How to land careers in writing professionally

How to land a career in writing professionally

It’s one thing writing the occasional blog or penning a witty anecdote on your Facebook wall, but it is an entirely different thing trying to land yourself one of the often elusive careers in writing professionally. The market has changed dramatically over the years, and what is now on offer varies significantly from what journalists of old used to face. Pitches no longer need to be sent by snail mail, articles aren’t always printed on paper, and newspapers don’t just report on the news.

Instead, the digital world has pioneered a new face for writing, giving everyone a voice and opportunity to speak. It’s no longer simply about talent, but also what audience you have and who is willing to listen. Printed magazines and newspapers are a dying breed, with much of their revenue now coming from online ad sales. So how on earth do you go about forging a professional writing career?

Build up your toolkit

Firstly, it’s definitely worth brushing up on your skills if you feel you may need them. The London School of Journalism has a wide selection of established courses available, including freelance classes and creative writing courseHow to land careers in writing professionallys. You can do these during the day, in the evenings or even via distance learning. They also run a four-week summer school each August. Their courses cover everything from media law to internet journalism and equip you with a wealth of valuable skills.

You can also train with the Press Association, and they offer courses on a wide variety of areas from news reporting to magazine journalism to sports reporting. These courses can often be challenging and stimulating, but offer everything needed to get your writing up to a professional level. They are also widely accredited, meaning employers and clients will value the training on your CV.

Get experience

It can often be a catch-22 situation for a wannabe writer – you need experience in order to build up a portfolio and put your skills to the test. However, people want to see experience in order to trust you. The best way you can get these much-needed hours under your belt is through offering your skills out for free for a period of time. This can eventually lead to clients when they find themselves impressed with your work.

Alternatively, you could sign up to freelance writing platforms such as Copify, in which the work is available for you to complete without the stress of needing to find the clients or prove your worth to them beforehand. This can really help you get a lot of work completed in a short space of time.

Know your speciality

You can be the most adept writer on the planet, but every writer will have some kind of strength. Whether they find themselves better at penning features or more savvy with advertorial copy, they’re able to focus on what thHow to land careers in writing professionallyey’re good at so they can get the most out of every pitch or opportunity. The better you are at something, the less time it takes, which means the more money you can make per hour.

It’s not to say you can’t generalise – you can. This is often best if you are looking at writing for local or regional publications. It will open up more doors for you in terms of assignment opportunities. However, if you want to become part of the ‘big’ names, having an ‘expert’ subject can be hugely valuable. People will start to know that they can come to you for a specific topic. For example, everyone knows that Martin Lewis is the man to head to for articles about finance. Robert Peston is the person for politics. Deliciously Ella is famous for her interviews about food and nutrition. Jamie Oliver talks about kids’ food a lot.

Never stop thinking of ideas

A good writer will always be on the hunt for content or article opportunities. From the people they speak with to the experiences they endure, there will always be an article waiting to be written. As a professional writer, you will need to generate a lot of ideas. As freelance writer Roger Morris notes for Writer’s Digest, “Ideas are the currency of freelancing, and the rule of thumb of needing to pitch five to 10 for every article you place is pretty on target for most of us.”c

It’ll always be easier to pitch your articles after you have built up a bit of a track history, but the more ideas you have, the better. Just make sure they are fleshed out before pitching so people don’t get bored of your name popping up with half-considered ideas. It’s not all about quantity but quality too. The more original your idea is, the better. Often editors will jump for ideas that go against the grain or feel controversial but don’t say something simply for the sake of it. You’ll always have that article to your name – don’t be trite.

Meet the editors

If you are serious about forging a professional writing career, you will need to start meeting with the people who publish your writing. It won’t be easy – they’re very busy people with very little time. However, the more you can get to know them and build a secure relationship with them, the higher the chances are that they will think of you when a writing opportunity comes knocking. Don’t be scared of them – even if they’re your writing idols.How to land careers in writing professionally

Send them an e-mail and ask if you can take them for coffee. Once you have managed to get their valuable time, find out what they look for in article pitches, what their focus areas are (so you’re not pitching the wrong subject matter to them), how they go about working with freelancers or hiring staff writers, what opportunities they have available, and what type of writing they really like.

