The world of copywriting can be confusing at times. You may well have a firm grasp of grammar and a solid understanding of spelling. But the truth is, that’s only a tiny part of the story.
A successful copywriter also needs to be an expert salesperson, marketeer, project manager, mediator, conceptualist, bookkeeper, IT guru and, at times, counsellor.
So wouldn’t it be awesome if you could ask an experienced copywriter to take you under their wing and show you the way?
In this article I’ll tell you how to find a copywriting mentor, and get the guidance you need to run your new business.
Tip 1: Do your research
Before you start randomly emailing copywriters and asking for help, check them out online first. Do they often share tips and advice? Do they answer questions on social media?
When I asked Emily Read who she followed and why, here’s what she told me:
“I chose to follow Kate Toon, Belinda Weaver and Glenn Murray. I felt all three wrote in an engaging manner, they all ranked highly when I searched for just “copywriter”, and all three had a regularly updated blog.
Yes, I read things like Copyblogger, etc. But I found these three were more personal, and more relevant as they were all Australian freelancers.”
Copywriters who are already in the ‘advice space’ will more likely be willing to give you a helping hand. But even then they may not actually offer mentoring as a service, so be prepared for a knock back to your cold call.
Tip 2: Get ready to spend
If you’re expecting to be mentored free of charge, think again.
Why on earth would a successful copywriter train you up to be their competition if there’s nothing in it for them?
Most copywriters are solo business types trying to make a living, so asking them for a free mentoring handout is hugely awkward and just a little bit rude.
Actual mentoring programs, just like training courses, cost money.
Tip 3: Be polite
If you do take the leap and ask a copywriter for advice, be super polite. (A little sucking up doesn’t hurt either.)
If they take the time to respond, say ‘Thank you’. But more than that, show your appreciation by sharing a few of their posts, buying their ebook or generally trying to pay back the favour.
Many established copywriters grumble about rude newbies who don’t say thanks for the free advice they’ve been given. And it’s a small industry, so don’t start your journey by burning bridges!
Tip 4: Find a good fit
If you’re lucky enough to find a writer willing to mentor you, it’s vital to make sure you’re a good fit personality-wise. Don’t just sign up blindly to a form on their website. Have a chat on the phone or Skype first.
As Bek Lambert from Unashamedly Creative puts it:
“I don’t take on anyone who doesn’t listen or doesn’t suit my personality. As feeble as it sounds, if they can’t laugh at my jokes I know they won’t be able to take my feedback.”
Put simply, if you don’t enjoy working with your mentor it’s going to be a rather unpleasant experience.
Tip 5: Be specific
If the writer you’re approaching doesn’t actually offer a mentoring program, you’re taking a gamble by emailing them. At the very least you’ll need to tell them exactly what you need.
So rather than just saying ‘I need a mentor’, try telling them you need help with a particular problem.
“I saw your excellent post on copywriting rates, and I was wondering if you could give me some advice on a fee question I have.”
And if you do find a mentor, be prepared to work. Mentoring is more than just a quick chat on the phone, it’s about working through a series of exercises, tasks and homework set by your mentor. If you’re not 100% engaged and willing to get stuck in, then don’t waste their time.
Tip 6: Redefine your idea of mentoring
If you can’t afford to pay for mentoring, you might be able to get the advice and support you need in other ways.
Most copywriters have Facebook pages, Twitter Accounts and Google+ accounts where they answer questions and interact with clients and other writers. Post your questions there and you’ll likely get an answer.
Or search for a blog post on the subject you’re struggling with and add your question to their comments.
That way the copywriter gets to help you and the rest of their audience at the same time.
Tip 7: Become a parrot
If you truly love the writing style of a particular writer, one way to emulate them is to simply copy them! In this interesting article on CopyBlogger, Dave Navarro suggests copying out other writers’ words, or as he puts it:
“Not copied as in “plagiarized.” I mean copied as in slowly and carefully writing those masterly crafted words down, by hand, in a notebook. The simple act of writing by hand – something so basic that most people overlook or dismiss it – helped me get very good, very fast, and it can do the same for you.”
Neat idea, huh?
Tip 8: Take a copywriting course
There are heaps of copywriting courses out there that focus on more than just basic writing skills. By taking a course you establish a close relationship with your teacher (who you can then possibly turn to in times of need), and meet other newbie copywriters who share similar problems.
Tip 9: Find an editor
One of the best ways to learn if your writing sucks is to have it professionally edited. I’m not talking about basic proofreading or typo spotting. I’m talking about having your writing ripped to shreds by someone who edits for a living.
I have most of what I write reviewed by my editor. He’s helped me recognise my common writing fails, find new ways of expressing tired old ideas and generally given me a kick up my copywriting bottom. A strong copywriting critique of your first few pieces of writing can really set you on the right path.
Another option is offering to subcontract for a successful writer. As they review your work before it goes to the client, you’ll get an insight into their methodology and writing style.
Tip 10: Do It Yourself Mentoring
If you can’t afford to pay for mentoring or a course, then you have to get off your bum and mentor yourself. Try to create your own structured mentoring plan. For example:
1) Find five or six copywriters to follow on social media
2) Sign up to their newsletters and set aside time to read a few of their blog posts each week. Here are a few I recommend:
- How to be a freelance copywriter
- A day in the life of a freelance copywriter
- Top ten tips for freelance copywriters
- Yikes a new competitor
- How much should you charge
- SEO writing screen cast tutorial
- Freelancing lessons
- 10 awesome copy pimping tools
3) Joining copywriting communities and going to writer networking events is another great way to get advice.
So although you may want a mentor, remember there are other ways to skin the copywriting mentor cat.
Over to you
Have you ever used a mentor? How was the experience? Who did you follow when you first started out? Oh and if you enjoyed this post, please share it!