Before You Ask: How To Get Started In Copywriting
Until the guide is finished, any and all posts regarding this question will be removed from the sub. If you want to know how to get started in copywriting, read these threads.
Great videos for Direct Response copywriting: I make around $300,000 a year as a freelance copywriter. My sister recently lost her job and I’m teaching her copywriting from scratch. Thought I’d share the videos I’m making and sending her.
This is being worked on, in the meantime, read the comments “How to get-in” megathread
For folks looking to get into the creative copywriting for advertising agencies, these are for you
This applies to general content and copywriting, rather than high-end ad slogan writing (though there’s crossover everywhere in this industry).
1. Figure out what you have to offer a client. What are YOU expert in (or can become convincingly expert in within 30 minutes internet research)? Why should they choose you over someone more experienced, or someone cheaper (eg India/Philippines) but probably also more experienced on Upwork? What can you offer them that they can’t do themselves, or what can you do better?
2. Any kind of experience in the business world is going to stand you in better stead than reading books on copywriting. Clients are not experts on copy (which is why they still happily buy and publish so much shit content often in poor English). You need to understand their language and goals: customer profiles, “pain points”, “key messaging”. How a business works in terms of marketing, sales, corporate communications. The approval process. The inter-departmental dynamics. Even six months admin work in any kind of office can give you golden insight into this.
3. Find a niche in a growing, in-demand sector (forget music, film, travel) where quality is appreciated that also pays. Healthcare is a good example (however medical copywriting is extremely specialised, partly due to all the legislation around it, and they often require a medical or medical-related degree). If you have worked in industry x, then you should automatically position yourself as a “specialist x copywriter”. It doesn’t matter if your previous position wasn’t specifically as a copywriter. You have specialist insider insight and experience in that industry, so promote that.
4. You don’t need to stress about a website literally a one-page free WordPress site with your name, contact details, areas of specialist writing will suffice. No one is going to spend hours browsing through your stuff. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just clear and elegant and legible/navigable.
5. You need a complete, professional LinkedIn profile – and you can be selective about what you include. If you’re a new graduate you don’t need every casual job on there. You can put “Bowlands Building Co – web writer” – even if that was a web page you once edited for free for your uncle’s two-man company. LinkedIn ain’t gonna check, and it’s great credentials for an “SMB” or “building trade” speciality. Yes – there’s a lot of faking and window dressing in this industry. But what do you reckon your copy is going to be?
6. Byline/ghostwriting/credit – 99% of your work won’t have your name attached to it. Can you still use it in your portfolio? Yes – but discreetly. Not online/on your website. It’s something you can send to a prospective client if and when they want to see other samples of your work. Experienced, professional clients will understand why it doesn’t have your name on it.
7. Start with an in-house job if you can – I really think a lot of new graduates are just shovelling shit uphill by trying to freelance from the get go. As in point 2, you really need to learn about the business world, and make critical network connections, to do well in this business. Also consider starting with any job, and doing copywriting on the side.
8. Get a brutal assessment of your ability – if you are not a natural writer, you are going to struggle. If you were the kind of person that breezed English at school you’ll probably be fine. Yes, anyone can improve their writing through years of practice, but I’ve encountered writers (copywriters and fiction writers) who are literally “tone deaf” when it comes to language. Be realistic. You don’t have to be Shakespeare or Hemingway. But if you aren’t naturally imaginative and creative, if you don’t find it easy/second nature to write, rewrite, paraphrase, précis, if you struggle with grammar and spelling, if your prose is generally pedestrian and not engaging, then it’s time to question whether this is really a suitable career for you.
9. The big money is in big corporate and possibly government, so if you really want to high-end it, get yourself a degree in finance or related, and then try to focus on annual report writing, grant writing, etc. There are specialist courses you can do for this.
10. PR agencies are a useful in – a lot of people leave PR to go into copywriting, so it’s a good way to start. There are also generally a lot of jobs in PR. Also, a lot of PR agencies take freelancers. Email a few and push to “meet for coffee and a quick chat”. Obviously research what kinds of clients they have, and try to align your skills with that (eg B2B startups or B2C FMCG).
A copywriting shower thought: When I was a kid, my teachers always taught me to find “better” words to use. Words like “good,” “big,” and “small” were sins. Now, I write professionally and I’m constantly trying to simplify the language I use as much as possible.
I have this desire to always respect the audience, assume they’re intelligent people, and write content that treats them accordingly. I really do not want to write at a fifth-grade level.
