Copywriting is one of the most competitive writing fields in the industry, but also one of the most lucrative for those at the top their game.
Copywriting is simply the art of writing sales copy for purposes of advertising and announcements, such as print ads, brochures, press releases, catalogs and website content.
Experienced copywriters are also hired to write commercials that run on radio and television. They use words persuasively to attract attention and sell a product, service, idea, or brand.
Here's why you should consider starting a copywriting business, although it can be very competitive.
Why Start a Copywriting Business?
One of the best things about starting a copywriting business is that copywriters are always in demand and you can start your business with little up-front cost and even run it on a part time basis.
Companies and ad agencies are always looking to hire exceptional copywriters capable of producing the right words to effectively send out the company messages. These companies spend fortunes on advertising in different media just to get heard, including in newspapers, magazines, brochures and websites.
When a company spends a fortune in advertising it expects the copywriter to get the words right each time. For example, it costs thousands of dollars just to send out one direct mail campaign. Pick up a direct mail photo and call the mailing list printer or broker and enquire about their pricing.
You will be surprised to learn that sometimes a single direct mail campaign can run into tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of pieces sent.
It makes sense, therefore, that the company sending out advertising messages should want their sales and marketing copy done by a professional. The professional these companies seek is you – the copywriter.
Your job as a copywriter is to write excellent copy that increases the response rates of prospective customers.
How Much Do Copywriters Make?
The average copywriter earns anywhere from $250 to $750 for a single website page and anywhere from $2000 to $4000 for producing short sales letters. Longer sales letters can cost up to $5000 or more a piece. On the other hand, a hardworking “per-hour” copywriter typically charges between $50 and $100 an hour.
Additionally, experienced copywriters tend to get a percentage of their work’s turnover as royalty. Overall, 80% of copywriters earning between $35k – $65k per year according to data drawn from Payscale and Salary.com. Not bad for a career, huh?
Of course, how much you make as a copywriter will vary depending upon where you are located, the location of your clients, your charges and how hard you work. There are copywriters out there who will undercut the rest of us and charge ridiculously low prices for copywriting services. This should not worry you too much, though.
If you work hard and ensure the quality of your work is always top-notch, you'll get clients who will match your asking price.
Steps to Start a Copywriting Career
Starting a career in copywriting (freelance or not) is much like starting a career in most other professions. You will do well if you are certified and have excellent work track record and contacts in related industries, such as public relations, marketing and advertising.
However, even without these advantages you can still break into the industry and quickly establish yourself as a successful copywriter. But, you will need strong initiative and determination to break in and succeed in this way.
1. Learn everything you can about copywriting
It is absolutely crucial that you have a solid knowledge base in copywriting to succeed.
Read copywriting books, websites and enroll for copywriting courses where applicable to learn everything you can about copywriting.
The Copywriter's Handbook: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells by Robert W. Bly and The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters by Joseph Sugarman are two great copywriting books for biginners that reveal dozens of copywriting techniques for writing commercials, ads, and direct mail that are clear, persuasive and impactful.
Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman is yet another great guide book for anyone interested in copywriting. This very useful guide on how to position copy costs about $30, which is incredible value considering that copywriting courses can cost as much as $1,000. It's one of the top copywriters' go-to books, so devour it voraciously.
Get your new career to a flying start by leveraging other copywriting resources like Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy that offer great info for traditional advertising advice as well.
Also, find and read quality copywriting blogs like Copyblogger.com that helps writers transform into true wordsmiths, SEOCopywriting.com that delivers valuable information, tips and tricks about copywriting from practicing experts, and The Content Marketing Institute.
2. Pick a copywriting niche
There are many types of copy you can write. The most common type of copy is direct mail, which is the sales material we all get on a regular basis in our mailboxes. You can also write media copy, which is copy written for media use like television and radio.
Moreover, you can write newsletters, catalogs, sales copy, postcards and self-mailers. Each of these types of copy has its own application and represents a copywriting niche you can enter.
