Haris: Hi Helena, 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.
Helena: When I graduated University I worked for a charity where I was spectacularly poor at most of the tasks assigned to me (event planning, logistic etc…) and so realised just how important writing was to me. To feed my creativity I started my own blog which got on the Huffington Post. This led to me doing freelance projects on the side. This portfolio helped me get me a job at an e-commerce, although whilst employed I continued to maintain my freelance work, and went full time freelance shortly after (helped along by my timely redundancy.) The rest, as they say, is history.
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?
Helena: Well, like I said above, I was made redundant which made the decision pretty easy, although by this point I had the basic infrastructure of the business; a website, some paying clients etc…However, the transition was extremely challenging and I would recommend being realistic about finances i.e how much you need to earn (which is always double what you think) and how much you anticipate your income will be (always half what you hope).
So do some serious thinking and plan accordingly; if at all possible I would do it in stages: as a side income, then part and only then, finally, full time. I think that safety net is tremendously important.
Haris: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Helena: I have two main ways of getting clients. The first one is through networking – I am a member of a number of different groups and also attend digital marketing events where I can. Networking is fantastic, but it does take time and I do try and give far more than I take; if nothing else this is just good karma. The second is LinkedIn – I post fairly often and blog weekly. I work extremely hard on my blogs and have spent a great deal of time analysing what works and what doesn’t; to create a tone of voice that impacts upon my audience.
Haris: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Helena: Three shots of whiskey and a cigarette…honestly I just get cracking. I have an office space which I think helps as it gives me a dedicated space to work with little distraction, but it’s like a band aid. Rip that baby off and get started.
Haris: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Helena: Oh gosh what a question. Honestly, I did read a few books, but mainly, for me, it’s all about practicing. To be honest, writing has always been fairly easy; managing clients has always been much more of a challenge.
Haris: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Helena: Eek…can I be honest with this one?
I learn the most about writing from reading fiction and average around one book a week.
If you haven’t yet read the Unbearable Lightness of Being then I would recommend setting aside your weekend. I have also just finished Everything is Illuminated (a little late to the party) which was stunning, evocative and an example of just how powerful language can be.
Haris: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
Helena: As an avid traveler, the autonomy for me is huge. However, I must add that I genuinely enjoy networking and have met a far greater breadth of people than if I was working in the same office every day.
Haris: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Helena: Prepping my lunch – there is little in life more satisfying than having all your meals ready to rock and roll – saves time, money and keeps the waist from expanding any further.
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?
Helena: I do a huge amount of work within the B2B and property sector and am focusing more and more on LinkedIn and helping clients to use that effectively. Feel free to call me on 0208 629 6465 or drop me an email on Helena@helenabaker.com or visit my blog.