How to Start Copywriting + Get Clients AND Build An Online Business (NOW!)

by John McIntyre

Want to know how to start copywriting? You’re in the right place…

There are *MANY* benefits to being a copywriter. And in this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to learn copywriting.

But before we dive in, and before I explain to you how to start copywriting – I want to share a story with you.

Four years ago, my eyes were frozen. Staring at my work laptop screen, bombarded by a lethal spreadsheet (yes… they will kill you).

The fluorescent lights above were taunting me, sucking my soul minute by miserable minute.

I was boxed in by four grey walls covered in rainbow thumb tacks. Suffocated, claustrophobic, and bored to death by my colleagues.

I didn’t want my life to be like this.

I hated working in an office cubicle.

Surely… SURELY… there was more to life than this?

(Clearly I didn’t know how to start copywriting yet or I would’ve quit on the spot).

I stared longingly at the photo of a tropical beach that I had printed out and stuck on my desk.

tropical beach

The dream of living overseas and working remotely from an island was the pinnacle of life for me. It was everything I wanted as a 24-year-old.

Maybe you can relate?

So after five crushing, anxiety-filled years of doing the corporate gig, I quit my day job and took the plunge. I started my own online business and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I didn’t know how to start copywriting.

But I was determined to succeed.

And thankfully, I did.

In this post, I’m going to teach you exactly how I became a freelance copywriter and got clients, so you can do it too.

Because being a copywriter means you can live from anywhere in the world.

Nicaragua. San Diego. Phuket. Costa Rica. Buenos Aires.

Being a copywriter means you can choose your own hours (and your own clients).

You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck.

You’re free to travel whenever you want.

Being a copywriter means you can work less, get paid more, and actually enjoy your life – just like a unicorn having a bubble bath in a rainbow jacuzzi (with a truckload of rainbow confetti, of course).


Sound good? Ready to learn “how to start copywriting”?

Alright, let’s jump in.

How To Start Copywriting

You just have to start. It really is that simple.

woman in a navy blue shirt typing on a laptop

If you have a laptop or a computer, an internet connection, and you can type – then you’re well on your way to becoming a copywriter. See? You already kind-of know how to start copywriting.

And even if you can’t type, there are plenty of free online typing programs out there.

You can read endless blog posts, books, attend webinars, and study literature at college – but you won’t be a copywriter until you start copywriting.

Most people don’t take action, because they’re afraid of failing.

So if you do take action, you’ll be ahead of the pack.

Now, if you wanting to know how to succeed at copywriting, that’s a whole other question. And the prerequisite is this: you must be a good writer.

And with the introduction of ChatGPT, it’s more important than ever.

Don’t worry – ChatGPT is not here to take your copywriting clients (or your job) – it’s here to help you become a better, faster copywriter. It’s your greatest ally.

ChatGPT will help you on your quest to learn how to start copywriting.

It’s your “not-so-secret” weapon.

It boosted my copywriting productivity by 42% (yes, I measured this based on my hourly output). This directly impacts my profitability – because I can make the same amount of money, doing less.

ChatGPT is like a 13-year-old writer. It’s decent, produces bulk content very quickly, but I wouldn’t say the quality is anything revolutionary.

Maybe ChatGPT needs to read this article so it can learn how to start copywriting?

But – the good news is, ChatGPT can speed up your workflow, help you with blog outlines, and it provides you with endless ideas when you’ve got brain fog (I know because I use it for all of these things).

Some days the ideas are better than others, but still. It’s nice to have a writing companion when you’re coming up dry.

Back to the original question: How to start copywriting

You need to 1) love writing – or at least enjoy it, and 2) practice writing every single day. Even for a few minutes.

You can write about anything that excites you.

You can even re-write other successful copy that you find online.

Stocks and bonds. Fairies. Travel. Cushion covers. Surveillance gear. Eyewear. The Metaverse. Literally any and all industries need copywriters. So go crazy my friend!

That’s what you should focus on when learning how to start copywriting.

As a teenager, I wrote detailed musings about my life. Emotions. Things I observed. I never published anything, but it helped me learn how to communicate with words.

It taught me how to create an image in someone’s mind.

Like a gardener who witnesses a rose bush bloom and thrive, the luscious petals blossoming into a myriad of crimson brushstrokes.

Words can be flowery (like the above example), or sharp and to the point. See the difference? It all depends on the subject / product / service you’re writing about, your client, and of course – what your goals are.

How many emails have you sent in your life?

How many Instagram captions have you written?

How many rants have you posted on Reddit at 2:14am as TrollBlazer3791?

email app icons

Everything you type is a form copy. So you have more experience than you think. You’re already better than you realise.

