Building a referral network as a freelance copywriter is a MUST—and I’m gonna tell you all about who, exactly, you should have in your corner if you’re a freelance copywriter looking for friends.
First, though, important backstory: whenever I work with a mentee 1:1, I create a custom curriculum for them based on a questionnaire and what I’ve so professionally titled a “big ass brain dump’.
Mentees are given specific instructions not to leave anything out of this B.A.B.D., because I want to know everything they’re hoping to learn, so I can do my best to cover as much of it as possible—I don’t want them leaving our partnership with unanswered questions!
(Okay, now you’re up to speed) The other day, while I was reading through a new mentee’s (beautiful) brain dump before bed—what’s a work-life balance? have I ever heard of a boundary? naur—I literally shot up from my horizontal position, elated about her question:
“Who should I have in my corner?”
My immediate (midnight) thought was “what a great idea for a blog post!” and, well, here we are.
Zoie, this one’s for you—now let’s talk about which other online service providers copywriters should have in their referral network & connect with to maximize productivity, build a well-rounded community, and provide their clients with the best experience.
There’s lots of reasons you’d want to build a referral network!
[*Important note before you read on: all of the people I’m about to mention are people I know and love and have personally worked with (whether I’ve hired them, or they’ve hired me, or we’ve collaborated on a mutual client project). There is no particular order in which I’ve named them, and this is by no means a definitive list. None of them are paying me to recommend them.]
This isn’t something that happens overnight. You won’t read this blog post and immediately form an amazing, life-changing partnership with every single business on this list. In fact, it could potentially take years for you to find worthwhile referral partners who genuinely have your best interest in mind and care about the success of your business.
Some people prefer to set up referral programs to take advantage of the power of affiliate marketing, which allow referral partners to earn a commission based on a sale.
I personally value authentic relationships that are built over time, as you get to know the actual person behind the screen, and you find yourselves working on lots of projects together, until referring them feels natural, because you know what the experience of collaborating with them is like.
One way I’ve found success in continuing relationships with people I’ve crossed paths with, though, is sending a short follow-up email. It doesn’t work in every situation, but let’s say you’re a website copywriter who has worked with a website designer for the first time, and you loved how the site turned out & want to work with them again.
Simply send them an email after the project is over, compliment their design, and tell them you’d love to collaborate again soon. Share that you’d like to refer them to your clients, and ask if that’s cool with them, then inquire about which types of clients they like to work with so you don’t send them anyone who doesn’t align with their idea of ‘ideal.’
This will show them that you’re happy with their work, and that you’re interested in helping them grow. It’ll also likely inspire them to recommend you to their clients, too.
So, which types of other business owners should copywriters have in their corner?
You can’t have copy without the design, so having talented designers in your corner—for all platforms, niches, and budgets—is essential.
(Also, fun fact, I attribute a lot of my early success to my collaborations with website designers, because I really made a point to ensure I made their job as easy as possible by keeping the copy organized, being helpful, and putting effort into building a relationship with them. Lots of the designers I worked with early on ended up referring more clients to me because they loved their experience.)
The referral opportunities are seemingly endless with designers, and it goes both ways—we need each other to be able to do our jobs! I’d say at least 20-25% of my client work originates from a designer referral.
And, of course, I’m always (like, literally, on the daily) recommending a different designer friend to a client, depending on what their needs are, their niche is, and their desired hosting platform.
I could literally write an entire speech on why Pinterest is worth it, and, actually, I do often find myself giving that speech completely unsolicited on practically every single call (and, now that I think about it, in almost every single normal, unrelated-to-Pinterest-completely conversation) which always prompts the inevitable “OMG, are you serious? Who got you those fabulous results?”
Sarah Burk did, bestie. She’s an icon. My famous line about the ease and effectiveness of her services is “I don’t even have to log in.”
(And her famous line about me is “I don’t even have to market myself, I just let you do it.”)
