8 Strategies for Your Copywriting Career – Not a Myth, a Must-Have!
Use this virtual “strategy toolkit” to jump-start your very real writer's life.
My plan was to make 2017 the freshman year for my new career in copywriting. But in mid-August 2016, I found myself unexpectedly without a job. I pondered the options and realized if I didn’t escape the 9-to-5, I would surely lose my mind.
After having researched, dabbled, and tested the waters for a year, it was time to commit to my copywriting career.
It was earlier than planned and it was risky, but it seemed like a risk worth taking. It truly was.
Now, things are starting to work more smoothly. For example:
- Work is coming my way …
- I’m getting comfortable managing my clients and my time …
- The money is starting to come in …
- My skills are improving …
- Marketing ideas are popping up everywhere …
- I’m starting to think more about my business structure and future endeavors …
What I have learned in my first six months could fill volumes, but a few items have altered my path for the better.
During that time, I discovered the best strategies to reprogram myself for a successful copywriting career. Here’s the short list to building your own virtual toolkit:
1. Time is the master. You can be the student or be the slave, but it will always win. Decide where you fall so you can decide how you will land … on your feet or elsewhere. Practice brutal focus and make steady progress.
- Structure your day. From your morning burst of creativity to business-building activities to preparing dinner. Get it on a schedule. Set reminders.
- Discipline yourself to your schedule. Since writing is an activity that doesn’t require anyone else, you need to be strict. Commit to meeting with your laptop as if meeting with a client.
2. Read. Read. Read. And learn. Read lots: AWAI (American Writers & Artists Institute) copywriting and business-building programs give you basic skills and specific market training to improve your writing. In addition, email newsletters from copywriters can give great insights, along with the occasional novel, even a trashy one. You are a writer. Read lots of writing.
- Read the classics of the copywriting masters: John Caples, David Ogilvy, Gene Schwartz, Robert Collier, Claude Hopkins, Gary Halbert, et. al. Most are in your public library or can be purchased online. These guys are the pioneers of the copywriting business and the principles are still consistently effective today.
- Be selective to the voices you listen to and follow. There are a lot of good ones out there, but there are only so many hours in a day. Unsubscribe from the ones you don’t read. They are distractions cluttering your inbox. Pick 2-4 that speak to you and where you are; you can always re-join or trade out with the others later.
Make a list of the books you have about copywriting and marketing. Include your AWAI or other training programs. Track the reading or completion of them. This will help you:
- get through them all,
- target topics needed for immediate work, and
- help focus your education.
3. Regularly remind yourself why you do this. Motivation is not accidental, it is cultivated. It is intentional, persistent, and can help you progress faster.
- Keep things to remind you: photos of your kids, a beach, a guitar, whatever it is that you want, where you can see it. It’s easier to do today’s heavy-lifting when your future is right in front of you.
- Take stock of your current life before you launch yourself into your daily activity. Be grateful for what you have, be focused on what you want, set your state of mind for accomplishment of the goal. This makes a great daily journal starter.
4. Know there will be bad days. Have a plan to handle those moments when things don’t go as hoped. No career goes according to plan all the time. Handling these moments directly will keep you moving forward.
- Take a few minutes when you need them. Let yourself feel bad and cry or pray or rant — out loud or on paper. Sit where you can see a clock, set a cutoff so it can’t overtake your day. Name the feelings you have: anger, frustration, sadness … fear.
- Decide what you need, right now, to make things better. Do you need to finish a Spec Assignment? Send a follow-up email? Add a sample to your website? Do it. Right now, while you have that frustration-focus in you. You may be amazed at what will happen next.
5. Marketing never ends. Be consistent, even if those steps are small, and you will find yourself talking to clients.
- Reach out to potential clients until they ask you to stop. No response means ‘Not Yet.’ Until you get an actual ‘No,’ the conversation continues. Nurturing potential clients takes time. The fortune is in the follow-up, so follow-up!
- Talk about your business. Make the most of any opportunity to meet people. Talk to someone every time. Have your 30-second pitch practiced about what you do.
- Clients you don’t land still teach you something. Do a review. What went well? What didn’t? Your job is to find the good and add it to your personal toolkit.
6. Use your resources. People in the writing communities and daily life are surprisingly helpful when given the opportunity. AWAI has spent over 20 years building resources. Make good use of them.
- Find an accountability buddy or a writer’s group. They help you find opportunities, insights, and inspiration. Look for people who will kick you into gear when you need it.
- Study writing courses. Your copywriting skills depend on it. Practice, practice, practice.
- Identify the products you want to work on. As a new freelancer, you can’t be all things instantly, but you can be excellent at a couple things quickly. Focus on them. Time brings future learning opportunities.
- Attend events. The energy at the annual AWAI FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair is phenomenal: You learn from industry leaders, network with marketers looking for your talents, meet other writers, and make new friends. Intensives are short 3-5 day workshops with one specialty focus and are … intense. Go and prepare to be fired up when you get back!
7. Prepare for every client discussion. Walk into every conversation understanding as much about what they do as you can. Then stop talking and listen.
- Research your client and their industry. Know their competitors, some of the recent trends, their history.
- Practice having conversations with them. You should have specific questions to ask about their business goals. Practice them out loud beforehand. It may sound odd, but thankfully our personal crazy can be done in private.
- Employ the work of others. Swipe Files aren’t just for headlines. AWAI has resources that contain client questionnaires and others can be found online. Get familiar and ask relevant questions.
8. Learn how to talk about money. It isn’t taboo, it’s just money. The reason we work is to make more of it, just like our clients.
- Read the free pricing guide from the AWAI library. It can set the expectation and make asking for those fees easier.
- Open the money conversation. This is one area where leading the discussion is to your advantage and you will need to talk. Practice this.
- Listen to your client. Do they want a test-drive first or are they ready to commit? It changes how you position yourself. Either way, never give away your services.
- Be prepared to address late-paying clients. Using a personal email makes the conversation easier, but don’t start or continue work for a client that doesn’t pay your invoice.
Those are the best strategies I have found so far. Learning them has kept me somewhat sane and afloat over the last six months. I’m not yet at six-figure level, but I’m confident I will get there. Patience, time, and perseverance are at work.
The library, the people, and guidance are here. The next step is yours. Where will you take your copywriting career today?
American Writers & Artists Institute can help build your strategic plan. Start exploring here.
Editor’s Note: Kat Leffler is an AWAI-trained copywriter in Omaha, Nebraska. Her website is www.katleffler.com.
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