how to get started as a freelance writer Copify 4

8 tips on how to get started as a freelance writer

If you love writing and feel like you have lots to say, becoming a freelance writer may be the perfect career choice. You have the flexibility to be your own boss, work from home and cover the topics that interest you the most. It’s a great way of working, but also challenging too. Getting going can be tricky and is often where the greatest stumbling blocks lie. So here’s how to get started as a freelance writer…

1. Know your area of interest

how to get started as a freelance writer Copify 3As Carol Tice writes for MakeALivingWriting.com, “Some writers have a passion for ecological justice, while others love to write about celebrities, fly-fishing, or politics. Start by identifying your interest areas. Don’t limit yourself to one — try to list at least a half-dozen.”

Although you will naturally have a few key areas you love writing about, the problem with being too niche is that you may struggle to get published. To make a career as a freelance writer, you need to be writing on a frequent basis and only covering one or two areas will limit how much there is to be said.

2. Become an expert

If you have a particular area of expertise, this can be really handy. You’ll be able to become known as an expert and, eventually, publications will start to turn to you when they need commentary on a particular subject. It can really help to set out your beliefs and viewpoint so people know what to expect from you and can identify you as a reliable source of writing.

Allena Tapia, writing for The Balance, agrees:

“The first thing to do is hone in on your expertise. If, for instance, you have experience as a technical writer and previously worked in-house for an IT company (or were a staff writer for an IT publication), you would explore your options by joining an industry association such as the Society for Technical Communication.”

If you find you like writing about topics more broadly, you will probably enjoy writing for Copify, where subject matters vary daily.

3. Find your favourite style of writing

Closely linked with knowing your area of interest is also knowing the way you like to write. Are you stronger at features, reviews, news articles, case studies, blogs, opinion editorials, factual reports? This can have an influence on the topics you cover and the way you write about them. It will also impact how you pitch the pieces that you want to write.

4. Identify which publications are right for you

how to get started as a freelance writer Copify 2Once you know what you want to write about, make a list of which publications suit your style of writing and the topics you want to cover.

Look at what they have previously written about to ensure you won’t be duplicating anything, and get a feel for the types of people writing for them. Read their pieces to see if your style matches with their style, and identify what their role is in the publication. Are there a lot of freelance writers or is a lot of it handled in-house?

Google the writers to see where else they write and what their background is. You may also be able to follow them on social media and find their contact details. This can help you strike up a friendly conversation where you introduce yourself and your areas of expertise.

5. Do your research

As Elna Cain writes on her website,

“When I first started I did a lot of research. I found other freelance writers, read their blogs and looked at their writer website and learned as much as I could about this business.”

She goes on to say that she would even message writers to ask questions about setting her rates. The inspiring thing is that being a freelance writer is like joining a community, and you’ll always find there are those who are willing to give you the time of day.

6. Start networking

Whether you do it through social media, e-mails or physical events, networking with other writers and editors is a great way of getting your name out there and starting to learn more about what it takes to become a freelance writer. You may even hear about potential jobs through writer contacts, so it really pays to start integrating yourself into this community.

As well as career opportunities, networking will help build your confidence and introduce you to new people that may well become friends and allies during the tough writing periods. It always helps to have a friendly ear who knows exactly what you’re going through.

7. Create a portfolio

“Most job ads you’ll apply for will ask to see your work. They want to see samples of published work. If you’re new, you won’t have any published work – unless you already have a blog. So, how do you show prospects you can actually write?” says Elna Cain.

how to get started as a freelance writer Copify 1It’s not as simple as just starting a blog and writing once every few months. You need to prioritise your own self-promotion just as you would that of a client. What’s more, you need to create some samples of work which you upload to your website or online portfolio as a Word, Google doc or PDF.

As Cain points out, you can even publish them on Medium or offer them as a guest post to another site. Ultimately, by getting posted on other people’s blogs, it gives you a link to show your prospects and proves your writing is of a good enough standard to be published.