You could also ask them about their journey and how they managed to get the job they did. Typically the road won’t have been straight, so it is always interesting to find out what turns in the road they have followed. Then, either follow up with a thank you note and your CV/portfolio, or apply for a job with them when it next becomes available. They’re far more likely to put a face to the name than if they were to get an anonymous application land on their desk.

 

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Image credits: Michael CoghlanDean HochmanPerzonSEO

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copywriter portfolio examples

7 creative copywriter portfolio examples

Whether you’ve never written an article or blog before in your life, or have just dipped your toe in the freelance writing waters, you’ve probably realised fairly quickly that having a killer copywriter portfolio is a necessity. With hundreds of individuals all popping up on Google or social media with the claim that they can turn words into sales and ad campaigns into hot leads, you’re fighting against tough competition. What distinguishes you against these? How do you stand out? Quite simply, it is through your creative copywriting portfolio.

Getting started

It may feel like a catch 22 situation – you need opportunities to write in order to get work, but without a portfolio, finding those opportunities is difficult. However, there are plenty of ways in which you can master this problem quite effectively.

Firstly, you can offer your services out for free initially to see if anyone would like anything written for them. This is a great way of meeting people, showcasing your skills, building an archive of samples for potential clients, and potentially even finding new clients who will want to work with you because they are so impressed with what you have done.

In a similar vein, you could also offer people a free taster before they work with you as another way of showcasing what you have to offer – a sort of ‘try before you buy’ if you like. You could also opt to take a copywriting course, where the material you produce while studying will also double up as a portfolio for once you’re completed. Alternatively, you could start writing for a site like Copify where the work is there waiting for you without you needing to go and seek it out.

However you choose to start, you may find you really want inspiration from other writers who have tackled the portfolio challenge before you. If you search on Google you will be inundated with options. From the large sites to the independent, there are plenty of ways in which copywriters have creatively demonstrated their talents to potential clients.

Pinterest

Although this social media platform is dictated and led by images, it is a great way of also sharing your portfolio – particularly those where your work may have accompanied striking imagery – or getting ideas for how you can present yours. Whether you type in the search bar ‘Find a copywriter’ or ‘Copywriter portfolios’, you’ll undoubtedly find a lot of results that can help you. Terri Lively is just one example where she showcases her work on other websites as well as blogs she follows. Or, if you are looking to work with a copywriter, Pinterest can lead you to the right person for you. All in all, it’s a creative way to share your work with others.7 copywriter portfolio examples

Facebook

It may seem unusual to find a portfolio on Facebook – where would you even start looking? However, when we typed ‘Copywriting Portfolio’ into ours, the first person that popped up was ‘Jared Friedberg’s Copywriting Portfolio’. His clever way of using keywords in his name and description meant a writer in Toronto popped up on a feed in the UK, simply through a search term. Although Facebook is typically for socialising, more and more businesses are tuning into its marketing potential. In many respects, your page and everything you write is a portfolio in itself. If you have lots of typing errors, these will count against you if someone looking to hire you sees it.

Carbon Made

Although you will be featured alongside many other copywriters, Carbon Made is a great way of getting yourself noticed. It has a more visual feel than text but is a creative way to showcase your work. You can include both images and clear lists of who you have worked with, as well as a biography of who you are and a contact section so people can easily get in touch with you. Joshua Allen, for example, has worked with the likes of Groupon, IBM and Dell – and this can all be seen in his portfolio.

7 copywriter portfolio examples

Contently

You can find hundreds of creative copywriter portfolios on Contently. The platform has specifically been developed to showcase the work completed by writers, journalists and copywriters. You can directly link to all your projects, meaning it is very easy for people to read your work. It’s also free to use, meaning little investment on your part other than maintaining your feed. It is possible to filter by clients and include details about who you are, including a link to your website and description. Sharon Hurley Hall, for example, has written 881 projects for 81 clients so far, and Contently provides her with a fantastic place to track all of this.

