View Full Version : How to get started in the copywriting industry?

Laura Chittenden
05-17-2012, 07:11 PM
Hello everyone,

I am new the forums but I am enjoying everything Iím learning here. Everyone is so helpful. My father is Steve Chittenden, who you all know as cbscreative. In addition to the fine input he gives, Iím looking to get the perspective of you great people.

I am considering becoming a freelance writer, particularly of copy which sells. I think I may need to start as a traditional copywriter to gain some experience. I would like as much information on the copywriting writing industry in general as I can get (growing/declining, markets, etc). Any advice/recommended sites to look at would be appreciated.

I am trying to understand where to get started in this industry.
Copywriters, where did you first get your experience, and do you think the methods that worked for you then will still apply today? Most of you probably began with a traditional advertising agency or marketing department. Today, with the internet explosion and more copy being placed on the internet, do you think a traditional marketing company would be the best way to go? The reason I ask is because it seems to me traditional marketing companies may be being used less frequently in favor of freelancers. If businesses are hiring freelancers more often, would it not be advisable for me to start in a traditional advertising agency/marketing department? Yet it seems getting experience is with the traditional marketing companies. So where would you get started if you were me?

05-17-2012, 11:13 PM
Welcome to the forum Laura. Chittendon, Chittendon? Now where do I know that name. It seems so familiar. :) Your dad's talked about you some here and there so some of us may feel like we know you already.

I wasn't expecting you to say you were looking to be a freelance writer. I know you've done some design work so I thought that might be what you were thinking. Still in a creative industry though. We do have a few writers here to help. I've been hoping wed get more copywriting threads for a long time too as I think it's one of the most important parts of any business, yet one so many seem to gloss over.

I think you'll find there's still a mix of opportunities. Traditional marketing firms are still there and being hired. Some now also do online work. There's lots of freelancers too. I think who gets hired depends mainly on who's doing the hiring, but whether it's traditional firms, SEO companies, freelancers, or whatever there's work to be had. Do you want to work for someone else or are you thinking of working for yourself?

Welcome again and thanks for joining the community.

Laura Chittenden
05-19-2012, 06:44 PM
Thanks vangogh!

As for your question, I am thinking I might like to work for myself some day, but I need experience first. I'm wondering where copywriters break into the industry. It seems to me most copywriters probably work for someone as a copywriter or marketer of some kind before they strike out on their own. I was wondering if that is an advisable path or if I could learn on my own. Once I have the skill, where do I sell it? Thanks in advance for your reply.

05-20-2012, 02:00 AM
Getting experience working for others is certainly one way to get started. I do think you can go it your own right from the start though and learn as you go. To get a job will probably mean the usual route of resumes and applying and dealing with the catch 22 of employees wanting experience, but you can't get the experience until you get the job. It's an age old thing just about everyone who's ever joined the workforce has gone through. You'll probably want to look to ad agencies and you may need to intern at first to make some connections. If you keep plugging away you'll sooner or later get a job and from there you learn.

There's no reason you can't go directly into business though. You don't have to work for someone else first. There will be a different set of challenges. The learning you can do on your own. Many of the best copywriters who've ever lived have written books teaching you everything you'll need to know. They aren't there next to you to answer questions, but you can still learn from them. Most of learning is about what you put into it anyway. You'll make mistakes and learn from them and do better next time.

On your own you'd be a freelancer. Get a site built and online, register a tradename and you're in business. The big challenge here is building a client list. Your own site becomes your portfolio and your first learning experience. You'd be writing the copy after all. It can serve as an example of your work and it would be there to convince people to hire you. You keep working to improve it and your portfolio and skills get better. While you're improving the copy you'd need to market your own site, which is another skill that will serve you well as a copywriter. The same way you might intern with an ad agency you could do some pro bono work. Pick some charities in your area and even some local businesses who could use help and offer to rewrite their copy. It increases your portfolio, gives you more experience, and starts to build a network of people who might hire you later and recommend your services.

The downside of going into business on your own is no one is paying you while you're doing all this learning. There are plenty of sites always looking for others to write articles. Most won't necessarily pay a lot and it won't be copywriting, but it is writing, it pays, and it gets your name out there as a writer. Most of those sites will let you have a short bio with a credit where you can link back to your site and thus begins the marketing and promotion.

Neither route is automatically better or worse. It really depends on which would work better for you right now and that's as much to do with you than anything else.

05-21-2012, 12:52 PM
Welcome to the forum, Laura. I got started as a writer simply by writing whenever the opportunity presented itself. I worked at a television station and as a traffic coordinator and ended up writing half their new website because they needed a writer and I proved I could do it. If you want to get established, write every chance you get. Start a blog of your own, because most people who will hire you to write will want samples. You might also check out Media Bistro (http://www.mediabistro.com/), which is a site that my editor at the magazine for which I write recommended to me. There are also other sites out there that advertise freelance jobs for writers.

