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Dave asks: "My career has included stints as sports editor of a small town newspaper, associate editor of a national trade publication, and copywriter for an ad agency. In running my own business, I have often been required to write ad copy, for which I have received numerous compliments. I recently turned 50 and did a little self-analysis. I decided that I wasn't happy with my financial situation. I've never made a lot of money, and I'm not looking to necessarily get rich, but I would like to provide a more comfortable life for myself and my family, especially with only about 20 years left in the work force. My wife and I discussed just what it was that I do best, for which people would be willing to pay. We decided that it was Writing. Obviously, I have a good deal of "life experience", and have a fair bit of knowledge on many subjects (no one will play Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit with me).

But my question is, "What is the best way to get exposure and work, as a free lance copywriter?"

Hi Dave,

First of all you need to think of yourself as a business. Get a fictitious business name, letterhead and cards, an accounting program and think of yourself as a freelance businessman rather than a copywriter. Copywriting is the service you perform. It's what brings in the money.

It's important to determine what, exactly, you want to pursue in copywriting. Advertising, business letters, catalog writing, promotional literature? Then decide where you want to freelance. Ad agency? Corporation? Non-profit? Government? Once you have that clarified you can target areas better and concentrate on those areas.

You need to put together a "book" or portfolio of writing that you can show people. You could put one together from your copywriting days.

The market is very large for copywriting. There definitely is money to be made in business copywriting and, from what I hear, they respect writers more than other areas of publishing.

Exposure has as many options as you care to use. Once you have a business name and a "book" you can

  1. advertise your services in the business arena you have targeted,
  2. advertise services in online venues like Craigslist (a very good one), answer ads for freelance copywriters that appear in Sunoasis, Monster, and other job listing places,
  3. cold call places offering your services and try to set up interviews with agencies or businesses
  4. network online and off with other copywriters and with others in the business you are targeting,
  5. tell friends, family, people you've worked with, old bosses etc. that you are in business,
  6. get a website up and put some samples of your work, testimonials, the ways and means you could benefit someone using your services. Once you get the website optimize it for the search engines or take out relatively inexpensive ads on Google or Overture.

These are just some of the ways to get exposure and connect with people who would hire you. Do the preparation first, get very professional, try to market an hour or two hours a day.

Marketing is the key. You need to continually search for new clients. As you get more clients and make more money you can do things such as list in the yellow pages or advertise more extensively online. It's best to test ads out to see what really works for you. Don't think that one thing will do it for you.

With your experience you shouldn't have too much difficulty but it takes awhile to get traction. Excellent resources on how to become an ad copywriter are here.

Good luck in your pursuits!

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