You’re a new copywriter. Congratulations. Writing copy is a lot of fun, and it can be very lucrative too.
I’ve been writing copy for over 30 years. The following tips were created in the spirit of: “if only someone had told me!” They’re what I wish I’d known when I was starting out.
Here we go.
1. Research: It’s the Foundation of Your Copy.
Research is the secret of all great copy. The best copy I’ve ever written developed directly from my research into a product I was promoting, or its audience, or the business environment, in some cases.
Other copywriters tell me similar stories: great inspiration comes from the effort you put into your research.
If you have five hours to write a piece of copy, spend four hours on research.
2. Ask Questions.
This tip relates directly to tip #1. Your research will help you to ask great questions.
Related to asking: make contacts — introduce yourself to people who can hire you.
3. Spend Time Marketing Yourself Every Day.
People have to know you exist before they can hire hire you. Therefore, marketing yourself is essential.
Marketing is much like advertising. John Wanamaker, who’s considered by some to be the father of modern advertising, and a marketing pioneer, said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Similarly, half the time and energy you spend on marketing is wasted. If you want to make money however, you won’t begrudge it.
4. Treat Your Copywriting Practice Like a Business.
Businesses expect to run at a loss for their first few years in operation. It’s a rare business which makes a profit in its first year. Therefore, don’t expect to make a six-figure income in your first six months.
See tip #3. The more effectively you market, the more clients you’ll get.
5. Study Great Copywriting: Create a Swipe File.
A “swipe” file is a collection of material you use as inspiration. This collection can contain any material you enjoy, and know is effective.
I love vintage advertising. Basic advertising tricks and strategies existed a century ago. The more familiar you are with them, the more you’ll become inspired to recreate them in new, relevant forms for today’s audience.
6. Write 20 Headlines.
Just as you spend more time researching than you do writing, you need to spend time on your copy’s headline.
Headlines are fun to brainstorm. Write 20, the more outrageous the better. You’re priming your inspiration to come up with the best headline.
7. Eliminate Procrastination With a Process.
All writing is a process. Research, draft your copy, then write it and revise it. Stay at your desk, and write.
Copywriters know that out of perspiration, comes inspiration. Over time, I’ve learned that if I sit in my chair, even if I hate what I’m writing, I’m kicking my subconscious awake. Inspiration will strike later, when I’m doing something else.
8. Get Paid.
You write to get paid. Always get a deposit from each client. Ask for final payment on delivery of the final material. Occasionally, clients will slow-pay you. However, you’ll find that your own expectations are key. Expect to be paid well, and you will be.
9. Get Clients on a Retainer.
A retainer, in copywriting terms (there are retainers in many different kinds of industries), is a fee which a client pays you every month, whether he needs your services or not.
Clients pay retainers so they know that no matter how many projects you’re working on, and no matter how long your waiting list, you’ll work on their projects first.
10. Develop Time-Saving Strategies.
You can save time in many ways. Simple time-saving strategies include creating boilerplate documents, and templates.
As your business grows, you’ll hire people to help you: a bookkeeper to manage your accounts receivable, and get your financial paperwork ready for your accountant. You may hire a personal assistant to free up your time, too.
Post updated: February 13, 2014
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