Haris Halkic: Hi André, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting? Please, tell us more about your story.
André Spiteri: Like many others, I fell into it by accident. I don’t think any kid says “I want to be a copywriter when I grow up!” I certainly didn’t (I didn’t even know it was a viable career option, in fact). I did have secret ambitions of becoming a full-time writer, but as usually happens, my life took a totally different turn.
Long story short, I have a legal background, but it never felt like a good fit. Eventually, I got sick of it, quit my job and moved to London, where I started writing for a blog. That’s when it all clicked for me. I had finally found what I wanted to do with my life.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job? What’s your best piece of advice to someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
André Spiteri: There was no transition. I quit my job, put a website together and started emailing people I wanted to work with. This might not be ideal for everybody (in fact it’s probably crazy), but in my case it lit a fire under my ass and made me want to succeed.
My advice to anyone who wants to go freelance is very simple. It’s all well and good to be prudent. But at some point, you’ll have to take a leap of faith if you want to truly give this a go. There’s never going to be a good time to quit your job and freelance full-time. It’ll always be scary. So stop waiting and start doing.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
André Spiteri: When I first started, I used to do a lot of cold emailing, which was very tedious. I’d look up companies that looked like a good fit, find the right person to email and send highly personalised emails. That’s how I got my first clients. I also used to trawl job boards like Problogger, but finding good paying jobs here, while possible, is very tricky.
These days, I don’t cold-email much. Most of my new clients come either through my website, through social media (especially LinkedIn) or from referrals.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
André Spiteri: It really depends on the project. However, research usually comes first. I’ll go through the brief and any material the client sent in detail, follow up with any questions, do further research, possibly take a few notes and think very hard about the aims of the project and what the client wants to achieve.
Then I’ll disconnect completely and do something else. At that point, ideas will start popping into my head. Maybe a headline or an intro paragraph. Once or twice, I even got the whole thing this way. I’ll jot these down on my phone (I use Simplenote).
Next, I sit down in front of my laptop and get started. Writing the draft usually only takes a few hours at most. What takes long is the editing. I won’t just tidy up the language. I’ll reorder sections and generally tweak everything until I feel it’s right. If I’m good on deadline, I may even write several versions of a headline or paragraph and choose the one I like best.
If at all possible, I’ll leave it at least for a few hours. Ideally, if I’ve worked on something several hours, I’ll want to leave it for a few days. Then I’ll get back to it again and make final tweaks before I send it off.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
I read a lot and I write a lot. That’s the key.
To start with, I’d definitely recommend reading Tested Advertising Methods, Scientific Advertising, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, On Writing by Stephen King and If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. Also Copyblogger and Hubspot have some excellent resources. That’s just to start with. The learning never really stops.
More to the point, I think one of the most underrated ways to learn and improve is to experiment and trust your gut. Copywriting is a science, but it’s also an art. Don’t be afraid to try things out. What’s important is that you measure your results, so you can keep what works and throw out what doesn’t.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
André Spiteri: Not sure I have a favourite copywriter or piece of copy. I do very much enjoy reading the greats — John Caples, Joseph Sugarman, Claude Hopkins. However, I’ll take inspiration from anywhere: my personal experiences, music, novels, film, other people’s experiences and so on and so forth. You never know where your next great idea might come from.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
André Spiteri: The total freedom it gives you. You can work from anywhere, at any time, pick which projects you want to work on and take time off without giving advance notice. As long as you hit your deadlines of course.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
André Spiteri: Showing up and trying to do my best everyday, whether I feel like it or not. Being freelance isn’t all Starbucks, Macbooks and afternoon naps. Consistency is key. No-one is going to do your work for you or pay you for doing nothing.
Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?