Interview With Fiona Gardiner On How To Design Your Life With Freelance Copywriting

Haris: Hi Fiona, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting? Please, tell us more about your story.

Fiona: My start in copywriting was very random and it’s accurate to say I “fell” into it. I left my last corporate role at the end of 2017 and planned on taking the Christmas holidays to re-evaluate my career.

I had a list of requirements:  work from home part-time as I have a 2-year-old son, do something I enjoyed which utilised my skills and experience in sales and marketing, get paid well and have flexibility. Not too much to ask surely??

As I was pondering my list of demands, my best friend asked me to help with some content marketing for her business, and while I was doing this I also saw a 1-day a week copywriter job advert in a women’s business forum. It reinforced there was a real demand for this kind of contract work and I started to consider the option of freelancing for several companies instead of having one full time job and employer.

I will be honest and admit I googled “copywriting” to find out exactly what it entailed. I mean I knew what it was……but just to be sure. I was relieved to discover I had been doing this type of work in all my previous roles and was no stranger to creating marketing content. So, decision made- I was going to become a copywriter.

Haris: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job? What’s your best piece of advice to someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?

Fiona: My transition to copywriting was like a Disneyland roller coaster, on one hand I was so excited to find a career that fit my needs- how lucky was I? but then I would get a reality check and think “What am I doing????”. However, as I was already in between jobs I was lucky to have time and space to focus on my new career with no distractions.

The best thing I did was sign up for an online copywriting course at Australian Writers Centre to learn effective writing tips and tricks, industry knowledge and to gain confidence in my skills. Writing is a craft and the more you know about it the better you get. I would highly recommend people doing some kind of course, no matter how much experience you have. You will always learn something that will make you a better writer.

My other advice would be to start getting work straight away.

Don’t wait for everything in your business to be set up and perfect. I am still working on my branding and website 5 months in, but getting actual work is the best way to learn and get valuable experience under your belt.

This is the stuff that really matters.

Haris: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?

Fiona: I am very lucky in having an extensive professional and personal network, I have so far relied on organic growth which has come about through word of mouth from ex-colleagues and friends who are business owners. They all know me, my work ethic and trust me to do the job well.

It’s quite astonishing how much writing work is out there. I recommend reaching out to everyone you know, via LinkedIn, emails and phone calls, as well as letting all your acquaintances know what you are up to whenever you see them.

I have had 2 personal introductions to friends of friends who own successful marketing agencies which has resulted in regular paid work.

My next step is signing up to copywriting websites; including copify.com and freelancesuccess.com.au for more online work, as well as advertising locally via newspaper and business networks to assist small business owners in my community.

Haris: How do you prepare for a writing session?

Fiona: I always take a detailed brief and make sure I have all the information I need from my client before starting any work on the piece. It’s important to have a good understanding of what the client’s expectations are to avoid unnecessary re-writes and any angst. Then I structure the article, figuring out the benefits or topics I need to focus on and what research is required for each. Once I have finished my research and have a good understanding of the topic, that’s when I start writing. Most importantly though I need to have a hot cup of tea next to me.

Haris: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?

Fiona: I have been working in sales and marketing for over 15 years, writing proposals, business emails, and brochures has always been a part of that, so I picked up a fair bit of knowledge on the job as well as working with various marketing consultants. As I said above I found the AWC online course invaluable, as well as the books “Words that Sell” by Richard Bayan and “Triggers” by Joseph Sugarman.

I signed up to Copybloggers.com and Marie Forleo’s blog (author of a copywriting course called Copy Cure) to have access to their treasure trove of articles and tips on copywriting.

My best teacher though has been while on the job and receiving feedback from my clients. One of the marketing agencies I did work for, have a more journalistic approach with different writing techniques required, I found this extremely educational and it led me to do another course at AWC- Newspaper and Magazine Writing.

Haris: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?

Fiona: I am only now starting to fully appreciate the craft of copywriting and paying more attention to all the copy around me. I can’t say I have a favourite copywriter, but I do enjoy analyzing conceptual advertising copy as I find this so clever and concise.

Haris: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?

Fiona:

There is a lot of freedom with working from home and setting your own hours, which is great particularly when you have young kids. It’s also an extremely interesting job, you learn so much about your client’s businesses and their different industries that you had no idea about before. It’s ever changing and keeps me on my toes.

Haris: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?

Fiona: I like to write a list each day and prioritise my tasks based on the work projects I have. As a copywriter the worst thing you can ever do is miss a deadline, so I make sure I get stuck in to my most urgent tasks first thing in the morning, leaving no room to procrastinate.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, it can be hard to think of what you want to write or find inspiration. I find that if I write something, no matter how rough, I can come back to edit later and its usually not as bad as I had imagined. I feel much better having made some headway on the job and often your first thoughts and ideas are very workable.

Haris: 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?

Fiona: My passion is to help small and medium sized business owners connect to their target market, clearly convey their benefits and solutions to the clients and increase revenue. This usually entails a mixture of website content, SEO articles, Blog posts, EDMs and social media. The best way to get in touch is through LinkedIn –  or email fiona@fionagardiner.com.au.

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