I complain about my job, a lot. My complaints are usually pretty valid (not getting paid on time, inconsistent work flow, stuff like that) but it always helps to remind myself that I get paid to write! A lot of people would love to be able to say that, and actually it’s much easier than you might think. Prepare to lower your twitching, fragile little artiste body into the murky waters of professional copy writing.
What Is Copy Writing?
A copy writer is basically engaged in the art of soft-sell advertising. You’re not writing traditional ads, you’re creating content that subtly influences readers to engage with a company and hopefully buy their products.
You need a few over-hyped skills, beyond the simple ability to write. The main one is ‘keyword optimisation’ – this is literally just taking set keywords and sprinkling them throughout your text without over-stuffing or under-stuffing it. Like a word turkey.
Is Copy Writing Difficult?
Look, if you can write coherently and follow instructions, you can be a copywriter. What’s going to set you apart basically comes down to grit, because what makes the job difficult is the volume of work you need to get through to make money and the job of finding work in the first place.
Getting Copy Writing Work
Actually finding someone to pay you for your writing may be the hardest part of this gig. I’m lucky enough to work for an international content agency.That means that even though I’m technically a freelancer, the vast majority of my work is handed to me on a platter. So, if you can find a content agency to work for, do that thing!
If you don’t have any luck with that, never fear. Well, fear a little bit – it’s a hard road ahead! But don’t worry, it’s still achievable, you just need to find your own clients. That’s going to be difficult at first, but the more little successes you have the easier it will become.
Where to Start?
Bamidele Onibalusi has put together a great list of more than 45 websites, blogs, and online magazines that will pay you for content. They’re not all strictly copy writing (and that is a very good thing). There’s everything from $50 per post blogs to total lotteries like this:
The Progressive is a politics magazine that accepts submissions from freelance writers. You’ll be paid up to $50 – $1,300 per post if your article is accepted by Progressive.
Look through the list and have a think about which sites will best suit your skills, knowledge base, or interests and just start sending them content. If your work is knocked back, ask for feedback on why and keep tweaking, especially if the pay is worth it. Don’t stop with that list though, any time you have a good story idea think about who might want it and pitch it to them. Also, just put it out there on social media that you’re a writer looking for work. You’d be surprised how much many people hate having to write anything. I have a small income stream from Melbourne musicians who can’t stand writing their own promotional materials!
Side note: I’m actually in the process of crafting content for a few of the publications in that list myself, as well as local Aussie publications like Junkee Magazine. My hope is to ‘diversify my income stream’ for times when my regular job goes quiet, which seems to happen every six months or so. I’ll let you know how that goes in later posts
Tips for Surviving Copy Writing
Copy writing is both very easy and very hard, in fact – here are a few tips to make the hard parts easier:
- Stop being so arrogant – it’s easy to look down on the work given to you when writing copy. “Oh, you want 10 blog posts about throw pillows? Pfft, I’m a writer, dammit!” Cut that shit, no one cares and you’re only hurting yourself – you’re providing a service, not writing a masterpiece.
- Treat it like a ‘real’ job – whether you write from an office, your desk at home, or a cafe, treat it like you would any other job. Clock in and clock off, and when you’re on the clock, you’re there to work. Just like me right now, I’m at the office and writing this personal blog post…
- Start a blog – see, I knew there was a good reason I’m doing this! As Nicole Dieker explains in this great article, every writer should have a blog and post regularly. It’s a great way to keep in practice and build an audience. It’s also an online portfolio you can link to for copy writing agencies or magazines you’re pitching to, and the content you’re creating for free now could be re-purposed for a profit later as a guest post somewhere else.
Hop to It
So, hop to it! Even if you have grander dreams for your words (I sure do!), making money writing somewhat grubbier content is still a great idea. It will build your confidence, hone your skills, and also teach you how easy it can be to churn out sentences if you just, you know, do it – and I’ve found that carries across to my fiction.