Haris Halkic: Hi Nikki, thanks a lot for agreeing to share some tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting? Please tell me more about your story.
I have a degree in journalism with a minor in English. I am a member of the journalism honor society, Sigma Delta Chi (SDX) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).
For nearly twenty years, I used my media training to help nonprofits in their media, marketing and public awareness programs. I was trained by Toastmasters International in public speaking. I helped nonprofits set up speakers’ bureaus to aid in outreach and awareness.
In 2016, I decided I needed a mobile job that would allow me more freedom to work from any location.
I recently had married and my new husband had a home in Colorado. I owned a home in Dallas, Texas. My husband is retired now and likes to spend part of the year at 10,000 feet in the majestic Colorado Rockies.
To accommodate our lifestyle and live part of the year in both places, I had to find a solution. Copywriting provided the answer to mobility and the utilization of my talents as a writer.
I took several courses from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI), the leading trainer for copywriters. AWAI was an excellent training ground for a writer transitioning into the copywriting field.
After long experience with charities, being a copywriter for nonprofits seemed a perfect fit.
I also received Digital Marketing Certification from Collin College in Dallas. This fall I will complete my course work for Social Media Director Certification at Collin College.
Although my copywriting niche is nonprofits, I have received requests to do copywriting and media work in the for-profit areas, such as the pet industry. In the interest of expanding my skills, I welcome these opportunities.
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?
My answer above covers this question. Briefly, I had the motivation to find a job that was flexible in regard to mobility and time. I also researched training that would allow me to use my skills and talents. I augmented that training with training in skills that complimented my writing abilities (digital marketing and social media marketing).
Here is my advice for potential copywriters:
- Have a plan that addresses and defines your work requirements.
- Structure that plan to accommodate your current schedule or the schedule you want to create.
- Research and access top-notch copywriting training.
- Research top copywriters, their writing, and their advice on the industry.
- According to your schedule, bite off only what you can chew in learning copywriting skills. Hone those skills. Then learn more.
- Augment your copywriting skills with a thorough knowledge of digital marketing and social media marketing.
- Read extensively about marketing (see the list I have included in the body of this interview).
- Understand the psychology of marketing and the skills you need to successfully attain and retain clients.
- Present yourself professionally by launching a high-impact website that draws, informs and enlists clients.
- Create a “stand alone” blog or have a blog section on your website.
- Create a LinkedIn profile that achieves the same purpose as your website. Author and share your articles on LinkedIn or share articles from your blog.
- Join discussion forums on LinkedIn that speak to your area of expertise and connect you with clients in your chosen field. Network, network, network.
- Join other media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). Raise your business profile across media spectrums.
- Create a personalized copywriter profile (information packet) that tells about you (interests, hobbies, background), your skills and training. It also should include a FAQ section, writing samples, testimonials, and a list of your services and fees.
- Create professional business cards.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell me more about how you get clients?
Please note that some of the points above address the issue of accessing clients. I would add the following:
- If you are an AWAI member, they have a “job board” on their website.
- Find and produce “Spec Assignments” to showcase your work and get a foot in the door.
- Network across social media platforms. Join discussion forums and make comments and offer helpful advice (especially forums that contain potential clients). Do not blatantly advertise. It is off-putting. Tread lightly. If a potential client on LinkedIn becomes familiar with your comments, they may be more amenable to a connection request on that media platform.
- Google copywriters in your field. Know your competition. Study their websites, which will probably contain samples of their writing. Research their clients. See if these clients may also have work for you. Copywriting is a big business with plenty of work to go around.
- Stay involved with your blog and reply to all comments. It may lead to work or a connection to work.
- Buy lead lists, but be careful. You can phone these leads and ask if they use “outside” copywriters. Do not send unsolicited emails. It is illegal.
- Google job sites (or Google “copywriting jobs”) and review their copywriting sections.
- Pass out your business cards freely. You never know what might trigger a job request.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources that you can recommend?
