View Full Version : Getting into copywriting

12-03-2003, 03:21 AM
Hi, everyone,

I'm always interested in trying something new with writing. I've done fiction (short stories and novels), nonfiction (articles, a book and essays), poetry, plays, songs and even children's books.

I keep hearing how "wonderful" copywriting work is. I would like to know more about it.

OK, OK. I confess. I really don't know what it is or how it's done. It has been this great mystery to me for a long time! so could anyone give me info on what copywriting is, how to get business and where to get work? I'm subscribed to a couple of newsletters about copywriting but I'm still clueless about the whole thing. (And a little embarrassed to admit as much!)

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! :)


12-03-2003, 09:45 AM
Hey don't be embarrassed and thanks for asking your question. I had to think twice myself as it is a term that is so taken for granted.

Copywriting is a term used largely to describe the work of people who write marketing collateral. The ads on TV, radio, in newspapers, direct mail letters, sales letters and so on.

They usually work with graphic artists and there are many large ad agencies, but there are many home business freelance copywriters too. Often they are people who once worked for a marketing or ad firm and are at home with children and they freelance.

Some specialize in direct marketing, some in just ad copy etc. now of course there are those who do web content and online ads etc.

There are bound to be books out there to help you learn more about this type of writing, there's a bit of psychology involved too in that you need to know what attracts attention without turning people off. Creativity is a very big quality to develop when doing this kind of writing.

Good luck! :)

12-03-2003, 10:14 AM
I can suggest a few books about copywriting, if you'd like some titles for reference. Bob Bly has published quite a few books, including "Secrets fo a Freelance Writer," "The Copywriter's Handbook," and one I just recently got from the library, and ended up ordering a copy for myself, "The Elements of Copywriting."

Peter Bowerman's "The Well-Fed Writer" is also a great resource. There are tons of books on the subject, though all don't necessarily have 'copywriting' in the title. You can look for books on business writing and/or advertising as well.

Hope this helps!

12-04-2003, 01:37 AM
Thanks for that input! I am subscribed to Peter Bowerman's Well-Fed newsletter.

Will those books tell me what the terms in copywriting are? Such as "white paper"?

Also, how does a copywriter go about getting jobs?


12-04-2003, 10:58 PM
Dawn, definitely pick up Bowerman's Well-Fed Writer book. It will answer that question for you, as well as questions you haven't even thought of. He has a section in there entitled something like, "So, what will you be writing?" that describes the different project types. You'll return to the book again and again as your business develops.


12-05-2003, 01:27 AM
Thank you, Eileen!!! :D

12-12-2003, 08:12 AM
Do you have any feedback on Michael Masterson's Excelerated Program for Six Figured Copywriting? Thanks.


12-12-2003, 08:46 AM
Hi Annie -- I'm currently taking the Masterson Copywriting class, and I'm learning a lot. A couple of things are bothersome about the class -- the style doesn't look all that professional and there are a lot of typos (I'm an editor, so it drives me crazy:eek ), and a lot of their first section is basically pitching their own stuff. Once you get past that, on the other hand, the information is really good and you can really learn a great deal. The course is really a lot of work, however.

All in all, for me, I believe it's been worth the fairly high price -- but only if you're willing to do the work involved.

12-12-2003, 09:19 AM

Thanks for answering my post. How much time does the course take? Are you talking about hours daily? Do you think that there is the income potential that is advertised?

Also, you say that you are an editor. Do you work for a publisher or do you work out of your home. Hope that these questions aren't too personal. I'm interested in an editing position. Thanks.


12-29-2003, 05:35 AM

12-29-2003, 05:43 AM
Hi Annie -- in answer to your questions:

How long the course takes is really up to how hard anyone works at it. It takes most people 6 months to a year (it's taking me more because I had to shelve it for about 6 months because of medical problems). It is a lot of work, and I try to put from 5 - 7 hours a week into it. I am learning a lot, and much of it can be transferred to all sorts of writing (the course is focused mainly on sales letters and direct market writing).

I think the money can be there, eventually, but, like in everything else, not everyone is going to be making top dollar right away. AWAI does, however, hire many of its top students to work on projects for their clients, and otherwise gives them leads, so that's helpful.

