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How to crack into copywriting
Sunday, March 18, 2012 (All day)

Many people believe freelance writers serve only periodicals—magazines, newspapers and various online publications. What might not be as obvious to them is who provides the words they read in bank brochures, on company websites and in the manuals that ship with their newest gadgets.

These non-periodical markets, which writers often call corporate markets, buy copywriting services every day—often from the same people who also write for periodicals. And why not? The writing skills required are highly similar, even identical in some cases.

Besides, writers today increasingly find themselves leading “portfolio careers” in which they mix both copywriting and periodical writing, as well as book writing, ghostwriting, and even non-writing work like teaching and other work, all in the name of paying the bills.

That said, copywriting can be one of the more lucrative ways to pay the bills, especially when writers compare what they can make per hour on copywriting assignments to what they can make writing for periodicals. Money shouldn’t be the whole bottom line, of course, but unless freelancers have some other reliable means of staying in the black, the importance of earning a decent return for one’s work can’t be discounted.

So, how do aspiring freelancers crack into copywriting? By creating a business plan and sticking with it, periodically evaluating whether that plan is leading where it’s meant to lead.

Create a copywriting vision

You can start your copywriting business by cold-calling companies in the phone book, starting from the letter “A” and working your way through all the listings. But I suspect that would be pretty tiring.

Before soliciting work, think about yourself for a while. You have specific interests, things you like to do, causes you believe in. There are also things that turn you off. List all these things somewhere, and you might see a vision take shape, a direction that you want to follow in your life and work that you can use to guide your decisions.

Learn about clients that fit into your vision

Once you learn more about yourself, you might find you really believe in the mission of non-profits and would rather not deal with banks. That’s great! You now know that you want to work for non-profits you have in mind (even though banks are known to pay well for copywriting).

Figure out what you can offer potential clients

The list of “writing products” you can create never seems to end. You can write anything from technical manuals for software development outfits to speeches for CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Once again, what types of things do you want to write? What would you rather not write? What types of writing would you like to explore? Do your prospective clients buy the types of writing products you want to create?

Research and learn

You’ll learn lots as you serve your clients and market yourself, but experience isn’t the only way to refine your business acumen.

For instance, seasoned writers publish their knowledge in books meant to help freelancers achieve success. Various writers’ organizations, such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada, offer resources to their members to help them succeed.

Few things beat primary research. Learn from experienced freelance writers, whether you find them via listings such as www.writers.ca or at events such as Writing Your Way: Corporate Writing & Copywriting in Toronto on March 20.

Continually reevaluate your plan

What’s in this blog post merely skims the surface of the elements every freelance business plan needs. New avenues will open up. You’ll learn new things about writing and business. Regularly review your plan so that it keeps pace with the evolution of your copywriting business.

Drawing clarity out of complexity is what Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and trainer Luigi Benetton does for a living, making sure your audience understands your message.


- Luigi Benetton


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