Wednesday 30 September 2015

How to crack into copywriting (when you have no experience)

We get emails pretty much every day from students or graduates looking to clamber onto that greasy first rung of the copywriting ladder. And guess what? Most of them are going about it all wrong. So here’s a helpful rant.

To break into any competitive industry you need to show affinity and aptitude. Potential employers are looking for commitment and ENTHUSIASM! So all this needs to shine through in the tone and content of your speculative email.

Chuck in a contraction or two
Let’s start with the tone. So many of the messages we receive are the email equivalent of a corpse in a tux: they’re stiff, formal and not something you really want to look at for too long.

This won’t do. You’re looking to enter an industry where the written word is your horse and sword. Your copy will be your weapon; your livelihood. It will need to excite, persuade and surprise. So loosen up and show some personality in your writing. Take the odd risk. Sell yourself – and your writing ability – through your writing. Makes sense, hey?

Build your own first rung
Then there’s the content. I remember that old Catch-22 situation. The one where you want to get experience but no-one will give you any experience because you don’t have any experience. However, the internet happened and that’s not really a thing anymore. Anyone can demonstrate their writing ability by signing up to Tumblr or Wordpress and starting a blog. That’s what I did.

Blogging in your own time shows us that you’re someone who actually enjoys writing. This is pretty important if you want to be a copywriter – a career that – shock, horror – entails sitting at a laptop and writing for hours and hours each day. 

Find an angle
The content of your blog is important too. Writing about the last film you saw or that dream you had is cool, but creating something with an angle is much more interesting. It demonstrates that you’ve considered your audience and shows a bit of marketing and branding nous. That’s important.

Hours 1-20 of 10,000
Finally, there’s a vital distinction to be made between copywriting and writing. If you really want to become a copywriter, you need to dedicate some time to the craft. Do some speculative work for a local business or two. Devise and answer your own briefs for big brands. Read some copywriting books and apply what you learn.

Brag effectively
Once you’ve spent your evenings and weekends doing these things, let us know about them in the covering email (with lashings of personality, of course). We’ll find these pure copywriting endeavours much more interesting than journalistic pursuits like the stock ‘worked on the university newspaper.’

Copywriting is a great career, worth breaking into. So put some effort in. Good luck!

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