Going from one field of writing to another can seem daunting at first, but Joshua Copus – Oxland is here to tell (presumably) would-be journalists like you how to get into copywriting as an alternative.
Copywriting is a rather vague-sounding subject, and one that draws confusion whenever it’s mentioned. It’s also in a different ballpark from journalism; while journalism is concerned with reportage and storytelling, copywriting is concerned with marketing and persuasion. But the lines can be blurred with what copywriting concerns; from press releases and corporate letters to features and blog posts, which uses reportage and fact-checking skills to some degree. These fields both work with words, but have different skill sets and there are different reasons for going into each field.
So, you need to ask yourself why you want to go into either field and which one suits your lifestyle more. Are you committed to the 24-hour news cycle and willing to work with multimedia, or do you want to use your writing skills as a voice for a company and like working within those boundaries? If it’s the latter, this article is for you. Either way, you’ll most likely want to start applying now, or at least consider freelancing.
One such freelance copywriter is Kate Duggan, who is based in Devon. She came from a varied writing background, graduating from a degree in creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University. Then she found her way into writing and editing various magazines before transitioning into communications and finally copywriting.
She gives her two-pennies worth on going into freelancing below:
“I love being self-employed but it’s certainly a rollercoaster, and you need to be prepared for the fact that it takes a while to build yourself up and you really do have to be prepared to get yourself out there. It is certainly useful to have testimonials and examples of your work to show people.”
While being active on social-media isn’t a must, having a professional presence, a focused portfolio as well as a range of contacts will increase your chances of making an impression on your employer or client, self-employed or not. Duggan explains:
“I’ve got copywriters I pass work onto and vice versa, and that is really useful to have. I think when it comes to events, there’s CopyCon. Have a look at the Pro Copywriters’ Network; they organize a couple of events a year. For those who go on Facebook there are quite a few copywriting forums as well.”
Going freelance, however, also means declaring yourself as self-employed, which requires you to keep a record of your invoices and do your own taxes. Income gained from freelancing is not all free money, after all. Because of this, it’s useful to know going in how much you’ll charge from the beginning, from day rates to individual blog posts, to avoid overcharging or undercharging yourself.
“The mistake a lot of people make is they kind of think ‘if I’m charging £300 per day and working five days a week that I’m going to earn £1500 a week.’ It doesn’t work like that because you don’t spend all of your time doing paid work.
“You might be going to networking events,” Duggan continues. “You’ve got to do your own admin, you’re probably going to have to go to meet people, you’re going to be pitching people, you’re going to be writing proposals, and a lot of what you do you don’t get paid for. So definitely bear that in mind.”
Consider the above going into copywriting, and find any relevant work you can, not only on a global scale with the web, but also on a local scale for companies that look for interns.