Are all writers copywriters? You might ask. No. Not necessarily. And if you’ve ever wondered questions like “What is a copywriter?” or “How to become a copywriter?” or “What is a freelance copywriter and how did the Copywriting Chick become one?” Or “Am I good enough to be a copywriter?”
Luckily the Google spiders helped you get to the right place. I’m sure you’ve had late nights with no sleep wondering how someone like me (who almost failed High School English) gets paid to write. You’re going to discover answers, real answers to these and many other questions.
If you want to do copywriting, first you’ve gotta dig in your heels and figure out how to get there.
There are numerous ways to end up with a copywriting plaque on your door. Fortunately, you can hire a copywriter if you’re not interested in having that title. Or you can relax in the tub and be a slacker (I highly recommend doing this too).
Let’s take a closer look at how to become a copywriter, first.
People who end up as copywriters get there in a variety of ways. Some feel a Titanic-sized push from the universe during meditation. While others do it because they heard they could work in bed naked. I usually opt for yoga pants. Usually.
Some lucky folks stumble onto copywriting.
They know someone who knows someone. While a statistically significant number of people actually go to college, some of the English majors must end up as copywriters at newspapers or magazines. However, I hate statistics and don’t know how many people who have writing degrees become real copywriters anywhere.
Others do it because they’re sleeping on a couch in a tiny apartment of someone kind enough to put them up. Or rather, they stayed with someone was kind enough to put up with them.
I’ve slept on more than a few couches myself. Thanks, Tarik. Thanks, Tamara, and thank you, Micky. My friends give me something to write about.
Eventually, you get kicked to curb or make the decision it’s time for you to get your own place so you can pay your own bills. Oh yeah. Bills. Copywriting can pay for those.
While another group of copywriters has a hard time keeping down a “real” job, (I’m also included in that bunch).
And don’t forget the merry band of others who have gotten pissed off at their bosses while working at the local Blue Moose Cafe. (Ummm… Sorry, Gary). Thankfully there is therapy, and it can help you work through that stuff. At least it did for me.
In the process of thinking about copywriting or doing digital writing or print copy— copywriting, wannabes hear all kinds of nasty things. “What the hell is a copywriter?” or “It’ll never work,” or “The market is already saturated with too many writers and too much crap.”
If you want to be a copywriter you have to decide you’re going to do it. Then do it. No matter what anyone else says.
I became a copywriter because of my authority issues, stubbornness, tenacity, do-it-yourself attitude, and a helluva curious mind. I also thought copywriting would tickle the left and right hemispheres of my brain. Sweet balanced mental bliss. Ahhhhh…
I also wanted to prove I could do copywriting by myself.
Like a toddler who thinks they can do everything. Though one thing’s for sure. If you persist, you can do almost anything, like, walking, eating by yourself and typing. Having a mentor is also essential, (but I didn’t know this in the beginning).
So I made a decision first to walk, then to jog, then to sprint, then to meander down the copywriting path slowly. I wanted to take a drink from a real cup eventually— not a sippy one.
A single comment was the main tipping point of my copywriting path.
You could say, it just happened. Because a person said something like:
“If you’re not a copywriter, you need to hire someone to write your copy for you.”
“Hell no! I’ll write everything my own damn self.”
Then I said . . .
“What does it even mean to be a copywriter?”
At that time, I had no concept about what copywriter does (let alone what makes someone a good copywriter).
You might be wondering the same thing. Or you instead of thinking how do I become a copywriter? You might be thinking how do I hire a copywriter? We’ll plunge into those topics later.
So by now, you’ve probably got a hankering to know some answers to these critical questions. Let’s start with the basics.
What does a copywriter do?
Most people have no idea what a copywriter job description entails. But don’t feel bad about it because— most people (even some writers), don’t know the definition of the word.
Copywriters research their market. Copywriters write. Copywriters also know how to tap into people’s emotions.
Where can you see copywriter’s writing?
If you’ve read something on a billboard, a website, or an advertisemnt, it was probably written by a copywriter. Bingo! You’re getting it.
The words you see everywhere are called “copy.” There is copywriting on your Hawaiin vacation brochure, credit card offers you get in the mailbox. Things you probably consider junk mail but get your brain thinking about buying something… It was written by a copywriter.
