A few months ago, I was asked by Express Writers to write about my own journey as a creative copywriter.
It was thrilling. I strive to be honest with others, so I have to say that after a regular schedule of writing content for clients who take my words and use it for their needs, it was exciting to have something with my name on it.
I shared it on Facebook without reserve. My husband shared it with the comment “my wife wrote this.” People liked it, and I was in writer’s heaven.
It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. As a kid, I kept journals and I received high grades on writing assignments. For the last several years, while working with a nonprofit, raising three kids, and going back to school, writing has been at the back of my mind.
I’ve always known I am a writer. “I just need to write.” (Jeff Goins)
Searching for Answers (On Google, Of Course)
If you type “how to get started in copywriting” into a Google search, you will see that there are almost 700,000 search results.
There is a lot of different advice out there, including tips like:
- “You can become a well-paid freelance copywriter with NO experience!”
- “Get a job in sales to help you prepare.”
- “Become a freelance copywriter and earn a 6-figure income working from home.”
While I respect the journeys that others have taken in their writing and the advice they can share, not all of these statements have been true in my own experience with copywriting.
I never had a job in sales. I definitely don’t make a 6-figure income.
And while it is true that you can work your way up to “well paid,” it doesn’t come without at least some experience (and a full pot of coffee, but maybe that’s just me).
Every person who wants to get started in copywriting will be at a different place in life, have a different income requirement, and bring their own skills and experience to the industry.
I would not want anyone to fall for a scheme or believe that this job requires little work for big bucks.
Copywriting is not a get-rich-quick gig.
At the same time, previous experience and/or an education could push you to the higher end of the pay scale in a faster amount of time. Low-end freelance writers can make anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 per year, while those who are more high-end can eventually earn 6 figures.
Moving from Writing Wannabe to Creative Copywriting: How to Get Started
When you are thinking about moving from a writing wannabe to a creative copywriter, you will no doubt have some questions. Whether you are a recent graduate looking to break into the industry, a stay-at-home parent who needs extra income, or you just love writing, there are legitimate opportunities that can work with your schedule and abilities.
Here are some common questions you might have:
1. Is online copywriting the same as general writing?
Copywriting and general writing are two very different types of content. As Search Engine Journal reminds us, the distinction lies in the purpose behind the writing. Copywriting is used for promotion and in marketing, to entertain and draw the audience in so they engage with the company or brand.
Content marketing is backed by an objective, a goal, that is supported by authoritative research in an effort to connect with the readers and sell the idea. It is professional yet warm, engaging yet relevant, and seeks to build trust while also maintaining a conversational tone.
Copywriting can be sarcastic, funny, creative, or focused. It’s used by big and small companies, entrepreneurs, medical professionals, business-to-business (B2B) markets, and just about anyone who needs to promote a brand or message.
2. Do I need to be a fantastic writer to get started in freelance copywriting?
First, writing needs to be, at the very least, something you enjoy. If content writing is something you are seeking out just to have some extra pocket cash, that’s okay, but there needs to be some passion behind it.
Your level of writing experience could be minimal, especially if you are working with a company like Express Writers. When I first signed on, I had written previously on a casual basis, but not as a job. Thankfully, our team of editors has been patient and willing to guide me in the right direction as far as meeting the clients’ needs, etc.
Over time, I have grown to really enjoy long-form blog writing (like this piece) and for those tasks I don’t like so much, I fake it. I research the particular industry and try to put myself in the place of a customer for that particular company. What would he or she be looking for?
This is true for blogs, web page content, and social media posts.
A copywriter will work to create high-quality content or improve the existing content to fit a specific need. So, you do need a basic understanding of proper grammar, proofreading, and sentence structure.
At the end of the day, clients are counting on you to deliver to them a product that they can use. And you will find that the longer you continue to write, the more you will grow and continue to improve.
3. What types of writing should I be familiar with? (Source – by our CEO, Julia McCoy!)
Depending on the position, a copywriter can receive a number of requests from clients with very different objectives.
For example, a startup that is looking to jumpstart their business with powerful social media posts may request your copywriting services at the same time as a restaurant professional wants a website makeover.
- Web Content: This textual or visual content appears on websites of all varieties and may include images, video, and page descriptions. Web content should be original, useful, and relevant to the industry for which you are writing.
Here are some content writing examples and tools to reference.
- Blogging: This type of writing is best done in long-form, beginning with a powerful introduction and including engaging sub-headers throughout. This is where research becomes important, as well as eye-catching visuals and relevant screenshots.
If you’ve never written blog posts before, take a look at this article.
- Social Media: A basic knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest is a good place to start. Take some time to research what works and what is not as effective. Learn about the best times and days to post. It’s okay in this type of content to have teasers that will entice the reader to click through to the post.
Check out how to craft social media posts in no time flat.
- Advertising/Sales Copy: Ad copy can take the form of a clickable advertisement that grabs the reader’s attention and leads them to a specific link. Ad and sales copy is a combination of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing tactics for a variety of industries.
This article explains a bit more about how to write effective ad copy.
- Industry Writing: When you write for a specific industry, there is often a bit of research that needs to be done first; this is especially true if you are not familiar with the topic. Industry writing is tailored for various businesses to share about a brand.
Here is a good post on how to write content for an industry you know nothing about.
- Journalism: This type of copywriting involves gathering information, assessing sources, putting together the content, and presenting all of it in a written format. Journalism is a unique type of content creation, especially as our world has moved to delivering more news online.
Here are some journalism examples from a few years back.
- Creative Writing: Creative writing can take many forms, including poetry, personal essays, speeches, fictions, and plays. This type of content varies but can be a fun and unique medium for expression in a specific niche.
