A lot of people message me because they’re looking to get into freelance copywriting. AND WHO CAN BLAME THEM! 1. It’s a pretty cool career I’ve bagged myself here. And 2. I’m incredibly knowledgeable and wise.
“It’s easy to get into copywriting, but copywriting isn’t easy“
Being a Freelance Copywriter is a really nice role to settle into. I work fully remotely, around my own schedule, I don’t need to make any up-front or expensive investments and a strong portfolio is always more beneficial to clients than qualifications. (So anybody can do it!).
But it does take a lot of practice to be able to switch between multiple voices throughout a single day. And building up a consistent client base isn’t easy either. At times I have joined agencies full-time to avoid these strains, but I always seem to gravitate back to the freedom and variety of freelancing.
Am I worried about encouraging more competition?
Hell no. Everyone’s journey is different and, even if you followed my footsteps exactly, went to the same university, studied the same courses, joined the same agencies and read the same books, it would still be impossible for us to solve a brief in the exact same way. Creativity is fluid and unique. And that’s why robots won’t ever fully replace us storytellers. (Although that would make an excellent story).
Why give away this advice for free?
Mostly, this blog post will save me typing out the same advice over and over again in Twitter messages and Instagram DMs. But if this is genuinely useful to you, young Padawan, then it is my pleasure to share any inside knowledge I have gained since 2011. Go forth and build a Death Star with my tools. (Or whatever young Padawans grow up to do.)
Here’s my advice:
1. Read and highlight
Read as much as you can, as often as you can. Books, blogs, signage and articles, then photograph, bookmark, highlight and save anything you think is stand-out brilliant. When words move you, persuade you or stop you in your tracks, collect them and revisit them often. I have folders on Instagram and Pinterest just for beautiful words and stories. I surround myself with writing talent as often as I can.
An excellent starting-pile of books:
Copywriting Made Simple – Tom Albrighton
Read Me – Roger Horberry, Gyles Lingwood
D&AD: The Copy Book
Persuasive Copywriting – Andy Maslen
The Art of the Click – Glenn Fisher
2. Collect and improve
In a similar fashion to saving what you love, save what SUCKS too! If something is difficult to read, sounds overly formal or is excessively wordy, write it out for yourself and improve it. There’s a copywriter on Twitter who posts this type of challenge to his followers, saying “Can you write this better?” EXAMPLE. It’s a fun game to play and a great way to hone your communication skills. Never stop trying to fix broken communication.
3. Follow the greats
Speaking of Twitter, it’s never been easier to stumble upon great advice and to surround yourself with inspiration, useful contacts and free information. I follow so many amazing writers on Twitter. Copywriting gurus (awful word but how else can you describe Dave Trott?), copywriting tutors, professional copywriters, authors and comedians. They all inflict hourly golden wisdom upon our mortal eyeballs. We are not worthy. Go. Follow! Absorb. Here’s my list on Twitter.
4. Put together a strong portfolio
I always try to keep an up-to-date PDF portfolio of my most favourite work and projects. It’s rare that a new client will ask to see my Master’s Degree, but they do often ask to see examples of my work. I also keep a blank template at the ready for the kind of clients who ask for very specific examples. This kind of request could be “work you’ve done for other startups” or “work you’ve done in a similar tone of voice”, etc.
5. Take regular eyeball breaks
Not just for eyeball health, but for quality of content. Even after writing professionally for eight years, I never send something the second I feel that I’ve finished it. Move away from your screen, make a cup of tea, watch a half hour show, just don’t hit ‘send’ right away. Fresh eyes means catching that obvious typo you missed, it means reading it as your intended audience for (what feels like) the first time, and it adds an extra layer of confidence that is often overruled by the anxiety of finally submitting your work.
People have also asked for my advice on how to find copywriting work, but marketing isn’t my level of expertise. I’ve offered the mouthwatering recipe, I can’t bring you hungry customers!
But I hope this post is generally useful to those looking to start or progress into a copywriting career.
Send me pics of your Death Star if you do. (Not a euphemism).