Many copywriters are freelancers and can work in their pajamas. Some copywriters go into the office of Target, Omaha Steaks of Agora Financial to write about Bitcoin, a new line of clothing coming out or Memorial Day BBQ steak and weiners going on sale.
On a side note, copywriters have nothing to do with getting something from the United States Copywrite Office.
I was one of “those” people who didn’t understand what it meant. Now you’re in the know.
All copywriters are writers, but not all writers are copywriters.
Plenty of people don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to copywriting. I’ll go into detail about what copywriting is or isn’t in a bit.
Next, I want to share more about how I started on my path to becoming a copywriter.
I had written a blog for my dating advice site for years. I’ve even had some articles published on some hefty sites and also had some pieces go viral. Now that was exciting.
I was also doing some dating and relationship coaching. I wrote hundreds of online dating profiles (including many of my own).
One thing’s for sure. I brought passion into people’s bland lives so they could land a date, find a serious relationship or get some serious nookie.
Underneath smiling photos on Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder, you can probably still see my work. I was really into the dating world.
I went on dates, wrote about it, and told people how to date right.
So I did my homework in what I was interested in at the time— and that was dating and relationships.
Information about attraction, going on dates and the science of love still surrounds me. Even today, Bumble notifications are still dinging.
Occasionally, I take a break so I can get some work done. Love, dating, and writing are at the foundation of my relationship with copywriting.
But that’s just part of my becoming a copywriter story.
As you might imagine, I drowned myself in the online dating world— but was still breathing, and loved every immersed minute. I responded to every message I received from every man, woman, and cross-gender person on every dating site I was on.
Sometimes it would take four or five hours a day to write a short message to each person. I felt a responsibility to reply to everyone.
I wanted connections. I wanted to understand. I wanted to get into people’s brains like a love zombie.
Eventually, I did stop responding to every person. I ran out of day. But I did (and still do) read every message. Even those with horrific grammar, limited emotional intelligence, and cryptic acronyms (that I have to decode using the Urban dictionary).
I also read and look at the occasional perverted, yet utterly compelling message with unsolicited pics attached.
I even chatted with one of the directors from the Game of Thrones on OkCupid. My online dating profile was that good.
He told me he was a director or the popular HBO series.
I told him I didn’t watch television.
He was probably in shock.
Later this Hollywood man sent me a sad emoji because I lived so far away.
And then our separate single ships sailed — one on the East coast, the other toward the West. No snow in sight, at least for one of us.
I love online dating and the world that surrounds it.
Love (and everything in between) helps the world, and lovers, go around and around. Sometimes in twisted sheets. Hopefully, if they’re lucky.
Emails from a myriad of dating and relationships experts from all over the globe poured into my inbox. I subscribed to about 20 email lists and would study these dating experts. I would devour what they were talking about in their newsletters.
The dating world was part of my copywriting training.
Each day when I opened my inbox, I would think about which subject lines piqued my interest the most. Which one did I want to open first? Which newsletter had the answers to the world’s love questions? My love questions.
I discovered real love. I now have a love affair with subject lines and rewriting sentences.
Many dating experts create PDFs, courses, and other digital products. I bought and tested a few to get a taste. Some of them were good. Damn good.
Then I figured out how to become an affiliate for the relationship experts who’s messages intrigued me the most. I found my favorites and sold some here and there to men and women that subscribed to my dating advice newsletter.
I didn’t retire from the cha-ching bank notifications bleeping on my phone. I didn’t try hard to make money.
One thing was for sure. I didn’t know how to write sales copy.
Looking back now, I realize that my lack of sales happened because I was a blogger, and not even close to wearing the mental direct response copywriter garb.
My sales were squat, and I was clueless about how to make things work.
Then after a month or two, I started focusing on becoming more like the people who were making money. I wanted to be like them.
I wanted to become a copywriter even though I didn’t know what the word meant.
Initially, I set out to learn from the best of the best people in the dating industry. I wanted to work with one person in particular. He was the person who was my info-product selling hero. With his skin-tight galaxy pants and superhero shirts.
I started thinking about what I wanted every day, and I put my focused attention on it making it happen. When my thoughts were filled with focus, it gained momentum. Fast.
My vision was focused on the people who I thought could help me.
