Are you interested in branching out on your own as a freelance copywriter? Maybe you’ve already started your journey but want to know how to scale your business.
Join me as I chat with Jo Harris, expert copywriter and founder of The Virtual Mama. In this episode, Jo shares her secrets and tips & tricks on how to start your own copywriting business.
Join us as we discuss:
(1) Jo’s top tips for how to land your first four-figure copywriting gig
(2) What do clients truly care about when deciding to work with you; (Hint: its not your experience level)
(3) How to market yourself & find your first copywriting client
(4) Some common mistakes new freelancers make when getting started
(5) Jo’s biggest piece of advice on how to start your freelance copywriting career
Whether you’re an entrepreneur ready to level up in your copywriting business or you’re new to copywriting and want to develop your skills, tune in to learn how to make your first $1k as a freelance copywriter!
Free MasterClass: thevirtualmama.com/quit
*Note: The above link to Jo’s course is an affiliate link, which means I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase (at no cost to you). I only promote products that I believe will change your life & business!
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[00:00:59] Lindsay: One of the best things you can do to grow your business is to surround yourself with a community of like-minded women who can support you and help you grow. I can't even put into words how valuable it has been to be a part of Like Minded Collective. This is an online community for female entrepreneurs hosted by Inbal Claudio.
[00:01:17] You might remember I interviewed her on the podcast a while back, and she just has this superpower for connecting people. Through Like Minded Collective, I've met people who have come on my podcast or they interviewed me on their podcast. I've also met people who I've worked with directly or who have referred me clients.
[00:01:35] Just last month, when I was putting together my Fiver masterclass, I reached out to the group to connect with other business owners who had freelancers in their audience, and they were all so excited to help me promote my masterclass. And I had people from each of their audiences sign up for the masterclass, every single person who I had connected with. The value that I have gotten from being a part of this group of women is incredible, and even if I was paying a hundred dollars a month to be in this group, I would be making my money back plus some. But the crazy thing is that it is free to join Like Minded Collective.
[00:02:10] So, if you want to grow your network and connect with other female entrepreneurs who can offer you support, advice, or even collaboration opportunities, go to lindsayhanson.com/likemindedcollective right now and join the community for free. And if you want to check out the silver or gold tiers, which will give you access to monthly networking sessions and weekly live workshops, use code 'Quit' to get 50% off your first month when you upgrade to a paid tier. Come join this community of like-minded women; I promise you it will be one of the most valuable things you can do to grow your business! Again, go to lindsayhanson.com/likemindedcollective, or click that link in the show notes to join for free or use code 'Quit' Q-u-i-t to get 50% off your first month of a paid subscription.
[00:03:06] Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. If you are thinking about getting started as a freelance copywriter, you will not wanna miss today's episode. I'm so excited to be chatting with Jo Harris, founder of The Virtual Mama. Jo is a conversion copywriter and email marketer working with women-owned businesses to help them increase their conversion rates through their marketing content.
[00:03:30] Jo also has a course called Copy Land, where she teaches freelancers her exact process for writing copy and growing a copywriting business from scratch. So today, she'll be sharing all her secrets, tips, and trick for getting your own freelance business started and how to find sustainable success as a copywriter.
[00:03:49] Jo, welcome to the podcast.
[00:03:51] Jo: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.
[00:03:55] Lindsay: I'm so excited. To start, could you share a little bit more about your own entrepreneurial journey and how you got started as a freelance copywriter?
[00:04:04] Jo: Yeah, so I started in marketing, in the marketing world, over 10 years ago, and then at some point, I thought I would never go back to it.
[00:04:14] I went into a completely different industry. I was managing and cleaning Airbnb properties. And then I got married and got pregnant, and I was like, I can't do this property management stuff anymore. So I did what most of us do, I went online and started Googling how to work from home. And I tried so many things.
[00:04:35] I tried the blogging stuff; I tried the customer service agent stuff. What didn't I try? I tried so many things. And then I realized that I could offer some of the services that I know how to do virtually to other businesses. And that's when I learned about virtual assistants.
[00:04:52] So I did that and eventually started specializing in blog writing and social media marketing. And it was great. I liked it, but for me, the problem was that with the little amount of hours that I could really work and the jobs, like the rates that I was getting for those kinds of jobs, it was good, don't get me wrong, but I really wasn't able to hit my income goal doing that.
[00:05:18] I was so limited on time. I was already on my second child, and I had to figure something out. So that's when I just went into a season of just really praying about my career. And I was led to copywriting, and when I learned about what it was, I was just like, oh my gosh, this is everything I love to do.
[00:05:38] Marketing. Researching. I was already doing this before as a marketer. I just didn't have that title, that label to put on it. I did not know that this is something that people have been doing for years, and it's just like this hidden gem that I had never heard about. So I went into a season of deep study, working on my skills, investing in courses, investing in books, and really growing my network.