Evan Benner

Evan’s website is a visually led copywriting portfolio. He clearly lists all his featured projects down the side to give a clear overview of who he has worked with. You can then see images that connect with these on the right-hand side with dates for when he completed each project. Evan’s portfolio arrived as a Google result, showing just how valuable it can be to have your own website when showcasing your portfolio.

Clare Barry

Another creative copywriting portfolio comes from Clare Barry, aka Copy Clare. Like Evan, Clare has used her personal website as a way of showcasing her work. Her presentation of her portfolio is simple but direct. Her URL title is quite striking: ‘Warning – I don’t do boring’. Then, when you land on her page, the headline is simple and to the point ‘I write down ideas for money’. Her website is an advertisement of her writing style in itself for those looking for no-nonsense content.

7 copywriter portfolio examplesShe also has a page named ‘Hire me’. Her about section is likewise witty and honest – ‘People pay me money to think of attention-grabbing ideas and fearless concepts for big named brands.’ She has a blog on her website, in which she can share her thoughts, improve her site’s SEO ranking, but also give readers a chance to get a feel for her writing and what style she adopts. Her portfolio is a mixture of images and words, showcasing how what she writes can evolve into fully designed adverts.

Stephen Marsh

Another great copywriter portfolio comes from Stephen Marsh, whose website is clear and direct – ‘Read less of what I say. See more of what I’ve done’ his headline reads. You can open his portfolio or download it as a PDF, which is a handy way of being able to make an impact with big clients who will often print off your portfolio so more than one senior team-member can take a look. He has also produced numerous case studies to detail his work, which adds a further description on each of the projects beyond just giving the final text.

 

Main image credit: barnimages.com
Image credits:  Terri Lively, Joshua AllenClare Barry

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What is a ghost writer - Copify

What is a ghost writer?

While it may be the time of all things spooky, you will be pleased to hear that being a ghost writer doesn’t involve sitting at your desk producing articles while covered in a white sheet and muttering ‘oooh’ at periodic intervals. Neither does it involve scaring the living daylights out of anyone you meet, or hovering around and levitating.

What is a ghost writer?

Simply put, being a ghost writer involves writing copy – whether that is a blog, article, web page, leaflet, book, e-mail, or just about any other kind of written material you can think of – on behalf of someone else without your name being published alongside it.

You’ll probably be familiar with the concept of ghost writing through books and autobiographies written by celebrities, in which they have employed someone else to work alongside them to produce engaging, well-formed copy.

The reality is that for many people, they want to write their ideas down into perfect and poetic prose but often just don’t have the time, skill or inclination to be able to do so.

Ghost writers are skilled wordsmiths who are able to do this on their behalf. They can take rough briefs, words or topics and turn them into the exact product that was desired, but often for half the time and energy. It’ll also be more successful in the long run because of the mastery that goes into producing it.

Why become a ghost writer?

Many people wonder why on earth anyone would ever want to be a ghost writer if it means not getting any credit for the work that you have produced. Of course, overcoming the fact that you won’t be getting any of the glory for that perfectly crafted metaphor or intriguing plot frame can be frustrating. It is, however, a hurdle that must be overcome in order to succeed as a ghost writer – and often as a professional writer too.

What is a ghost wirter - Copify

Part of the lure of becoming a ghost writer is the fact that it can be financially lucrative. At the end of the day, having your name next to an article won’t pay your household bills or put food on the table. It may feel nice, it may leave you with a warm glow every time you look at it, and it may be particularly great for your portfolio to show your range of skills.

However, unless you are a well-known writer, it’ll typically go unnoticed by the vast majority of readers anyhow. Do they really care quite in the same way as you do? The harsh truth is, probably not!

Writer Andrew Crofts notes, “As to not getting the ‘glory’ of being the sole author, anyone who is not a celebrity and has had a book published will know how fleeting the glory is. Only the smallest percentage of books get reviewed. Most vanish completely from the shelves within a few months of publication, and are usually pretty hard to find even during those few months. Apart from a handful of literary stars, (many of whom choose to write under pseudonyms anyway), few people recognise the names of authors.”

