It’s clearly not Day 3. Much time has passed and the more I come back to these update posts the more I realise that it was a badly chosen title. But, hey-ho. I am stuck with it now. These posts are all about my journey into writing for a living and what I find has worked, what hasn’t worked and what I’d do differently. So if you’re considering writing as a side hustle or you are contemplating taking the plunge, my mistakes might prevent you from making them yourself.
Completing my course
As I’ve outlined before, I thought it prudent to sign up for a course to get my head around copywriting and content creation. Now, I was at an advantage as I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to teach kids how to write for the best part of 20 years, but it was still absolutely priceless.
There are so many courses to choose from out there, and the further I got through the course I realised that there are even more than I first thought. They range in price from £80 – £1000!! Crazy price range, I know. And from what I can gather, you pay for the support, the cost of the materials and what they actually teach you is nominal.
For example, the course that I chose was The Creative Copywriter Academy Kickstarter course run by a cool and trendy London-type Copywriting Agency (check out the trilby). The price point was about £300, so it’s roughly in the middle of the price range. The materials are really good and easy to follow; there are videos with the CEO Konrad and it is pretty comprehensive. It goes through exercises to help you develop your writing skills, and it also goes into the business side of things – setting up shop and getting clients etc. So, for me, this was really good as it is my way of life now, and not just a little side hustle.
What you do get, and this is where you get your money’s worth is a certain level of support. There is a thriving community of fellow students so you can chew the cud with them, read their work and discuss the course. Plus, you can submit your work to get feedback from real-life copywriters, which is really useful so you can see if you are on the right path. Plus there are competitions, a regular newsletter and you can pop in for a live chat with the CEO or any of the other copywriters to ask any burning questions you may have.
It’s this support where the value is added, which is why there is such a broad price range.
There are courses more pricey that offer more of a one-to-one coaching service, with regular phone calls and advice every step of the way. If that’s the kind of thing you need, then there is the Filthy Rich Copywriter’s course run by Nicki Krawczyk who has bags of experience and the course comes highly recommended.
Then at the other end of the scale, there’s Andy Maslen’s copywriting course. If you don’t know (why would you) who Andy Maslen is, he’s a pretty big deal in the whole copywriting world. He is very experienced and successful, which is why his course only comes in at £90, because he’s far too busy and his course is set up so you don’t get any feedback. You’re on your own. As a side note, I highly recommend And Maslen’s ‘Write Copy, Make Money‘. It’s a great book full of useful ideas and tips that will help you make a bloody good go of it in copywriting.
In short, all of these courses will give you the information, tips and tricks that you need to quickly grasp the concept and skills needed to make it as a copywriter, but how much feedback you need directly affects the cost of the course.
I did a thing!
Anyway, where were we? Right. Yes, I finished my course! Yay. I got a certificate and everything.
Do I even need to do a course?
Yes, yes and yes!
Copywriting isn’t quantum physics. It is just writing in essence. But there is a code, a style, and lots of other things you need to learn before you can confidently pick up work and know what your client actually wants. Take blogging for example. I blog. I have blogged. Essentially, I thought it was just me ranting on in my own little echo chamber for one, which this blog is. (Sorry to anyone that is actually reading this for the random chaotic structure, but I don’t plan these bad boys. They’re organic!!) But blogging for a brand or service is a completely different animal. It is highly structured with a clear goal and target audience in mind. It needs to be full of keywords and links so blogging on here in no way prepared me for what I was getting into. Check out my copywriting blogs here and you will see the difference.
Apart from all the new techniques I had to learn, I also had to unpick some old habits that I had got into. I have always enjoyed creative writing but copywriting doesn’t like long and descriptive. So if you, like me, like writing elaborate and descriptive prose, then don’t bother with copy. There is some room for creativity, but as Polonius said in Hamlet ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’. They want it punchier, they want it shorter, with fewer words but greater detail. They don’t want much.
Before I had even finished my course, I put myself out there on job boards to try and get some experience and some all-important, pieces for my portfolio. You can use practise pieces from your course or ones you’ve just had a go at, as long as you make it clear.
But there are no substitutes for work you have actually done and actually been paid for. I’m eying the pile of peanuts in the corner of the room. because, yes, as a newb, you can earn more money washing cars on the side of the road. But once you have those first few pieces under your belt, you can put your rates up (a bit).
I am not ashamed to say – I fucking hate job boards. I hate, hate, hate them. But they are a necessary evil. You could start by tapping up your existing contacts and writing stuff for them, which shouldn’t be too hard as everyone has an online presence. You might have to do it for free or really cheaply, but you need to get the ball rolling. But at some point, you are going to need to enter the world of job boards.
Clients need to see what you have done. And they need to see that other people are happy with your work and that they recommend you. So much in this business relies on recommendations. Reviews, recommendations and testimonials rule. It figures really; who makes any kind of online purchase nowadays without reading online reviews?
A quick note here – in my travails, I have seen a few copywriters who focus their entire business on writing reviews for companies. Paid reviews. So beware. I am so naive, I thought all the reviews I read were genuine. One tip with checking out the reviews for any online purchase is to look for the bad ones. Not just to see if there are any problems with what you’re buying, but to see the integrity of the people you are buying from. Did they sort out the problem? Did they do it quickly, with grace and humility? It says so much more than a paid-for – ‘Yeah, Great product. 5 stars’.
Back to job boards. I mentioned a few in my previous post so check back there and have a look at some of the boards available. I had most luck, and that wasn’t a lot, with Upwork. The good things about the site are that you can search for specific jobs (I naturally started looking for blogging work as it was what I felt most comfortable with), you can tailor the skill level and the price etc.
The nature of the beast is that a job is posted with brief, and often really brief details of the job, the outline and the pay. You then submit a proposal, explaining why you’d be a good fit, your previous experience (if any), how long it would take you and how much you’d charge etc.
Like I said; some of the jobs on there are paying peanuts and asking for blood. Be selective. Look at the reviews from copywriters about what they are like to work with as this will have a huge impact on the project and your state of mind.
I managed to land a couple of jobs because of my blog. It is vital that you have got some sort of online presence, a website like this one, where clients can go and see what you do. If not, they always ask for samples, but a website really helps.
The problem with Upwork and other job sites is that it seems to be a competition of who can do the most for the lowest pay. So definitely use it for landing your first few jobs but it is not a long term solution of this writing idea of yours is more than a side hustle.
One other point to note about Upwork, and some of the others, is a) the prices are advertised in dollars which means you are getting less than you think and b) Upwork takes 20%. Bastards.
I’m, going to stop for now as this is much longer than I intended it. So much has happened and I have learned so much in the last couple of months. I can’t believe how much has happened since last week – it moves that fast. So I’ll leave it a few days before getting you up to speed.
Oh. Re: Jeanette. I have moved a lot of my writing onto Medium. Check out my profile here. Jeanette has started on Medium as part of a series entitled The Yearning of Jeanette that I fully intend to continue with. Give me a couple of weeks to get another couple of episodes written.
If you are still here – really? have you got nothing better to do. But thank you. I don’t deserve it.