10 top tips for being a successful copywriter
1. Now the landscape
Over the past decade there has been a surge in online content, creating an unprecedented demand for copywriters. This is largely driven by the need for search engine optimisation (SEO). Well-written copy on company websites not only gives potential customers confidence to buy services, it also helps businesses attract browsers to their website in the first place because it ensures the website places higher in Google’s search ranking.
Internet marketing is a fast-moving sector and writers who understand the latest trends in SEO, social media and other forms of digital marketing will have an edge. Check out sites like Moz.com, EConsultancy.com and Copyblogger.com for insight into how content creation fits into online marketing.
2. Find out what type of copywriter you want to be
Before Google, being a copywriter meant scripting TV commercials in an ad agency, writing direct mail campaigns, press releases, brochures or other business literature. Those jobs still exist, but there is far greater demand for web editors, SEO copywriters, content managers and other online content roles. Make sure you understand what’s involved in the role you are applying for and upskill accordingly.
3. Have realistic expectations
Mad Men it ain’t. You’re far more likely to have to produce large amounts of content quickly, accurately and probably for low pay, particularly at the beginning of your career.
Working for a content mill or through recruitment sites, such as Elance.com, can be a good way to build up a portfolio, especially if you’ve never had work published online before. Your own blog can also be a good way of showcasing your skills.
4. Research the company (and person) you’re applying to
The vast majority of speculative applications I receive are addressed “Dear Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern”. But on our website it’s easy to find my name and what I do. You can also try Linkedin, Google or Twitter – or pick up the phone and ask. Establishing a personal connection with the decision maker at the company you want to work for is a quick win, yet few applicants do it.
5. Use social media to build up a relationship
At the very least, follow the company you want to work for on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. If you can build a relationship with an individual through social media then even better, but don’t cross the fine line separating enthusiasm from hassling. Twitter is also a great place to find new copywriter vacancies.
6. Don’t oversell yourself
On Kitchen Nightmares one of the first things Gordon Ramsay does is cut back the size of the menu. He knows that no chef can do hundreds of dishes well.
When I see a candidate who is offering themselves as a copywriter, marketer, social media guru, Google expert and telesales wizard, but they’re applying straight from university, I assume that they are unlikely to be expert in any of those things. Focus your CV on the skills and experience that the employer is looking for.
7. Don’t make spelling or grammar mistakes
If you’re applying for a job as copywriter, make sure you’ve checked your application for typos and basic grammar. Read it aloud and then get someone else to read it through before you send it. You can find grammar rules for CVs here.
8. Be prepared to write a test piece
We often ask candidates to create a sample piece of work to demonstrate their skills. For us, speed and reliability are as important as writing talent. And we see the test piece as a good way to assess their commitment and ability to respond to deadlines. So don’t get huffy if a company asks you to write something for free – its standard practice, within reason of course.
There are lots of copywriters who want to write about “fun stuff” like music, film, fashion, travel and food. There are far fewer writers with expertise and experience in industries like insurance, finance, telecoms and law. By specialising in these industries you can open up more opportunities for yourself.
10. Don’t give up
I get so many CVs from new copywriters that my standard response is to say that we currently have no vacancies. But remember, it’s not a one-shot deal. While you might not get the job first time round, you might be the right candidate in the future. Those who is a follow-up don’t go unnoticed.