Narrow your niche options for better focus at the start of your career. Pay attention to persuasive and advertising messages you read in newspapers, magazines, billboards, email and on the Internet to get a feel for different types of sales copy.
Which types of copy work for you? Why do they work for you? Which ones don't? What turns you off about those that don't? Which do you think would be fun to write? Pick one or more copywriting niches that work for you and focus on them at the start of your career.
3. Practice writing sample sales copy
Now that you have learned the all the fundamentals of a copywriting business and narrowed down your niches to focus on, practice your new craft. Write sample sales and advertising copy to develop confidence, skill and a writing habit. The sample copy might be for an existing business in your locality or for an imaginary business.
Work on a brochure for your own copywriting business and make it good. Keep a swap file of your entire sample sales copies since they might prove useful later on in your career as samples for potential clients to check out or for use on your own copywriting website.
4. Build up a solid copywriting portfolio
The first question potential clients usually ask when you query them for a copywriting gig is: “Can you send us some samples of your work?” This question is often dreaded and quite unnerving for new copywriters.
You could gather the nerve and tell the client that you are new in the business and don’t have any samples yet, but you promise to do a good job. If you are in luck or the client is desperate enough, they will hire you at a substantial discount and there you will have your first work sample!
Alternatively, adopt a more effective strategy to tackle this question. Build a copywriting portfolio on your own website beforehand. The hallmark of any serious online entrepreneur is a professional, money-making website.
Your website is where you will tell more about who you are and your service offerings, publish your best sample sales pieces and send prospective clients to to see your work. It will help in creating consistent business and provide support for your pitches.
Look at free website building and publishing solutions like WordPress, Drupal, Weebly and Wix to build your website relatively inexpensively or hire a web designer to help you design and build your copywriting website from scratch.
For your website hosting, I recommend our own web host company Hostgator. A website speaks volumes about your level of seriousness as a copywriter and allows you to reach an international audience online.
5. Get down to it—write actual sales/ad copy
Finally, get down to the real thing – find paying gigs and write actual sales copy.
Make a list of businesses locally and internationally that you think might be willing to pay you a small fee for helping them raise some extra funds with your ad or sales copy. Select the most viable clients from your list and approach them with an offer to write for them, including advertising agencies, media companies, sports clubs and even charity groups.
Send query letters to the organizations you pick out from your list and inform them about your copywriting services. Direct them to your copywriting website to see samples of your work if you set one up. Follow up on your query with a telephone call to discuss any arising issues further or to offer clarifications where needed.
Also, browse websites with copywriting employment opportunities like the Guardian jobs, Journalism.co.uk, Indeed, CampaignLive, and SimplyHired. Also search the listings on LinkedIn and other social media job sites regularly to see what's there.
If you are still struggling to get your first real copywriting assignment, consider developing something “on spec”. This is where you agree with the client that you will develop a sales or marketing piece for them and they will only be required to pay you if they like it and actually to use it.
Important copywriting principle to remember...
Writer Eric Graham explains a military training course that taught him how to kill someone with a gun: Take two shots to the heart, then one to the head. The shots to the heart provide the easiest target while the shot to the head is harder, but useful insurance if the target is wearing body armor.
Graham extends this rather gruesome analogy to explain how effective sales or ad copy works. When you write copy, you are not trying to end someone’s life, but rather to get a sale, a conversion or accomplish whatever other goal has been set for you.
Targeting the "heart" with words that arouse emotion helps spark interest for your product and is easier than targeting the "head" with logical explanations why your product is different and better than competing products. Copywriters normally apply both emotions and logic to justify a buying decision, but consumers often apply logic to justify the emotional decisions they make when they buy.
Build up the emotional justification for a buying decision with your choice of words and then weave in logic to justify the buying decisions in order to “kill” the sale. This is a proven strategy that makes for excellent sales writers. If your copywriting services are excellent, you'll be surprised at how quickly your business can grow and bring in desired results.
Read Also: 13 Must-Dos for Writing Compelling Creative Web Copy That Converts.