For this case study interview, we spoke to Dan Griffiths, a UK-based freelance copywriter who’s turned sales writing into a full-time home working career.
How did you set up as a freelance copywriter?
Having been employed for most of my working life as a painter & decorator, I decided to take a radical change in direction and applied for an adult education access course in social sciences. During the course, I discovered a talent for writing, which lead me to think there must be a way to get paid to write.
This didn’t pan out as planned initially, and I instead went on to start my own painting & decorating business. But the intention of earning a living from writing was always at the back of my mind.
I spent countless hours and late nights researching as much as I possibly could on setting up as a freelance copywriter; reading blogs, articles, books and absolutely anything I could related to freelance writing.
Eventually, I stumbled upon Upwork – a freelancing website – and signed up. To begin with, I had no idea what I was doing and wasted all of my connects (job bidding tokens) on poor quality jobs I was never going to win with the copy/pasted application templates I was sending. This wasn’t too important, as I was only looking for a few extra pounds to supplement my income from self-employment.
Possibly out of sheer luck, about a month after I’d completely given up on Upwork, I received an email stating someone had been away for a while, but had received my job proposal and wanted to interview me!
The interview went well, and I was given a regular contract of three hours of work a week, at a rate of $25.00 per hour.
This motivated me into thinking I could definitely do it full time. I researched absolutely everything related to working on Upwork. I refined my profile, ensured each proposal was written specifically for the job I was applying for, and eventually began getting regular work, both as one-off jobs and ongoing contracts.
When there was enough ongoing work to justify replacing my full-time income, I took the plunge, and have never looked back.
What was the first piece of copywriting work you did?
Officially, the very first piece of paid work I did was a 500 word SEO article for a guy in Australia back in 2012. He found my ‘gig’ on a site called Fiverr, where people can set up jobs they’ll do for $5.
I didn’t care that it was just $5 – somebody had actually paid me to write something! Needless to say, I’m making much more than that for the same amount of work these days!
How long did it take you to establish yourself as a full-time freelancer?
My initial setup attempts were incredibly half-hearted, and I wasn’t exactly shocked to discover I wasn’t earning very much money. However, when I started receiving more, better paid jobs on Upwork, it took around three months of hard work and continually refining my processes before I was able to feel like I’d established myself as a full-time freelancer.
What’s the best thing about the home working lifestyle?
Every homeworking freelancer says the same thing, but it still stands true – the ability to work from your sofa in your pyjamas! Not that I actually do that (OK, maybe I have, once, but simply just because I could). It’s all about the freedom for me. If I want to start work at 4am, that’s fine, as long as I still produce quality work and submit it before the deadline.
As there are no bosses to ask for time off, everything becomes so much easier. There’s no need to ask ‘permission’ to go to doctor or dentist, and you begin and finish whenever you want.
So long as you’re continually pleasing your clients with top-quality work, you have absolute freedom to not only do what you want when you want, but also work whenever and wherever you want.
And the worst thing?
Without a doubt, maintaining a good work/life balance. It can be hard sometimes to separate home from work. If a client sends a message after office hours regarding an amendment, it’s all too easy to flip open the laptop and make the requested changes, meaning you’re working when you should be relaxing.
Some people find the lack of a regular income to be the worst thing, but thankfully as I was already self-employed, I was already used to a fluctuating income before making the jump to freelance copywriting.
What’s the main piece of advice you’d give to anyone thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter?
Follow your dreams! If you have a talent that can be used for home working, then use it to its full potential.
But don’t simply think ‘I want to leave my job and work from home’, as that just doesn’t work. It all takes hard work and dedication – even just to get set up, and it doesn’t stop when you’re established. Even now, I’m still reading up on copywriting techniques and marketing ideas – there’s always something that you can improve upon.
What kind of subjects do you write about?
Thankfully, due to the diverse nature of my job, I’m always writing about different topics. One day I might be writing some articles about dogs, another day I could be crafting a series of emails intended to sell a new style of airbed!
The varied subjects I write about are what keeps the job interesting. As much as I love to write, I’m sure typing about the exact same thing day in, day out would drive me insane.
How do you plan to further develop your writing career?
Although Upwork has been a fantastic starting point, I’m now thankfully at the stage where new clients are contacting me to complete their projects. As it could be all too easy to get complacent, I plan to continually develop my marketing strategies, and possibly look into collaborations with other copywriters.
What software and IT systems do you use daily?
Ah, the trusty old laptop!
As the majority of my work is word processing, a desktop would be overkill for me, so all I need is my laptop from college. I’m looking to upgrade eventually, but what I have more than suits my needs for the time being. It’s gotten slow over the years but still serves me very well.
As for software, there are a few programs that I use every day that help towards making my life a lot easier:
- Microsoft Word – I’m a writer, so this goes without saying. There are cheaper/free alternatives, but documents created on them tend to format weirdly when opened in different programs. So, for me, it’s MS Word all the way. (At HomeWorkingClub.com we recommend you subscribe to Microsoft Office365 in order to always have an up-to-dare copy of all the Microsoft Office applications).
- OneDrive – a cloud storage system makes file sharing incredibly easy. If I’m out and about and a client emails me a file, I can view it on my phone and store it on OneDrive, and then access it on the laptop later on. (One Drive is also included with Office365!)
- Skype – it’s the universal communication app. It makes for quick and easy communication – if something needs to be confirmed or clarified, I simply send a Skype message that the client can reply to at their convenience.
- Asana – there are many collaboration tools available, but Asana suits all my needs. Clients can set up tasks with email reminders, upload files for me to access and vice versa, and set or amend project deadlines. It’s great for personal use, too.
- Classic FM app – I love heavy metal, but Classic FM is great for helping me concentrate when I’m working.
For an IT professionals take on the technical essentials for freelancers, check out this computer fundamentals article.
Even to this day I feel incredibly lucky to earn a living doing a job I love.
It’s a strange feeling going from spending most of my working life getting paid for hard physical labour, to finally paying the bills by pounding the keys of my laptop from the comfort of my own home.
We thank Dan for his inspirational story. If you plan to become a freelance copywriter or want to share your experiences, please use the comments.