Writing for book publishersWhat is a ghost writer - Copify

Book publishers have a voracious audience to satisfy and often want to put the top brands or influencers at the top of their publishing list in order to get the most publicity and sales. You may find when writing as yourself that you struggle to get any of your pitches noticed in comparison to someone from the television.

Writing for business

Additionally, many businesses are willing to pay writers to write content on behalf of their company. Typically, they’ll be looking to publish these articles on their blog in order to boost their SEO ranking, increase site traffic, produce content for their social media, and raise brand awareness. They often won’t have a team of writers able to help them though.

Unless you have a specific, vested interest in the industry they’re operating in, it often won’t actually make any difference to you whether you produce this copy with your name alongside it or not. However, you will get paid for this – often consistently and at a good rate. This makes becoming a ghost writer much more lucrative, and also ensures you are getting paid for your skills.

Making money from ghost writing

When you seek to write opinion-led pieces or articles for newspapers, typically you’ll find you don’t get paid. Often they just expect you to take great satisfaction in seeing your name in black and white. However, with commercial copy, you can actually make a living from it.

Being a ghost writer can help to quell – in fact, smash – the stereotype that writing is a dead career in which you spend your life eating jam sandwiches, putting pen to paper by candlelight as you have no electricity, and are always wearing clothes with holes in because you can’t afford to replace them. Through ghost writing, there is plenty of money to be made.

Sure you won’t get the fleeting glory of seeing your name on the cover of a book, but that’s not to say you will disappear into obscurity. In many cases, you will still be able to use the pieces you have written as examples of your work in the case of putting a portfolio together (NB: You may need to obscure details of the client if you have a contract in place).

Finding recognition

You may often find that you’re also able to get your name included in smaller credits within books or web pages, in which you don’t feature as the heavyweight title but still get enough of a reference to lay your claim to fame with the piece. If you’re particularly lucky, you may also get featured as a co-author – although this won’t always get picked up by other people when writing about your work.

What is a ghost writer - Copify

Alongside these benefits, as a ghost writer you will also get the chance to write about a range of topics that you may otherwise never get to publish on. This includes interviewing hugely interesting people and asking questions you’d never otherwise get to ask, or getting to cover a wealth of subjects to keep your job diverse and interesting.

As Demian Farnworth writes for Raven Tools, “You can get a free education as a ghostwriter if you research and write about a new field. I got an accelerated MBA in new media marketing during my time as a ghostwriter.”

The benefits of ghost writing

Through ghost writing, you have a licence to learn just about any topic you fancy, and can get legitimately paid for it. Unless you’re a big shot author, no one actually pays all that much attention to who has written something anyway – so it means earning an income, getting to do what you love, and just leaving the glory to sit within the words themselves.

Writer David Jacoby comments, “Some of the best and most rewarding writing I’ve done has been ghost, because (in my case, anyway) the LACK of a byline allows my normally rather, ahem, obnoxious ego to take a nap. You don’t have to worry about taking the public criticism of your content. You just write.” It’s multifaceted, creative and ultimately hugely interesting!

 

Main image credit: Jordi Carrasco
Images credits: Ivan TPatrick FellerDavid Flores

 

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How to write press release - Copify

How to write a press release

Press releases are a great way of communicating your latest news or updates with members of the news media, who will then relate this information to their wider audience if they think it will be of interest. It can sometimes go by the name of either a ‘press release’, ‘media release’, ‘news release’, ‘press statement’ or ‘video release’. It is typically a written document, which needs to have some level of newsworthiness. It is usually between one or two pages in length.

Although lots of people require a press release, not everyone recognises or understands what it takes to write an effective one. So if you’re wondering how to write a press release, read on…

Make it newsworthy

For The Guardian, one of the most important aspects is that your release actually contains news. They suggest asking yourself questions such as what is ‘new’ about your story, whether there is anything unexpected or unusual about what you have to say, whether it would be of interest to anyone else outside of your business, and whether anyone will actually care about the news.

Although the latter may seem harsh, they suggest this is one of the most important questions as you need your story to resonate with people. Otherwise, it will simply flop. In essence, you need to try and find a new angle to your story, product or company, or link it to a current trend.

The headline matters

When considering what might be of interest in your headline or structure, imagine whether it would capture your reader’s attention while scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. HubSpot suggests your headline should be ‘irresistible’.

