Start a copywriting business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your copywriting business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a copywriting business?
Costs to get started are low and generally include a computer and a stable internet connection. If you’re working with larger corporate clients, you will also need a business Paypal account or merchant account and invoicing software.
Costs for a new computer range from between $400 up to $2,500 or more.
Fees for a merchant account also vary, but can include a flat fee plus a per transaction fee. Some companies, like Paypal, may charge you a flat per-transaction fee and a percentage of each transaction. Merchant accounts and payment gateways may charge you a monthly fee for service, plus a percentage of sales and a flat per-transaction fee.
Invoicing software ranges from free to several hundred dollars per year for professional applications.
Another expense, which varies, is advertising. Using pay-per-click advertising carries a higher cost than using other forms of advertising, like referrals or email marketing.
If you start a large agency, with full-time employees, your costs can increase dramatically. Under this model, you may spend up to $10,000 for high-end computer systems and conference software.
What are the ongoing expenses for a copywriting business?
The only ongoing expenses in this business are utilities to run electronics (computers, lights, etc.) and service fees for merchant accounts and invoicing software. If you employ other copywriters, you will also need a payroll system.
If your clients require you use a special content management system (CMS), you will need to maintain this as well.
Who is the target market?
Ideal clients for a copywriting business are typically large corporate clients who can afford a professional writer or team of writers. Larger clients are also more likely to have ongoing or regular projects and assignments, providing a more stable source of income.
Avoid clients who are smaller or who have no (or very little) budget for projects. Individual clients are more risky than corporate clients.
How does a copywriting business make money?
Most copywriting companies charge clients a flat rate per word or a flat rate per project. However, some companies charge tiered rates depending on the amount and type of work being performed.
How much can you charge customers?
Writing fees are all over the board. There is, unfortunately, no standard rate for writing. However, there are strong trends within the industry. Most volume-based copywriting agencies charge clients between $0.05 and $0.10 per word. In some cases, they charge less. Higher-end agencies may charge clients between $0.20 per word up to $2 or more per word.
Flat-fee rates can be as low as a few dollars for volume work or between $500 and $3,000 or more for customized projects. The higher the fee, the more specialized the project tends to be. Some companies will also require graphical design and layout for higher-priced projects.
How much profit can a copywriting business make?
The profit potential for a copywriting agency is almost unlimited. According to Payscale, the average wage for a freelance writer is $24.24 per hour. As the owner of a copywriting agency, you could earn between $31,000 and $95,000 per year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Some specialties in copywriting demand more money than others. For example, technical writing usually commands higher fees than general copywriting. Focusing your business on technical subjects like law, finance, tutorials, and educational material may allow you to make more money than writing general topics.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your copywriting business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a copywriting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In particular, some states may require copywriting businesses to obtain a seller’s permit. A seller’s permit enables states to record and collect taxes from goods (and sometimes service) sales.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Copywriting businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership (who will ultimately own the content, and how any royalties will or will not be distributed). Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your copywriting business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a copywriting business
Most copywriting companies maintain a website for marketing. Popular marketing strategies in this industry include pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, press releases, and direct response advertising. Written advertisements are especially important since they demonstrate your ability to write and sell effectively.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
If you want more clients, or higher-paying clients, consider specializing. Developing a niche in a particular field can help your business become more lucrative due to the fact that specialized writers are in shorter supply. However, it may also be advantageous to remain well-versed in different areas to maintain your appeal to a wide range of clients.
Hiring general writers to “fill in” and create a base level of revenue for you is also an effective strategy. This way, the company can create multiple streams of revenue, with its highest earning potential coming from a specialized talent pool.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Copywriting Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is only suitable for individuals who have a passion for writing or managing writers. It helps to have excellent command of the English language, but you don’t need to be an English major. You will work long hours and work tends to be unpredictable. Some clients will demand nights and weekend work for projects.
What happens during a typical day at a copywriting business?
Day-to-day activities usually involve meeting with new clients, checking for assignments, billing for work completed, managing workflow (usually in a spreadsheet or similar application), researching other companies’ brands and general culture, and of course writing and completing assignments from those clients.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful copywriting business?
Generally, no special certifications are necessary but it helps to have a strong background in writing or journalism. In addition to general writing skills, good copywriters have a writing style that has a flexible voice which ensures your content fits the voice of the company/institution you are writing for.
Corporate clients tend to hire professional writers or journalists that have experience in a specific industry or niche. As such, some projects may require the writer have special degrees or certifications in (or related to) that industry.
For example, a corporate client may require a copywriter have a degree in biology if the assignments or project is science-based and focuses on biology topics. A well-developed portfolio is essential too, as you will need some material to show prospective clients samples of your work.
What is the growth potential for a copywriting business?
A small company may only consist of one or two writers. A larger company is usually set up to accommodate a team of writers. Most of the time, a small copywriting business can be run out of an apartment or house.
Larger operations can be set up in a more traditional office setting.
If a good reputation is built, these businesses can even expand to take on clients from dozens of companies at once.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a copywriting business?
Getting started as a copywriting business isn’t difficult but it can take time. If you have no industry contacts, you’ll probably start with copywriting job boards. You can also partner with existing agencies and provide outsourced work.
Most new copywriting business owners start by working for a large agency as a copywriter. Often, the business owner will have made contacts within the industry, making the transition easier. Without key contacts, it will be harder to land your first few clients and start generating revenue.
How and when to build a team
Most copywriting companies can be run as a one-person shop. This model allows you to set your own hours and work from home. You will typically sign a contract with a larger agency or directly with clients.
However, as you accumulate clients, it may make sense to hire additional copywriters (either employees or freelancers) to help you complete projects. Expanding your operation depends a lot on the volume of work you have (and can maintain).
If you want to remain a small company, you may only hire freelance writers. If you want to grow your agency, you will need a full-time staff.