At the same time, conventional wisdom always recommends using the most basic language possible. Short sentences are encouraged. Simple copy is always preferred.
So where is the line between eloquence and verbosity? Or between accessibility and stupidity?
There are no real answers to these questions and everything is context-dependent but I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts on all this.
Thanks so much for doing this AMA.
I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind.
1.) How did you get started originally? Did you get a marketing degree? Gain good connections early on? Did you get your feet wet doing SEO content mill stuff before moving on to bigger, better, more lucrative projects?
2.) At what point did you raise your rates? Was it a gradual process, or did you eventually start getting requests from people you knew had the budget to pay what you’re worth?
3.) How’d you get past the “imposter syndrome” that creatively gifted people tend to have? It’s really hard to judge your own talent and skill level objectively, and I think for a lot of us, that gets in the way of having the confidence to charge higher rates.
4.) It sounds like content marketing is working great for you. Now, the freelance writing market is a pretty saturated and competitive place these days. You mentioned in another comment that you need really good content to stand out from the crowd these days. What, in your opinion, separates the great, truly insightful blog content from the mediocre stuff? (Because let’s be honest here, with all the digital marketers preaching “Content is King” and “Make Great Content,” there’s a fuck ton of content out there on every subject imaginable, but most of it is derivative or mediocre.
5.) Do you primarily do “content” (i.e. blog posts and such), “copy” (which I’d group as things like email marketing, landing pages, anything that’s sales-oriented rather than being upper-funnel and primarily informational), or a mix of both?
6.) I’ve been writing copy and content since early 2014, both as an employee and as a freelancer. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that today, in late 2016, it’s a good idea for writers to move away from doing content that’s primarily SEO-centric. It seems that this market has been in decline, and that it tends to be primarily low-paying work for small business’s blogs that no one will ever read. (When was the last time you read a blog post from the plumbing company down the street?) Would you agree with this sentiment, or am I missing something in the current market?
I know these are a lot of questions.
No worries, I’ll answer best I can below:
1.) I never did marketing at all in my formal education (I have a useless political science degree actually). I owned an eCommerce business starting in college and several years later started an email list for it. After learning about copywriting and applying the principles of copywriting to it, the email income went way up. I also had a blog online that started getting popular, and that’s when people started emailing me asking, “I love how you write, can you help me write something?”
2.) I started consulting for $80/hour on my blog. I sold 4 spots and they sold out quick. So I raised it to $120. Then $150. Then $180. This continued to now where I charge $597/hr.
3.) I get that in times of weakness….so when I’m feeling really GREAT about myself (maybe after a fresh cup of coffee!) I’ll say “fuck it” and post my rates and offer somewhere. I have bits of Imposter Syndrome, but for the most part am relatively confident about what I offer. I really make my clients more money, so I don’t feel I’m ripping anyone off ever. ALSO, I would now hate to get just $100 for an hour, it would piss me off, so I naturally raise my rates to a level where I’d be happy to spend that hour on a client.
4.) What separates good content? Sorry for being “braggy” by posting my own articles, but it’ll give you context: Actual real-world experiments (check this out: http://kopywritingkourse.com/street-advertising-experiment/), actually scraping and analyzing data (see this: http://kopywritingkourse.com/copywriter-salary/), actually making templates and giving them away (see this: http://kopywritingkourse.com/one-pager-examples/). THAT’S the difference between great helpful content and just mediocre articles that would’ve been cool in 1995, but will no longer cut it.
5.) I do lots of blog posts, maybe 2-4 per month. I also do LOTS of emails, generally 2 per week. My email list has grown, so I always make sure to send out emails regularly. I wasn’t sure I totally understood the rest of part 5 of your question! Ask again and I’ll be happy to answer though!
6.) I think unless you’re going to make a full-time concerted effort to rank in the search engines, it’s not worth it. It takes time and effort, it’s HARD and takes maybe 1 to 2 years! But I take it seriously so it works. I think content is still king, just not in the form of ONLY blog posts anymore. There’s a shit-ton of social media content being generated, and direct mail (that plumbing company would benefit more from direct mail than blog posts, see this: http://kopywritingkourse.com/direct-mail-marketing/ and search the page for “Air Conditioning”).
Thanks for the questions, lemme know if have more!
Hey there Neville!
First of all, a huge thank you for taking the time to do this AMA and offering your invaluable insights and experience and another thank you for kindling some fire into /copywriting!
