Haris Halkic: Hi Katie, 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.
Katie Tilden: I’ve been working in journalism, communications, marketing and engagement for more than 17 years. I started working as a real estate journalist for a daily newspaper before moving into the newsroom. As a real estate journalist I was responsible for a weekly magazine style lift out featuring properties for sale and other real estate and property trends.
I then took up an exciting role as a media adviser to a Federal Member of Parliament at the age of 20. I loved it, a front row seat to observe and promote the work of a dedicated and hardworking politician. I was lucky enough to work in the Australian Parliament and in the electorate office in regional NSW.
My partner and I made the decision to move to Sydney and I started working for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the media and communications regulator. I spent 10 years working in media, communications and driving social media engagement. I worked on projects like the transition to digital TV and launching and driving the ACMA’s social media channels. Such an exciting time to be working in communications.
After the birth of our second daughter I saw an opportunity to start my own copywriting and content consultancy.
I have always loved writing, creating content and proofreading. It was my now or never moment. Start my own copywriting business or return to working in a communications role.
My business, Two Sprouts Communications, has just turned two. In that time, we have relocated interstate and moved house three times. It’s been a very busy and successful period and I hope it continues, just without moving house.
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?
Katie Tilden: I was able to transition from paid employment to maternity leave and then into my business. I had the financial security of a working husband and we had been planning and saving for this change. I was able to combine my parenting responsibilities with work as my youngest transitioned into child care a few days a week.
I recommend building up savings to pay for the expenses associated with establishing a business, like branding and a website. Try and build up contacts and perhaps some part-time clients that you can juggle with work.
It won’t be easy but will help to ease the stress of leaving paid employment. If you have flexible working arrangements, consider whether you can take some long service leave or other leave and give your business every opportunity to succeed.
Once you have a good networking base, potential clients and even some paying ones, it’s time to give it a go.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell me more about how you get clients?
Katie Tilden: It’s been a combination of a few things. Using my existing contacts, building new contacts through local networking and online networking opportunities, referrals, my website and SEO.
Building relationships is important and I think people respond well to meeting with you face to face. This can be hard if you’re a bit of an introvert and don’t enjoy networking. My advice is to push yourself to do it. There have been times I have dreaded going to a networking event but once I’ve arrived I’ve had a great time. I’ve walked away having met some fantastic people and made some useful contacts. And the best thing is the growth in my confidence. It gets easier the more you do it.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources that you can recommend?
Katie Tilden: I have always written stories, poems, articles, reports and more from a very young age. I wanted to be a journalist for a long time. I spent many school holidays volunteering with media companies and publications. I combined hands on experience with a Diploma of Journalism followed by a Bachelor of Arts. I also completed a short online course on Copywriting Essentials. I have also graduated from Kate Toon’s Recipe for SEO course to hone my SEO skills. I believe in a combination of practical experience combined with study.
The more you read the more your writing will improve. Expose yourself to lots of writers, styles and subjects, offline and online. You’ll be learning but also having fun.
One book I find really useful is Words That Sell by Richard Bayan.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Katie Tilden: I like to set myself up in my cosy office with a cup of tea and a clear mind. I turn off all distractions, especially my mobile phone, and focus on the topic at hand.
I do like to mix it up occasionally and work from a local café for a couple of hours. I find it can help boost my creativity and my productivity. How much can I get done before my hot chocolate goes cold.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Katie Tilden: For me, I like to read and listen to some of history’s great orators for inspiration. Their words are powerful and highlight the power of the written and spoken word. My favourites are President Barack Obama, Sir Winston Churchill and President John F Kennedy.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Katie Tilden: Being a copywriter at this stage of my life is a conscious decision to create a flexible and rewarding working environment for me. I’m a working parent of two children, so I only have three days to fit my work into.
I love that I can schedule work around commitments at my daughter’s school and I can help out in her classroom and attend her special events. I can choose to make up the hours at night if I need.
I’m proud to be a working parent and show my daughters you can follow your passions. My children think I work at a computer writing emails but hopefully as they get older they will understand more of what I do.
I love being able to choose who I can work with and specialise in areas I enjoy and have a real interest in.
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Katie Tilden: Exercise and getting up early. It’s not always easy to get up when it’s still dark but I love getting my exercise completed early. I also love to eat my breakfast while the house is still quiet. I can check my social media, emails and online media without distraction or guilt that I’m not giving my attention to my husband or children.
That early morning quiet helps to clear my mind and focus on the day ahead and what I want to achieve.
Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Katie Tilden: I specialise in copywriting, SEO copywriting, content and business writing, blogs and articles, grant and tender writing and I love editing and proofreading all types of documents.
You can visit my website, www.twosprouts.com.au