As for my editing, I work at home editing mainly for medical publishing companies, although I've edited anything from real estate textbook companies (boring!) to science fiction role playing companies (much more interesting). I also write health/medical articles from both a Western medicine and alternative medicine POV (I'm a certified herbalist as well), and also work on other topics. With a wide variety like that, I very rarely get bored -- and I rarely have to set an alarm! :D


07-19-2004, 11:29 PM
Ok, so what's the best way to drum up more business? I've created a cold-membership campaign for a major non-profit two of the last three years, so my plan is to send a query and url to the director of membership services of other similar organizations. But, I also want to do the same thing in the for-profit section. How big should I aim at first? And how do I find my contacts? Say I'm interested in trying print copy for Dell. If I submit a query to the general "Contact Us" address, it's as good as lost in the shuffle. What sort of titles (director of media? director of communications?) should I be looking for?



07-27-2004, 06:27 AM
What category do newsletters and brochures fall under? Are they considered copy writing or something else?
I hate showing my ignorance, but never ask, never know!

08-04-2004, 12:36 AM
"Ok, so what's the best way to drum up more business? "

Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Start going to as many of their events as you can fit in. Walk around with a grin on your face and your hand stuck out. Pass out business cards like there's no tomorrow. Collect other people's business cards, follow up in a day or two with a phone call.

Network, network, network.

Also: Find a niche. My specialty is developing manufacturing, quality and regulatory documents and user instructions for high-tech companies, especially medical manufacturers. Get yourself known as an expert in a particular area.

08-04-2004, 08:13 AM
Ward is right...network! I joined both the Chamber of Commerce and a networking group called BNI. So far BNI has been very helpful in obtaining new clients. The Chamber hasn't shown as many results yet, but I also realize it's a bigger organization. I did join a couple of committees, though, to get involved.

08-04-2004, 06:16 PM
Hey, thanks, all. Jazziz, could you please tell me more about BNI?

08-05-2004, 03:49 AM
It's a referral-based networking group. Chapters meet once each week and allow only one profession per group to join to prevent competition. The members in your chapter keeping their ears open for people who might have a need for your services--and you do the same for them.

Here's the website: www.bni.com/ (http://www.bni.com/)

I joined in March and have made many business contacts and obtained several new clients in the past 5 months. :clap

08-06-2004, 06:57 PM
I'll vouch for those types of groups. I joined a newer, but similar, organization, called NRG (www.networkreferralgroup.com) just 8 weeks ago, and have already seen fee income that's 5 times my annual fee of $400. NRG is only available in the mid-Atlantic states at this time, however.

01-12-2005, 01:11 AM
You may also consider putting together a 'how-to' presentation for small business owners. Often, local chambers of commerce are in need of speakers for their networking events; if you volunteer to present, you may find yourself being the keynote speaker.

If, for example, you decided to make a short presentation about writing a brochure, you could explain how to begin with the wants/needs of the target audience, deduce how the benefits of your product or service meets those wants/needs, and then attractively present that information to the audience. By the time you're halfway through your presentation, most of the audience will be keenly aware that, although you've explained the task simply enough, they lack the time or expertise to carry it out.

Be sure to make your presentation completely factual (i.e., don't use the time to directly promote your business), except for blurbs at the beginning and end where you explain that you do this sort of work for a living; at the end of your talk, open the floor for questions and make sure to explain that you'll be hanging around for individual consultations afterward if anyone is interested.


02-21-2005, 02:14 AM
Something that you may want to consider is approaching a major ad agency for some freelance work. You don't need previous experience to do this, you just need enthusiasm and a portfolio.

You can buy a portfolio in any art store. The best choice is one that can showoff tabloid-sized paper.

Next, consider what kind of copywriting you'd like to do. In general, there are 2 streams. The first is general advertising. That tends to include magazine ads, commericals (tv and radio), and creating things like tag lines. The other choice is direct mail. That includes writing letters, brochures, etc.

If you want to write for the web, the best place to find jobs is on the web itself. It's a mix of the other 2 streams, with short and long writing jobs. You'll also want to be familiar with the latest innovations in web design so you can use the medium to it's fullest potential.

If you've worked on ads for clients. put them in the portfolio. If you've written brochures, include those. If you haven't had any ads published, don't be discouraged. You can mock up ads and show those.

Just pick a company that you'd love to write the advertising for. Write phony newspaper ads and brochures. It's fun and the only time when you'll have full reign over the creative for campaigns. Pick a variety of different types of businesses for your mock-ups. For example, a bank ad, a car ad, an ad for a charity, a food ad, and some sort of clothing ad would be a good mix. Try to keep it to a maximum of 8 mock-ups though.