[00:06:03] I did that and ended up booking my first four-figure project, which was so exciting. I was like, 'Wow, with one project, I already doubled what I was making. And was working part-time hours, and it was just, it was everything that I really needed to have that sustainable business for me.
[00:06:24] Because I was a mom, I could only work maybe 10, 15 hours a week, but I wanted to contribute to the home and help my family. So I was able to do that as a copywriter and I ended up working in-house after booking that first project. I went in-house for about 18 months, and I was working for a course creator, an established course creator.
[00:06:44] It was an amazing opportunity. This was a multi seven-figure business. I was working with the marketing team and the sales department, it was so amazing to be able to grow in that kind of setting, and that's really where I got to work on my skills and show what I could do. So that's how I got my start before transitioning into my own full-time business. So now I have The Virtual Mama, which is where I work with other women-owned businesses, writing copy for them. And I also teach virtual assistants and freelancers how to break into copywriting because so many people want to learn and get into it, but they don't know where to start.
[00:07:20] So I'm here to help them get on that fast track to do it.
[00:07:25] Lindsay: Do you think that people have to have some form of marketing experience before becoming a copywriter?
[00:07:32] Jo: I don't think that you have to have any experience to start doing anything. I think that I firmly believe that these are skills that you learn.
[00:07:42] Nobody is born a marketer. Nobody is born knowing how to write emails or anything, right? This is all learned, so as long as the interest is there and you have a knack for picking up on that kind of thing. You have a knack for learning people. You have a knack for writing. If you are interested in marketing, then you can learn it for sure.
[00:08:01] But if you don't like any of that stuff and you're doing it just for the money, it's definitely not something that you should get into. I don't recommend that.
[00:08:09] Lindsay: Yeah, that's really good advice. You're gonna burn out very quickly if you don't enjoy what you're doing. So what were some of the key things that you think helped you to land that first four-figure project as a copywriter?
[00:08:24] Jo: One of the things that I tell people, and I, this is like my song that I sing all day long, is work on your skills. Because there are so many coaches out there that promise you these, six-figure businesses, but what they don't tell you is that you need to work on your skills to be able to justify those higher rates.
[00:08:43] For me, one of the huge differentiating factors was that I did take time to work on my skills and learn that crap, so I was able to justify higher rates for my packages. At that time, I actually upsold a client that I had currently. I was doing other social media work for her, and because I had taken time to study copywriting and I was actively working on my skills, I was prepared when the opportunity came my way.
[00:09:13] I had a sense of what I could charge for it, and I was confident that I would be able to deliver results. So I wasn't out there just, oh, charging these high rates and promising I'm gonna deliver on something that I had never done. I was actively sharpening my skills, and for anyone who wants to get started, that's the number one best piece of advice that I can give you is really work on perfecting your skills because this market is flooded with people who come into the freelancing world with no skills and they're starting out. So what is gonna set you apart from them? It's being able to deliver a great experience. And even if you don't have experience, clients don't care about that. What they care about is to see your work ethic, that you're professional, that you have a process, and that you're a good writer.
[00:09:58] That's really what they're looking for.
[00:10:00] Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. So, aside from honing your skills, maybe finding online courses or ways that you can learn how to become a better copywriter, what are the things that, if someone who's just starting out and they wanna get started as a freelancer, what are some things that you would recommend they do?
[00:10:19] Jo: So you're saying in addition, like outside of just working on your skills, what else do they need to be doing?
[00:10:25] Lindsay: Yeah, in terms of how to market yourself, how to actually find your first client.
[00:10:31] Jo: Oh, yeah, that's a really good question. So number one, okay, so let's say that someone has gotten past that phase of studying and working on their skills.
[00:10:39] Now they're ready to actually look for a client. The first thing that you need to do is come up with writing samples. So people get so hung up on the fact that they lack experience, and I'm like, listen, don't focus on that. Focus on writing some amazing writing samples that are gonna prove that you can do this.
[00:10:58] Because at the end of the day, that's what they're looking for. So the number one thing that you really need to focus on is practicing what you learned. You don't want your very first piece of copy to be what you show to clients. You wanna take some time practicing. If you want to be an email copywriter, write 10 or 15 emails for practice and then come up with three really solid pieces that you can show clients. And that's where you wanna start, perfecting those writing skills.
[00:11:26] Lindsay: Yeah, I love that. And it always cracks me up because I also, obviously, work with new freelancers, and especially when writers like copywriters are like, 'oh, well, I don't have a portfolio.
[00:11:38] I haven't had any clients, so I don't have any writing samples.' I'm like, so write one. You don't need to have a client give you a project in order for you to be able to showcase your writing. Pretend someone gave you a blog post to write; just pick a topic and write about it.
