Here are a few quick tips from Kate Toon, an award-winning, Sydney-based copywriter. Everything budding copywriters need to know!
1) Don’t worry about the competition
There are heaps of copywriters in Sydney, each offering to write your website, produce brilliant SEO-copy or knock out a brochure or two. You might think, ‘Is there space for me?’ The answer is yes. There’s plenty of work to go around and if you’re good, ‘they will come’.
2) Okay; worry about the competition a bit
You should of course check out your competition. What do you like about them? Their style? Their tone? The jumper they’re wearing in their picture? ‘Borrow’ what you think will work for you, but avoid wholesale plagiarism. Try to ‘be yourself; everyone else is taken’*.
3)Build a website
It irks me when I’m trying to recommend a great copywriter and I can’t send the potential client anywhere. There’s no excuse for not having a decent website. It’s your calling card, your portfolio. How can you expect people to take you seriously without one? Ideally, build one yourself using WordPress; it’s a great learning experience, and will help your overall understanding of the web. Ensure it’s carefully optimised for your chosen keywords so that you’ll slowly move up the Google rankings. A decent business card goes a long way as well!
4) Write free (for a while)
It’s comforting for potential clients to see who else you’ve worked for, so while you’re getting started, offer to work free of charge for friends and colleagues who need your help. This will help you build up a nice collection of work, some testimonials and some logos for your client page. A great way to start is to get in touch with small local charities and offer to rewrite their website or newsletter.
5) Find a great proofer
When I went to school it was all about self-expression and doing pottery. I never learned the basics of spelling and grammar, and despite an English degree and years of reading, I still suffer from a spelling Achilles heel. That’s why I get every single thing I write proofed (yes, including this blog post). It’s incredibly hard to spot your own mistakes, but if one gets through, it can really undermine your reputation. I use Trish at Spellbound.
6) Work in an agency
If you can, I highly recommend trying to get a copywriting job in a Sydney agency (or Melbourne, or wherever for that matter). Agency life is hard: fast turnarounds, impossible deadlines, fussy creative directors, and difficult clients, all of which push you to write quicker, smarter and better.
7) Find another creative outlet
If you think being a copywriter is creative, you’re partly right. However, a lot of writing is very formulaic. Clients don’t want flowery, overly creative copy. They want copy that explains their product intelligently and succinctly . So, if you’re a budding poet or playwright, keep that up as a sideline to let you ooze your creative juices.
8 ) Learn detachment
If the client doesn’t like what you’ve written but you think it’s great, then suck it up. The client is the boss, they’re paying the bill, so it’s important to listen to their concerns and deliver the best possible solution for their business. Don’t get too attached to the copy you write or take the criticism personally!
9) Find a great accountant
Obviously, setting up as copywriter involves lot of financial bits and bobs. If you don’t have experience of invoicing and book keeping, then find someone who does. I use Jeri at Calculate Balance.
10) Learn to self promote
Although you might be a shy and retiring wallflower, you really need to learn to promote yourself to run a successful copywriting business. Consider setting up a Facebook business page and a Twitter site and creating a profile on LinkedIn. Try to write an informative and interesting blog to engage followers and further spread your brand. If you’re really keen you can attend networking events and conferences to meet other writers and potential clients.
11) Read some books
I don’t read too many copywriting books, but I recently purchased one from this list created by fellow Sydney-based copywriter Charles Cunningham at Text Centric. I’ve yet to crack the cover, but obviously reading some solid tips from experts is a great way to learn how to run your copywriting business.
12) Two ears, one mouth
Listen to your client. Get to know them. Understand their business. Take them out for a cup of tea and a bun. Not only does this make for a really pleasant working relationship, it means you’ll write better copy. Longer term they might come back for more or recommend you to friends and colleagues.
Not one, but three of my friends have recently decided to become copywriters. Why, I wonder? Perhaps I create too pleasant an image of my working life. They imagine me sitting on silken cushions and eating grapes while I lazily tap out purple prose and receive oodles of cash in return. If only!
I hope the advice above will help them on their journey, even if it does mean more competition for me!
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Over to you
Fellow copywriters? Any other tips you can offer to newbies? Please comment below.
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