8 Smart Tips for Beginner Copywriters
15 Australian Copywriters Share Their Best Advice
No matter your professional background, being a newbie copywriter involves juggling a lot of business-balls and fine-tuning a stack of skills and processes. Wouldn’t it be good to fast-forward this starting-from-scratch business, with a little help from some (copywriting) friends?
Here, 15 of Australia’s leading copywriters share their best tips for newbie copywriters.
Your past experiences make you a better copywriter
A good copywriter brings more than just strong writing skills to a project. All past experiences, professional and personal, enhance your writing and give you a better understanding of different audiences.
“My tip is sometimes you need to spend time living to become a good copywriter,” says Marie-Pier Rochon, Copywriter.
“Don’t forget, the times you’re not sitting down writing copy you’re still living things that might come in handy as inspiration later on.”
Emily Rhodes, of Emily Writes points out clients value previous professional experience.
“Your skills for writing will be self-evident if you’ve decided to go down this path,” Emily says.
“I haven’t had to sell that aspect of my service pretty much to anyone since I’ve started doing this. What I’ve really found valuable to sell is all the other experience I can bring to the table from previous corporate roles. All my previous job history has made attracting the right clients, the clients I want to work with, and the clients I do the best jobs for much easier.”
Find yourself a supportive community
Nicole Leedham of Black Coffee Communication offers her biggest tip for newcomers to copywriting – and that is, find yourself a supportive community of like-minded peers.
“I came from a reasonably cutthroat industry where everything was a competition. I floundered on my own for about 12 months before I was invited to join Kate’s (Toon’s) Google+ group. Suddenly I saw a whole lot of people doing the same things as me with the same struggles – that was awesome. I really wish Kate had started The Clever Copywriting School about six years earlier; that would have been perfect.”
Make sure you are clear on the Brief
Angela Denly, cites the importance of open and continued communication with your clients.
“Something I wish I’d known at the start is that if you don’t understand just keep asking questions and don’t just try and fluff your way through.”
Johanna Kohler, of Compelling Copy agrees.
“Make sure you get the detailed brief that you need so you can write the best copy for your client. And, if you need more information from your client, go back and ask again. It’s in everyone’s best interests for the brief to be clear from the start.”
Your business’ most valuable asset is you
Andrew Lau, Copywriter says being good to yourself is equally important as any other aspect of your business.
“With your own business, you’re working all the time because you want it to succeed. But that has a price and that is your health. So, taking the time to rest, taking the time to sleep properly, taking the time away from thinking about what you are meant to do next is really important.”
Bill Harper says valuing your time and skills is also important.
“If the terms of a deal aren’t in your favour either get the terms changed or, if they won’t budge, then you need to walk away. Yes, it may impact your income, you may have to sell that second kidney or whatever, but ultimately it’s going to put you in good stead.”
Be a (copywriter) rule-breaker
Go on. Admit it. You’re already a bit of a rebel for choosing this freelance copywriting path. Sally Cameron, of Sally Cameron Copywriting wants you to know that it’s okay to set the ‘rules’ that work best for your business and clients.
“I have a bit of a confession to make. The truth is, in the history of my business, I’ve never actually produced a ‘proper’ proposal. What I actually do is produce what is essentially a one-page quotation document and literally, all that covers is what they are going to get, how much it’s going to be and importantly, how they can pay me for it. And that’s literally it. Why do I do this? By that stage, they already know everything they need to know about me. There’s no point reiterating what they’ve read on my website and the fact of the matter is I don’t have time to write it, they don’t have time to read it, so why not actually provide what they need. As a result of doing that I’ve got a really high propose-to-close ratio.”
Use your time wisely for work, family and learning
Ali Strachan, Copywriter believes managing your time when working from home is vital.
“Make sure your work is within set parameters in your day. You need to structure your day so there is a beginning and an end, otherwise you’ll end up working all the time.”
Andrea Rowe, of Your Coastal Connection adds that keeping your time focused on what actually earns you an income – writing – is also important.
“It’s really important to put some parameters around your professional development time and information gathering time, otherwise you’ll be sucked down the rabbit hole of looking at what everybody else is doing, and learning and learning and not writing,” she says.
Tegan Ang of Writing Your Story says nothing beats sitting down to write copy as the most effective way to improve your skills in copywriting.
“I’ll take every course under the sun, but when it comes to copywriting, doing it is so much better than learning about it.”
Invest in yourself and your business
As a copywriter, you need to invest in yourself, your business and your professional development.
“I enjoyed CopyCon immensely and I’d recommend every copywriter try and get to it next year,” says Duncan Waldron, Copywriter.
“My top tip is to invest in yourself and back yourself,” says Sarah-Joy Pierce of Joyful Communications.
“Case in point today, I invested in a proper desktop monitor, keyboard and proper mouse, rather than just working from my trusty MacBook. I’ve written on it for about an hour now, and I tell you what, there’s going to be some great productivity increases from that. Now that I’ve done it, I don’t know why I didn’t do it ages ago, because the productivity increase will easily pay for itself.”
Step outside your comfort zone
You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to succeed as a freelance copywriter.
“My tip for anybody starting a business, whether it’s copywriting or anything else, is take on all the jobs, all the clients, all the work – anything that comes along. Because it’s only once you are doing it that you work out what jobs you like to do,” advises Sandy Taylor, of Sandy Taylor Marketing and Design.
“You do have to be able to get out there and put yourself front and centre, whether that’s about joining a networking group or about going and meeting with clients,” says Estelle Fallon, Copywriter.
“Put yourself out there, believe that you can do it, have fun, and most of all remember, you are a copywriter.
There’s a lot to learn when you’re a newbie copywriter. Learning from others makes that a whole lot easier. Want more tips? Check out these earlier round-ups:
Over to you
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you began your copywriting business? What’s your favourite tip? Share your comments below.
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About Carla Anderson
Carla Anderson, from C Beth Anderson Communication is a communication strategist and copywriter. She works with brands, social enterprises and nonprofits who ‘do Good’, and specialises in education content writing.