Haris: Hi Deanna, 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.
Deanna: I was working as an Accounting Manager at an event marketing agency when I received a letter from an organization called the American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). It said if I could write a letter like the one I was reading, I could make six figures as a copywriter.
Six figures! I had always wanted to be a writer, but I never thought I could make a decent living at it. A six-figure income was more than decent! And all I had to do was write a letter?
I was SO in!
Ordering their six-figure copywriting course, I threw myself into learning how to write direct response copy. At the same time, I saved up some money to tide me over until the copywriting jobs started rolling in. And, when I had squirreled away enough, I quit my job.
Big mistake. It turns out that few of the prospects I contacted had heard of AWAI – and they weren’t particularly jumping at the chance to hire a newbie copywriter who had no samples or experience. No one would even give me a chance. With my bank account rapidly draining away, I had to take a part-time bookkeeping gig to keep a roof over my head and food on my table.
At that point, I felt like a failure.
I was seriously considering quitting and getting a “real job” when I met a copywriter named John online.
It was John who told me about master copywriter Clayton Makepeace. And, after he was hired by Clayton, it was John who encouraged me and even pushed me to apply for a staff copywriter position at Clayton’s agency.
Without any samples – other than what I wrote for my AWAI course – I landed the job. Oh, I had to jump through some copywriting hoops, but Clayton took a chance on me. I ended up spending three years working for and learning from him.
Haris: What advice do you have for someone who has a job and wants to transition to freelance copywriting?
Deanna: I already mentioned transitioning to freelance copywriting from my Accounting Manager job and how well that went!
Don’t do it like I did. No, really. Don’t. If I was to start over again, I would have taken some copywriting jobs on the side while still working a full-time job.
However, when I left Clayton’s agency to launch out on my own, I had a totally different experience. While working for Clayton, I made a ton of connections in the industry. And, of course, once those prospects knew who trained me, they were eager to hire me.
Those years I spent writing for Clayton jump-started my copywriting career. No doubt about that.
If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend finding a mentor or staff copywriting job. It will put you light years ahead when you go freelance.
Haris: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Deanna: When I first launched my freelance business, my clients came from connections I made while working for Clayton. Plus, I’ve had many clients find me through my website or Linked-in page.
I’ve also used Linked-in to search for the people who hire freelancers for the companies I’m interested in. Plus, I’ve established relationships with other copywriters and web designers to encourage referrals.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been to AWAI’s annual boot camp, but I hear it’s a great resource for copywriters. You can network with other copywriters and presenters – which can eventually lead to work. Plus, AWAI has a job fair at the boot camp that can offer many opportunities.
Haris: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Deanna: I got my start learning to write copy with AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Plus, I’ve taken Clayton Makepeace’s copywriting course, which is now available through AWAI.
But, where I really learned to write copy was in Clayton’s agency. Working with Clayton, his wife Wendy, and the other copywriters on staff was the absolute best learning experience I could have ever had.
While I highly recommend the Six-Figure Copywriting course, Clayton’s course, and courses offered by copywriter Bob Bly, nothing beats working with a mentor. It truly accelerates the learning experience.
Haris: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Deanna: Research, research, and more research!
I like to dig and find those rare nuggets of information that most people don’t know. I can build my theme around them – or use them to boost credibility. Plus, research helps me wrap my head around a project and get a strong vision for it. I won’t start writing until I’ve spent some time burying myself in research.
Here’s a tip for free: To keep my research organized, I use an affordable software called Scrivener. It’s popular with novelists, because it allows you to keep all your information in one place. When you open Scrivener for your project, your research is kept in easily accessible folders on the left side of the page. It makes it so easy to find information and pull it into your copy.
Haris: Who’s your favorite copywriter or favorite piece of copywriting?
Deanna: Clayton Makepeace is my favorite copywriter. No surprises there! He’s been writing for decades, and I’m always blown away by the way he expresses ideas. A couple of my favorites are the “7 Horsemen of the Coming Stock Market Apocalypse” and “Shameless, Two-Faced S.O.B.s” promos he wrote for Weiss Research.
Haris: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter?
Deanna: I love being a freelancer. To some extent, I have control over my own schedule. Deadlines can throw a wrench into the works at times, but I never have to get permission from a boss to run a quick errand or get my hair cut. And, if I’m between projects, I can work on my book without worrying about co-workers ratting me out. (I write middle-grade fiction under the pen name Bailey Baxter.)
I can also work from anywhere. I’ve set up office at my stepsister’s home in England and in a house I rented on the beach. As long as I have internet and make my deadlines, clients truly don’t care where I am.
The freedom and flexibility are great. Downsides are the “feast or famine” cycle so many writers face… spending time drumming up work instead of writing… and chasing down clients who are late with payments.
Haris: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Deanna: I treat my freelance career as a real job. I get up early, shower, get dressed, and go to work in my home office. I keep a regular work schedule, which helps me stay focused and get things done.
Haris: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?