One of the commonest questions I’m asked is: How do I get copywriting work? Fed up of trotting out the same old responses, I wrote this article. I hope it helps a few of you newbie copywriters to get started.
- Set up a website
- Set up a LinkedIn profile
- Follow some good people on social media
- Join a community
- Get some training
- Do your marketing work
- About being a freelance
Set up a website
You won’t get anywhere if people can’t find you online. Get yourself a decent-looking website and use it to tell people why they should hire you. That bit ought to be easy if you’re a decent writer, right?
In fact, it can be hard to write objectively about yourself, and even harder if you’re new to the writing business and don’t have heaps of experience to fall back on. That’s OK. We’ve all been there. Try to understand what problems your prospective clients have. What good reason would make them spend cash money to hire someone to write words for them? If you can answer that question, you might be on to a winner.
Be honest and be human. A lot of people try to be something they’re not, especially online. They’ll talk about their services in the third person. They’ll try to sound too fancy. Don’t do that. Be you. Don’t say too much, but talk the way you would in a one-to-one conversation. You won’t suddenly race up the Google rankings (that’s tough to do no matter how good your writing is), but you’ll make a good impression on the right people – the people you want to work with.
I’ve written some general website setup tips here: Setting up a website. My buddy Jorden Roper has lots of great posts on this subject, for example 7 awful freelance writer website mistakes that cost you clients.
Set up a LinkedIn profile
Many people have a downer on LinkedIn, and, to be fair, it’s the social network I enjoy using the least. But it’s also the one that’s been most profitable for me in terms of finding new writing clients.
I wrote a jokey anti-LinkedIn post that you might find useful. Just do the opposite of what I say here: A no-hoper’s guide to LinkedIn.
I’ve noticed that clients who find me via LinkedIn are willing to pay higher rates than those who find me via my website. (Perhaps I ought to be spending more time posting on LinkedIn!)
Follow some good people on social media
Every time someone asks me for advice on a career in writing, I usually tell them to check out the great content created by some of my online buddies.
My copywriting friends Lorrie Hartshorn and Jorden Roper each produce helpful content for writers: listen to Lorrie’s One Hack Away From Wonder Woman podcast and watch Jorden’s YouTube channel. These days, it’s rare for me to give any advice to newbie copywriters without mentioning one or both of these talented ladies.
Here’s one of Jorden’s videos:
Want more podcasts? Gotcha:
- Hot Copy – a fun, informative show run by two writing buddies based in Australia, Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver.
- Good Copy, Bad Copy – run by Radix Communications, a copywriting agency based in Cornwall.
If you want to see some other people I hang out with online, check out my Know, like and trust list on Twitter.
And to find even more writerly types to connect with on Twitter, look at the people using the following hashtags:
Connecting with the right people will bring you a lot of the good stuff: mutual learning and support, camaraderie and inspiration. And, in general, surrounding yourself with good people is a winning tactic for life. Bear this in mind: you become the average of the five people you spend most time with. Choose those people wisely.
Join a community
Consider joining a professional membership organisation such as the Professional Copywriters’ Network. Among other benefits, membership comes with the ability to advertise in the PCN’s directory and an option to join a private discussion group run through Slack. You’ll find a good group of people there, some of whom you can mingle with at their annual conference. Note also that there are #copywritersunite meetups around the country – so don’t feel left out if you’re not in London.
Another way to foster a sense of community is to consider working outside your own home. Another copywriting colleague, Faith Liversedge, suggests looking at co-working spaces, where freelances with different skills come together to work under one roof. PCN members can benefit from a discount deal with NearDesk, who provide access to more than 250 shared working spaces across the UK.
Get some training
Just because you’re literate, it doesn’t mean you can write well. Sometimes you just have a natural talent and that’s great. But most skills take a while to develop, and grabbing a little help along the way is usually a good idea.
So, think about going on a copywriting course. I know lots of training providers in the UK, my favourite being the good people at WordTree. I’ve been to two of their advanced courses and they were brilliant.
Note that good-quality training isn’t cheap. Neither is it guaranteed to bring you success.
Some people believe that copywriting (especially in direct marketing) is like the Wild West. In other words, forget the rules, forget the study, live by your wits and just go and do it. That approach will work for some people but not all. What I’m saying is that you should give training serious consideration before you dismiss the idea.
Do your marketing work
I started by saying that you should get a website and a LinkedIn presence. That’s not where those tasks end, though. You don’t just create a website and then let it sit there. You don’t just fill in LinkedIn as though it were an online CV and then let it stagnate. You use these things as tools to show off the best version of you, and then keep them updated and relevant to your target audience. Speaking of which, have you worked out who your target audience is? This post will help you do the groundwork: Pen portraits.
And here are some more ideas:
- Go and network online (LinkedIn is good for that).
- Go to in-person events (admittedly, results will vary with this approach).
- Cold-call and cold-email potential clients (sounds scary and it is a bit – but that’s not enough to put you off, right?)
- Place adverts on Google, Facebook or wherever else you think your target audience might be lurking.
- Visit local businesses and see what support you might be able to give them. Perhaps they need a new brochure or new copy for their website and just didn’t know where to turn for help.
- Lean on contacts from past jobs, and on friends and family. Don’t scoff: such contacts got me through my first year in business, and I don’t think that’s unusual.
If you have the patience, think about developing a content marketing strategy. That means producing helpful content that lets you stand out as being a trusted person in your niche. It’s a slow-burn approach (don’t expect much to happen inside a couple of years) but it’s still a better long-term strategy than pumping money into advertising campaigns.
About being a freelance
(Did you know that ‘freelance’ and ‘freelancer’ are both valid nouns? True.)
If you aren’t flying solo yet, ask yourself whether it’s something you really want to do. Freelance life isn’t all shiny MacBooks and caramel macchiatos in swanky coffee shops. It’s hard work.
Freelance life isn’t all shiny MacBooks and caramel macchiatos in swanky coffee shops.
When I was made redundant in 2009, I couldn’t get an interview, much less a job. I was forced into the freelance world because I had a three-month-old daughter to feed and I was damn sure not going to support her through unemployment benefit. So I worked hard and I got there. Things worked out for me. They don’t work out for everyone, and sometimes that’s not because of a lack of talent. Just keep that in mind.
My editorial buddy Sara Donaldson has a post you ought to read: 10 things you should know to stay freelance. And here’s another post for good measure, written by Caroline Gibson: How do I become a freelance copywriter?
Over to you
If you’re a newbie copywriter, has this post helped you? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments and, if there’s something obvious I’ve missed, I’ll gladly update the post with the best advice I can muster.
If you’re an experienced writer, what else do you think a newbie should know? Again, pop your thoughts into the comments. Alternatively, catch up with me on Twitter. As ever, I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading,
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