Check out these examples of creative copywriting.
4. How is online writing formatted?
While every client has different requirements, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when writing online content.
Titles and headlines need to be strong, and breaking up content with sub-headers helps to separate information so that it’s easy to skim. You can see from the graphic below that readers tend to prefer headlines with numbers and that are addressed to the audience.
Graphic from Content Marketing Institute
The beginning of the content can be formed using the inverted pyramid approach, which presents the most important information first followed by secondary details. This encourages your audience to stick with you until the end.
Practice consistency in each section of content. Vary sentence style, including length and structure, and find a rhythm that fits your voice. This may take some practice, but with time you’ll find your style.
Relevant quotes and statistics have the potential to add authority and fresh voices to your written work, as long as they are used effectively and at the best time.
Sentences should be short, adding clarity to the content. Too wordy, and you’ll lose your audience. Graphs and screenshots can contribute greatly to audience engagement and interest if they are relevant and trustworthy.
5. Can I take inspiration from other online writers?
Absolutely! There are so many expert writers who consistently deliver quality content that is relevant and timely. Check out Neil Patel, Jeff Goins, and Seth Godin, just to name a few.
There will always be those who have gone before us who know more, who have more experience in copywriting, and who will offer us the best tools with which to work.
Follow these experts, read their content, and pay attention to the advice they give. They know what they’re talking about!
Here are some good blogs to follow, even though the writers may vary:
Also, check out this post on the best books to help you learn copywriting.
Connecting with a Content Writing Service
One important factor involved in the process of becoming a copywriter is choosing a company to work with that hires individuals for copywriting. How to get started?
A simple web search will result in many companies who hire copywriters, but you don’t know the people behind the screen. Do they pay fair? Are they realistic with deadlines, expectations, and treatment of their writing team?
When I started with Express Writers back in 2014, it was through a blog writer who had put together her own recommendations for work-from-home solutions. I read through reviews of the company and thought a lot about the decision before applying, and I am very fortunate to be working with this team.
Here are a few places to start when you want to find out more about companies that hire individuals for copywriting:
- BloggerLocal has a list of top 10 blog writing services and article content writing services. The site provides valuable information about local businesses and helps to connect people with their local area.
- Jeff Bullas put together sites that will pay for content pieces. His experience as a blogger and author has landed him featured pieces in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and with Forbes.
- B2C’s list of content writing services includes companies that aspiring writers can contact to see about hiring them. Business 2 Community features thought leadership, articles, and real-life experiences from thousands of contributors who know what they’re talking about.
Would I Be a Good Freelance Writer?
Freelance writing is a bit different. If this is the route you want to take, you will have more freedom to set your own schedule. While the flexibility may be convenient, it also means you won’t get paid for the days or weeks you choose to not work.
If you plan to go into freelance writing with zero experience and you aren’t well-known in the industry, this path may choose to be more challenging. However, if you have built up an audience and you have gained respect, the possibilities here can be endless.
Advice from a Fellow Freelance Writer
When it comes to breaking into the freelance industry, the rapid-fire market research approach may be the best one for you.
Just like you wouldn’t create a restaurant menu and then ask customers what they like eating, it might not make much sense to write a bunch of content that isn’t tailored to a prospective client.
When Danny over at Freelance to Win was looking to get into copywriting, he did research first and found out what paying clients were looking for, then tailored his writing samples around those particular needs.
He reminds us to not dive into a writing job that requires special knowledge about subjects we aren’t familiar with. It may be wiser to start slow so that you don’t get in over your head with work you aren’t able to complete.
By looking at the description of writing jobs first, you can get a picture of what the client needs and then move onto creating a portfolio.
Remember that his opinion is just one of the many you will hear in your journey.
Creating a Minimum Viable Portfolio
No one wants to put sweat into creating a portfolio that doesn’t mean anything, so instead, Danny the freelancer also suggests creating a simpler set of content samples for a client to have.
- The writing sample should be simple but not exactly what the client needs.
- The writing sample should be short and provide the client with a glimpse of your abilities.
- The writing sample should be completed in about a half hours’ time.
Other experts suggest keeping a portfolio of your best copywriting content, always adding to it and adapting as you gain more experience. This, too, can be tailored to the type of job you will want to pursue in the future.
Whether or not you choose to keep a portfolio of your work is a personal preference. Keeping a collection of your best work as you go along could end up being a valuable resource.
Never be afraid to be proud of what you’ve done. While your content may need to go through a refining fire (thank you, editors), it is your work and your efforts are something to be proud of.
To Hone Your Writing Skills, Remember: Practice, Practice, Practice
Experts will tell us that in order to be good at something, we have to practice.
Remember learning to ride a bike? Ever play an instrument? Memorize a long passage or give a speech from memory?
All of those skills take practice, and writing is no different.
It may not be that you keep a journal or blog on a regular basis, although these may help you. At the same time, when writing becomes a daily habit, you will find that you grow in your creativity, your ability to craft high-quality content, and the types of writing you are able to produce.
What Are You Waiting For?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to copywriting. How you will get started depends on where you are in life during this season, your writing background and skills, and whether or not writing will be your primary income.
The most important step you can take is to just go for it. Use the tools I’ve given you today, read the writings of content experts, and begin to familiarize yourself with the basics of content writing.
Subscribe to our The Write Blog and be inspired by our team of writers; we come from all different backgrounds and levels of experience. And just like you, we were all once asking the same questions you are.
And, join our CEO’s free masterclass, an introduction to her six-week training course where Julia shapes and teaches new content creators to become expert, in-demand content marketers.
Everyone starts somewhere.
So – what are you waiting for?
You are a writer; you just need to create.