I want you to make a list of all the things you’ve written in your life so far. School essays. Mother’s Day cards. Cover letters. Job applications. Text messages.

You’re constantly writing. It’s part of being a human being (especially in the Western world).

Copywriting is not about being good in the beginning. You won’t be. Being a copywriter will take hard work and persistence. After all, that’s why your reading this article about “how to start copywriting”.

Hell, I was terrible at copywriting when I first started.

But by writing every day, you’ll get better. You’ll get quicker at coming up with ideas. You’ll build discipline. And you’ll get your creative juices flowing consistently.

It’s how Jerry Seinfeld became one of the most successful comedians of all time.

His secret? Consistency. Not perfection.

So throw your perfectionistic mindset out the window. Dump it in the trash and burn it.

Or at least put it on the shelf for 15 minutes every day while you write. It’ll be there when you finish, I promise.

Now, it’s time to start writing.

Write like your life depends on it.

Write with more commitment, passion, and dedication than a silver toaster telling jokes at a stand-up comedy club (he desperately, DESPERATELY wants to be human).

Copywriting at its core = selling with words.

So the better you become at writing and communicating, the better you’ll be at copywriting. It’s about embodying your words with emotion. Having empathy for your reader. And understanding what they want.

And being so captivating, that they keep reading.

Just like I’m doing with this article, teaching you how to start copywriting.

Your reader wants to feel like you’re talking to them personally. That you understand their problems better than anyone else (because you do, right?).

That’s what copywriting is all about.

And if you understand your reader’s problems? You can sell them the solution.

Which is why copywriting can be lucrative if you’re decent at it.

Again – if you want to know how to start copywriting – it all comes back to taking action.

So just start, and see where the adventure takes you. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

person working from a laptop, learning how to start copywriting

How To Learn Copywriting

Now that you’re all geared up and know how to start copywriting, the next step is to learn copywriting.

There are many resources, courses, and 7-step programs out there claiming to have all the answers (which are mostly just sales pitches). There’s great information out there, but there’s a shitload of bad information too. And sorting through it all will take time, trial, and error.

Have a think about what kind of copywriter you want to be. Do you want to be a sleazebucket who says anything and everything to make a sale (even if it costs you your dignity)? Or do you want to be a clever, empathetic, and captivating copywriter who solves big problems for real people?

As a copywriter, you’re not just a writer – you’re an alchemist who turns mundane words into sparkling gold.

You use words to sell products and services. Either for yourself, or for your clients.

Learning copywriting is an art-form. Because what works in one arena, won’t necessarily work in another.

One client wants one type of copy, but another client wants something totally different. So who is right?

They both are.

Copy needs to match the audience it’s intended for. And if you want it to perform well, it needs to be backed by SEO research (even if you’re writing emails or ads – more on that shortly).

However, lots of people forget about this when they’re learning how to start copywriting.

But if you want to keep your clients happy – you need to give them what they want (even if you know better).

So pick a niche, industry, or type of client to target, and specialize in that area. Otherwise you’ll spend your whole life learning about copywriting and marketing and feel more confused than when you first started.

If you only ever read one book about copywriting – read Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. It’s short, to the point, and packed full of incredible information.

Because every course, book, or blog post you read (including this one) is time spent that you could be copywriting instead.

row of books that will teach you how to start copywriting

There’s always an opportunity cost.

And if you’re like me when I was learning how to start copywriting, you don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for copywriting and marketing courses.

And thankfully, you don’t need to.

If you want to know how to learn copywriting, it’s a balance between learning and researching vs. putting in the hours to practice copywriting.

I normally spend 10-20% of my time on learning about copywriting, and the rest of the time I’m doing some form of copywriting – whether it’s blog posts, SEO keyword research, testing copy, or reaching out to potential clients via cold email.

Plus, copywriting only contributes about 20% to your client’s success.

The two other more important things are: the quality and size of their email list (40%) and the quality of their offer / pitch (40%).

It’s easy to get caught up trying to create the perfect copy. I’ve been there.

But ultimately, if your copy is decent, as long as you generate enough traffic to your post / sales page / offer – then you’ll make sales.

Which is what your clients want at the end of the day.

Because more leads = more clients.

If you’re going to learn anything about copywriting from this post, let it be this:

Learn how to do SEO research and optimize your content for Google.

SEO takes time, and it can be confusing. But if you persevere and learn about researching SEO keywords, you’ll succeed – it’s only a matter of time.

It’s something a lot of copywriters don’t do (surprisingly).

I don’t blame them, especially in the beginning when they’re learning how to start copywriting. It can be overwhelming at times.

But – even some expert copywriters don’t dive deep into SEO. Why? Because it’s complicated, takes lots of time, and is very analytical.