If my lovely Pinterest manager paid me per referral, I think I could quit my career as a copywriter and live off of those earnings. The woman is a Pinterest strategy queen, and she deserves full credit for my crazy-high views (anywhere from 630k to 1.4+ million monthly views), my 15,000 followers, my entrance to (and success in) the Creator Fund (before its eventual recnt downfall, RIP), the majority of the subscribers on my emaihttp://betweenthelinescopy.com/subscribel list, and at least 35% of my overall income this year and last, no joke.
While of course you’ll do your own keyword research, and you know how to optimize a website to fit Google’s fantasy, and you’d consider yourself very knowledgeable about SEO, at the end of the day, you’re a copywriter, not an SEO specialist.
Getting in touch with someone who lives and breathes search engine optimization—like my friend Abbey of Duo Collective, for example—is such a good relationship to have.
They’re amazing referral partners, because they always have people who need copy (thanks to their fresh new keyword research and SEO deep dive inspiring them to get their ass in gear to make Google happy).
I often refer clients to Abbey when they want their website’s back-end optimized, or when they want an extensive SEO audit done to see how they measure up (and how they can improve).
Abbey refers clients to me when they need website copy, sales page copy, or email copy, and she also enlists me to make what she calls “copy optimizations” for her clients that opt to have her team implement the SEO findings (which includes making adjustments to the copy to include keywords, increase word count, and improve user experience).
SEO resources I love:
Specifically, lawyers who specialize in working with freelancers in the online space, creative business owners, or whoever your niche is.
And, if you’re a website copywriter, you’d also benefit from being connected to a lawyer who has drafted templates for Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policies, so if your clients are in need, you can send the templates their way.
(I include the links to my preferred attorney-drafted templates in the Next Steps Guide I send all of my website copy clients, and if you want to use them, too, you can click here to access them and use code “BETWEENTHELINES” for $10 off.)
Attorneys & legal template creators the people in my community love are:
I don’t know about you, but when I work with clients to help them launch a new website (or sales page, or email marketing plan), I always end up in Business Mentor mode, and we end up chatting about all things freelance biz, with setting up back-end systems being one of the top topic contenders.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think my clients always end up asking me about CRMs because they have a positive experience working with me, thanks to my seamless onboarding process via Dubsado.
Buuuut I’m by no means a CRM expert—I’m definitely still learning more about how to optimize the platforms I use in the background of biz as I go. So, for that reason, when someone asks my advice, I make sure to send them to the people who can actually confidently answer their CRM questions (or do their setup for them).
If you’re looking for a systems and automations pro, I recommend Whitney Radacina. And if you’re looking for a Certified Dubsado Specialist, I recommend Fran of The Passions Collective and Taylor Torres of Chanel and Lee.
(To learn more about client management systems and navigating Dubsado with ease, you can read my Expert Interview with Fran!)
I’ve found that a lot of my clients who decide to invest in my website copywriting services are also on the cusp of some serious business expansion, and they’re on the hunt for other online service providers to help them manage everything as they grow.
Before I hired my IRL business manager—follow along with me on Instagram to learn more about her!—I worked with virtual assistants both on a retainer basis and on a project-by-project basis, and I had a great experience.
Clients ask me for recommendations for paid ads specialists and Facebook Ads gurus all the freaking time, and I have yet to find anyone who fits the bill. So, if that’s you, consider this my open call—reach out to me so I can send you to all the people; they won’t stop asking!
If your clients care enough about their online presence to invest in your help with copywriting, chances are they care a lot about social media, too. Having a go-to SMM to refer your clients to will prove to be really beneficial.
Whenever anyone asks me for a social media manager rec, I always send them over to Courtney Weimer. She has an amazing eye for aesthetics + she’s very committed to her client projects.
I’ve personally found that working with an SMM doesn’t work for me, because Instagram (and other socials, aside from Pinterest) really isn’t where I thrive when it comes to marketing—it’s all about the inbox for me—but what I *do* find to be exponentially helpful is having social media templates that I can customize myself.
