Haris Halkic: Hi Jefferson, 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.
I was looking for a portable income, where I could earn a living from anywhere.
I came across an ad from American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) and thought that looked interesting. But, I have a suspicious mind, so I didn’t jump in at first. It took me a while, and a few more of their ads before I decided to spend the money and give them a try. That was in 2014.
I had (and still have) another freelance business, so studying their Accelerated Program took longer than expected. In fact, I had the program for about six months before I even started it.
In the spring of 2016, I’d finished the program and launched my freelance copywriting business. I have slowly been building up the income from that to replace the less rewarding aspects of my other business.
My first paying client came at about the three-month mark, it was for the rewrite of a law firm’s website.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job?
Jefferson Vinall: Well, I’m still in the process of transitioning to copywriting. Sadly, my other business often interferes with my efforts to market myself as a copywriter. It’s hard to turn away cash in hand for prospecting for copywriting clients.
But that’s okay, it’s made the transition gradual and seamless. I was used to working as a freelancer, so that wasn’t new to me.
Haris Halkic: What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Jefferson Vinall: For advice, I’m of two minds on this. I have two good friends in my peer group who have suddenly quit their jobs to focus exclusively on copywriting. One was a pharmacist, the other a teacher. I like that idea of full immersion, having copy as your sole mental focus. If you have the courage to do that, I think it might be the better, quicker way to go.
For others, like me, it’s not easy to quickly replace your existing income with revenue from copywriting. So, I’ve had to transition slowly.
That’s the beauty of freelancing, you really can ease your way into it. If you have a job, you can freelance on the side, and not sweat about making the leap.
When the time is right for you, you can quit that job.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. What ways do you use to get clients?
Jefferson Vinall: There are two answers to this question, for me.
The first, is just talking to my warm market – the people I personally know and have done business with in the past.
That has provided some copywriting work, and helped with my portfolio, but it hasn’t brought me the projects I really want. They’ve been mostly one-time jobs for clients who don’t do enough marketing to keep me busy.
The second method I use is networking on LinkedIn and social media. I target marketing directors at companies I’d like to work with, and then I try to comment intelligently on their interests.
Over time, they take notice of who I am and what I do. Once we have some familiarity, either they contact me with a project, or I can contact them with an ask. It’s more of a strategy of farming rather than hunting. I like the casual nature of this strategy. But at some point, you do have to ask for the business.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Jefferson Vinall: Most of my training has been through American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI), but I try to get training from other sources too. HubSpot Academy is a great online source.
I watch as many webinars from different sources as I can fit in. There are a lot of marketing “gurus” out there, and some of it is junk, but every now and then you uncover a golden nugget.
I really enjoy the teachings of Nick Usborne, and find his perspectives really align with my own. Also, Steve Slaunwhite.
Another fellow with some interesting marketing ideas, although not a copywriter, is Tom Poland.
Of course, anything you can find by David Ogilvy, Dan Kennedy, or Bob Bly is worth reading.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Jefferson Vinall: Once my research is complete, I start with a fresh brainstorming session. I find ideas come to me most often in the morning, before I’ve done anything else, and often while I’m still in the shower. The research percolates in my brain overnight, and then ideas pop out when I’m not even consciously thinking about them.
Depending on the timeline of the project, I like to spend a few hours typing every idea for later review. Then I put it away until the next day. I’ll look at the ideas with a fresh mind, and then start writing.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Jefferson Vinall: That’s a tough question. It changes from time to time. Lately, I’ve been watching/reading Brian Clark. I admire Steve Maurer’s focus. And again, there’s Nick Usborne’s Conversational Copywriting.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Jefferson Vinall: Hands down, the greatest advantage is flexibility. That’s why I got into copywriting. I wanted to be able to work from anywhere, even when I’m travelling.
I can write morning, noon, or night – whatever works for me in the moment.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Jefferson Vinall: I know the answer to this should be to “write every day.” But for my focus on web writing, I really think it’s learning about the quickly evolving space of online marketing. I try to watch a webinar or read a good article every day.
One thing that has really helped me is having a peer group. I attended a copywriting conference last year, met a ton of people, and really connected with a few.
We formed a peer group there, with a weekly video chat about our goals and achievements, and we keep each other accountable.
Haris Halkic: Are there areas you specialize on as a copywriter and if someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Jefferson Vinall: B2B online marketing is my specialty. That means websites, sales emails, case studies, and white papers.