You’ve been learning the ins and outs of copywriting, including what it takes to run a small freelance copywriting business. All of your hard work is (finally) paying off. You’re about to sign your first copywriting client. OK. So, now what?
I received an email from a new copywriter in this exact position. The person wrote: “I started reaching out to businesses, not really thinking anyone would respond to me as soon as they did. After sending less than 15 cold DMs to some companies, one has reached back out and are ready to sign with me. I’m kind of stuck on what the next step is. I really am just learning as I go here. Any advice you could offer would be sooo greatly appreciated.”
Here are my suggestions for the next steps after you land your first copywriting client.
The first two are “must do” steps. (And I don’t often sound the “must do” alarm.)
If you prefer watching a video, here you go. Otherwise, jump past it to get to the text.
1. Send the copywriting client a freelance contract to sign.
Reminder: I’m not a lawyer. This isn’t legal advice.
In a nutshell, a contract protects you and the client. But it’s also a great way to outline and clarify the scope of work to ensure you and the client are on the same proverbial page.
At a minimum, the contract should clearly state:
- The project, as you understand it
- Deliverables and deadlines
- Project fees and terms
- Legal language/disclaimers
Many templates exist online, but again—your best bet is to run it by a lawyer specializing in contracts.
I get you might not be “there” yet. Writer/editor Jyssica Schwartz generously shares her freelance contractor template as a Google doc. (Here’s her YouTube video that explains it.) This template could be a good starting point for you until you can consult an attorney.
Worried about legal fees? Given what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on TV, film, and high-profile media cases, it’s understandable if you are. But a straightforward freelance writer contract will be much less than expected. It will also be money well spent.
2. Get a down payment.
When working with a new copywriting client, always get a down payment. You can decide how much—1/4 or 1/3 of the project quote. Don’t put your fingers to your keyboard until you get the payment and it clears. The client will pay the balance according to the terms you outline in the contract.
- Pro Tip: I recommend getting the balance within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft of whatever you’re writing for them.
3. Get your business ducks in a row.
If you haven’t already, set up a business bank account. Keep personal and business finances separate. Get a business license, if required by your town or city. Create an invoice template. If the client has a specific protocol for invoicing, learn what that is. (This might require setting up an account in their system, like Gusto or Viewpost.)
4. Create a folder for your client on your computer.
In the folder, create sub-folders for meeting notes and transcripts, collateral, competitor research, copy, etc. You’ll keep everything related to your client’s account inside these folders, making it super easy to put your hands on things now—or two years later.
5. Schedule a project kick-off meeting with your shiny new copywriting client.
Once you receive the down payment (and it clears), schedule a kick-off call with your client.
Block off one hour to 1.5 hours. Record the call (and get a transcript from someplace like Rev.com). During the call, you’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the project. You should also use the time to learn everything you can about your client’s business, audience, expectations, competitors, brand, history, and the like. I’m working on a video and blog post about running effective kick-off calls/discovery calls, so stay tuned for that.
6. Get crackin’ on the work.
Now, the fun begins! It’s time to sharpen your virtual pencil and get to work.
Got a Question for the Copy Bitch?
That’s me! I’m the Copy Bitch. No doubt, you’ll have other questions. Hit me up in the comments section on my YouTube channel, or email me.