05-21-2012, 07:01 PM
I haven't worked for a real company for about 15 years, but back then all companies needed writers and I'm sure still do. The thing is, you are going to be writing about their products. If its a high tech company its going to be technical writing. If its perfumes, It'll be about perfumes. After that its whether its ad copy, product data sheets, internet pages etc. Pick a company that needs what you eventually want to do and get in at some starting level. Most "real" companies will promote from within.

Laura Chittenden
05-22-2012, 05:11 PM
Thanks everyone. You all have been confirming what I have been thinking about these things. Thanks KristineS for the website recommendation. Have you got any gigs through Media Bistro? I'd be interested in hearing more about them.

05-23-2012, 12:36 AM
Maybe you can visit this website, which provides information for all writers: www.writerstreet.com If you signup with their newsletter, thay have copywriter course which claims to give you also information where to start as a copywriter. Hope this helps.

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Dan Furman
05-23-2012, 11:48 AM
Hi Laura,

Just being perfectly honest - there are very few actual opportunities for copywriters. You could try to apply to corporations / catalogs / etc - a lot use an in-house writer, but they usually want some experience first (which you'd usually get in a marketing department somewhere.)

I'm a full-time self-employed copywriter. I started with no experience, and no contacts. I was just a guy who always wrote really well, and knew I could do this. I put up a website (that featured my writing), advertised on Google adwords, and... well, that was a decade ago. I'm still here, doing generally the same thing. I wrote two books along the way (one about working for yourself at home, and another on web copywriting), but books are a very small part of what I do (and my income.) But I didn;t even get into the books until I was well entrenched as a copywriter.

My advice? Jump into the deep end and put up a website offering your services.

05-23-2012, 12:32 PM
Thanks everyone. You all have been confirming what I have been thinking about these things. Thanks KristineS for the website recommendation. Have you got any gigs through Media Bistro? I'd be interested in hearing more about them.

Laura, nothing yet, but I haven't done a lot with it, other than set up a basic account. I may have to invest some money to get on the radar of people who are placing job advertisements there.

Laura Chittenden
06-05-2012, 03:33 PM
Thank you everyone. Yours answers have been most helpful as I consider copywriting. I am assuming many of you do your copywriting full time (although most of it is probably not copywriting, but marketing yourself). Is this true? Is it possible to work at copywriting part-time, especially if you are self employed? I was also curious as to whether or not copywriters meet with their clients in person. How often does the job require you to get out and travel? Thanks everyone.

06-06-2012, 12:50 AM
I do my own copywriting and marketing. Most people probably do, though most people really could use the services of a professional. :)

It's definitely possible to get your business going part time. You wouldn't be the only one who does that. Some people will meet with clients, but it isn't necessary. While I'm a designer and not a copywriter, much of the business side is the same. Most (I think all right now) of my clients are in different states. We communicate mainly through email with an occasional phone call when email isn't quite enough. Some people will also use instant messenger and there are also online tools like Basecamp (http://basecamp.com) you can use for project management with a client. There's a free theme for WordPress called P2 (http://p2theme.com/) that's meant to be used for project management and internal communications.

If you have local clients some will probably want to meet you, though not all. Some people prefer to work with someone local just so they can meet in person. I've had some local clients in the past, but even then there wasn't much travel involved. Even with local clients most of the communication was email and phone.

10-24-2012, 04:38 PM
Hi Laura,

Welcome to the forum! I have gotten quite a few copywriting gigs through the Warrior Forum (mostly writing copy for internet marketing products). The drawback is that there's big pressure to sell yourself for a relatively low price, but getting gigs and experience are the upside of this. And as you get more of both, you can increase your rates :)

Good luck!


10-25-2012, 11:07 PM
The drawback is that there's big pressure to sell yourself for a relatively low price, but getting gigs and experience are the upside of this. And as you get more of both, you can increase your rates

So true. It's not just copywriting either. When I first started designing I did some very low cost sites and even a free one, just to get some experience. I raised my rates as soon as I could. I'd advise most freelancers to do that. Not to just arbitrarily raise prices, but to understand the value you bring clients and charge accordingly. It's certainly ok to take on low paying jobs at first, but remember you're doing it for the experience. Once you have some experience you shouldn't need to keep taking the low paying jobs.

07-22-2013, 11:45 AM
Hi, Laura.

I was starting from small PR agency as copywriter. Then began my own career as freelancer. Now i'm fully dedicated to my website that provides different writing services.

Laura Chittenden
07-22-2013, 12:18 PM
EBrooks, thanks for your input. I really appreciate it.

07-23-2013, 03:04 AM
Laura have you taken the plunge and set up a freelance copywriting business? It's been awhile since you first asked about it and I don't think we know what came of it? If not what have you been up to?

Laura Chittenden
07-23-2013, 11:12 AM
Yes, Vangough, I am still very serious about copywriting. I have a bio and portfolio on the writing team page of cbscreative.com (http://www.cbscreative.com/writers.htm). I have added the link in the home page on my profile.

07-23-2013, 02:16 PM
Yes, Vangough, I am still very serious about copywriting. I have a bio and portfolio on the writing team page of cbscreative.com (http://www.cbscreative.com/writers.htm). I have added the link in the home page on my profile.

