Guest post by Becky Hewson
Becoming a copywriter was meant to be easy. All the articles said I just needed a laptop, an internet connection and some writing ability. But my experience of setting up a copywriting business has shown there’s more to it than just being able to write.
Add to that the overwhelming amount of opposing information out there, and it’s near impossible to tell truth from fiction. Here’s my take on starting up in the creative, crazy world of copywriting.
To be niche or not to be niche? That is the question.
When writing is your business, deciding what to write about is key. Guidance on this issue falls into two opposing camps:
- Camp A say pick a writing niche that you are an expert in. Not only can you write quickly and informatively about a topic but potential customers in your sector can find you more easily.
- Camp B advise trying your hand at different topics to see which fits and keeping your doors wide open to different opportunities.
At first glance, picking a niche and being searchable makes sense. But just how much of an expert do you need to be? If you want to write about baking, do you need know what Mary Berry does or is whipping up a cake twice a month and loving it enough?
The answer, I think, depends on the type of writing you want to do. If you plan to write technical white papers for a living, being an authority is necessary. But, if Brexit has taught us one thing, it’s that half the population dislikes an expert.
…If Brexit has taught us one thing, it’s that half the population dislikes an expert.
In-depth knowledge can make it more difficult to see things from the customer’s perspective – not what you want when trying to engage reader with brand.
To help me pick my niches, I stopped worrying about whether I was a guru and asked myself the following questions instead:
- Am I sufficiently informed to write engaging content about this topic?
- Can I write quickly and accurately about the subject with the right tone?
- Will my customer be happy with the content I produce?
These questions helped me narrow down six potential areas to three that I feel confident writing about – fitness, crafts and Human Resources.
Enjoy the work or bring in the bucks?
Picking a niche you like should see the words flow like oil from a well, particularly if you’re passionate about your subject. But let’s be realistic. As a newbie, your novice’s portfolio means that you’ll likely take on work outside your niche(s).
Only once the bank balance is in the black, and you need to decide what to leave out of your portfolio, will you be able to decline work. In the meantime, writing about topics that don’t grab you is probably best thought of as a challenge and an opportunity to make your writing better.
Is what I’m writing good enough?
So, you got some work. Great! You’ve written your first draft, refined it and refined it again (and maybe even again). Now you want to send it to the client but you’re not sure it’s good enough. This is where a trusted group of people to act as a sounding board, particularly for those first few pieces, will come in handy.
Get a friend or partner to do a first review and find out if the copy hits the mark:
- Would they have read beyond the headline, first sentence and first paragraph if you hadn’t asked them to?
- Tell them what you were trying to achieve. At the end of the piece, would they take that action or do they feel how you wanted them to?
If the answer is yes to these questions, pass go and collect £200 (you’re going to need that cash in minute). If the answer is no, revise your copy again.
For a second review, phone a friend. The chances are you know people who work in marketing, PR or who are copywriters themselves. Send them your work and ask for their opinion. Take on their feedback (you did ask for it after all) but remember, there’s no ‘right’ when it comes to writing. To repay the favour and maybe even get yourself on their radar as someone to work with in the future, get their feedback over lunch.
You see – I told you you’d need that money.
Becky is a copywriter who transforms bland business facts into sparkling copy that sells. Her natural curiosity and business experience help her quickly understand organisations and sell their message. To find out more about Becky, click here.