So, I’ll grab this unique opportunity and ask a few questions myself:
Would you advise for or against specializing in a specific niche? A lot of copywriters argue that you can make much more money this way since you have extended experience in a specific niche and businesses from that field would pay a premium. My personal reservation is that I like being able to work on different topics from time to time, it adds some variety and versatility and I am afraid that I will get “burnt” writing just for one topic
In your experience what would you say is the best way to network and acquire more clients? You already mentioned that your blog is the main channel from which your get new clients, but for someone like me – whose blog gets the 1/100000 the traffic yours gets – and it will take me years just to build such a valuable blog, what would be the next best thing? aka how do I get clients if I am not Neville from Kopywritingkourse?
3)If you could give just one advice to an aspiring copywriter what would that be?
4)At the moment I work as a freelancer but I am contemplating joining an agency and then later on (depending on the situation) returning to freelancing again with much higher rates. Do you think that would be wise? Have you always worked as a freelancer or have you been an agency/in-house copywriter as well?
5)Lastly, a personal one: the general consensus supports the definition that “Copywriting is salesmanship in print”. (the print part is irrelevant nowadays) do you agree with that? Personally, I consider copywriting as much science as it is art. I think of it as the perfect combination of these two elements – on the one hand you have the raw creativity and on the other hand the “laws” and the rules of copywriting that have to distil and filter said creativity in order to deliver something truly unique. What do you think?
I am really sorry for the long/many questions but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity having the chance to ask you anything so I couldn’t resist!
Thank you again for this AMA Neville! Oh and happy holidays! 🙂
Thanks George! I’ll answer my best:
**1.) ** They’re right. Being more specific brings in more money. For example, if you were really good at writing articles for lawyers, I would make it clear you specialize in 3 things, one being writing articles for lawyers. This will command much higher prices than being “just some dude who writes words.”
**2.) ** Great question…..and it does take work in the beginning. make it your goal to be a “celebrity” in groups such as Cult of Copy on Facebook (or other specialized groups). Create a Google Doc as your portfolio and log every piece of work you do. If you commit to helping anyone in those groups for 3 months, you can write 40+ pieces. Offer people to do “free consults” or “free reviews”. OR just flat-out provide reviews when people request….and log each of these. You have to essentially PROVE to people you are good. Just because you say “you’re a copywriter” doesn’t mean anyone should hire you. List if you have any experience in specific fields (Ex: I was the top shoe salesman at Foot Locker for 4 years and know the shoe industry backwards and forwards). Things like that boost your credibility big time.
**3.) ** Write a lot. If you’re not ALREADY WRITING FOR FREE (your own blog, reviews, fun projects)….you probably don’t like writing that much. Also, learn the tools of your craft well. Learning Photoshop and WordPress really has propelled me far beyond most copywriters since all they can do is type words.
**4.) ** Hell yeah! Having agency experience is big. First of all you’ll have a name to brag about, second you’ll automatically get to work with heavier weight clients than on your own. I say go for it, and continue to freelance on the side!
**5.) ** I personally don’t get too “romantic” about what “copywriting” actually means. I just work backwards from what the point of the article/email/post is. Is the point to SELL something? Is the point to get linked by other sites? Is the point to get email signups? Then go from there. I also keep a lot of screenshots and swipe file material on all my computers and phone to get inspiration.
I would suggest you learn to become a “Triple Threat” (http://thehustle.co/the-most-successful-people-are-a-double-threat-or-more) so you can be more powerful as a freelancer. Don’t get stuck in JUST banging out keys on a keyboard. Learn to make images, learn to build websites, learn some basic HTML editing, learn how to wrangle WordPress pages to look nice, learn to be a power user of Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets. These skills all add up to making one damn great copywriter!
Thanks for the questions George! Ask anymore if needed 🙂
WHAT WORKS: 1.) I write a blog and spend a shit-ton of time writing articles I think are fun to read and educational. 2.) I participate in copywriting groups (such as “The Cult of Copy” on Facebook). This gets me some recognition in the copy world. 3.) I attend marketing and entrepreneur events. I happen to simply enjoy this, but have made hella connections through them.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK: 1.) Writing super-average articles. This isn’t 1995, the internet doesn’t need another crappy article. 2.) Making a really fancy website as your portfolio. Just use a Google Doc.
3.) Bragging you’re a “copywriter” to people. I think simply having worked in an industry garners you more respect from clients than claiming you’re a copywriter and therefore know everything.
