Haris Halkic: Hi Joanne, 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.
After being a stay at home mom for almost twenty years I found myself wandering around a very ‘empty-nest’. I loved being a stay-at-home Mom to my three kids. They are my Magnum Opus.
Then they grew up and left me to wander around our world alone… which is just as sad as it sounds. But one can only sing the ‘Empty Nest Blues’ for so long. So I bought myself a horse, did some travelling, did a solo trip up the Alaska Highway, attended some artist retreats and started playing the violin.
Having been out of the job market for over a decade the only jobs I was qualified for were not going to support any of these expensive life choices. Working dead-end jobs, long hours for low pay would not finance the lifestyle I wish to become accustom to.
The hardest thing for me was the feeling of emptiness. Being a Mom is a hard act to follow as far as mentally and creatively fulfilling jobs go. I’ve always been a writer, mostly adventure stories for my children. I started taking my writing more seriously mostly because it is such a great creative outlet and it helped to fill that void. But unless I could write the next Wizard of Oz or Chronicles of Narnia fiction wasn’t going to set me free any time soon.
One day I got an email from AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.). The subject line was something short and sweet like ‘Earn Six Figures A Year Writing’. I was skeptical but as that is a great example of an effective subject line I kept reading. That email pointed out a very obvious but overlooked fact; written content is everywhere.
We read all day long and don’t even realize we’re doing it. Online, on paper, billboards, TV screens, bathroom walls…. All those words are written by someone. Why not me?
It took me awhile to get past the ‘I can’t afford to do this’ mindset and shift to the ‘I can’t afford not to do this’ mindset. The greatest investment we can make is in ourselves as we are our greatest asset.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job? What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Copywriting is the perfect career to transition to from any job. Online freelance opportunities allow you to set your own hours. I currently look after my eighteen-month-old granddaughter Monday to Friday. I work a couple of hours before she wakes up, two hours during nap time and a few more hours after her mother gets home. The online opportunities are so plentiful that you can work as many or as few hours as you want. You can work weekends, middle of the night and holidays if that works for you. Clients don’t care as long as the project is finished on time.
This is one of the few careers that I know of where you can literally tailor it to fit yourself, your family, your situation and your dreams.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. What ways do you use to get clients?
I find LinkedIn very effective. It’s a business platform so the focus is business. You don’t have to wade through a sea of cute cat video’s and relationship updates to find potential clients. It’s professional and informative and most businesses now have a LinkedIn presence.
I think deciding what kind of writing you want to do and for what niche or industry is a bigger challenge than finding clients.
Every business out there needs copy of some kind and if they have an online presence they need a lot of copy. Everything from emails, webpages, blogs, social media to SEO, script writing, video… The opportunities for writing and the clients who need writing are nearly endless.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Since that first eye-opening email I have taken many courses from AWAI. I can’t recommend them enough. They offer courses on every type of copywriting as well as unlimited resources, webinars, podcasts and coaching sessions from top copywriters, some of whom have been in the business for up to forty years. They also hold an annual Bootcamp and Job Fair in Del Ray Beach Florida every October. I am very excited to attend this year.
I would also highly recommend ‘Cracking the LinkedIn Code’ with Melonie Dodaro. This course is great for anyone who wants to use LinkedIn as their main marketing tool or just needs help with marketing. It’s broken up into bite-sized modules that are easy to get through without being overwhelming. Of course, the number of ways to market your copywriting business is limited only to your imagination.
One of the most eye and door opening courses I’ve taken is ‘SEO Content Writing Step by Step’ with SEO pioneer Heather Lloyd-Martin. As possibly the world’s most non-techie person I never considered getting into anything as geeky as SEO, analytics, key phrase research etc. etc. But in this digital age SEO offers a huge financial opportunity for copywriters.
I decided to bite that scary geek bullet and try to learn the basics of SEO; I hoped to at least come away knowing how to spell the word. After three live webinars with Heather, I not only learned how to spell it …S E O… I also learned that I can conquer that techie world that I thought was so intimidating.
I highly recommend Heather Lloyd-Martin because she is very clever at presenting SEO and all the techie stuff that goes with it in a simple, easy to understand way even the techno-panicked can grasp. And SEO really is another world of opportunity.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
I don’t need a lot of prep time. I have always been extremely adaptable which is lucky as I usually only have a couple hours at a time to write.
Writers’ block does rear its ugly head sometimes. I think that is true for most writers. Pressure situations such as looming deadlines can really beat your inner writer into submission.
The ‘What If’s’ show up. The best piece of advice for eliminating the ‘What If’s’ came from a coaching session with copywriting expert Joshua Boswell.
He said, “When you start thinking ‘What if I’m not good enough?’ ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What if I can’t do this?’; Stop thinking about yourself! Think instead about what you need to do and who is counting on you to do it.” He is right. If we are willing to listen to negativity, it will yap on forever.
If I’m really blocked I just start writing; anything just to get the words flowing. The other day I wrote the outline for a story about the spider that has taken up residence on my desk. A little off topic but it got rid of the block. And the spider was pleased. I call her Phaedrea. Watch for her in the children’s fantasy section…
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
The most obvious advantages to being a freelance copywriter are money and freedom. Due to the low maintenance nature of this career (all you really need is a computer and an internet connection) you can work from anywhere in the world that you want to.
You could work from a hill-top mansion or a prison cell. Copywriting really is an equal opportunity career.
For me, one of the biggest advantages is that my writing is no longer just an enjoyable pastime that I have to make time for. It is now the means to living life on my own terms. That’s a very wonderful and empowering thing.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
The one daily thing that has made an amazing difference in my writing and in all areas of my life is meditation. Before I started doing meditation I thought it was something monks and hippies did, usually after a few puffs of something they’d rolled themselves. I was wrong.
Meditation is an incredible mental garbage dump.
All of our mental blocks; depression, obsession, anger, doubt, fear, addiction, anything that holds us prisoner and keeps us from moving forward into the life we long for, has its roots in our subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the most impenetrable fortress in the world. It doesn’t give up its secrets easily. Meditation gets us inside the subconscious where we can get to the root cause of the negativity.
Awareness is everything. The subconscious mind can only control us if we don’t know what it’s up to. When we discover what’s lurking there, it loses all power over us. Strip away the negative and anger becomes patience, doubt becomes belief, fear becomes power…
Anyone who needs to dump the mental garbage that is holding them back should give meditation a try. Anyone who thinks they don’t have mental garbage holding them back is probably kidding themselves.
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?
I can write any type of copy but my greatest strength lies in creative writing and bringing stories alive. Whether it be an About Page, an email campaign, a white paper or a company blog it is irrelevant if people don’t read it. At least half the story is in the telling of it. I love digging for the hidden gems that people often don’t even realize are there, then polishing them up and letting them shine in a whole new way.
I am also working toward becoming SEO certified. SEO proficiency combined with creatively written content that grabs and holds the attention makes a powerful weapon in the very crowded online world.
The best way to get in touch with me is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.