copywriting money

copywriting money tree

What’s the main number you hear copywriters (successful ones, at least) talk about more than any other?

Annual income, right? Down to the penny, in fact, if it surpassed the coveted six-figure mark the year before.

What you don’t often hear are the numbers it took to generate that type of income.

Today we’re going to take a slight detour from copywriting per se. We’re going to look at the key numbers behind the business of copywriting.

Running a successful freelance copywriting business really boils down to analyzing and focusing on a few key numbers.

“Keeping score,” as I call it, will help you:

  • Diagnose exactly where you need to improve
  • Track improvement from month to month and year to year
  • Take control of your business instead of waiting for things to happen
  • Make more money

The copywriting payoff

I spent 15 years in direct sales, and I credit a lot of my success to using this strategy. In 1999, I set a benchmark of $351,500 in sales (not income) that I needed to achieve for the year. The big payoff, above my normal commissions and bonuses, was an all-expense-paid, seven-day trip for two to Hawaii.

That year, I was like a baseball statistician keeping track of my numbers. On any given day, I could tell you how many people I had talked to that month, how many sales I had made, how many people on my prospect list I hadn’t contacted yet, what my average client size was, and what my total sales to date were.

On the last day of the year, I landed one more client, which put my total number for the year at $352,200. I beat my goal by 0.2%! Thanks to “keeping score” all year long, I always knew exactly what I needed to do and where I needed to improve.

Get fanatical about tracking these five numbers on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis, and your income will go up:

1. Conversations

How many conversations (by phone, email, or in person) did you have with legitimate prospects?

2. The pipeline

How many people are currently in your pipeline? In other words, how many people have you had a conversation with, proposed some level of service to, but haven’t retained as a client yet?

3. Projects

How many paid projects did you work on this week?

4. Collected money

Not invoiced, but actually collected for completed projects or future work.

5. Average project size

This number will constantly fluctuate based on your numbers for 3 and 4 above.

Two ways to grow your copywriting income

Want to make more money? Not counting passive or royalty income, you need to either increase the number of projects you do, or increase your average project size. It’s that simple.

To increase the number of projects, you need to get better at the quality of your conversations and your proposal-writing skills.

To increase your average project size, you need to increase the scope of what you can do for your clients, raise your fees, or get better results (which will allow you to charge more the next time.)

I can hear the objections now: “This will stifle my creativity,” “Too time-consuming and tedious,” “I’m just not a numbers person,” and from new copywriters, “I don’t have any numbers to track yet!”

Here’s the thing. Most successful businesses track their key numbers. Treat your freelance business like a business, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

The more you do it, the more fun it becomes. Seriously. And it shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes a week. If it takes longer, it’s because you’re making a lot of money, and you won’t mind!

Do you keep score? Any numbers besides these that you track? Has it paid off for you yet? Tell me about your copywriting numbers.



Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Great post, Steve!

    I LOVE tracking things! On the last day of this past January, I grabbed a legal pad and decided to start tracking my “sales calls” (i.e., prospecting emails). At that point, I’d set a goal of five per day, and I wanted to be able to keep up with the people I’d contacted, how/if they’d responded, etc.

    Well, the five-per-day didn’t last but a few days, but ever since then, I’ve been tracking what I do every day. I guess I was a little disappointed in myself for not being able to keep up with the five-per-day system, so I decided to look at how I was spending my time (time-, weight-, money-management people often encourage this). I started listing every significant business-related activity, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I was ending up with a fairly long list of completed tasks every day (often even on the weekends).

    Steve, you know that outsiders don’t understand freelancing. For a long time after i decided i wanted to freelance, i was in this weird fog. I knew the vision in my head, but because I couldn’t show my friends and family big results, i felt like I wasn’t doing anything. When I started keeping this list, I suddenly felt like what I was doing every day “counted.” I didn’t feel so lost anymore. It’s only been a few months, but I can honestly say that starting that daily, sloppy, hand-scribbled list – as old-school as it is – is by far one of the best things I’ve done since I started my freelancing quest.

    Sorry this is so long, but i just had to share. Hope this helps someone else!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Jessi, I still do my daily to-do list and tracking on a 3″ x 5″ card, so I get what you’re saying! We simply HAVE TO keep track of daily activity and results or we just keep spinning our wheels. I’m going to come up with a fun, easy, system tailored to freelance writers. I’ll keep you posted.

      Thanks for reading these posts and commenting! I really appreciate it.

  • Great points Steve! I tracked more when I was just getting started. Lately, I’ve been so busy I haven’t. (Though, I have tracked # of proposals–and size– going out). Currently, I’m beating my record in both the #’s of proposals and in one or two instances, the size of the project. Yay!

    Thinking about who’s in the pipeline and tracking new possibilities isn’t something I’ve been writing down (just relying on memory…) as of late.

    I think that keeping these 5 points in mind (and writing them down) may even help me schedule my work over the coming months.

    Love that writing it down meant your work counted Jessi b/c it does!

    • Steve Roller says:

      I know one of the reasons I didn’t keep score in the beginning is because my numbers were dismally low! It’s fun to keep track when they start going up, though. Keep me posted, Jen, on how your numbers are changing.

  • Excellent points about handling the business side of things!

    I don’t bill by the hour (since that’s a sure way to cap income), but I always track my income earned per hour both for the hours I spend writing and for total hours worked, including marketing and admin. That has helped me understand what I can do more efficiently. Because I track these numbers, I have determined how to spend less time on marketing (by developing the types of business relationships that ensure my clients are marketing for me) and less time on admin (by outsourcing).

    • Steve Roller says:

      Very smart, Daisy! That brings up another point – tracking! We don’t do enough of measuring and tracking as copywriters, and if we did it would help us leverage things more like you’re doing. Well done.

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