro. You’ll also need to think about your finances and understand which metrics will measure your business health.

To get a great start, set up spread sheets or invest in customer relationship management (CRM) software so you can track referrals and send out thank-you’s on the pronto.

Step 3: Get Started On Your Brand

Your brand is everything your customers and potential customers think about you and your work. Logos and branding are visual representations of what people think and feel when they are reminded of you. The only way you can control how people perceive your brand is by being awesome (or having millions of dollars to spend to make people think you’re awesome when you’re really not!).

Just to be clear, what I mean when I say “awesome” is skilled, courteous, and considerate. If you incorporate those three attributes into everything you do, you will definitely be awesome.

In addition, you will need:

  • A logo
  • A style guide with your colors, typefaces, and whatever collateral you have

Your style guide will create a foundation for the visual representation of your brand — online and off. Having these items in place will give you confidence as you do everything from handing out cards to setting up online profiles. Creating brand assets, however, is only the beginning. You need something to back up your assets.

Step 4: You Need a Plan for Success

The next vital step is knowing what the h*** you’re doing. This requires a plan. The planning process requires you to decide on a:

  • Niche such as marketing or medical or any other kind of copywriting
  • Target market (think about who has money and which industries you love the most) and
  • What you’ll do for your target market

The “what you’ll do for your target market” piece of this involves creating service packages and price points you can communicate clearly. Sometimes even something as basic as writing requires consumer education.

Step 5: You Need a Keyword Plan

Your next step is to create a keyword plan. You don’t need to be an SEO expert to do this, but at least a basic keyword plan will allow you to target your message, express yourself online in a way that improves your SEO, encourage others to speak about you — online and off — using your keywords, and nurture the health of your business over time.

Step 6: Your Home Online (And The Neighborhoods Where You Hang Out)

The minute you have a keyword plan, start using it. Get the best website you can, and build it in WordPress. If you hire a good developer (contact me, I know a few!), he or she will work within your budget to create a website that can grow with you in the future. Make sure the developer understands SEO, analytics, and marketing. Plan for growth because, following my advice, your business is going to grow, baby, grow!

You’ll use your keyword plan to build search friendly web pages, set up your social media profiles, blog like crazy, and send out press releases when you launch. Think about low competition search words you’d like to rank for sooner, and high competition words that are aspirational — but only for the people who aren’t tough enough to stay in the game (and you’re not one of those, are you?).

Step 7: Network Offline

Social networking is great, but you want to meet and greet people in person to get your business up and thriving. Join a high quality networking group like BNI. Building relationships is the name of the game when you’re a freelancer. So go out and get building! And don’t forget: You’re work is 50% marketing and 50% production (client work), with an additional 50% spent on admin.

My basic formula is this:

  • 1 BNI meeting per week
  • 1 other networking event per week (one way to find the second event is meetup.com) and
  • No, I’m not joking, a minimum of 3 but as many as 10 one to one meetings per week

The reason this schedule seems daunting is because it is. You can do it.

Step 8: Create Your Yelp Business Page

Once you get clients and, following my system, you will, set up a Yelp Business Page. Make sure your clients love you so they will give you great reviews (hint: Review the two simple requirements that will make you awesome, above).

Step 9: Ongoing Education

Keep your skills up. This is a great way to build your business while you keep any chance of boredom at bay. Among the skills contemporary copywriters need to rise and thrive? WordPress, online marketing, blog promotion, analytics, SEO, photo editing, and social media marketing.

Step 10: Be a Warrior

If you’re asking yourself how to become a copywriter, here’s one thing you need to know. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to get into the game and stay there. Becoming a copywriter has to be something you want — bad enough you’ll fight even yourself to get it.

It is critically important to not only pursue your dreams, but to take care of yourself so that you can enjoy yourself when they come true.

If all of this looks easy to you, you’ve got “how to become a copywriter” in the pocket. If you’re like most humans, what I’ve just outlined may seem difficult. I, certainly, have experienced moments of profound discouragement, fear, pain, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

What warrior hasn’t?

Your Turn

Ready to get started? I thought so.

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