How to Become an Advertising Freelancer

There are essentially three kinds of businesses in this world: Those that can afford to have an advertising agency handle all their advertising; those that can’t, but can do their own advertising and marketing in-house; and finally, those businesses that can do neither. That’s where an advertising freelancer comes into the picture.


A freelancer works on a project-by-project basis. No case too small. The benefit to the business is that they can have the freelancer work with their relatively low ad budget. The freelancer charges either by the hour or per project for their services. In doing so, they can provide professional advertising campaign management with a budget far lower than advertising agencies can feasibly work with. It’s becoming a better option for more and more businesses that simply don’t have the ability to do it on their own.

This creates an outstanding opportunity for advertising professionals who want to break out of the corporate conundrum, and get out on their own. Freelancers enjoy a greater amount of independence and self-determination than advertising professionals who work in a firm. They can take on numerous businesses as clients and have multiple streams of revenue. This means better financial stability for the freelancer.

So, say you’re an advertising pro and ready to cut the agency apron strings. Here are some simple, logical steps to get going:

1. Come up with a marketable name. Some freelancers make the mistake of working as a single person, (“Jane Schmo, Advertising Freelance”). This tends to “shrink” the freelance’s abilities in the eyes of a prospective client. Instead, come up with a professional company name (more like “Schmo Advertising and Marketing”). Present yourself more in the light of a project manager-type that will produce, supervise and manage a company’s ad campaign with the aid of other creative advertising professionals if needed. This will go a long way in projecting your image as an advertising professional who can take on any kind of campaign.

2. Once you have a name, have professional materials made up to build your image. This includes the obvious: business cards, stationery, brochures, etc. But also be sure to include other items such as advertising premiums – such as pens, key-chains, notepads, personalized calendars, and other “schwag”. You want to get your name and image out there and on the desks of the very business owners you want to work for. Image and name recognition is everything in advertising more so than any other segment of business. Get your name out there.

3. Produce an impressive info-pack – Be sure to include a detailed resume and history of past campaigns that you have worked on in your professional career. Be sure to highlight your more successful campaigns, the ones you think your prospects may have come across.

4. Put up a website – This is non-negotiable if you want to be taken seriously as a professional. You MUST have a website with a good, easy to remember domain name. Make sure ALL your materials have your web address. Your website will be your living, breathing resume. Don’t skimp on it, and update it regularly. Put up nothing less than a professional, clean and slick website and be sure to have your burgeoning portfolio on-line for your prospects to peruse at their leisure.

5. Determine your rates – Research your competition and see what the going rates are for the kind of services you will be offering. Price yourself somewhere in the middle. According to most advertising trade publications, freelance copywriters get anywhere from $350-450 per billable hour. Keep in mind that many business owners like to have a good idea of what the total cost of the project will be from the get-go. Look into pricing an entire project to get their business. Just make sure you don’t price too low and end up working way too much for too little.

6. Nobody can do everything great, so make sure your prospects understand that you have other professionals at your disposal. Such as, graphic artists, web designers and other creative specialists, to make their campaign a well-packaged success.

7. Know the ins and outs of on-line advertising! This is the future of advertising, and the future is NOW. To not be competent in this segment will severely limit your ability to lure clients. Learn every aspect and nuance of on-line advertising so your client is comfortable and confident with your knowledge. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough.

8. Be sure to keep your overhead low when starting out. Most freelancers can work from home out of a spare room. Do it. These days, setting up a home office is a breeze, and you’ll have all the amenities. Put your start-up money where it counts the most. Use quality stationery and materials, a top-flight website, and premiums from the get-go. If you skimp on any part of your business that supports your image, your prospective clients will notice, you can be sure of that.

Ok, so you’re starting out. You don’t have any clients yet! How can you start a portfolio if you don’t have any past clients? Relax. The best way to do this is to approach a few different businesses, perhaps colleagues you know in networking circles and have worked with in the past. Tell them your situation and offer to do a charter campaign for FREE. That’s right, FREE. This is a win-win situation. You get a nice addition to your portfolio, and your “charter client” gets a professional advertising campaign for no additional cost. Once you’ve done a couple of these, network through your colleague’s contacts, and show your work. If it cuts the mustard, you’ll start getting referral leads in no time at all.

Another way to get some initial clients, and work is to offer to do an initial campaign for a prospect on spec. “On spec” means that you work up the campaign, and present it to them. If they like it and want to use it, they pay you for your services. If they don’t, they pay nothing. This is a great “put your money where your mouth is” approach. At the very least it will showcase your talents to prospective businesses while you’re starting out. Done right, you will get business from doing it.

The real key to being a successful advertising freelancer is to exhibit talent, passion, flexibility, and a genuine desire to help smaller businesses advertise and market themselves. Believe it, there are a lot of businesses out there that are dying for help. You can be the help they need, and get paid well for doing it.