Ensuring I felt good about the aesthetic of my Instagram may sound like something frivolous, but my feed was genuinely something that stressed me out before I had bomb social templates. It made a world of difference to finally feel confident about the way I was showing up on social.
(Once I had templates designed for me, I suddenly felt like posting every single day, after months of not feeling like showing up on the ‘gram at all!)
(You can use code “BTLCOPY” for 15% off, too!)
& if you’d prefer to work with a designer one-on-one to create something more custom for your brand, reach out to my friend Daniella—she designed some of my templates for me and I love them. I switch off between using hers and using Tonic‘s.
Whether you’re looking to plan a brand shoot for yourself, or your clients ask you for advice, connecting with photographers is always a good idea! My favorite photographer is Mathilde Langevin, who is based in Montreal. She shot my brand photos, and I love them.
(Mathilde also has an extremely popular account on Unsplash, where you can use her stock photos for free. Chances are you’ve already seen them—tons of big creators, like Tonic Site Shop, use them for social media marketing.)
I’d also recommend having someone in your corner who can help plan photoshoots. I learned the hard way on one of my previous brand shoots that not having everything planned out (shot list, outfits, locations, overall vibe, editing style, etc) can result in… a bad experience, and an unsatisfied customer (ahem, you).
The best part about creating a community for the benefit of your business? Sometimes there are other benefits, too—like genuine friendship with people who just get you, because their day-to-day life looks more similar to yours than your IRL friends’ lives do.
I’m so grateful for the people I’ve been able to form actual friendships with after meeting in a business context, and it really goes to show how valuable the power of simply reaching out is.
Speaking of, that’s exactly how my website designer, Sarah Kleist, became one of my best friends.
(Not just biz friends, actual, real-life friends. Hilariously, the first thing she set to me when we finally met in person—ew, that sounds so MySpace—was “you’re short!” because I, apparently, give tall energy online.)
Back in winter of 2020, she came up on my TikTok FYP, talking about Showit website design. I stalked her website, and the copy was damn good, so I commented on her video to compliment it. She saw it, stalked me back, then messaged me on Instagram.
(She, at the time, was part of something really cool called Reach Out Party, which you can read more about right here.)
Fast forward two years later, and I don’t go a day without audio messaging her my every single thought!
Abbey Oslin is another friend of mine who I can always count on to be there for me, business-related or not. I have quite literally debated moving to Minnesota roughly 38 separate times just to be closer to her, because we have all the same interests, the same lifestyle goals, the same hobbies, and the same habits.
(If the winter weren’t so scary, and Cape Cod weren’t so far, I’d do it.)
The best part of my relationship with Abbey—aside from the perpetual honesty, and always being on the same wavelength about life and business—is our weekly ‘peer mentor’ call.
I’d been chatting with her about my 1:1 mentorship services, and our conversation evolved into a “wait, why don’t we do that for each other?” considering we already offered each other business advice on the daily anyway, and it is so helpful to me as a solo freelancer to have someone to bounce ideas off of (and someone to tells me if an idea sucks).
Xanthe Appleyard is another friend I do this with sometimes, and another friend who I’d consider moving across the country to be neighbors with.
She’s an expert community builder—and, actually, is the perfect person to know if you’re building your network; you should reach out to her or join her community!—because she’s genuine. She thrives on helping people, strategizing, and connecting.
I recently saw an Instagram post calling out brands who use ‘community’ as a sales tactic just because they know it’s valuable (and not because they actually want to have that community) and my first thought was “that’s the exact opposite of Xanthe.”
Alethea Tyler is actually my mentee, but after more than half a year (and counting!) of working together 1:1, she feels way more like a friend. She’s my go-to for second opinions, copy suggestions, and stupid things I wouldn’t bother telling anyone else. We’re simply meant to be.
Long story long, don’t forget to make friends while you’re making connections.
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And, of course, if you’re looking for something more serious than book recommendations, courses to take, and a few blog posts to read, check out my 1:1 mentorship services for new and aspiring copywriters—I’d love to chat about how I can help you reach the next chapter in your success story.
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
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