1 – How do you maintain a blog with constant new content, keeping it valuable and special instead of just (insert common advice for 50th time) as preferred by google’s algos?
2 – How do you attract and keep readers interested (in ads themselves) without going too far off center/too creative and losing people (as Collin etc. often warn about)?
1.) It’s hard work. A lot of people view a “blog” as a dinky little thing you occasionally update. I treat my blog as my main business, and therefore am constantly working on content pretty much every single day. Researching articles, scraping data, messing with tech stuff, writing, drawing images, formatting images to look nice…..it’s all a lot of work. Treat your blog seriously as you would a brick-n-mortar retail store.
2.) I never try to be “clever” about stuff. I used to think some of my jokes were soooo clever, but then half the audience or less understands it. That’s when I just scaled it back to being “just a little funny” and “super brain-dead easy to read.”
If your goal is to simply get an email signup on a page, then I suggest removing damn-near all the content and just asking for the signup. If your goal is to make them watch a video, then I suggest removing almost everything on the page except the video. Be smart and focused on the goal…..don’t be “clever” just to impress yourself!
What Freelance Clients REALLY Want from Copywriters
In the words of A-List freelance copywriter Parris Lampropoulus, who’s work has generated tens – if not hundreds – of millions for his clients:
“There are three reasons a client hires a copywriter:
#1 – They want someone who delivers on time
#2 – They want someone that’s easy to work with
#3 – They want someone whose copy converts
The mistake people make is thinking conversions are all that matter.
In reality, copywriters can make a great career for themselves just by delivering on time and being easy to work with.”
I see a lot of posts in here from beginners asking how to get clients, how to break into becoming a freelancer, etc.
So, I thought this post might be of value to some people here.
Because in case you haven’t noticed, many killer copywriters are dickheads / hard to work with.
Not to mention, they tend to have a reputation for being flakey / not delivering on time.
So if you’re not writing at a super high level / able to drive massive conversions yet…don’t despair.
Being nice and delivering on time is something anyone can do…
…and you might be surprised by how far it can take you.
Looking for a guide to write amazing copy?
I am still in the learning phase of my copywriting journey and not being able to afford the KopywriteKourse, CopyChief, AWAI, or many of the other courses out there, I have been subjected to many YouTube and How-to sites that say go read this or hey let me talk to you about this, but not really give any info that will help you. FB groups are somewhat ok if you can figure out who is credible and who isn’t.
So I stumbled across this YouTuber, Kyle Milligan, a copywriter for Agora, and was pretty shocked to find that he was actually giving me valid info in his video. I watched a few more and there were more real tips and demonstrations on studying other copy and breaking it down to its basic elements. So I wanted to share here what I think is a really awesome guy that is genuinely trying to help the community.
I picked up a copy of his book, pretty average price for ebooks and I have been extremely happy with the content. He makes it all come together so easily and breaks it down so well, I don’t see how anyone could not gain something from this.
I wanted to try and get it on the recommended page but it seems replies are disabled so I’m just going to leave the link here.
The breakdown he gives is worthy of the high priced gurus out there and he gives this info to you for almost nothing. Easy to read and implement. You won’t be sorry.
Edited to sound less like a sales pitch. I just really appreciate the info the guy has put out there and want to share it.
Hey guys, if you don’t know who Kyle is: He’s an Agora copywriter who made $8,000,000 with his sales letters in his first year at Agora.
He wasn’t some hotshot before either, he read the Boron letters and a bit of Dan Kennedy (I think it was Dan Kennedy).
He did what everyone on here does, reads about copy. Then the guys at Agora told him how to REALLY learn copywriting.
In all his youtube videos he shows EXACTLY how he at Agora breaks promos down, the key insights on how to improve, etc.
His book ties everything together in one simple writeup so you can go over everything easily.
He’s a really good copywriter and he provides so much free value, and if you’re into it (you will be) you can always get his book.
It was the cheapest copywriting book I’ve purchased and it’s jam-packed with great content.
He’s still a very small channel, and his stuff often goes unnoticed here.
Outside of copywriting, he knows about psychology. He talks about books like “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. This book WILL help you with everything in your life. He talks about how he uses it for copywriting. He’s just a really sharp guy with a lot of knowledge on copy and how to create better copy.
For example, everyone suggests Facebook groups to learn copywriting. I’ve been a part of a bunch and they are ALL dogshit.
