Haris Halkic: Hi Denise, 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.
Denise Beecroft: I had been working as the Marketing Manager of a large chain of hearing clinics. I was coming up for my 10-year anniversary with the company. I’d always loved working for the company – HQ was in Denmark, so I got the opportunity to connect with colleagues overseas every year, and it was always a challenge. However, a new CEO was about to start and I had a feeling he had a very different approach to the business, so I decided it was time to leave.
I also had youngish children and felt that I wanted to be around for them a bit more.
I started volunteering for a charity. I was doing their newsletter and social media. After a couple of months, they offered to pay me – I worked around 10 hours a week for them for about 4 months.
In the meantime, I also offered to help a friend who was starting an acupuncture business.
Even though I had years of experience as a marketer, I didn’t just want to be a ‘marketing consultant’. I’d always liked writing advertising copy, so I decided that was my ‘thing’.
I think working for free in the early days is a good idea to get a feel of the type of work you want to do and it feels less ‘risky’.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. What ways do you use to get clients?
Denise Beecroft: In the early days, I got work through my friends and ex-colleagues. I got one of my best clients (a regular) through my listing on the website Flying Solo. Recommendations have also been very helpful.
I’m a member of Kate Toon’s The Clever Copywriting School. I pay an annual subscription. The benefits are a wonderfully supportive group of copywriters you can bounce ideas off and ask questions about copywriting and running a freelance business. They’re a great bunch! The group’s Facebook page also regularly posts jobs, so there are lots of opportunities.
I’m aiming for around 15 to 20 hours of paid work a week, and I’m happy with a small stable of regular clients. So far that’s worked quite well.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Denise Beecroft: I had always done a bit of writing in my marketing roles – in fact, in the first job I had after I finished my degree, my boss used to make me read through marketing letters and critique them. It really helped me learn about what worked and what didn’t. So, I think just reading lots of copy and reviewing it is a good start.
I did a couple of great online courses – Belinda Weaver’s Copywriting Masterclass course and Kate Toon’s Recipe for SEO Success Copywriting course. Both were brilliant. You’ve got real access to both of these copywriting gurus – and they’re absolutely lovely human beings. Totally worth it!
Together these ladies also host a great podcast – The Hot Copy podcast – that’s worth listening to.
Copyblogger is also a great site for copywriting tips. I subscribed to their service for a few years.
A few of books I’d recommend are:
- Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Copywriting by Herschell Gordon Lewis
- Anything by Bernadette Jiwa
- Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
- Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller
- Web Copy that Sells by Maria Veloso
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Denise Beecroft: Quite a few of my regular clients don’t really give me much of a brief, so I tend to do my research first (online).
Otherwise, the brief is the starting point. I have a template which I send to clients. Of course, a lot of people hate writing (that’s why they pay us!), so I would book a time to speak to them on the phone.
With writing, I find it’s best to just ‘write’. The rule is not to edit as you go. Just write a rough first draft and edit later.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Denise Beecroft: Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver are favourites. I also love Amy Harrison and Tom Albrightson from the UK.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Denise Beecroft: Flexibility is the big one. I’m at a point in my life/career where I don’t want to go to an office – done that.
I like working from home. I can juggle work, family, fitness and cups of tea with friends.
Love it! And it pays quite well these days!
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Denise Beecroft: I like to write the following day’s tasks in my diary the night before. I still use a paper diary. It sits on my desk and I like to tick off the tasks as I go.
Can I add one more habit?
Keep track of your time carefully. I use my paper diary and a simple excel spreadsheet.
I’m sure there are more techie ways to do this, but it works for me. It’s too easy to lose track of time and forget how long you spent on a job.
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?
Denise Beecroft: I love working with ‘industrial’ marketers – builders, manufacturers – business to business communication. It’s not the sexy side of marketing but I love the challenge of clarifying jargon, making my client’s communications easier to read.
Having said that, I also work with business to consumer marketers, including an organic fertiliser company, an online mattress retailer and a maker of chai tea! I even do a bit of copywriting for packaging (e.g. pizza boxes and salad packs.)
My website is www.marketingbuzz.com.au