I met Francis through the Copywriter Underground group a year or so back, and learned that he was a fellow travelling copywriter. I had a chat to him about how he got started with this whole copywriting thing, and how he turned his first $5 client project into a thriving 6-figure business.
How would you describe yourself as a writer – what do you do?
I’m a freelance email copywriter, and a brand new YouTube ads scripts writer. I mainly work with e-commerce businesses and coaches.
As far as the email stuff, I write copy but I also manage the lists now, too. So I rarely ever ‘just write emails’ since I’m pretty well versed in segmenting, content calendar creation, and owning the entire platform.
I just recently got into writing YouTube ads. It’s super fun and I really enjoy giving filming direction so I can be a bigger part of the ad.
What did the path to freelance writing and travelling look like for you? (what were you doing before, and what made you decide on the whole freelance thing?)
Before I became a writer, I was actually working in a kindergarten here in Budapest, Hungary. I was living in Europe for about 2.5 years at that point. But I realized teaching wasn’t for me, so I wanted to try something else. Yet, I absolutely did NOT want to go back to the states to figure it out. I was traveling around already and I didn’t want to give it up.
I eventually met this 20-year-old German dude at a bar in Budapest who told me he was a freelance copywriter. I asked what that meant. I thought it was cool and ended up asking him for resources. I loved that he was this young bro he was traveling all over the place while writing — I was hooked!
Three days later I bought a sh*tty laptop on the FB marketplace and started my journey.
As a teacher, I WAS traveling a decent amount. Just every few months I’d hit up the nearby countries: Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, etc.
What was your first project, and how much did it pay?
I love this question. My first project was a $5 blog post about IT from an UpWork client. It took me 4 hours to write and I was terrified to submit it. But I did and I made my first buck (literally just $1 after UpWork’s fee and transferring it to my Hungarian bank account)
I ended up getting fired from that client just 2 weeks later because I was a bad writer and didn’t follow formatting instructions.
How did you increase that fee – did you have any formula to raise your rates?
Well, I niched down hard. But it took awhile. I was a supreme generalist for the longest time. It wasn’t until I found an ecommerce agency client that I discovered that I loved writing emails. They’re short. Fun to write. And I was able to actually see stats for my work.
Eventually, I’d leverage email work that I did. I showed my samples and stats to prospects, which gave proof that my work did hit. That gave me more work, which helped me leverage EVEN MORE stats and samples.
In time, I’d have like 50 email samples with stats included — which always looks good to clients.
That allowed me to raise my rate from $10 emails to $30 emails to $100 an email. Now, my rates are in the $150 – $300 per email range, with no less than 5 emails in a package.
Do you have a specific niche? And how did you decide on this?
E-commerce & coaching have always been my things. I think that’s pretty broad, though. Since both have a lot of different industries.
But I write for these two niches because I love writing in different voices and these two allow me to do so. It makes writing emails or scripts a lot of fun.
I’ve always loved the work that coaches do, which is why I chose it. And e-commerce was one of those niches I somehow got a lot of experience in, so it was obvious that it’d be my niche.
How do you typically find work? Are there any places online you’d recommend for new freelance writers?
I typically find work from referrals, people finding me on podcasts, and cold email.
If I like a business, then I send them a solid cold pitch. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m fortunate enough that I’m a solid email list manager that my clients usually stay with me for months, even years.
I always tell newer copywriters to hit the “good groups” on FB. I mean the ones that are both marketers, writers, and business owners, alike. Even better if they’re all engaging with each other.
I’d say DON’T go to groups that only have copywriters looking for work. Those are usually low quality and will have you fighting with 60 other copywriters when there’s a job post.
What are your best tips for staying productive when you’re in a new place and there’s so much to see and do?
First tip would be to schedule your work time and playtime. This gives you clarity on when you should be “on” or “off”. It gets you in the mode to get sh*t done when you need to.
I’d always see nomads and other travelers working in a cafe, then chatting with someone near them. I never understood that.
Get the work done so you can hangout while fully present!
Also, I’d suggest working alone. Distractions suck and add so much time when you can actually get work done fast.
1. Quiet place in solitude
2. No distractions.
3. Pick your time and place to get work done
How do you decide on places to stay? What kind of things do you need to worry about as a freelancer when it comes to booking places?
I definitely have a criteria of places to stay. You see, I want to get my work done fast. So I find places that aren’t too close to the center, but close enough that I’m not struggling to get there.
