How to Be a Copywriter (By Those Who Do It for a Living)

You quite fancy becoming a copywriter, eh? I like you already. Copywriting is a great career choice - and all the very best people write for a living. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

So, don’t just listen to me. Before you bust onto the scene like a pen-toting copywriting machine, take the advice of the people who make up this very blog. Copywriters in various stages of their career, they write for agencies, for themselves, or in-house for a brand - but they all have one thing in common: they worked blinking hard to carve for themselves the life they want. Saw it, wanted it, got it. YES!

You can do it, too. Read on…

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Make Some 'Pen' Pals

"Make friends." says freelance copywriter, Elise Dopson. "Whether you're chatting with other copywriters on Twitter, sharing their work or striking up an email conversation about the struggles you're both facing, friends make this job less lonely (which is ironic—we spend most of our time writing for humans on the internet, but still feel lonely in real life). Since making this my top priority since I started freelancing, I feel much less lonelier—and even have a lovely bunch of people who send referrals my way when they're fully booked (and vice versa). The opportunities are endless once you're "in" with people in the industry."

Just 'Go For It'

"So for me, I think the most important thing is to go for it." says André Spiteri of Maverick Words. "Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. It’ll never be. Get a portfolio together and start pitching. The more you work and learn, the more you’ll improve. "

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Set Up a Blog

Alex Fassam from The Curly Haired Copywriter is fairly new to the industry, having recently took up a position on the Infinity team.

He says: “I knew I wanted to become a copywriter more than anything but I knew no-one would hire me with little to no experience. The best thing I ever did was set up my blog. It was my way of A) Showing people I could write B) Expanding on ideas I’d learnt about during my studying on copywriting C) Showing prospective employers I could manage a site like WordPress. It worked like a charm and I’ve landed my dream job. I couldn’t be happier!"

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Use Social Media to Your Advantage

"Invest time in social media - it's an important part of your marketing, so don't feel guilty about spending (quality) time online. Don't be bamboozled by the jargon, it can make writing seem more complicated than it is. Befriend other copywriters - they're a lovely supportive bunch! And finally, but importantly, know what you're worth and don't undersell yourself." - those are the wise words of Megan Rose, who runs her own freelance copywriting business over here.

Hone Your Craft

“I’ve only just got my first job as a copywriter, so I’m still pretty inexperienced myself.” says Simeon - junior copywriter at Pink Squid. “But one important thing I’ve learnt already is to work on mastering different tones of voice, instead of simply relying on the one that feels most natural to you. It seems obvious, but it’ll give any new copywriter a huge advantage if they start off doing that. “

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Put a Portfolio Together

"I’d say there is absolutely no substitute for having a portfolio of relevant work." says Paul French, a copywriter who works at legal firm, Eversheds Sutherland.

"You need to try and work out what sort of copywriter you want to be - creative/long form/jack of all trades and also if there is an industry you want to specialise in. Then either find relevant work experience or work for reduced rates to get some work behind you, which you can use to leverage more work (freelance) or a job (in/house/agency)"

Don't Work for Nothing. EVER.

Rebecca Pearl Messagelab Communications has some sound advice via a piece featured on the Professional Copywriters' Network website.

She says: "I don’t think you need to work for free while you’re building up your portfolio. I didn’t. Of course you won’t be charging the amounts you will with five years’ experience under your belt, but I don’t see any reason to ever work for free. There are always paid opportunities for talented writers. You just need to find them, which is also good practice."

And here’s a tip of my own…

Never Give Up

When it feels like you’re getting nowhere, just keep going. Believe me when I say persistence (and hard work) is key.

Are you a copywriter? Have a tip or two to share? Ping me a message and I’d be happy to add it here. Let’s make this the biggest and best guide for anyone who wants to get into the wonderful world of copywriting.

Until next time…

 

What's a call to action and why use them?

A call to action - or a CTA - is probably the most important part of any page. When you’re writing copy for your website, it doesn’t just need to instruct. It needs to take your visitors by the arm and guide them gently (but with a little force) to the areas of the site you’d like them to see.

Think of it like giving a tour around your home. You’d spend a while showing off your kitchen, or your newly-decorated living room, but you’d probably skip the downstairs loo in favour of looking out of the back door into the garden. A good CTA will help your visitors see the pages you want them to see - and glance over the pages that might not be useful to them.

For example, if a visitor comes to your website via a blog post that has interested them, you’ll want to send them directly to a page of your business’ site dealing with what that blog post covers. That way, you’ve piqued their interest and capitalised from it, rather than let them tail off and travel on to the next website that takes their fancy.

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What’s a good CTA?

 A good call to action is short and to the point, and encourages visitors to take action. Things like:

Click here to find out more!

Contact me now to learn how.

Learn more.

See more amazing pics here.