Allena Tapia gives a good overview of what to expect when you start out in freelancing when she says,

“Even if you have to do an internship, work for peanuts, or do volunteer work, the first step to getting hired is having an example (or clip) to show employers. And, the more clips the better. It doesn’t matter how recent they are. What matters is how well-written they are and that they show your writing style and diversity.”

She continues, “You can’t put together a resume without an example. Just like there’s no reason to have a website or blog touting your services if you don’t have an example of those services. No matter how stellar sounding your resume, or what kind of freelance writing you want, your number one step is having a good clip (or two).”

8. Start pitching your ideas

Before you succeed, chances are you will fail many times. This may knock your confidence but you will get there eventually. It just takes a lot of time, effort and consistency. Carol Tice agrees:

“If you don’t get a response, move on to your next best bet. Writers want to hear that there’s one easy, simple, magical, best way to quickly launch their careers, but in fact, every writer is different. It’s trial and error. So get out there and start trying.”

Make sure that each pitch is well thought out, details your angle and anyone you’ll be interviewing as part of the piece, why you think it is relevant and the proposed word count. It is also key to make it personal to the publication you’re pitching to, so show them why it’s right for them most importantly.

 

Main image credit: Rich Brooks
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can I become a writer without a degree Copify

Can I become a writer without a degree?

For many people, becoming a published writer, author or freelance writer is a dream on their horizon. However, not everyone has pursued a journalism or English degree and, therefore, the question many ask is: “Can I become a writer without a degree?” In short, yes, you can. There’s no pre-requisite for being a writer other than being able to write.

Becoming a writer…

can I become a writer without a degree Copify As Leah McClellan writes for Simple Writing, “It’s true that writers need to know a few things, at least. And many successful writers — not all — have degrees, often in English or journalism. Plus, if you want to work as a writer in a company that requires a degree, well, then you need one.” She continues, “but when it comes to blogging, freelance writing, or even writing a novel or a non-fiction book, it doesn’t matter where you learned what you need to know. I’m serious… It’s not about the degree. It’s about what you know.”

Indeed, qualifications aren’t the most important part of writing. Ultimately, it needs to start with a love of writing and a passion for the topic in hand. Carol Tice for MakeALivingWriting.com agrees: “If I’ve learned one thing mentoring freelance writers, it’s this: Writers are hung up on qualifications… Desire is more powerful than a degree… Here’s the secret: Freelance writers never feel legit. We all feel like frauds. The successful writers just do it anyway.”

Although it may be easier to break into freelance writing with an English or journalism degree – largely because of the skills you will have been taught – it isn’t a pre-requisite. Maggie Linders of “Freelance Writing Riches” notes “I don’t have either of those things, and look at me now! I’m a former chemist, making a six-figure salary as a freelance writer.”

Writing for Hobby Lark, Sallie B Middlebrook PhD, comments: “You don’t need a college education to write a novel, as long as you love to write, are good at storytelling, and have the determination and persistence that it will take to see your project through to the end. I’m sure that millions of people start novels they never finish.”

Learning to write

Whether you study for a degree or not, ultimately, you need to learn the skills required for writing. As Sallie B Middlebrook continues to explain, “Although it’s the bottom-line truth that you don’t need a college education to write a novel, unless you were born knowing how to write them (and some very blessed people, I believe, were), then you will need to learn how to write a novel. It simply doesn’t matter whether you learn by taking courses taught by others, or on your own.” You can improve your skills and love of writing through practice, reading, blogging, courses, workshops, and many other methods. Work with whatever suits you and your learning style the best.

So with all this in mind, how do you become a writer without a degree?

Practice makes perfect

can I become a writer without a degree Copify Ultimately, it takes a lot of practice in developing and honing your skill. While many people love to write and find a lot of it comes naturally to them, it still takes time working on your writing to get to the level you need to be in order to make money from it. This involves getting your spelling and grammar spot on. Also learning to edit your own work and cutting out unnecessary words can be hugely beneficial for you. Through writing on various topics, reading the work of writers you love, and submitting your work to various competitions and opportunities, you’ll find you grow as a writer.