[00:11:52] So do you also recommend, I know you mentioned if someone wants to specialize in email copywriting, do you recommend when you're getting started to niche down and choose a specific, either a specific skill set or a specific industry or a type of client that you really love working with?
[00:12:12] Jo: Oh, that's such a good question. So I think it does help if you start with an industry that you're a little familiar with but don't necessarily have to. What I would recommend focusing on is starting with smaller packages. So regardless of the industry that you wanna start in, it's fine. If you have a background in education, for example, and you wanna write for that field, do it.
[00:12:37] But just make sure that you focus on those smaller packages because they're gonna give you a quick win. If this is the first time you've landed a copywriting client and you wanna quote them five to 10 K for a project, it's gonna be a little bit harder, but if you start with smaller packages, anywhere from 250 to 500 and you get at least three or four of those, you're gonna make your first win.
[00:13:00] Your first thousand dollars. You're gonna feel motivated to keep going, and you're gonna be able to raise your prices from there. So I would really focus on those quick wins that are gonna give you the stamina to wanna keep going because otherwise, people get really discouraged and end up burning out and not making progress in their business.
[00:13:18] Lindsay: Yeah, I love that advice. And let's talk more about pricing, cuz I know this is something that a lot of people get hung up on too, especially when they're brand new, and they're just like, I have no idea what to charge. What rate? How should I structure my packages? Do I charge hourly?
[00:13:33] Do I charge by project? What's advice that you have for someone who's just starting out in terms of how to structure their packages and also price them?
[00:13:42] Jo: Oh yeah. I'm happy to talk about that. That's something so many of us struggle with, even to this day. There are moments where I do struggle with my pricing because, on one hand, you wanna make sure that you're compensated fairly.
[00:13:58] And that your business is sustainable. But on the other hand, you also wanna be fair to your client. And I would put that out there right now. I am not one of those people that are just like, yeah, just go out there and charge what you wanna charge because you're worth it and this and that. I believe in being fair to the writer.
[00:14:17] To us. Yeah. And also to the client. I am all about that and giving value. So when you're starting out, if you have absolutely zero experience, you're probably gonna want to aim for that $20 to $30 an hour range in terms of your internal pricing. And now what I mean by that is, okay, so as a copywriter, you're either gonna have hourly pricing, day rates, or project-based rates, right?
[00:14:41] I don't really do the day rates, but there are copywriters who do. But if you want to quote on a project, what you wanna do is, have that set rate that you wanna make per hour, and then you wanna estimate how long you think that project is gonna take you. And then you multiply the two, and that's how you can come up with a fee for anything.
[00:15:01] Now, if you are working for an agency or you're working in-house, that might not work out. You may need to have an hourly rate, and that's fine. So starting out with no experience, but you have a little bit of training, anywhere from $20 to $30 an hour, is fair because remember that they're making an investment, and you're still learning, right?
[00:15:24] So, in this way, you are getting compensated something, but you're still keeping in mind that the client is investing in you, and you're still learning what you're doing. Now once you get past that phase and you have some experience, junior copywriters can fairly make around $50 to $60 an hour, depending. It depends on your skill level and also the budget that the company has. Once you get into that mid-level range, you have more experience, and you can easily charge anywhere from $60 to $80 per hour. And mind you, this is for sales copy. This is not blog writing or anything like that. This is you're writing sales pages, you're writing email sequences; you are writing copy that is directly tied to the profitability of that company.
[00:16:08] So it's much more valuable than, let's just say, a blog post, and I'm not downplaying writing blog posts because some people are really able to make that lucrative, but that's not the route that I took. So I specialize in sales copywriting. It is very lucrative. And so that's the specific kind of writing I'm talking about here.
[00:16:26] Now, when you get to that advanced level, and you've been doing this for years, you have results, right? You've been helping your clients make money; you have the case studies to back it up. You've even been building your authority, and you've been speaking on stages or going out there, speaking on podcasts like this; you can charge $200, $300 an hour, and up for your projects or your hourly rate.
[00:16:47] So yeah, it's a huge range, but there's so much potential if you are willing to put in the work and take it seriously.
[00:16:55] Lindsay: I think when people, a lot of people think of writing, they don't think that it's a really profitable career, exactly what you said. Think about how much value you're bringing to a company by being able to write an email that's gonna get them sales, it's a huge asset, and it's a super valuable skill to have, and obviously, you're not gonna charge $300 an hour when you first start. But the sooner you start, the sooner you can get there, so was there anything that you would've done differently or any common mistakes that you see new freelancers and copywriters making?
[00:17:29] Jo: Oh yeah. The biggest mistake I see is that they go on YouTube or whatever platform they use, and they get this advice, right? And they're just like taking any advice that they hear, but it's really not the best advice. So they're hearing like, 'Hey, just start a website, chart this, go out there, pitch your services,' and they're not getting the full context, they're not getting the full story. So they either end up disappointing a client, or they don't get any clients, and they wonder why. If you really want to avoid all of those, like new beginner mistakes, do things in the right order.