The learning part is included above. All that I would add is most community colleges offer courses in writing and digital marketing and social media marketing. As I previously noted, I received my copywriting training from AWAI. Remember, whatever we do, we are always still learning and improving our skills and the product we deliver.
Reading about your craft includes a lot of subjects, including marketing, psychology, creative writing and business management.
Some great books I would suggest are:
- “Made to Stick,” by Chip and Dan Heath
- “Ogilvy on Advertising,” by David Ogilvy
- “Influence,” by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.
- “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell
- “Contagious,” by Jonah Berger
- “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield
- “The Architecture of Persuasion,” by Michael Masterson
- “The Checklist Manifesto,” Atul Gawand, M.D.
- “Crack the Customer Mind Code,” by Gary Hennerberg
- “LinkedIn for Business,” by Ted Prodromou
- “Google AdWords,” by Perry Marshall, Mike Rhodes, Bryan Todd
- “Blogging for dummies,” by Amy Lupold Bair
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
The biggest part of copywriting is research.
- Research your client, their business, website and other social media platforms they follow or that deal with their business.
- Research your client’s competition.
- Research your client’s copywriting literature (press releases, white papers, short and long marketing emails, brochures, newsletters, e-zine ads, blogs, video marketing tools, etc.). They should be agreeable to a request for this literature.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
There are many options regarding the best piece of copywriting. Of course, the best copywriting converts the reader to a buyer – and does it with a very high percentage of success.
A lot of excellent examples of top copywriting pieces exist. I would like to direct you to a very good article by Josh Rueff, titled, “The Best Sales Letter Ever Written and 2 Billion Reasons Why.”
There are a lot of very fine copywriters. Here are a few:
- Clayton Makepeace
- David Ogilvy
- David Abbott
- Drayton Bird
- Jo Foxworth
- Michael Masterson
- Carlene Anglade-Cole
- Bob Bly
- Steve Slaunwhite
- Mark Ford
- Dan Kennedy
- Nick Usborne
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
For me, the greatest advantage of being a freelance copywriter is the mobility and ability to control my work schedule. Also, being an introvert, I like the ability to work at home alone.
A freelance writer gets a lot of opportunities to learn about diverse subjects, causes, ideas, services and innovations. This expands your knowledge and fine-tunes your writing skills.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Organization is number one. Preparation is second. Networking/marketing is third. Continued learning and perfecting your skills is fourth.
It is necessary to mention writer’s block in regard to success. Show up. Sit down at the computer. And start writing – even if you feel blocked. Write something. Anything. “Mary had a little lamb.” Anything. The block eventually will break and the words will flow. Any writer or artist struggling with issues that hamper their productivity should read, “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield. It was very helpful to me. I highly recommend it.
I have some final thoughts.
I think the most important thing a copywriter must remember, is that they must make themselves the solution to their client’s problem. By doing that, they make their client the solution to their client’s problem.
The copywriter needs to answer the questions, “How do I show my client’s potential buyers, my client’s Unique Selling Point (USP)? How do I quickly catch the potential client’s attention and show them my client can deliver the best services or product at the best prices, in the most effective and timely manner? Problem solved. Client on board.
In the nonprofit arena, the copywriter must deliver content that is heart-connecting, solution-oriented, educational and informative. The copy must speak to the varied donor psyches. People give for a number of reasons. A good copywriter knows that and moves the message toward that end.
Just as a good nonprofit copywriter understands the donor’s needs, the for-profit copywriter must understand the client’s needs. There is a definite psychology to writing a good compelling story. The copywriter is talking to humans with emotional triggers and varied perspectives and experiences. Top copywriters are analytical problem solvers with a high emotional quotient. Potential buyers convert when the content hits their triggers.
Writing compelling copy that intrigues, persuades, motivates and sells is a talent. The skilled copywriter will paint word rainbows that make clients want to follow the arc in the sky to the pot of gold at the end. The good news is that part of that pot of gold belongs to the copywriter.
Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?