Take courses that will help you learn

Although you don’t necessarily need an education, you may find courses are beneficial for getting ahead. The important thing is to make sure whatever you pick is right for you, otherwise it will be a waste of time. Look at the topics or styles of writing that they cover, the length of the study, how well respected the institution is, and what you will gain in skills by the end of it.

Create a portfolio

What most magazines and publishers want to see above everything else is a portfolio. They want to know that you can write and need to be able to see this in action. When you put together a portfolio, pick out your absolute best bits of writing. If you want to present yourself as an expert, try to show this by grouping together pieces on a particular topic. Creating a portfolio isn’t always straightforward and you may find you have to do several pieces of writing for free in order to kick-start your work. Alternatively, you may choose to become a writer for a site like Copify where you can quickly build a growing portfolio of work and get paid for it.

Begin networking

can I become a writer without a degree Copify One of the greatest ways of becoming a writer without a degree is through getting your name out there, meeting people and building relationships with other writers and editors. As the popular saying goes, “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” By getting familiar with people in your industry, you will be able to hear about opportunities before anyone else and will also be the name they think of when they have a piece of writing that needs doing. It’s important to find out who the key individuals are in your industry, particularly if you are writing on a specialist topic. Look to speak to the commissioning editors as they are the people who have the greatest influence over your work.

Start pitching

Ultimately it’s about presenting your ideas for articles and looking to get them published. You will no doubt get knocked back many times, but keep persevering and it will eventually pay off. Hard work really is what gets you where you need to be. Have confidence in your ability; if you get told ‘no’ then move onto the next opportunity and don’t dwell. It’s important to keep sending out ideas regularly and not get too hung up on a rejection. The more you put your name out there, the greater chance you have of being published.

 

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The best 3 copywriter training courses Copify 3

The 3 best copywriter training courses

So, you want to become a copywriter? For some people, it will be a natural progression from an existing course or path of studying. For others, it may be something that is being learnt through freelance work or in their spare time, or as part of another job role such as marketing or PR. And for many more, copywriting will be something they embark on a training course to develop and learn.

Choosing a copywriter training course

There are many different copywriter training courses available, all of which seek to teach you the key principles of great copywriting and advanced copywriting skills. There’s a lot out there, so which do you pick?

The best 3 copwriter training courses Copify 5Ultimately, you need to find something that works for you in terms of time, commitment, prerequisite grades, and location. You may be able to find some support online if you’re just looking for nuggets of advice and guidance. However, for really beneficial and professional support, you’ll need to sign up to a training course with a fantastic teacher to pass on their pearls of wisdom.

To get the most out of any training course, you need to be able to consistently attend all of the taught sessions or seminars, meet with your supervisor or mentor, submit all relevant examples, and complete the work to build your portfolio. A copywriter training course is a fantastic way of developing your skills and knowledge, but you will always learn more when you are enjoying what you are studying and it is most relevant to you in its application.

Some of the key questions you should look to ask are:

  • Will you be able to download the material and hold on to it afterwards as a useful resource?
  • Will you be kept up-to-date after the course if materials are updated?
  • What sort of technical and mentoring support is available?
  • Will there be any kind of community group as part of the package – for example, a Facebook group?
  • Are you expected to do any extra work in your free time?
  • Will you be able to use any work you complete for your portfolio afterwards?
  • Is there a money-back guarantee?
  • Who is the tutor and what is their background? Do they come highly recommended?
  • What qualifications or certificates will you get at the end?

The 3 best copywriter training courses

London College of Communication

The best 3 copywriter training courses Copify 4Whether you connect with your customers through Twitter or newsletters, blogs or press releases, copywriting can form an important part of this dialogue. At the London College of Communication, you can study their ‘Confident Copywriting’ course, covering a range of effective practical and creative exercises. It’s a one-day intensive course making it ideal for anyone who is tight on time but still keen to expand their repertoire. Taught on a range of dates in Elephant & Castle, London SE1, this course typically runs on a Tuesday between 11am and 5pm.

