I recently had a course member (Be a Hypnotic Writer) ask me the question I always used to ask:
“There’s so much stuff out there on being a freelance copywriter, where do I start?”
Here’s what I wrote back:
To go into business as a freelance copywriter, you need two main skills… the ability to write copy AND the ability to market yourself. They’re actually not the same thing although being able to write better copy helps with marketing.
If I were starting from scratch and wanted to take the shortest route, I would learn the structure and then study actual letters so you know what you’re looking at. For structure, I recommend Dan Kennedy’s book, The Ultimate Sales Letter. It’s not exhaustive but you’ll learn all you need to start.
Then use Google to find good letters. Look for swipe files. Look at samples at top copywriter’s websites. I know I listed a few in my course. When you find those letters, type them out manually. Most people (myself included) wrote them out longhand on paper but I’ve heard typing is just as good. Keep those letters so you’ll have a place to look for ideas when you’re writing.
Bob Bly has a large amount of structure and business advice for copywriters on his website. Look under Portfolio, Methodology, and For Writers Only.
If there’s a particular niche of writing ability or NLP you want to explore further, I listed almost all the resources I know at http://www.louisrburns.com/getting-started-in-copywriting-and-nlp/.
For marketing yourself there’s a nearly infinite number of places you could market yourself. Some low hanging fruit is evidently brick and mortar businesses who realize they need an online presence but don’t know how to do it. If you know how to set them up with a basic website (or especially a WordPress blog), you can make decent money as a marketing consultant.
You can be merely an adequate copywriter for that niche. If you don’t know how to install WordPress they have all the directions you need on the site. Make sure you go to the one where you download and host your own. The other one they host and get credit for your traffic.
I haven’t gotten it, but Ryan Healy just released a product on marketing yourself. If I were trying to market myself as a freelance copywriter, I would get it. Google his blog and you’ll find it. [EDIT: Go here – http://www.ryanhealy.com/copywriting-business-answers/]
If you want to get really good, you’ll eventually need a coach. Shop around and read what other people say.
The time frame really depends on how fast you get your ability and confidence up to speed. I imagine if you learned what to look for (and you know more than most because of your NLP training) and start copying out letters – 1 letter per day 3x each, you’d be better than most folks within a month. I probably only copied 10 different letters to be honest. You might try copying different elements of letters all together… like copying several headlines, leads, closes, etc so you can compare them.
Another consideration is that more and more copywriters are moving toward building information businesses. As much money as copywriters make, the folks they write for make a lot more plus they can outsource the operations. You can’t really outsource copywriting so you’ll always be tied to it.
Also, funny that you should ask because my current project is using NLP modeling to create a model of a freelance copywriter. I’ve been dissecting over 500 pages of interviews with 60+ different copywriters. I’m at least a few weeks away from launch.
I’ll probably offer it for $100 with a short (not more than a few days) special offer for $35 when I first release it. Watch my blog if you’re interested. Creating models is the info publishing business I’m moving into.
Hope that helps.
[EDIT: Once you get started with some knowledge, the best teacher is live testing. The easiest thing is to split test pay per click ads. Graduate to multivariate testing your own product. If you don’t want to create your own product, sign up as a Clickbank affiliate and write a better letter to test. At least that’s what I would do.]