Copywriting is one of the fastest growing online industries. Filling the shoes of a copywriter comes with an amount of freedom that cannot be found elsewhere. The vast majority of copywriters are freelance; they work from the comfort of home, manage their own time, and have the freedom to ghostwrite and produce their own by-line. For the talented and smart writing professional, there has never been a better time to be a copywriter.
3 Reasons to Be a Copywriter
Two types of writing professionals inhabit the role of the copywriter. First, there’s the freelance professional. Fully dedicated to their craft, the freelance pro lives their business. They make a living through their talent and don’t work a “normal” day job.
The second writing pro is the employed writer who moonlights. By day, they make a living in the work-a-day world, and by night they spin copy as a part-time freelancer.
Whether you’re currently a full-time or part-time writer, or you’re thinking about trying to become a dedicated freelancer, there are three major reasons to become a copywriter:
#1: It can’t be Outsourced Overseas
Every year, thousands of Americans worry about whether the job they have today will be the one they still have tomorrow. The employment scene has changed dramatically, from the outsourcing of jobs overseas by the thousands to the abominable work environments in which management continually abuses and threatens employees, all in the name of so-called “motivational tactics.”
Quality copywriting is something that cannot be outsourced overseas. High-quality copy is one of the toughest things for any business to find. Only a fraction of the global population can fluently (and properly) write in English, and an even smaller fraction can produce excellent and engaging copy.
If you’re an English and grammar guru, the copywriter from India, Japan, or China is going to find it very hard to compete with you. If you can spin copy to meet a client’s needs AND exceed them, you’ll be a top dog in the industry.
#2: Copywriting cannot be Computerized
Outsourcing isn’t limited to overseas. How many people have lost their jobs to computers? As industry after industry finds new and innovative ways to automate things, more and more people find themselves out of work. For perhaps the first time in centuries, the arts are becoming one of the best career paths to follow.
Writing, like art, cannot be automated. Sure, there are proofreading programs – like Grammarly – that come close to mimicking what an editor can do, but no software can replace the human touch. Copywriters can be creative and intuitive. They think outside the box. They infuse the driest of topics with new life, and they have a gift for getting the reader involved and motivated.
#3: Hard Working Copywriters Make Good Money
Copywriting and sales are closely connected. According to Social Times, 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before buying. The vast majority of a company’s potential customers grabs their mobile device and uses Google to learn about a product or service before making a purchase. What does a company need to place in search results? Search engine optimized content, for starters.
Copywriters who are willing to work hard can make good money, but your goals need to be realistic. When you have limited to no experience, you’re going to be at the bottom of the pay scale, which is normally around $0.01 per word. Freelancers are rarely paid per hour and are instead paid per word per project. The higher end of the pay scale slides in excess of $0.05 to $0.10 per word, but quality has to be at its maximum, and you must deliver something of extraordinary uniqueness. The key to making good money lies in quality and learning how to produce stunning copy in record time.
The 10 Secrets to Copywriting Success
Derryck Strachan published a beautiful piece in The Guardian about how to be a successful copywriter. We’d like to present a curated copy of his 10 top tips:
#1: Know the Landscape
The rise in demand for skilled copywriters began when business went online. Everything from recreation to business is housed on the Internet, and there are an insane amount of prospective clientele who need online content.
Online content is different from traditional copywriting for hard press. It requires something hard press publications never did – SEO. If you want to be a successful copywriter, you must know how to write for the Web.
Quality copy is often used in Internet marketing ventures. One of the smartest moves you can make is to learn the ins and outs by frequenting industry influencers like Moz.com, the Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine Journal, and Copyblogger.com.
#2: Choose a Specialty
Before Google, copywriting shared a symbiotic relationship with television commercial scripts, press releases, writing direct mail campaigns, creating marketing material, and other business literature. Jobs in the traditional sector still exist. A great many companies are actively looking for copywriters with hard press experience and traditional skill sets.
An even greater demand exists for Internet savvy copywriters. A new specialty has arisen; one of SEO copywriters, web editors, content managers, and other online content roles. If you choose to pursue these roles, be sure your skill set and knowledge fit an online specialty.
#3: Be Realistic
Since opening our doors here at Anita Lovett & Associates, we’ve worked with several self-labeled copywriters. If there’s one huge piece of advice we could give every writer stepping into the world of web content and online copywriting, it’s this:
Be realistic! You can’t one-hit wonder this industry. The average copywriter must produce large amounts of content quickly, accurately, and with few to no errors for a relatively low price point – at least at first.