This means, there’s lots of opportunity.

Wait… But why research SEO keywords? What if I’m writing emails? Or ads? Surely I don’t need SEO research then?

The reason you should use SEO research when writing any type of copy is this:

SEO search volume is a proxy of consumer demand.

SEO copywriting data on a screen.

If you know what people are searching for in Google – you know what their problems are. You know the gaps in the market. And you can narrow down your target audience.

Then you can write copy (emails, ads, blogs, social posts, sales pages) that drills down on their specific pain points, while also offering a custom solution.

SEO research tells you what the market actually wants (not what you think it wants).

By writing about problems people actually have – you’ll get higher click-through rates, and your readers will feel like you understand them. They’ll trust you. And then they’ll look to you (or your client) for the solution.

(This is one of the main things I tell people who are curious about how to start copywriting).

You’ll be rewarded with fresh, organic leads, which you can convert into sales for yourself or your clients.

I’ve seen this time and time again.

It’s not about having the most ground-breaking, interesting copy out there (although this does help). It’s better to have above average copy and well-done SEO research, than excellent copy with no SEO research.

Plus, SEO gives you endless ideas for writing content (yes this applies to emails, ads — any type of copy). It always helps to do market research prior to writing your copy, so you know who you’re writing to, and what their pain points are.

I always do thorough SEO keyword research for all of my clients (plus it gives me great blog post topic ideas).

You can see the jump in organic traffic from when I started working with one of my clients below (this happens consistently across my clients). It looks like this – notice the orange link jumps up in organic traffic.

how to start copywriting: seo snapshot

My clients were thrilled.

They’ve even had calls with potential clients via my blog posts after just three months (pretty fast for SEO results).

Honestly, the copy wasn’t that great. They didn’t want salesy, interesting copy. They are a research website that wanted informative blog posts. No personality. No humour. No story-telling.

So I got ChatGPT to write the blog posts, and then I edited them.

But – because my blog posts are all strategically optimized for SEO, they perform really well. Even despite my client’s super low domain ranking.

SEO really is the missing piece that so many copywriters either forget about, or don’t invest the time into. I get it. It’s time consuming, stressful, and confusing at the beginning.

But once you know what you’re doing, it becomes the best game ever.

OK, let’s get onto the final part of my post about “how to start copywriting”, which is …

How To Get Into Copywriting

So far, we’ve covered how to start copywriting, and how to learn copywriting. But if you’ve made it this far into the blog post, you’re probably wanting to know how to get into copywriting, or how to become a copywriter.

Which is great!

Once you’ve honed your skills as a copywriter, the next step is to get clients

person working with copywriting clients

You can be the best copywriter in the world, but if you don’t know how to get copywriting clients, you won’t make it very far.

Thankfully, there are many ways to get copywriting clients (and you don’t even have to leave your job).

It can be tough in the beginning, especially if you don’t have a portfolio or any contacts to reach out to.

I recommend starting with Upwork (read this blog post for step-by-step instructions). It’s how I got my break in the copywriting industry. I had zero experience, zero writing samples, and zero clients (and almost zero confidence).

But I set up a profile anyway, wrote some copy samples that I thought sounded good, put in a profile description, and I was off and running.

I probably applied for 20-30 jobs before I got my first client. I focused on doing excellent work to get a good review.

And then I rinsed and repeated the process. After 6-9 months of solid work, I doubled my rates, and now have a 100% job success score on Upwork. I get invited to apply for copywriting jobs instead of having to search for them manually.

This is one of many things you can do when you’re not sure how to start copywriting (you just have to start).

Being a successful copywriter is not about getting big wins, although they’re always nice. It’s about doing lots of little things consistently over time, like James Clear describes in Atomic Habits.

Upwork isn’t the only option though. You have to approach copywriting clients on all fronts.

You can reach out to prospects via cold email, using tools like, Apollo, or Upleads to get bulk contact lists. You can send messages to people on LinkedIn.

Be prepared for a lot of rejection in the beginning.

It’s not personal – it’s just part of the process. And it will get easier with time, the more you reach out to clients.

And if the freelance life isn’t for you, you can always try getting a job as a copywriter. Make sure you have writing samples, a killer cover letter, and something that leaves them speechless (in a good way of course).

Now you know how to start copywriting, how to learn copywriting, and how to get into copywriting. It’s a wild, fun, and crazy adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Being a freelance copywriter has changed my life in so many positive ways, and now I live overseas and make more money than I did when I was stuck in that tiny, dark, miserable cubicle.

I made it to that tropical island with my laptop in hand. It took longer than I thought, but it was worth it.

Are you a new copywriter? Post in the comments below how you plan to advance your copywriting career. I’d love to hear more!

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