I realized I couldn’t do it myself like a wobbly two-year-old. I got help from some more financially focused info-products.
Then out of the blue, someone from my favorite digital-product creator’s team messaged me to write for their website. It wasn’t paid, but damn it felt good. I didn’t contact them first.
They. Contacted. Me.
I only thought about it. I thought about it every day. I put a positive focus on what I wanted. It worked then, and it still works. I love focus.
I was ecstatic. I wrote a few blog posts and even created a video for their romance focused Youtube channel. My iPad teleprompter was held up with an old rackety microphone stand and some duct tape. Instead of looking at the camera I knuckled down on reading from my Jerry-rigged stand. My eyes were sideways.
Luckily, I had a wireless mic hidden in my shirt, so at least it sounded professional. My acting was on the other end of the spectrum. I wish I could wave my free green pen from Huntington Bank and make it all go away. But YouTube is forever.
I think failure is part of every copywriter’s path. I’m OK with that, and it’s made me a much better writer.
I certainly didn’t know how to write like digital copywriter either. But it was part of my “life school.”
Now, back to my copywriting journey and the secret email.
Next thing you know, I filled out a survey to give feedback for my favorite digital copywriter’s info-products (exciting I know). I had been promoting his products with a few measly sales. I felt good about selling them. I knew they worked because I had used the products myself.
I gushed about his digital love products on the survey. Then a week or two later I get this secret email from the product creator saying these exact words:
(the name is kept a secret to protect the innocent)
Eureka! I had manifested the exact thing I wanted. . . Money, writing and connecting with this guy in some way again. Then a week or two later, his assistant asked me to write a report ( up to 1200 words) at 25 cents per word.
This was my biggest paying writing gig ever. Wow.
This positive mental focus thing worked like magic. So I kept at it.
I wrote the exact maximum amount so I could squeeze every single penny out of that job. At that point, I was still a regular writer, but not a copywriter. At that point I was starting to get my focus lined up more intensely, but . . .
I still wasn’t ready to answer the questions “what is a freelance copywriter and “am I one of them?”
I still didn’t know what the word copywriter meant.
Later down the road, I became Facebook friends with the dating product person. Getting a good paying writing gig made me think, “I must be getting better.” And I wanted more of where that came from.
In my dating hero’s feed, I noticed he was creating a course along with his personal mentoring. He was taking applications. I wrote an email (the best way I knew how). I applied and was accepted to be part of his small class with weekly private calls.
The info-product creation course was expensive for me because I was still doing writing gigs on Fiverr. Yikes.
Yes. My first year of writing online made about $3000, (and it was a LOT of writing to make that amount). But I’m thankful because writing those cheap gigs gave me plenty of practice and more confidence in writing. It gave me some real (little) money, but at least it got the ball rolling.
Now let’s talk more about more money.
The mentoring class cost five thousand smackeroos. I didn’t have that kind of cash lying around in my Fiverr account. So I flipped the coin. I could double the price of my lemonade at my neighborhood farmers market, or I could borrow the money.
So I asked someone to cut me a check because I saw a great opportunity. And it was. Best of all . . .
During the class, I learned a lot and created my first ever info product.
My product creation moved with sloth-like speed, but at least it wasn’t at a standstill.
At one point in the 8-week class, my mentor said,
“If you’re not a copywriter, you should hire one to write your sales pages and VSL,” (otherwise known as a Video Sales Letter).
I ignored that comment for a while. It took me a solid year to finish the class, build the site, write the content, resize and create images, link up things to Zapier, Cloudflare, Kajabi and Google Analytics.
I hired a developer for $300 to help me build a custom order form over at Clickbank. That was the marketplace where I was going to use to sell my product. I was hoping it would heal the hearts of (many) divorcees and sad, lonely people with broken hearts.
So I was done with the product. I was to the point where I had to write the sales letter.
It would have cost me $10,000 to hire a copywriter with enough experience to write a good sales letter in my niche.
At that point in my life, it might as well have been a million dollars. So I wrote the sales letter myself. After I put my product for sale in the marketplace, I thought the money would start rolling in. But it didn’t.
Brink’s armored money trucks did not do a drive-by in my neighborhood after my product launch. You couldn’t even call it a launch, anyway.
