Andrew Nattan’s Best Advice On Getting Started As A Freelance Copywriter

Haris Halkic: Hi Andrew, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting? Please, tell us more about your story.

Andrew Nattan: “My story” makes it sound far more impressive than it really is. Every copywriter seems to have this story about how they’d spent years climbing mountains, fighting tigers and curing malaria before accidentally writing an award-winning advert.

I don’t.

I just fell into this. At 21, all I had was a history degree and an intense belief that I never wanted to teach history. So I turned down an invitation to do a Masters’ degree and applied for any job that seemed interesting. A week later I had an interview to become a “Junior Copywriter” at an agency in Manchester, and no idea what a copywriter actually did.

11 years later, I think I’ve just about got the hang of it.

Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance writing from your previous job? What’s your best advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?

Andrew Nattan: It was an incredibly natural progression. I spent a year as a junior, moved on to become an SEO copywriter at another agency, and then worked my way up to becoming the company’s Communications Manager.

After seven years there, I was at the point where I’d be butting heads with directors on a regular basis about the things I thought shouldn’t be part of my role, and the amount I was paid.

I had a choice. Adapt fully to a changing role I hated, or take the part of my job I was good at, and that made money, and start doing it for myself.

My best advice would be to start doing it now.

If you’re in-house and looking to strike out on your own, start doing client work for yourself. Get a website, start networking, and find clients. It’ll be hard. You’ll be dog tired.

But you’ll know you can do it, and that you’ll be free to strike out on your own.

Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?

Andrew Nattan: Word of mouth. Doing a good job for one client has a funny way of getting even more work from another client.

Obviously the problem there is finding that first client to do work for.

But finding work shouldn’t be a problem. The goal of any piece of work you do as a copywriter is to sell your clients’ products and services.

If you’re sitting there thinking “I can write websites to help my clients sell lightbulbs, and emails to help clients sell cars, and video scripts to help them sell vodka, and radio ads to help them sell furniture” you’ve just thought of four ways to find clients.

You’re in advertising. Advertise.

Haris Halkic: On your website I’ve seen two emails from actual email campaigns you wrote for clients. You did an excellent job there. Is there anything that makes writing email sequences different compared to other projects?

Andrew Nattan: Email sequences are actually one of my favourite tasks to work on. If you’re writing a brochure website, you’re really only doing half of the work. The client still has to close the sale with a phone call or a site visit.

An email sequence gives you full control over that lead’s whole journey – not just piquing their interest at the start.

You’ve basically got a checklist of issues – they don’t know who the client is, they’re not convinced by the pitch, they need more information, they need even more information, they need a final push – and you get to methodically address each point in turn with a specific, tailored email.

Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?

Andrew Nattan: Fresh cup of tea, radio on BBC 6 Music, word processor turned on. It’s not rocket science, and you’re not a tortured artist.

Just get some background noise to stop you being distracted and do your bloody work.

Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?

Andrew Nattan: As I said before, I was a Junior Copywriter, so I learned on the job. I was trained by two magnificent writers, one who’s now a school teacher and one who’s still in-house, but I don’t think I can tell your readers to follow them around.

For books and resources, anything by Andy Maslen is a good start. I took his book Write Copy, Make Money on honeymoon with me. I’m also halfway through Tom Albrighton’s Copywriting Made Simple which is a cracking read.

Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?

Andrew Nattan: Well Ben Hampson and Martin Williams both got a round in when I was out with them last week, so they’d have to count as two of my favourite copywriters.

But I think good copywriting is about the work, not the personality. I love people like Sarah Turner and Tom Albrighton, but I couldn’t point to a piece of work they did and say “that’s a Sarah” because they have to inhabit the tone the client sets out.

Of course the exception to that rule is Karen Marston, who only works with clients who want her irreverent tone of voice. But I think she’s an exception to a lot of rules.

Oh, and best piece of copywriting I’ve seen recently? These ads on the Manchester Metrolink.

Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?

Andrew Nattan: Flexibility. That’s the answer to both.

Flexibility in the work you do, the clients you work with, the projects you take on. It stops you getting stuck in a rut, or going stale.

If you’re changing what you do on a daily basis, you keep learning, and it makes you a better writer.

Then there’s the flexibility of being your own boss. Want a day off? Go for it. Want to earn more? You set your prices. Want to spend an afternoon learning why only posers work in coffee shops? You’re the boss.

Flexibility. That’s the only reason to do this.

Haris Halkic: Is there a daily habit that has contributed to your success more than any other?

Andrew Nattan: I bet you’ve had loads of people come out with crap about meditating, and pomodoro methods and all sorts of nonsense, haven’t you?

All the productivity hacks? Tried them. They’re rubbish. Here’s a daily habit that’ll make you rich and successful.

Get up in the morning, do the work, and keep doing the work until the work is done. Then, once the work is done, devote some time to finding more work to do.

Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?

Andrew Nattan: My website, 603 Copywriting has more contact forms than is strictly necessary. You can use any of those.

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