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How To Transition Into Copywriting By Moonlighting - Even If You Already Have A Full-Time Job

Aug 17, 2007
There's a lot of overtly self-serving marketing taking place in the "new copywriter's space" of the Internet, and I don't want to add to that.

So permit me to give you my very considered perspective on the question "Can I transition into copywriting by moonlighting?"

I'm happy to report that the answer to that question is "yes"...but with caveats.

Many people who want to transition into copywriting hold full time jobs and have the responsibility of families. That doesn't leave much time for copywriting, and copywriting is time-intensive.

Although I frequently advise my coaching students to look for national and international clients, I'd advise a moonlighting copywriter to look for local clients.

It's often easier to land a local client simply because you can meet with him. (This eventually becomes a liability, however, because meetings are unnecessary time-wasters, and the client will often tell you to "stop by and pick up the check.")

Another question you'll need to ask yourself if you want to moonlight is whether you can communicate with your client during working hours.

If you're absolutely unable to return a call or respond to an email during regular working hours, it's going to be really tough to create a relationship that works.

That said, most people have at least a lunch break where communication needs can be handled.

Another reason I suggest local clients for the moonlighter is that to work for non-local companies you need good marketing materials, and today it's almost essential to have a Web site. By working locally you can get by with letterhead and business cards.

If you're thinking about just "throwing a site together," don't do it! A hastily conceived site will look it, and will damage your "portfolio"... because it's a reflection of the kind of work you'll do for the client. Best to do it right the first time.

Many new copywriters fail to think of people they know who have businesses that could use a Web site or sales letter.

Friends and family are more likely to be flexible and understanding about time and career-transition issues. So be sure to consider opportunities that are even "closer to home" than local prospects if you want to moonlight.

I've also been asked if there are particular markets that have longer turn-around times so a copywriter would feel confident about never missing a deadline.

My Answer: Business-to-Consumer (B2C) copywriting has more order-generating work than Business-to-Business (B2B), and that usually requires longer copy.

Companies that need long copy to sell their product or service usually understand that it will take weeks or months to compete a large project.

But you still have to put the hours in. And it's a lot harder to estimate your time on a large job than a small one.

What's a small job?

There's lots of jobs you can do in direct response copywriting that you can do in a day or two. For instance, in the Business-to-Business space, you'll find a preponderance of lead-generating work.

Lead-generation work is much lighter work because all you have to do is get the prospect to raise her hand. In fact, there's a rule of thumb to tell only enough to get interest...you don't want to give so much information that the prospect can decide without the aid of a "next step" (usually contact by a salesperson).

You can get paid a tidy sum for a 2-page lead-gen sales letter (say $2,000) and knock it out in a day or two.

The most important thing to remember when you pick up moonlighting jobs is to estimate your time, and then double it.
About the Author
Award-winning copywriter Chris Marlow publishes a free newsletter for freelancers who want to build a successful business. Visit:

Chris Marlow, all rights reserved
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