See for yourself.

Click now to find out how.

Did you feel the need to click on those sentences even though they weren’t links? It’s okay. Copywriters all over the internet have created CTAs that speak to you directly and they’ve become such a natural form of navigation, you might find yourself clicking without realising it.

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Where do you put a call to action, then?

Writing a good call to action isn’t natural to a writer who doesn’t spend much time online, which is why digital copywriters are such naturals at incorporating them. It’s about placement as much as it is about the words they use.

Placing your 'action phrase' into the right part of your page will encourage visitors to click. But remember, you don’t want them bouncing straight off your page without at least taking in some of your content.

The best suggestion is to place your first clickable link after your first main paragraph, to grab hold of your quick-reading content skimmers. Then, place another one two-thirds of the way through, with a slightly different message. Finally, end your piece with some punchy words that encourage your fine-tooth-combers to take action after they’ve fully considered your piece.

Done. Except…

Make your content flow towards your CTAs

Your calls to action will not be effective if you don’t tailor your content to ebb towards them. As Billy McCaffrey says at Wordstream, command verbs in your paragraphs can really make a difference when it comes to causing your visitors to act on their impulses.

What are command verbs?

Do!

Go!

Buy!

Shop!

Order!

Read!

Download!

Click!

Telling your customers what to do is something you can only really do online, so make the most of it!

A good use of command verbs:

Want to save money? Buy now. Our early bird offers expire on Wednesday, don’t miss out!

A bad use of command verbs:

We have lots of offers on our site at the moment. Buy now.

Can you see the difference in how you feel? The first sentence feels exciting, like being let into a VIP sale. The second… not so much.

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Take a look at your content and see how you could increase its effectiveness using command verbs. You might be surprised how quickly you see results!

As a digital copywriting specialist, I’m here to help you with any and all of your CTA conundrums. Let’s chat about how I can help you make your website more effective at ensnaring your inbound visitors.

Thank You For the Music, Dad...

Since today's Father's Day and I don't often praise my Dad (it goes to his head!), I thought I'd swallow my pride and dedicate this blog post to the man who's responsible for my biggest love in life: music.

This piece first appeared in the My Passion slot amongst the business pages of the Yorkshire Post.

Copywriting is nothing if not fast-paced, so how better to tackle deadlines head-on than by firing up Spotify and hitting ‘Play’ on your favourite music?

I won’t go as far as reckoning I was singing almost as soon as I learned to talk, or tapping my toe in the womb, but what I will say is this: music and me go back a long way.

In the late 70s and early 80s my Dad was a DJ and, when I was old enough, I’d be by his side as he selected the week’s chart hits at an independent record shop called Ear ‘Ere. And in the style of John Cusack and Jack Black’s characters in High Fidelity, the blokes behind the counter could tell you the name of pretty much any song going. Sometimes, all they’d need is a poorly recollected hum of a lyric or two – and lo and behold, they’d be able to place the track and pop it in a plastic carrier bag within seconds.

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I have my Dad’s love of music to thank for much of my career to date; without intending to, he’d influenced my tastes – and a lot of what I listen to today is his doing. From the hits of the late, great Bowie, to Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder, Average White Band and the less mainstream Babe Ruth (check out their track ‘Elusive’!); you name it, I knew the words to them.

Music was such a part of my life that at 21, I convinced the then-editor of a weekly newspaper I wrote for to give me a column talking about – and reviewing – some of my favourite bands. It quickly led to a stint freelancing for NME magazine and I was lucky enough to head backstage at some of the country’s biggest festivals, interviewing the likes of Stereophonics, Bloc Party and Ocean Colour Scene.

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Before long, I was promoting and organising gigs myself. And guess who’d DJ at those mini concerts in my small (but musically very happening) hometown of Lancaster? My Dad was the obvious choice, his record collection a real talking point amongst the twenty and thirty-something gig-goers who, like me, loved the chance to chew someone’s ear off when it came to their favourite bands.

While today I’ve turned to copywriting over music journalism, the tracks of my younger years still get me through the day. I rarely go a morning without logging onto Spotify – and while I love that it instantly connects you to the music you love via its handy ‘Radio’ function, you really can’t beat the sound – or the nostalgia – linked to vinyl records. Now, that’s definitely something to sing (or toe tap) about!

Like this post? Bookmark my blog here at Lauren Holden Freelance for more of the same.

Words that Work: When TV Ads Went Rogue

Words are ace. That is all.

Of course I'm going to say that, being the full-time freelance writer that I am. But they really are powerful, aren't they? The reason for that is simple: even when they aren't even trying, they can still make you take action.

This old Marmite advert being a case in point. Okay, so there isn't much dialogue in the ad itself, but the slogan: 'Marmite: love it or hate it' has stuck in the mind of the British public in much the same way as the yeasty breakfast spread adheres to our morning toast.