When I started in this industry, I was lucky to make half a cent per word. I had to learn how to produce quality copy backed by solid research in record time. Otherwise, I’d spend hours on a single 500 to 1,000-word piece and only have what amounted to a couple dollars per hour to show for it. Every copywriter has been there, and you are no exception.
Instead of focusing on the per word rate and how it equates to an hourly income, focus on how to maximize production without sacrificing quality. Here’s a secret: it’s NOT hard if you put your mind to it.
I can write a 500 word, fully researched piece of copy equipped with facts and stats, three to five high DA links to authoritative websites each embedded in alternating anchor text, PLUS one to two links to the client’s content in less than 30 minutes. Proofreading my work takes less than 10 minutes because I only have one to five errors if that! Quick quality can be done, but it takes practice until you find your process.
#4: Research the Company You’re Applying To
If you’re going to make it as a copywriter, research skills are paramount. If you expect a client or company to hand you source material for every project, you’re in the wrong business. Legit agencies and companies want a copywriter who can research, and you can prove your worth from the moment you apply.
Take five to ten minutes to Google the company. Find out who the decision maker is and address them specifically when applying. Establishing a personal connection is something you’ll need to do in every piece of copy you create, so show you can handle it by doing just that when you apply.
#5: Use Social Media
If I had a penny for every so-called copywriter who writes about the importance of social media but fails to use it themselves, I would be a billionaire! Social media is intimately linked with the power of self-publication.
At the very least, follow the companies you’re interested in working for on their social media channels. Make it a point to understand what they do, how they do it, and why you’d make a valuable addition to their team. If you can build a professional relationship with a live person through social media, even better. But as Strachan warns, “Don’t cross the fine line separating enthusiasm from hassling.”
#6: Don’t Oversell Yourself
When I read Strachan’s article, I clapped when he presented this sixth tip because he referenced a man I’ve learned a ton from business-wise: Gordon Ramsay. In fact, I’ve referenced the great Chef in one of my previous articles, You Get What You Pay For.
Strachan references Kitchen Nightmares. If you’ve watched the show, then you know one of the first things Ramsay does in a struggling restaurant is cut back the size of the menu. He knows that while a chef can be immensely talented, it’s suicide to make them jump between the dishes of a large menu. Simplicity is key.
The same principle applies to anyone offering themselves as a copywriter, marketer, or social media expert. You might be able to tackle a hundred different project types, but limit the ones you sell to a company. Focus on those that most apply.
#7: Don’t Make Stupid Mistakes
In the case of a copywriter, do not make spelling or grammatical mistakes. Whether you’re applying for or working the job, proofread like a mad scientist! Read everything aloud, and don’t be afraid to use free software like Grammarly to double check things before hitting send.
In fact, Grammarly is a god-sent for the professional writer. You can download a free browser extension that proofs your emails and alerts you to issues. You can download a plug-in for Microsoft Word, which requires a paid premium account, that reviews every document for errors. The cool thing about Grammarly is it allows you to proof for different venues, like academic, business, or blog writing.
Remember: A typo is human, but consistent grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and butchering format reflect laziness. Nothing will kill your copywriting career faster than constantly making (and missing) stupid mistakes.
#8: Be Ready to Prove Your Skill
I’m going to be brutally honest. It wouldn’t matter if you e-mailed me a 10-page resume with diehard references and a stout education, if you can’t prove your ability to write, I’m not going to hire you.
Although the Internet has made the demand for copywriters explode, it’s also ushered in a crowd of self-labeled “writing professionals” who can sell themselves but fail to back it up in practice. You are going to be asked to write a test piece, and chances are you won’t be paid for it. Take it or leave it, but taking it is smart.
A writing test gives agencies an idea of your speed and reliability. It shows the recruiter how you perform under pressure. It allows for an assessment of commitment and ability. So don’t get mad, get glad and show off your skill set.
#9: Specialize a Little
When I open an application to see a writer saying they only like to write about a few subjects, I cringe. I used to wonder how in the hell they expected to make it in the industry. Now, I eject the application into the trash bin without a second thought.
In online copywriting, there’s nothing wrong with a little specialization, but it must be reasonable. Most companies can’t use a writer who only excels with real estate copy. It’s fine to specialize in a couple industries, but be adaptive because it’s most attractive.
#10: Try, Try Again
Here’s the honest truth: When we post an ad for a copywriter, we receive a truckload of responses. Sometimes we can’t respond to everyone, which is why we only promise to contact the applicants who catch our interest. But as Strachan says, “It’s not a one-shot deal.”
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Becoming a successful copywriter doesn’t happen overnight, and even with years of experience, you still have to fight for every project. When you follow-up with a company, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Persistence and motivation are two highly sought after attributes in the industry. So whatever you do, don’t give up!