How To Become a Copywriter and Make a Living Out Of It
It’s common knowledge that if you’re detail-oriented, able to meet deadlines, and have a great understanding of the English language, you can become a copywriter. But to truly become a copywriter and make significant income writing, you will also need courage, inspiration, understanding of industry trends, and that touch of individuality that sets you apart from other writers. Did you know that web-page writers are currently in great demand? Or that if you have a technical background, companies can pay upwards of thousands of dollars to have you write technical papers for them? Copywriting is an illustrious industry that is only getting bigger, so here is your golden ticket to learn how to become a copywriter.
Join Len Smith, freelance copywriter and communications consultant, as he guides you to becoming a copywriter through realistic steps and teaches you how to clear the writing hurdles that many aspiring copywriters encounter. This course has the goal of teaching students to make money doing what they love within two months of course completion. A lofty goal, but infinitely achievable if you follow Len’s step-by-step process. The transcript below is his introduction to copywriting and an outline of what to expect from his course. From first steps to business contracts, he is confident that if you follow his guidance, you will be able to make copywriting a full-time career in less time than you think.
Hello. My name is Len Smith and I’d like to welcome you to this course, “How to Become a Copywriter.” Let’s begin first of all with some congratulations: give yourself a gong because so many people intend to do something about copywriting – they intend to have a go – and that’s as far as it gets: intention. You made this first important step with this course, but there are more steps to go. Although, I’ve tried to keep the courses concise as possible and to the point as possible, it’s not a long course, but it will in all reality take you three months to get to the point where you’re earning money. Let’s be realistic. Now, your role is to follow the course. Mine is to instruct you, to cajole you, to encourage you until you reach that point where you do feel confident and you really are making money.
First, a question: Why did I even believe that a course like this was necessary when there are already so many books having courses on the subject of how to write?
The truth is, I don’t believe that’s the real problem. The fact that you’ve chosen to take this course means that you’re pretty confident already that you’ve got the ability – though there’s room for improvement. But your real concern is you want to be in copywriting, you know you can do it, but how do you begin? The difficulty, of course, is that you don’t have a track record, you don’t have a portfolio, you probably don’t have the clients or even prospective clients. Even if you did, you might lack the competence to talk to them as a professional without knowing the job. So, that’s what this course is all about. Not how to write, although we do have modules on that – how to write a press release, how to write a case study, how to write a white paper, and so on – but its real function is to teach you how to become a copywriter, earning a living three months from now.
So, how does the course work? You have to recognize that video isn’t ideal media for a subject like this. We are, after all, talking about words. During the course, I will give you lots of external links to resources like examples, and particularly to software, often free software, to help boost your productivity to make life easier for you. That’s not easy to do during a video. That being said, the main elements of the course are in the form of downloadable PDFs so you can print them off, write notes on them, but most importantly, when I do introduce something, you can click straight through, play with the software, while it’s still in context.
In between the PDFs, we are going to have five side chats, like this, where I’ll summarize what’s being learned. I might also expand on some of the points and as important, maintain your enthusiasm. Just like any course, it’s important to pace yourself, so I ask you to please don’t try to devour the course in a weekend; you could, as it’s physically possible to read it and to watch all of the videos, but that really wouldn’t be of any help to you whatsoever. So, take your time with a little every day, and make sure before moving onto the next topic you’ve mastered the one you’ve been currently learning.
So, what is the first course all about? It’s all about fast track, it’s all about getting off the ground quickly, and we’ll start off by looking at the equipment you’re going to need. Essentially, all you need is a PC, a telephone line, and an internet connection, which you’ve already got, but I’m going to introduce you to some low cost equipment that will boost your productivity, and age your confidence. We’re going to look at how to develop a portfolio of work very quickly. By this, I don’t mean a spurious portfolio; there is nothing more soul-destroying than writing about a product or a service that doesn’t even exist. These are going to be real clients, they’re going to be real case studies, real brochures and so on. Maybe not fee paying, but that’s the price you pay to get a quick portfolio and to gain that experience. One thing that I know is that you will enjoy this process, because few things are as satisfying as seeing your own name in print for the first time. I will show you how, fifteen days from now, you could have your first article published. I can almost guarantee that.
We’re going to look at the pricing – how do you arrive at a cost? How do you arrive at a sensible price that’s going to satisfy the client and also be profitable for you? We’re going to look at contracts. Now, my own contract is probably unique in the field of copywriting; it gives me enormous competitive advantage, and I believe it closes more business. So, I explain that to you and I do strongly recommend that you adopt exactly the same principle. We’ll look at how to protect your work, copyrighting it, and so on.
Then, in the next session, we’re going to look at how to build your own copywriting website. You’re not going to need any previous experience, it’s not at all technical, and most importantly, it’s not even costly. In fact, it’s free. No software to buy and you don’t even have to pay to host the website. So, perhaps at the end of the day, this will be the most important thing that you get from this course, because I must say, all of my business comes to me via the web.
The next session is very much a “how-to” session: how to write white papers. I explain what those are in the session. If your background is technical or requires specialist knowledge – maybe you were an accountant, an engineer, worked in the computer industry – then white papers are a wonderful entree into copywriting. They’re fascinating to write, they’re good meaty projects, and they’re also very profitable. Typically I would charge between 1,000 pounds and 6,000 pounds (that’s $1,200 to $7,000) for a white paper. We’re going to look at writing sales copy, which is where most of you will probably begin, and you’ll find that particularly rewarding if your background was in sales or marketing. I’m going to show you, and this will apply later when you gain more confidence, how you can become an expert when you are not an expert. You will come to realize that the client is the expert, you simply do the writing, but I will show you how you can develop a relationship such that your lack of knowledge doesn’t in anyway dent your credibility.
We’ll look at writing case studies and we’ll look at writing press releases. If your background is in journalism, or is in any way related, then that’s an obvious entree for you. We’re going to look at writing for websites because that the demand is huge. If you think about the speed with which the internet is growing, the demand for writing web pages is enormous and it is very profitable. So, typically I would charge between 50 pounds and 100 pounds per page, which comes out to about $60 to $100 dollars per page. Have you noticed the emphasis beginning to shift? We’ve been talking about how fascinating, how fun it is to write copy, but we’re going to start talking money now, and I must confess, money’s fun, too.
In this next session, we go back to basics. We have to start off here by learning how to kiss: keep it simple. Now, that’s a big part of a copywriter’s life. The client gives you this mish-mash of information, and you have to boil down to the essentials. Simplicity is a big part of copywriting. I’ll give you a technique for overcoming writer’s block, this problem of blank page syndrome, looking at a blank screen and thinking “How on Earth can I begin?” There is a simple technique. We’re going to look at different tones of voice, or writing styles, and the way in which they are applied to different markets sectors. During the sessions, we do look at various aspects of English usage and abusage. Here, I dedicate a whole section to the apostrophe, I’m sorry about that, but it is probably the biggest single thing that differentiates the amateur from the professional copywriter. We’re going to look at things like style sheets, and the various tools that are available to us, hidden within Microsoft Word.
Then, for our finale, we’re going to look at, perhaps the most useful of all the notes: how to boost your income. By this stage, you will be earning money, and I’m going to show you how to make more money out of it and how to make it into a full-time career. So, make yourself comfortable, get yourself a cup of coffee, we’re about to start the first session. This is the start of your journey, enjoy it!
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