So You Want to Be a Copywriter: Advice from Writers.HK
So You Want to Be a Copywriter: Advice from Writers.HK
Here at Writers.HK, we get a lot of emails. Most of them are from long-term clients, those companies we couldn’t do without. Others are from potentials – possible partners we’re proud to help discover their voice.
But every once in a while, we receive an email from someone who wants to be a writer. We’re not talking about novelists or journalists. They want to be copywriters. Content creators, as they’re contemporarily known (although we’re certain that’s a temporary hipster thing).
They want to define voices. They want to get into branding. They want to work with us, basically. In the interest of helping out these wayward souls, we’ve put together a little intro on how to become a copywriter. This isn’t definitive, we’re not the end-all on the subject, and you should definitely do further reading. But consider this solid a start.
Straight-up: this isn’t Mad Men. If your entire idea of advertising, branding and content is based on that TV show, check your expectations.
Copywriting is a job like any other. You won’t be drinking cocktails at two-in-the-afternoon and tossing around taglines. At the start of your career at least, you’ll be expected to produce vast amounts of content, for little to no pay. Understand that it’s going to take a long time to be decent at this game, let alone what most consider good.
If you can’t handle that, or don’t deal well with constructive criticism, consider something else. I hear teaching pays well.
Learn the Landscape
We’re in an exciting time for copywriting and content. It’s also a scary time. Ignoring side-hustlers flogging words for $5 a hit, the internet is disrupting the entire industry.
Social media, content marketing, audio, video. At their base, they all involve words – which means copywriting, to some degree. Understand the market, learn what you like about the landscape, and specialise if you can. Know your niche and research the hell out of it.
Read, Read, Read
Never stop reading. We once met a guy who desperately wanted to be a writer. His problem? He never read. He hated it and abhorred the idea that he actually had to read to write. Don’t be him. Please.
Read, read, read. Then read some more. And when you’re done reading all that, keep reading. Read all the advertising textbooks and copywriting handbooks everyone else goes on about.
But also vary your reading habits. It’s boring when everyone has the same influences, so expand your horizons. Read novels and newspapers, magazines and manuals. Content crazes are forever changing, so keep abreast with styles people are digging and the tones trending in modern times.
If nothing else, words have this funny way of rooting themselves in your mind, way down into your deep subconscious, popping up at those desperate moment when pure inspiration strikes. That’s why you should read.
But lest we waffle without a solid recommendation: Hemingway. Novelist, journalist, essayist – and a massive influence on any copywriter worth their salt.
Stop Reading, Start Writing
We know - we said never stop reading. But there’s solid advice there on how you shouldn’t believe everything you read.
Sometimes, you have to stop reading and start writing. The great thing about modern writing is that anyone can do it. You’re reading this on a device with an endless heap of blank sheets, just waiting to be filled. Nobody’s watching, nobody cares. Just write.
It’s not going to be good. In fact, it’s probably going to be bad. But that’s where practice comes in, and I promise the more you write, the better you’ll get at it.
Put Together a Portfolio
This is the tricky bit. Without clients, without a solid base to start, how can you put together a portfolio? We can’t tell you how to get clients (we have a business to run here), but we can tell you how to put together something slick for when you get a chance to present.
It comes down to your interests. Who do you want to write for? What kind of companies do you dream of working with? Take those ideas, make them generic and come up with content for a thinly-veiled version of that brand.
It doesn’t have to look great – you’re not trying to be a designer. But if the copy is solid, and your potential clients are smart enough, they’ll get it. And trust us, you only want to work with clients who get it.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Seriously, don’t. Not even when you land that international client or first big retainer. It’s a saturated market, and every writer fancies themselves as Hemingway, sitting in a café while they pen the next great advertising campaign. The problem is, they likely have the funds to wait it out – you probably don’t.
There’s that, which anyone can tell you. But there’s also the fact that other jobs make you more interesting. They round-out your business personality, and occasionally give you opportunities to apply some of those copy techniques to your regular job.
Work with Us
Yes, we want to work with you. At Writers.HK, we partner with some of the biggest clients in the world. We’re a Hong Kong copywriting company, of course, but we’re always expanding. We do branding, design, photography, video and a whole lot more. And we always need people to help out.
We need writers, but we also need everything else. We’re looking for smart, efficient, highly motivated people who have a keen insight into modern branding techniques and know their way around words. If you think you have the chops, get in touch.