Haris Halkic: How you got started in copywriting. Please, tell me more about your story.
Matt Ambrose: Ever since primary school I can remember telling teachers I was going to be a writer. But after graduating reality set in and I found myself jumping from job to job doing whatever paid the most money.
The turning point came when I was sat in an interview for a buyer’s assistant position. When they told me what the job entailed my enthusiasm fell through the floor. I asked whether there was any writing involved, they said “no”, some tumbleweed blew past, and that was the end of that.
When I got home I jumped online to work out what I could do with an English and History degree, found out about copywriting and bingo bango became a freelance copywriter.
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?
Matt Ambrose: I jumped ship with zero clients, zero experience, a few basic samples and a hastily cobbled together website in Dreamweaver (yes, that long ago). All I had to keep me going was my stubbornness to prove the doubters wrong.
The first few years were a tough old slog. I don’t recommend doing what I did and quit your day job without a plan.
Instead, I think you should study winning sales letters, specialize in a niche (e.g. email copywriting for dentists), and then position yourself as the go-to person for that niche. You can grow into other niches and do more advanced stuff later.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Matt Ambrose: In the early days it was hours of submitting proposals on Elance (now Upwork), networking locally, and some SEO magic to get leads through Google (until I got hacked by Russians building a botnet to break into banks, long story).
The breakthrough came when I started writing for larger agencies (B2B in the UK and performance marketing in the US), got some early wins and started getting referrals.
Now I’m lucky enough to have a stable of clients who hire me on an ongoing basis. So, touch wood, I don’t have to deal with the daily grind of finding work.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Matt Ambrose: When I started there weren’t any courses (I knew of) and I was focused on writing for the UK B2B tech market, for which you don’t really need strong direct response chops. It’s only in the last few years I really knuckled down and studied the US style of direct response copy.
My recommendation would be to focus on direct response from day one.
Following Gary Halbert’s sage advice on becoming a copywriter is a great start. Then read Breakthrough Advertising ten times while taking copious notes, practice writing your own sales pages for Clickbank products, and when you’ve got some conversion stats apply to be someone’s copy cub.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Matt Ambrose: Research the topic until I’ve got more notes than I can use. Then the writing part is easy.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Matt Ambrose: John Carlton, whom I was fortunate enough to meet briefly last year. His copy is like Shakespeare: Word perfect, with every turn of phrase nudging you to the end.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Matt Ambrose: You get to work on interesting projects pushing your brain to the limit.
I remember how soul destroying working in an office was. So I appreciate every day that I’m able to open up my laptop in a coffee shop and make money.
Haris Halkic: You are the creator of The Copywriter’s Crucible’s Guide where you help writers start a freelance copywriting business. Can you tell me more about your product?
Matt Ambrose: I used to get emails from people asking for advice on becoming a copywriter, so I wrote a blog post about it. That ranked quote nicely in Google so I expanded it into an info product.
Its focus is on the nuts and bolts of finding clients, how to write proposals, getting paid, what to charge, and a quick overview on writing web pages, case studies, articles and the like. It’s all the advice I’d have given myself starting out so I could avoid some of the near career ending landmines I’d trodden on.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Matt Ambrose: Exercising first thing. It clears my head and helps me feel focused, instead of reading the news and procrastinating until guilt takes over.
Haris Halkic: Are there areas you focus on as a copywriter and if someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Matt Ambrose: I’m now focused on natural health, so they’d need to be in that niche. If they are in natural health, they can visit my website to find out more about me and to get in touch.