It takes a bold advertiser to centre an ad around that thing (or things) that people don't like about a product or service. In the breakfast condiment's case, it's the fact that marmite is...well...a bit bitter on the old palette really.

Take McDonald's and this absolute belter of an ad from a few years back. While I'm not a fan of its 'I'm loving it' slogan, I take my curly Ronald McDonald-esque red wig off to the folks behind this little corker (click the link above). Sometimes, the fewer the words the better. And the fast food chain has, this time, somehow built a sales piece around a pretty negative-sounding catchphrase: 'Nah, you're alright'.

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The focus for the ad? Gherkins? Like Marmite, you either love 'em or hate 'em. Of course, the bigwigs at McDonald's have more than cottoned on to this fact, creating a pretty charming story between son and stepdad. Just lovely. It's proof that dialogue in an ad doesn't have to be overly flowery, just well-thought-out.

It's true that McDonald's can definitely afford to take a gamble when it comes to ad campaigns but I still enjoyed this cheeky yet subtle 'salesy' approach.

So, what does a brand (and resulting advert) that pokes fun at itself actually do for us - the customer?

First and foremost it's endearing, isn't it? If a company like Marmite, or even McDonald's can hold up its hands and say 'yeah, we have faults', it gives them a 'human' face and, yep, makes us put more trust in what it is they're doing. We Brits love humour, that much is true.

Moving On...

More recently, We Buy Any Car got in on the act of spelling out its downfalls in a bid to endear itself to the car-buying public.

Sure, you can get a better price for your motor elsewhere but why do that when you can save time? And time, as we all know, is infinitely more valuable than one or two extra coins in our back pocket. We can't even be bothered to put our pin numbers in the debit card machine, after all (cheers, Contactless payment!), such is our rushed, 'let's just get to the next place' existence.

Now, while I'm not too keen of a 'we're not actors - honest!' talking heads ad, We Buy Any Car were onto something when they ditched their strangely catchy but equally blimming annoying 'We buy any car.com, any any any....' ditty.

They replaced it with a fairly 'no thrills' ad which puts its customers needs and wants first. *Adopts Protestor's voice* (I'm nothing if not topical) "What do we want? No-nonsense ads that get to the point." When do we want them? NOW!"

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'Value your time' is the message behind WBAC's latest ad. Why mess around selling your car privately if you can get it sorted quicker and easier via the site? Simple yet effective, what do you reckon? Oh, and with all that extra time you could...you know...stock up on Marmite. Or gherkins.

Have you seen any ads you like that adopt the same approach as these three? Jog my memory and comment below.

Until next time, folks...

How to Stop Procrastinating and Actually Get Stuff Done

My name is Lauren Holden and I'm (well, let's just say, I have been known to be) a procrastinator.  

Take last weekend alone. In hysterics, I was perilously close to covering my laptop with a splattering of chewed up Monster Munch. But I wasn't partaking in some strange crisp-based fetish. Oo-blimming-er. Instead, I was creasing up at yet another video of a goat in a party hat. 

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OK, OK, so if I've got an important deadline on the go, I'm on it. Always. But if there's something else that needs doing (like updating this website, or writing a blog post over here) I'll find a million and one other things to do before cracking on.

A quick glance at my Facebook timeline confirms I'm far from the only one. One pal reveals that she's edging closer to the possibility of missing her second tax deadline in as many years, as a result of 'messing about online', making Spotify playlists and 'looking at pictures of cats in fancy dress'.

A Nation of Procrastinators

Apparently, we're a nation of procrastinators - with 95% of us putting off vital jobs to squander time on other less imperative tasks. A University of Calgary professor has even (after a 10-year-long wait - no joke!) published a paper on the subject.

But, guess what? You can pull yourself out of the BHoP (Black Hole of Procrastination) and actually get stuff done. Here's how I do it....

1. Plan Ahead - To ensure stuff gets done well in advance of its deadline, I plan my days like I would a school revision timetable (remember those?!). Cordon off chunks (or hours) here and there to get particular projects done, breaking off in between larger pieces of work to give yourself a five or ten-minute rest.

2. Disconnect the Internet - I can feel some of you recoiling in horror at this one, but let's face it, the Internet is a provoker of procrastination. Goats in party hats/cats in fancy dress - you name it, they'll each come between you and that deadline. Avoid the temptation and just disconnect the Internet. Failing that, just pretend you've disconnected it. 

3. Implement a 'Rewards Scheme' - Don't think Sainsbury's Nectar Points, but rather 'I'll have that coffee/chocolate bar/watch that goat video (NOT) just as soon as I've done 'X' hours' work - result!

Do you have another tip? Please share it below. Right, I'm off to watch another goat video....

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