I didn’t hire a real copywriter like a good student would have.
I had to do it my own way. Learn from my mistakes. The only way I knew how.
It was evident that I didn’t have the qualifications I needed (yet). Gimme back my sippy cup and I’ll figure it out— somehow.
I sold one copy of my program to a guy I talked to on Tinder. He bought one because he wanted to go out with me. And my second sell was a coaching client. I think she bought it so she could check it out and create her own online product. She was sweet.
But hey, at least I made a hundred bucks from two sales that covered one-third of my customized order form.
My mentor was right. I didn’t have what it took to sell my stuff.
It didn’t matter how good the content inside the program was.
I didn’t know how to “sell” it. It would never get out into the world to help anyone. Ever.
I put my heart, my heartbreak, and my soul into my product. But it was a flop.
My lack of focus, fear, and plenty of ignorance were significant parts of the problem. Then I asked myself . . .
What skills do you need to be a copywriter? What do I need to do to make this copywriting thing work?
I wanted to learn the craft of copy. Like the big boys who used straws, and cups with no lids. The men and women who could write sales letters, and crack open beer bottles with their teeth. No sippy cups allowed.
The one thing I knew was that my mentor had a mentor.
So I grabbed my favorite drink with a lid, stalked John Carlton online, and signed up for his class.
I wanted to learn from one of the biggest names in the copywriting world. And if my first mentor said he was good, I knew he was really good.
Even though I could finally write a decent paragraph, I still didn’t understand what copywriting meant until I got schooled in the Simple Writing System.
As you might imagine, during the class I asked myself: How can I become a copywriter with no actual copywriting experience?
Well, I needed to put in the work first. Here’s how it played out for me.
I studied John’s course. I received feedback on my copy from Colin (one of Marketing Rebel’s high-level coaches). I got real-time critiques from someone with experience.
Someone who could show me what wasn’t working and why.
In short, to take my writing to the next level, I had to have a mentor, and if you want to be a writer, you need one too.
I needed more than one, and still, have them today. Taking a course from an industry leader pushed me along the copywriting path. Now I’m running— with my computer, of course.
Working side by side with a copywriting coach gave me the confidence to become a freelance copywriter. My once fearful and wobbly copywriting fingers hold a cup (with no lid) near my keyboard without spilling a drop.
Now I create digital copywriting for online business and entrepreneurs, often (and love every minute of it).
I also want to talk about a pressing question I used to have but finally figured out . . .
What is a copywriter?
To me, a copywriter is someone who has drive. A copywriter understands people, markets, trends, feelings and how to put words together in a beautifully persuasive way. A copywriter also speaks in simple terms. The smaller the words, the better. The shorter the sentences, the better, sometimes.
A copywriter knows how to find emotional pain points. A direct response copywriter also gets into the head of the perfect client. They’ve researched the deepest desires that make people wide-eyed awake in the middle of the night.
A good copywriter gets to the point. A copywriter also educates, entertains, and most of all understand the reader. A direct response copywriter also gets the reader to take action. To sign up for a newsletter, download a checklist or buy a product.
For someone who got a big fat sideways smiling D in 11th grade English, I think I’m doing pretty darn good at writing a sentence. Finally.
How to become a good copywriter:
- Get a mentor.
- Write a lot.
- Take a class on copywriting.
- Join copywriting groups on Facebook.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Ask for suggestions, comments, ideas, and what books to read— Then read them.
- Study the hell out of them.
- Sleep with your book.
- Underline them and take notes.
- Critique other people’s work— it’ll help you become a better writer.
- Talk to other copywriters.
- Go out in the real world and talk to people who need your help.
- Do your research and never stop learning.
No matter how good you are, you can always be better. This is a life-long process.
Write in a journal or type out your thoughts.
Read a lot. I find myself reading the back of my shampoo bottle and think, “Someone got paid to write that.” My hair is silky smooth and fresh, so they were right (and someone knew how to sell that feeling to me).
Learn how to deal with rejection. Because if you ask other copywriters, or editors to look something over, they’ll give you their opinion. It hurts the first couple of times. Don’t take it personally; they probably know more than you. Wear a thick skin jacket. Not because it looks good, but it will make you a better writer.
Get on Upwork or some other freelancing website.