Your tutor would be Ron Finlay, who previously worked as the chief executive of Fishburn Hedges, a top 10 PR agency. He has over 30 years of experience within communications, and also founded his own communications business in 2010, working with a range of businesses in the health, environment, charity, and finance sectors, among others.

You won’t need a lot of equipment – just a pen and notepad, plus an eager desire to be able to review, edit and improve your writing, become more persuasive, write faster and better, and learn some of the key tricks of the trade. You’ll learn what it takes to target your writing to a specific audience, deliver copy across a range of channels and platforms, and use persuasive writing techniques to deliver effective copywriting.

The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing

The best 3 copywriter training courses Copify 1When it comes to copywriting training courses, where you study can be as beneficial as what you study. Many people will recognise the names of institutions and identify the value they can bring. The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing is one such place. Their copywriting and creativity courses are well recognised throughout London and the rest of the UK.

They have a whole number of courses to choose from, depending on what your interests are. From ‘Copywriting for Digital’ to ‘Copywriting for Not-for-Profit’, ‘Copywriting for Web and E-mail’ to ‘Copywriting Masterclass’, ‘Copywriting for Social Media and Blogs’ to ‘Writing for Content Marketing’, there’s a dynamic mix of topics covered. You will learn a range of advanced techniques that will ensure you are creating compelling copy that will engage with an audience, drive conversation, prompt action and encourage shares or sales. Ultimately, no matter what you do, you need to be able to engage, persuade, interact, entertain and inform – and with these courses, you’ll certainly learn how to drive a response from your reader.

Chartered Institute of Marketing

The best 3 copywriter training courses Copify 2The Chartered Institute of Marketing is another highly esteemed institution for studying copywriting. Whether you’re looking to pursue the traditional route with advertisements, brochures and direct mail or you’re interested in digital media, exploring social conversations, e-shots and newsletters, there’s a learning outcome for everyone.

The course is aimed at marketing and communications practitioners who are required to write copy for their role. It is also open to junior and aspiring copywriters, and even graphic designers or art directors who may find an appreciation of good copy can significantly help them in their job.

With these courses, which are run regularly in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, you will learn what the essential principles to good copywriting are, and develop a strong writing style. You will also learn about the key tips and techniques needed for effective headline writing, and what the best practices are when it comes to combining images and words. The training course will additionally help you learn about tailoring your copy to a specific audience, as well as opening your mind to the many challenges and opportunities that may come your way with a range of different media.

Want to learn copywriting from home? Take a look at our blog post for our top picks for online copywriting courses.

Featured image credit: Lum3n.com
Image credits: PixabayPixabayOpen Data Institute KnowledgeNatShots Photography

 

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copy writer or copywriter what's it like to get paid to write (2)

Whether you’re a copy writer or copywriter: what’s it like to get paid to write?

Whether you call the role a copy writer or copywriter, you’re essentially referring to the same thing in the end. It’s generally meant to be one word – like firefighter – and essentially it’s the title of anyone who turns ideas and words into campaigns, marketing material and compelling copy.

Through words, you are able to sell an idea, brand or ideology to people, delivering valuable content while also developing a personality for your brand and introducing them to whatever concept or idea you want them to learn more about.

Sometimes copy is written with the intention of boosting SEO (also known as ‘search engine optimisation’) and enables you to ensure Google is also reading your words in the best possible way.

For some, becoming a copywriter is a natural progression. Maybe you’ve taken a job in marketing or PR and it’s one of the requirements of your role. Perhaps you’ve fallen into it from another job role, or maybe you studied language as part of your degree or college training and it’s led you to write for a living.

For some, writing is undertaken alongside other work. Even some of the biggest names in fiction had to pay the bills; Stephen King started off as a janitor, Harper Lee was an airlines reservation attendant, Douglas Adams was a bodyguard, Sophie Kinsella was a financial journalist, Nicholas Sparks sold dental products and Agatha Christie was an apothecaries’ assistant.