When have you gotten REAL value from a FB group? It’s just a bunch of people who probably know LESS than you, but chime in and tell you how to do things. You are making yourself work harder with them by having to sift through the shit to find the value.
You’ve got people who are only in those groups to just stroke their own ego and feel smart. You’ve got the newbies who tell you how to do stuff without ever writing a lick of copy. You have a TINY minority who know their stuff and will chime in every once in a while with good information, but why go through the trouble when you can make yourself work much less for the same info?
Plus, Facebook (and Reddit, oops) are huge timesinks that require a fuck ton of willpower to not get distracted or think of something you saw on the page.
here’s my top 33 headline frameworks
This is my go to list of prompts when I start to write anything, it doesn’t matter if you’re writing an email to a few colleagues that you need to convince that “your way is the right way”, or if you’re sending a broadcast out to a million possible customers.
Heck it can even work if you’re sending out a list of headline frameworks… pretty meta right there! heh.
Here’s the 33 prompts for your consideration…
Ask a question:
Reference current events:
Create Your Own Terms:
Reveal News (New/Introducing):
Tell The Reader to Do Something:
Make a Comparison
Promise Useful Information:
Tell A (Quick) Story:
Make A Recommendation:
Use A Testimonial:
Promise to Reveal A Secret:
Be Ultra Specific:
Target Section of Your Audience:
Time Based Headline:
Stress Urgency/Scarcity of Savings/Value:
Deliver Good News:
Challenge The Reader:
Highlight Your Guarantee:
State The Price (as benefit):
Set up (seemingly) Contradiction:
Address Reader Objection/Concern:
“As Crazy As it Sounds:”
Take Them To The Promise Land:
Reason Why Headline:
List / Answer Questions:
Stress Cost Saving Value:
Highlight Cost of Mistakes:
State / Deliver on Reader’s Goals:
Increase Academy – I help mildly successful entrepreneurs become wildly successful entrepreneurs.
You don’t have to do free work to get experience. You’re better off doing this
Hey. I want you to know something. I get it. You’re a new copywriter and it seems like no one wants to hire you because you don’t have any experience, right? And you’re probably stuck on the same question A LOT of new writers find themselves circling around: “How the hell do I even GET experience if no one will hire me?!”
It’s frustrating, I know. But before you jump to offering people free work, I want to share something else you can do instead.
It does involve some type of “free” work… But you sure as hell won’t be giving any of this free work to people who very well should pay for the kind of work you do as a copywriter.
So your job as a copywriter is to get people to do things with the power of words, amirite? Cool, glad we’re on the same page. That said, let’s focus on using that skill of yours to help you land clients. How are you going to do that? You’re going to use your awesome copywriting skills to sell YOU.
First, let’s get some samples goin’ for you
You and I both know your clients are going to ask you for samples. They’re not being jerks. They just want to see what kind of quality you can deliver. And honestly, it looks pretty bad when you’re like, “I don’t have any samples to give you though… But I promise I’m amazing!”
But here’s the cool thing. “Samples” doesn’t necessarily mean “previous work” aka work you’ve done for other people… Samples can literally be just that. Samples.
So, what does this mean? WRITE SOME DAMN SAMPLES. Find out the kind of copy you want to write for your clients, research some material you can use for inspiration, and then write. You get me? Take some time to write a few of these to use as samples to show to your clients when they ask.
Like I said. It takes some free work. But definitely NOT free work that you’ll be giving to someone else to use for their own profit while YOU make $0.
Make sure your samples are your BEST work
Treat your samples like they’re for actual projects for actual clients. From what I’ve learned, the better the quality, the less of a concern your clients will have about whether or not these samples came from previous projects you’ve had.
Start pitching clients
Do whatever you need to do to get yourself in touch with the people you want to work with and PITCH. Send ‘em your best email, message, whatever. Just do it. As a copywriter, your job is to sell people on an idea, product, service, etc. And if you want to be any good at helping your clients sell their ideas, products, services, etc., you need to be good at selling yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, you probably won’t be able to do much for your clients, either.
Pitch. Provide samples. Land a gig. Repeat.
Do this for a while and you’re bound to land a gig. And if you feel like it’s not working, don’t give up just yet. Work on your pitch. Polish up your samples. Keep tweaking your stuff until you land a gig.
That’s pretty much it. Again, this is simply just an idea to help you get some clients while you’re still in the early stages of your freelance copywriting career.
Edit: Made this less of a “scroller” and bulked up the paragraphs & edited out some unimportant p