How to write press release

At Forbes, they note that the headline is the most important feature given the vast quantity of e-mails that reporters will receive. They suggest getting to your point quickly, noting what the story is, why they should care and why now. With an effective headline, it will make it easier to organise your thoughts.

The subject line of your email should feel personal, without being all capitals or either super formal/super casual. Often it helps to show you are specifically trying to contact the journalist of that specific publication, rather than just sending out generic news blasts.

Write in the third person

When writing a press release, it needs to sound impartial and as though someone else is talking about your company, rather than like a personal message or e-mail from your business. It should refer to your business name when talking about your company, rather than using words such as ‘we’ and ‘our’. It should almost feel as though a stranger or journalist is reporting your news – in the same tone you would expect to read it when reported on.

If you want to add a personal face to your company, it’s recommended you include a quote from either a key figure in the organisation or from the company spokesperson. Quotes add depth to a story which is why they are usually favoured by journalists and can help get your release featured.

Consider the structure

HubSpot have a very clear structure and layout for how an effective press release should be written. It is an official announcement so should be laid out in a formal structure. They suggest that the heading should include action verbs, while the first paragraph shouldHow to write press release specifically answer four key questions – who, what, where and why. Along with these, Marketing Donut suggests adding the questions of ‘when’ and ‘how’ to this list as well, to include the timing and significance of when it came about.

For the structure, HubSpot also reiterate the use of a quote and highlight the value of using easy to grasp language. They also point out that audiences are not the same as they were 10 or so years ago – therefore, you’re no longer feeding the traditional news cycle. Your press release needs to appeal to an attention-starved, busy audience used to getting their news in soundbite nuggets from social media.

Don’t shy away from data

It is important that your press release is interesting, and this comes through being concise and to the point. However, it is also important for your news release to contain all the necessary information for a journalist to write a story without needing to contact you for further details (although many may want to).

It can be very beneficial to add key data, which the Huffington Post also notes, as this may help the journalist find the hook needed to want to produce a write-up based on the press release. It may help them identify trends with other similar stories to then group it all together. Adding hard numbers will help to verify everything you’re saying, improve its credibility and establish a colourful narrative. Make sure you have evidence for everything you’re saying in case you need to verify it and try to keep it compelling.

Include your contact details

In the eventHow to write press release that the journalist writing about your press release does want to contact you for further information or an interview, it can be very helpful for them if the contact information is added at the end for the person in question.

Whether your own company or another’s, this should include an e-mail address, phone number and full name – plus the person’s job title. Typically it will be someone in the marketing or press team, or the CEO or communications manager in smaller companies.

Add context, background and flavour

Through putting your story into the wider context, it helps to show your audience why it matters and what is going on within your industry that they may not already be aware of. This includes quotes from other sources or data that previous research may have found. It may include linking to relevant news reports or even quoting an article that the journalist has previously written. It helps to show that you understand exactly why it matters.

Short, sweet and to the point

With any news release, it is important that you don’t waffle. It can be tempting to add lots of descriptive and flowery language and repeat the same point in various ways. However, that’s not your job to do this. It’s for the journalist to add their own spin on the news. All you need to do is report the facts in the clearest, most concise and comprehensive way possible.

Try to keep what you’re writing to a few paragraphs, and no longer than two pages. Adding pictures, sub-headings and sending appropriate images (in a variety of resolutions) through email attachment can greatly improve the chances of getting your press release published.

The first paragraph is most important, so get all your key information in there. The second paragraph should then expand on this, with a third paragraph for the quote, and a fourth paragraph for final information and any insight into what else is coming up next.

The quotes included should be interesting and great sound-bites that a journalist may actually want to use. When it comes to how to write press release, Marketing Donut suggest keeping your sentences to 25 words in length to ensure they have punch, without any lengthy explanations.

And if you want to include any extra information about your company or about opportunities for a photo shoot, for example, include these in a ‘Notes to Editor’ section at the end.

 

Main image credit: Rob Sinclair
Image credits: Robert Couse-Bakerbhavya999Jason Bagley

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