I need a solid internet connection. A living room. And a lot of natural sunlight. (am I insufferable?)
Everyone is a bit different, but this is what works for me.
The common theme I get from other travelers is solid WiFi and a cafe.
I’m more of an Airbnb guy, by the way 🙂
What does a typical month of work look like for you?
It’s varied. In the first part of 2021, I was working with 7-10 clients. I was writing emails and managing the whole list. I hired VAs to help with tech stuff so that saved a lot of time.
Now, I work with only 2-3 clients, as an email copywriter and list manager. I have the occasional YouTube ad to write, so it’s nice to mix it up.
I think I was pulling in a good 6-7 hours per day from January to July.
Now, I do about 2-4 hours per day.
Good vibes, all around.
How do you juggle your client work while you’re travelling and dealing with weird work spaces, time zones, dodgy wifi? Any handy tips?
That’s just pure dedication. I know what needs to be done and I do it. There’s a time and place for play, then there’s a time and place to do the cool traveling stuff. Plus, I’ve pretty much made my freelance business to accommodate my lifestyle well.
That means only working in my Airbnb with a solid WiFi connection. Only working with clients that are cool with the time zone differences, rarely need to get on calls, and just want me to produce.
I think that’s the main tip:
Building your business to fit your lifestyle.
There are soooooo many businesses out there who’ll pay you handsomely and don’t want to get on calls, ping you on Slack every 2 seconds, and get upset when you’re not answering them at 2am your time.
Find those clients. And you’ll have more freedom and autonomy than you know what to do with.
Are your clients okay with the fact that you’re always moving around?
My clients are 100% cool with it. As long as I produce and the work gets done, they’re happy. Some even ask about what I’m up to and for photos. I love those people.
Any tools/tech that you can’t live without to get your work done?
I get distracted very easily and feel overwhelmed when there’s a lot of windows, notifications, and stuff like that. So I love using Workona to organize the browsers I need for clients, and Slack to communicate faster and easier.
For me, it’s more deleting things than adding tech.
I don’t have data on my phone. Slack is usually off most of the day. And I put my phone on grayscale so I don’t get distracted by the colors when I have to open it.
What’s your #1 challenge as a freelance copywriter right now?
For a while, it was outsourcing work. Sometimes I DON’T feel like writing or doing this or that. So finding writers to send work to or experts who can help with my tech stuff has been amazing.
Worst/funniest/grossest/weirdest travel story?
I’d probably say that time I partied a little hard to Budapest one night and ended up in Vienna Austria.
I was partying with a group of tourists when I was leading pub crawl tours in Budapest as a side hustle. Next thing you know someone says one of my favorite bands of all time has a pop-up show in Vienna at like 2am — and I just had to go.
So there we are, like 6 random people from 6 parts of the world, crammed in this guy’s rented van on the way to Vienna at like 10pm.
Lo and behold, the show was just a rumor…
So we ended up partying in Vienna and crashing in a hostel.
Not gross. Not weird. Maybe not even funny, but definitely one of my favorite memories traveling.
Favourite place as a nomad?
I’d say Budapest is amazing if you want city vibes, good internet, and good accomodation.
But I have a soft spot in my heart for Lisbon, such a cool place with an amazing expat community.
What’s top of your list for places to work from that you haven’t travelled to yet, and why?
I really haven’t done Asia yet. So I’m looking forward to going to Bali, Chiang Mai, and the Philippines, so I can be “that guy”.
Co-working and co-living spaces: yes or no?
Nope. I get too distracted, to be honest!
What are your goals for your business over the next year? (can be income goals, dream clients, products you’d like to launch, or whatever!)
Like I said, I’m actually scaling DOWN my client work and looking to focus on growing my email newsletter, The Nomad Newsletter. I want it to kind of be like, The Hustle, but for digital nomads and location independent people.
That’ll be my big project for the next year or so. I can’t wait to see where it’ll be.
What are your top 3 recommended resources for new freelance writers? (books, groups, sites etc)
- Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Badass Digital Nomads Podcast by my friend Kristin Wilson
- Honorable Mention: The Nomad Newsletter
What’s your best advice for anyone who’s thinking of starting a freelance writing career right now?
Just start. You don’t have to be good or really know what you’re doing. The more you try and fail, the more you’ll learn.
You can follow Francis (or hire him to write your emails and YouTube ads!) at: