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Thread: How to get started in the copywriting industry?

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    Default How to get started in the copywriting industry?

    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?

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    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.
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    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.

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    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.
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    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, 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    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.
    Dan Furman - Copywriter, Business Author, Entrepreneurial/Business Consultant
    Business Writing Services | Website Copywriting Services | Blog here

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Chittenden View Post
    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.

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