One copywriter’s journey

copy writer or copywriter what's it like to get paid to write (4)

My own background involved becoming a copywriter through studying, first for an English degree, followed by an English Masters. Writing was always in my blood, even from a young age. However, I never fully knew what I wanted to do with it.

Like many who have a passion for writing, as a young child I’d idealised becoming the next J.K. Rowling – but it seemed such a long and arduous journey writing hefty novels with only a limited chance of success. Plus, as I got older, I had less inclination to sit and write lengthy prose. That took me into the mindset of journalism, constantly pitching different articles that I wanted to write for print and online. As I started to do this, I honed my craft and learnt more about what people wanted to read and how it ought to be written. I got better as a writer, but still – it wasn’t particularly rewarding financially. You can’t pay your bills with a by-line. No one is going to get their electric covered thanks to ‘exposure’.

Another problem is that, nowadays, every man and his dog sees themselves as a writer thanks to social platforms giving us all a voice online. The challenge is, not everyone can write, and therefore while it may seem easy (after all, most us know how to put letters together correctly), doing it well is truly a trade of its own and a profession that only those who are trained and experienced can fully master.

The multiple lessons of copywriting

It was from this that I tripped into copywriting and, from starting just over a year ago, I’ve not stopped – with just under 700 articles under my belt. I’ve learnt a huge amount in this time, from the hundreds of different topics I have covered as a writer. I’ve learnt so much information I never knew I could be interested in, and covered such a vast expanse of subject matter. Every day truly has been different as a result.

copy writer or copywriter what's it like to get paid to writeI’ve also developed my ability to type and think quickly. To know how to craft the perfect article or sentence within a matter of minutes, sometimes almost subconsciously, so in tune is my brain with the job role. It’s cliche to say, but certainly true when people claim ‘practice makes perfect’. It really does – the more you type and the more you write, the more natural and second nature it becomes.

As a copywriter, you also develop the ability to understand how businesses operate, what they are seeking to achieve, and how the work you’re doing fits into the larger marketing picture. I thought I understood SEO before I became a copywriter, but this all developed substantially after beginning. Likewise, I didn’t realise just how important blogging is for a business, and how many were willing to work with a copywriter or ghost writer to ensure their business was saying what needed to be said in the best possible way. Suddenly I realised people truly valued these skills.

Even the best writers have learnt key lessons. As Neil Gaiman once said, “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”

And, as Tara Moss commented, “Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it – and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.”

A rewarding career

copy writer or copywriter what's it like to get paid to write (3)Copywriting has been thoroughly rewarding, and whatever you call yourself in the end – copy writer or copywriter – the outcome is always going to be positive.

Sure, it’s a lot of hard work and isn’t easy to constantly challenge yourself with new topics or new businesses that already have a developed house style. Writing can be very subjective and there are going to be times when you don’t get it right first time around. You are doing a job for an individual or business working to a copywriting brief, so it isn’t just about what you like the sound of (as can be the case with other types of writing). It needs to serve a clear purpose, have a strong and cohesive tone of voice, and align with their brand and house style. If it’s a fun and hip brand, they won’t want anything too corporate. You need to be able to juggle different types of writing with various audiences and interests.

However, it will all be worth it. You will eventually become a much better editor, and therefore far more skilled and adept writer, as a result – and this can only stand you in good stead as time goes on.

For those looking to develop their copywriting skills, there are three ways of doing so – one is practice, the second is research (i.e. reading lots of blogs, articles, etc, on the topic of copywriting and those written by copywriters), and the third is taking a copywriting training course to learn more about what is required and develop your skills. People like to see a portfolio of work so whatever you do, make sure you keep writing – and have a record of everything you’ve done.

Finally, good luck – enjoy the ride! You never know where it’s going to take you…

In the meantime, why not find out more about whether you’re copy writing or copywriting?

 

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