Practice writing pitches for jobs, then send them in (even if you don’t think you stand a chance).
If you don’t get the job you want, try to get another one.
Get some jobs. Money rolling in (even a little bit) will boost your confidence.
Do your best work and meet deadlines.
Begin with a copywriting fee that sounds doable to you.
If you don’t think you’re worth $100 an hour, start with something smaller. If you don’t think you’re time is worth $30, charge less to get some practice.
As you get some top-notch reviews and feedback, then you can start raising your rates. If you’re charging $30 per hour and make a big jump to $200 per hour, there might be a disconnect in your brain.
Do what is believable to you, financially (at first).
Then push yourself up and bust through your financial ceiling— one step at a time.
If you start at $10 per hour when you believe in yourself, bump it up to $15, then $25, then $50. You can also price writing gigs per job. If you’re writing blog content, you can even charge per word. I’ll talk about a sneaky trick I use to create content super fast in another blog post.
Listen to other people’s suggestions (as long as you (and other people) think they know what they’re talking about)
If someone is a troll online, tell them to screw off (in your mind only or in a journal if you must). If you feed a nameless, faceless ignorant smack-talker, it’ll waste your time and energy and give away your power.
Your ego won’t like it though. The little you will want to push back and tell them off. But if you want your logic to be in charge and not your dramatic emotions, ignore the trolls. Because when don’t engage, it takes their power away. You can keep your focus on the things that matter. Writing.
Build a website, and make the copy out-of-this-world.
Start a blog. Write as much as you can, but make sure it fits into your schedule. If every day is too much, do it once a week. Or even once a month. Just write.
Go to conferences where people need someone like you.
Talk vendors and other attendees. Seek out writers, digital marketers, business people, waitresses and people at gas stations. Everyone has a story. When they tell you theirs, listen.
Get Grammarly or some other type of grammar checker.
Edit a lot, but don’t be afraid to break the grammar rules. I love using the em dash and spaced out ellipses like this . . . I think they’re both sexy as hell. I don’t care much about where each comma should be precisely placed. I like grammar to read how I speak. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on that which leads me to something else.
Take a stand.
For whatever you believe in. Just do it. And if you don’t believe in something, at least have a preference. Blueberry or strawberry? You choose. Do you want to use a parenthesis then an ellipsis right beside it? Go for it. To comma or not to comma. That is the question.
Find out what you like then write about it. Blog about it, talk about it dream about it and get laser-sharp focus on your goals.
Pitch people ideas and have discussions about what you can do to become a better writer. You can build your business while helping other people reach their goals.
Also, find your style. Your voice. Your swagger. Your “you.”
Live the copywriting life starting now (even if it’s just part-time).
Give yourself time to drive your car, ride your bike, take naps and dream big. This is when you’ll get some golden ideas for your copy.
Focus on the benefits to the reader when you write. Be a benefits-driven monster. It took me a long time to learn this one. Talk about the things that will make people feel better, look better, smell better, or think better.
Take care of yourself.
While you soak in the tub read about copywriting and study the greats like Eugene Swartz and David Ogilvy. You can read headlines of Cosmo, and advertisements on collectible silver dollars. Study the tagline on your shampoo. Every word printed on anything is copy, and someone got paid to write it.
Learn it. Write it. Breathe it in like your body’s going to die if you don’t delve in with everything you’ve got.
If you’re still transitioning to copywriting, give what you can. Pay attention to words everywhere. Notice the goodness and the badness of anything you see, write or hear. Think about what you could do to make it better. What could you do to make someone’s life better?
Cut out the fluff.
Study that realtor billboard or cat food bag in the grocery store. Think about how you could write it to sound better. Clearer.
If you can’t write or don’t want to write, you can pass it along to someone who loves to write and is good at it.
If you struggle with putting what you want to say into words, ask for help.
And last but not least— believe in yourself.
If you write something that’s not great, don’t worry about it. You can edit it over and over and over, or just crumple it up and throw it in the trash.
To me— that’s copywriting. Words in. Words out. And one thing’s for sure words will never go out of style.
If you have no interest in learning how to be a copywriter and want to hire someone to do it for you. You’re in luck. I’m a copywriter. You can connect with me here for a free consultation. And if I’m too busy to write your stuff, I probably know someone who can.