Create mock-ups in Photoshop or Quark if you can. If not, consider hiring a designer to create fake ads for your book. You can even just type it out, although a realistic layout will help you out even more.

The next step is to get a list of the creative directors that work for the agencies in your area. The best way to do this is to pick up an advertising magazine for your area. In Canada, you'd try Marketing Magazine (www.marketingmag.com) or Strategy. If you're in the U.S., try Ad Age (www.adage.com). Most of these magazines put out a special issue every year that lists the local agencies and the Creative Director.

Just pick up the phone and contact the Creative Director. Ask if they'd meet with you and look at your book. When you're starting out, the best way to get your foot in the door is to ask for advice on improving your book. If the Creative Director likes your stuff, they may mention hiring you. Look at the first few visits as a way to get advice and strengthen your book.

It can be discouraging but don't give up.

I've been a copywriter for just over 6 years. I've worked at major agencies and worked on everything from TV commericals to web to direct mail. It's often gruelling work with long hours but the money can be good. When you start out, you often don't get paid much but if you've been writing in a different field, that should help you boost your rates.

The only other advice I can add is that there are a lot of massive egos in the advertising world. Sometimes people can be petty and mean. Take the advice that sounds good and ignore things that don't sound quite right. You need a teflon-coated ego to make it in copywriting.

Hope this helps. If anyone has any other questions, feel free to send me a message or post a reply. I'll try to help out if I can.

02-22-2005, 08:10 PM
Does your community have a locally published business-focused magazine? Mine does, and I write a bi-monthy column providing tips for writing business communications. I've covered topics such as writing press releases, determining when to use which type of business communication, and how to effectively organize content. Editors are always looking for contributors for these types of publications. You might consider checking this out.

This gig doesn't pay, but my name, website, and a brief bio are included with every article. I've had lots of local folks comment on my articles, and the way I look at it, I'm building credibility by sharing what I know with others. Hopefully, the next time a local business needs help with a writing project, they'll call me!


03-07-2005, 12:16 AM
This thread has inspired me to solicit local ad agencies for work, so I'd like to chime in with a few related questions.

Would ad agencies be at all impressed by articles written for commercial magazines? Or will including such items in a portfolio scream AMATEUR/NEWBIE?

03-08-2005, 08:57 PM

i worked in recruitment at some of the larger ad agencies in NYC before becoming a copywriter at one of them.

so, here's my take on it. If you're going to a well-known agency, putting it on your resume is enough. There are a lot of copywriters in the industry who do other types of writing on the side. You'll be judged by the ads in your portfolio. If you're looking for a junior position at a major ad agency, spec ads will be fine. However, at these places, you definitely need them done up in layout form. You're going up against people who went to college just to walk out with a portfolio of ads in their hand. But don't let that discourage you. Some of the slickest portfolios don't always show the best talent.

Small, local agencies will probably be more lenient in how you present your work. For them, it might not be a bad idea to have one or two articles in the back of your portfolio. It shows you'll be able to write long copy ads for them.

I'd also like to echo what peer54 said about the massive egos that are in the ad world. It can be a cut-throat and competitive business. But it's also a hell of a lot of fun. :)

03-08-2005, 10:27 PM
Hi Rose,

Don't hesitate to include a couple articles.

It lets the person interviewing you know that you've sold your writing before. It also shows that you know how to work within timelines and, as already mentioned, lets the agency know that you can write long copy that isn't disjointed.

Good luck!

03-08-2005, 10:48 PM
Since everyone here is so friendly, let me ask a few more questions...and thanks for the insight you've already provided!

I have next to no experience doing freelance ad/copywriting. I did write ads for a job I held six years ago. I've also done tons of corporate brochure writing over the past eight years, as well as few recent freelance brochures.

Based on what I've read here, I need to create mock-up ads to turn this into a real portfolio. How many would you suggest?

And, on a more philosophical note, what IS it, exactly, that a recruitment manager wants to see? Cleverness? No typos? Something else?

Oh, and here's a confession: I'm hoping to supplement my income with ad/copywriting. Is this realistic? Or does a writer need to be fully commited to this type of writing in order to "break in?"

Thanks for your time and patience!

04-29-2005, 03:59 AM
Here's my take on it:

1) Find a niche where you've got some expertise. I make all my writing money writing assembly, quality assurance and regulatory procedures for medical manufacturers.
2) Have something else to fall back on. I also own a durable medical equipment leasing and sales business. Commercial writing can be an on-again, off-again thing.