One of the worst mistakes you can make as a copywriter is to assume your job is about writing. It’s not.
Now I know that sounds a bit odd. After all, the word “writing” is in the word “copywriting.” So it’s understandable why you might misunderstand.
But writing and copywriting are two very different things.
When you write a novel or a poem, readers want great words. They enjoy the rhythm, the imagery, the wordplay. People expect this kind of writing to deliver a certain art and beauty.
When you write websites, ads, white papers, or other business materials, readers simply want information. They don’t care about the artistry. They aren’t looking for beauty. They just want to find out how to solve a problem or meet a need.
I was talking to a fellow copywriter a few weeks ago and he complained that he spent over $300 a year on various subscriptions.
When you think about it, that’s not that much to keep up with industry news and the latest tips and technologies. It’s easy to pay even more. However, I told him I do the same thing for free.
For many publications, especially in business niches, there aren’t enough subscribers to make subscription fees profitable. The real money comes from advertising space.
So publishers frequently employ a strategy called “controlled circulation.” Basically, they provide free subscriptions to boost circulation and allow them to earn more from selling ads.
As I write this, I don’t spend a dime on business subscriptions. Every marketing or business publication I get is free.
A few years ago, I set up a “store” where you too can subscribe to a wide variety of trade business magazines for free. There are also a lot of reports, industry guides, white papers, and downloads.
Publications don’t offer this deal all the time. So publications come and go in the store. However, if you keep checking, you can eventually amass an impressive collection of subscriptions, even for publications that ordinarily charge hefty fees.
Click here to browse the current offers. And don’t be shy. These subscriptions really ARE free. And you can ask for as many as you want.
Sleep in. You work hard. You’re tired. You deserve a few more minutes of shuteye.
Break your alarm clock. You know you’re sleeping in. You don’t need that thing to keep beeping at you.
Fix a healthy breakfast. You’ve promised yourself you’ll stop munching on half a box of donuts and chugging a gallon of coffee every morning. Oatmeal, grapefruit, orange juice. That’s what you need.
Look for the donuts. You don’t have any oatmeal, grapefruit, or orange juice.
Make a grocery list. Include oatmeal, grapefruit, and orange juice. Oh, and a new alarm clock.
Since I get so many inquiries about copywriters and copywriting, I created a Copywriter Information Center on my business website. Here’s one of the many articles and resources you’ll find there.
I’m often asked what copywriters do. So I tell them, in a nutshell, a copywriter writes copy for advertising and marketing materials, such as print ads, direct mail, and brochures.
Oh, great, they say. I’m a pretty good writer. I got good grades in English class. I should get into copywriting.
Well … it’s not just about writing.
In the real world, a copywriter must have skills beyond copywriting.
A copywriter must also have expertise in a variety of areas related to creating and producing the ads they write, which may include:
Hmm. I’ve use a lot of analogies over the years to discuss copywriting, but never reality TV.
But Tiffany Markman brings up some good points and gives us all a different perspective as she wades into the swamp of today’s most popular TV genre.
I say ‘reality TV’.
You think of several good-looking people eating earthworms for money, a family of motorbike manufacturers fighting with each other, a chubby guy baking multi-storey cakes, or a nice family with several adopted kids getting a beautiful new house.
Whatever your impression of reality television – and whether you like it or hate it – have you ever considered how much like copywriting it is? No? Well, I have.
And here’s why…
We live in the information age. And boy do we get blasted with information. It’s dumped on us by the truckload.
Three pounds of stuff in the mailbox a day. 507 TV channels to flip through to find the weather report. 623 email messages selling male enhancement pills.
And that’s only a fraction of the information that bombards us. There are billboards along the highway, news broadcasts on the radio, memos and telephone calls at the office, instruction manuals for office equipment that won’t work, family schedules to remember, bills, books, seminars, random conversations at lunch time, business meetings, it never ends.
I even feel it when I walk into the supermarket cereal aisle and have to choose from about 200 boxes screaming with bright colors and promises of low fat and high fiber, when all I want is lots of sugar and a cool little plastic prize wrapped in cellophane.
It makes my head hurt.
Time management isn’t something they teach in school and it’s not something most copy gurus talk about.
So even if you’re the most brilliant copywriter on the planet, you won’t get very far if you’re piddling away all the hours in your workday.
Here are some time management tips specifically for copywriters:
Eliminate distractions. Turn off the radio. Tell friends and family to not call you when you’re working. Turn down the volume on your computer so you can’t hear the *bing bong* chime when email arrives. Even little interruptions can throw you off-track.
Stop goofing around online. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You turn on your computer and check Facebook, right? Then you visit your favorite news site. Then maybe watch some funny cat videos on YouTube. Before you know it, you’ve burned a couple hours and have nothing to show for it.
Knock it off. Do personal things on personal time and business things on business time.
So. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I know that sounds like one of those nightmare job interview questions, but it’s worth asking yourself.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? What’s the endgame for your freelance career?
To me, freelancing is a little like playing chess. That’s because for both there are three distinct stages: the opening, the middle game, and the endgame.
You see, when I was younger, I studied chess. Yes, I was a nerd and actually “studied” chess. That meant working my way through dense books full of difficult and arcane chess strategy, including how to handle each stage of the game.
I’ve been pretty lucky to work with mostly good clients over the years. But every now and then, like everyone else, I get one who ends up being a pain in the butt.
Tiffany Markman shows how to share your feelings with those sort of clients. Though I don’t recommend you actually send a letter like this, it’s fun to fantasize about it.
You and I have been working for some time on the web copy for your new range of products. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. At this stage, I feel a letter might be appropriate, to convey how I feel about my creative collaboration with you.
To begin with, when briefed to create search engine optimised (SEO) web copy, I revel in repeatedly explaining what search engine optimisation is. Even the third, fourth and fifth attempts to illuminate this concept felt fresh and new to me.
Few people view writing as a competitive activity. However, if you embark on a freelance career and choose to handle direct response projects, such as direct mail, you will eventually face a competitive challenge.
It will probably go something like this:
Client: “Do you handle direct mail?”
You: “Yes I do.”
Client: “Good. We have a direct mail package that has been working for a few years, but it’s starting to get a little tired. So we want to test something new.”
You: “Okay, what did you have in mind?”
Client: “Well, we want you to write something that gets better response. We’ll test your package against our control and see which is the winner. Are you up for it?”
If you’ve never faced this situation, you may break out in a cold sweat. After all, this isn’t just a writing project. You won’t be judged by your style or command of grammar. Your skills will be tested and measured with a calculator. You will win or you will lose.
So what do you do?