[00:18:08] Don't fall into shiny object syndrome and think that you need to make six figures your first year as a copywriter. I wanna debunk that. It irritates me because it's possible some people have done it, but not everybody will. And so I'm more for that slow, steady, but consistent pace that gets you progress and helps you not burn out. So the best thing that you can do for yourself, and I know I mentioned this already, is work on being the best copywriter that you can be. Work on those skills. And trust me, when you have the results to prove it, you have the writing samples to prove it people are gonna wanna work with you. You will probably be turning down work at that point.
[00:18:51] Lindsay: Yeah. And you actually have a free masterclass that can help people. Getting started, is that right?
[00:18:58] Jo: I do. So I had so many people come to me, especially when I was working in the house, and they're like, Jo, how do I do what you're doing?
[00:19:05] How can I get started? And I was giving them advice, and I'm like, you know what? I just need to put this in one video that's comprehensive; walks them through everything. So I have a free masterclass that teaches you how to become an in-demand copywriter. How to break into copywriting, make that first thousand dollars.
[00:19:23] Super actionable, and it walks you through it all. And if you wanna check that out, you can go to thevirtualmama.com/quit and can sign up. It's completely free.
[00:19:33] Lindsay: I will definitely leave that link in the show notes for you guys. And you also in the intro, I mentioned your course Copy Land, which is a much more in-depth course that teaches new freelance copywriters how to start their businesses.
[00:19:47] So tell us more about what's included in your course.
[00:19:51] Jo: Oh yeah, so copy land is like my baby.
[00:19:54] Lindsay: It's very comprehensive, by the way. So Jo had actually sent me a sneak peek of what's included. You guys like it's everything that you will need to start a copywriting business.
[00:20:04] Jo: It really is. It's pretty much a business in a box. And there are a lot of courses out there about freelancing, copywriting, and everything. And everyone learns differently, but what I wanted to do differently with this course is make it actionable. I didn't wanna create something that was gonna go over people's heads.
[00:20:23] So what I love about this is if you are brand new to marketing, you can take this course and not feel overwhelmed, and it's still comprehensive enough where even if you do have some experience, you're gonna learn something new that you didn't know before. So it really walks you through A to Z. The entire process that I use with clients, I give it to you.
[00:20:44] Like no holding back. I give you everything, all my templates, how I pitch my services, how I find clients, how I do research, and how I actually write the copy. I do live videos where I walk you through how I write sales pages. I give you the templates so that you know how to write emails and how to write sales pages.
[00:21:02] Literally everything. I just hand it to you in the course.
[00:21:06] Lindsay: That's so incredibly valuable. And you're opening enrollment soon, right?
[00:21:12] Jo: I am, yes. So this March, I'm gonna be opening enrollment again. I'm really excited. I only open enrollment twice a year, and I do that purposefully because it's important to make time for those new people that are coming in.
[00:21:30] I'm so hands-on with my students. I'm not one of those course creators that just puts a course out there, and then I'm just hidden. I am so active I personally email my students. I'm so active inside of the group, constantly giving feedback. I am excited about their success.
[00:21:49] I want to see them win. So I'm very hands-on in my community.
[00:21:53] Lindsay: You guys have to check out Copy Land. And before we wrap up, Jo, what's your biggest piece of advice for the woman listening right now who's thinking about starting her freelance business?
[00:22:07] Jo: Yeah, so the biggest piece of advice is don't get caught up in shiny object syndrome.
[00:22:14] It's so easy to do. We go online, see all these ads, all these things, and start to feel like, can I really do this? I'm not there yet. So instead of looking at this huge, lofty goal of six figures, start with where you are and start with smaller goals that are gonna motivate you to keep going forward because it's gonna feel rewarding, right?
[00:22:39] So don't compare yourself to someone who's been doing this for five years or who had an overnight success story, okay? You can still be successful even if you're just starting today. There's enough room in the market for you.
[00:22:52] Lindsay: Absolutely. And the thing about overnight success stories is that they're never actually overnight.
[00:22:57] It's they've been doing this for three years. And then they had their overnight success... Alright, Jo, where can the listeners find you if they want to get connected with you?
[00:23:07] Jo: Yeah, I'm very active on Instagram, so you can follow me @ TheVirtualMama and definitely check out that free class.
[00:23:17] You can also go to my website. I have a blog there with tons of free info, and that's just thevirtualmama.com.
[00:23:23] Lindsay: Amazing. I'll leave all the links in the show notes for you guys for her free masterclass, where you can also get more info about her Copy Land Course. Jo, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your tips.
[00:23:35] I can't wait for the listeners to hear this episode and get their businesses started.
[00:23:40] Jo: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It's been a treat.