Yes, this new page on my redesigned site (finally) has been a long time in the works. I have other writers to add to it so it's a work in progress but now has been added.

07-24-2013, 01:03 AM
Nice. Glad to see you're still copywriting. I figured you still were, but you never know. It's been a year or so.

Hey Steve. I had a funny feeling when I saw Laura pop in a few days ago that we might see you sometime soon as well. How are you and how have things been going?

07-24-2013, 11:33 AM
Have you tried pursuing some internships. Sure it's basically slave labor but you'll earn some valuable experience and connections.

07-24-2013, 03:10 PM
Hey vg, things are going well. It's my best year ever and last year was good. I've been back silently a few times over the past year, but as you can tell, not actively. Knocked out a few spammers here and there and once took out someone abusing the PM. Too bad for him he sent his junk to someone who was able to take him out. Just trying not to totally slack off.

In addition to running the biz, I've intensified sharpening the skills. I thought the web design industry was rapidly changing back in the 90's and 2000's. The last 3-4 years has been a whirlwind. Never gets dull, does it?

Well, back on topic.

07-30-2013, 03:59 AM
Good to hear things are doing well and glad to see you've been more actively recently. I think I did notice you here and there taking out a spammer. The PM spammers aren't the brightest. They tend to send spam with automated tools and don't consider who might be on the receiving end.

07-30-2013, 03:11 PM
LOL, spammers in general aren't very bright.

08-05-2013, 02:51 AM
The majority aren't, but some are. Plenty of spam does find its way onto pages across the web. It comes across as a genuine comment, but it really isn't. We do a good job keeping it away from here, but I'm sure a few spam posts still get through here or there.

08-08-2013, 07:07 PM
Laura, I am on online marketer and I see that people in the online word desperately need help with their copy... especially copy that sells. You should sign up for websites like Elance.com and freelancer.com and you will find people who are looking for your talent. On those sites you can bid for the jobs (write up a quick proposal) and with time (and competence) you will build a good reputation and grow your business (you get rated there and build a reputation).

I found a copywriter there and now I work with her on most of my clients. So you can find one-off projects there and hopefully land a company who will refer you their clients but bottom line - the online world lacks GOOD copy writing.

I would also advise to read up on SEO (search engine optimization) on websites like SEOMoz and searchengineland.com - not to become a SEO professional but companies usually favor copywriters who understand SEO basics and how copy should be written to be optimize in the online world.

Kumar Palani
02-09-2015, 10:01 AM
I am no big writer my self, but I am more and more into digital marketing. To me language is next part (since most writers are naturally strong in Language its the ability to understanding audience and adapting to their likings and preference that is important. Unless a content writer understands and adheres to the interests of his/her potential audience (visitors & customers, whatever), there is little use in developing contents. Beyond that developing skills to craft unique and attractive "call to action" texts are also critical role of a Content writer.

02-12-2015, 09:15 AM
Hello Laura,

I would study John Carlton, Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, and Joe Sugarman. Next I always use the Amazon comments section to find the good and the bad in the product and address all those concerns left by actual buyers. Start mocking up some sales letters to any of those products and use the techniques taught by the gentlemen mentioned above and you will be fine.

I wish you the best of luck!

02-12-2015, 09:52 AM
Hi Laura,

Try and get an internship somewhere for six months or so. The experience is invaluable and it tends to look better on your CV than a big blank gap, even if the pay is maybe not ideal all of the time. It'd be a good idea to get yourself to a city where there are a lot of start ups already, and businesses are happy to take on younger folk with little or no experience. Cities like London, Berlin and Stockholm.

If you don't fancy moving away, then maybe look into getting some freelance stuff to build up some experience, write for free if you absolutely have to (but don't get into the habit of it!)

02-17-2015, 04:49 PM
I cold-emailed tons and tons of marketing agencies asking if they needed any help with their content needs, whether it was blog posts, ebooks, copywriting, etc.

Basically position yourself as someone who is new to the industry, is looking for experience, and is willing to work for less than the market rate because of this.

Once you get a portfolio going and some testimonials, you'll be able to charge higher rates, because people will see proof that you can deliver.

Ola Rybacka
01-13-2016, 08:29 AM
Based on my experience I can tell you taht sometimes nothing is more important than grapevine. when I started working in one company and they were pleased with content that I delivered my team leader whispered some words to the others. And thanks to that I had more and more orders.

06-01-2016, 04:32 AM
Working as freelance copywriter is a challenging task; it is not as simple and easy as you might be seeing it. I am also working as freelance writer since last 15 years. The very first suggestion is- be disciplined. Maintaining regular working hours especially when you donít have urgent assignments is very tough. Start your own blog and advertise through local directories. Contacting SEO companies is also a good practice.

Joseph Ray
06-04-2016, 08:07 PM
You can start freelancing and building up repertoire on websites like Freelancer.com and Upwork.com. You will only begin to really understand the industry as you gain experience. Learn as much as you can through the books and the experiences of others, and learn the rest through your own experience.

Networking is a big part of any professional freelancing or copywriting career. Meet new people, find some mentors, make yourself available to work. Never underprice yourself, either!

Good luck in the field.