How To Become A Copywriter (With NO Experience Or Portfolio)
If you’d like to know how to become a copywriter (with no experience), you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’ll share a bit of my story, and explain exactly how to get started copywriting.
In October 2012, I quit my job and became a freelance copywriter.
While things moved slowly at first, I now make plenty of money (more than enough to live in Sydney, Australia – one of the most expensive cities in the world), but the funny thing is, I don’t live there anymore.
You see, I built my freelance copywriting business using the internet while living, working and traveling around the world. Instead of sales calls and face-to-face meetings, I used email and Skype to forge relationships and build a brand that has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars (for myself and my clients).
And despite rarely meeting clients in person, they all pay my high fees for email copywriting.
If you ask me where I live, my answer will change depending upon when you ask me (ah, the joys of knowing how to copywrite).
12 months ago, I was in Medellín, Colombia.
9 months ago, I was in San Diego, to speak at Traffic and Conversion Summit (one of the top digital marketing conferences in the world).
2 weeks after that, I was in Berlin.
And so on…
On top of generating hundreds of thousand of dollars for my clients while traveling and living in stunning locations around the world, I’m an electronic dance music producer, salsa dancer, avid reader, and I LOVE learning about futuristic technologies.
So, life is good.
Why do I mention all this?
To show you the amazing possibilities that come with being a copywriter.
Gone are the old ways…
If you don’t want a job, you don’t have to have a job.
If you learn how to copywrite like I did, you’ll be able to enjoy the same freedom I do.
If you don’t want to buy into society’s script, then don’t.
Realize that living life different is not impossible.
Copywriting as a career is simply a choice.
A choice to be different. To strike out on your own. To take the “path less traveled” through the woods.
You CAN live your dream life.
You CAN travel the world, build a business, find the love of your life, read books, write books, or anything else. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre, average life if you don’t want to.
And while there’s a lot of hard work, I’ve gotta say…
…it’s totally worth it:
Who’s that, you wonder?
That’s me – in a space suit – with Richard Branson (the founder of Virgin) – dressed up as a flight attendant – at a private party on Necker Island (Branson’s private island). I wrote about that in a different post (including the curious fact of women’s makeup on Richard Branson’s face):
Anyhow, in a blog post titled How To Write Sales Copy, Blake asks about how to become a copywriter:
“I am very keen to learn how to become a freelance copywriter but I have no experience. Can you perhaps provide some guidance on a good place to start? How did you get started with writing copy and have you completed any courses etc?”
In a nutshell, Blake wants to know how to be a copywriter.
What Do Copywriters Do?
Copywriting is salesmanship in print.
That is, instead of a salesman selling a product or service, you have words… words on a page, in an ad or email, on a billboard, and so on.
Copywriters are paid to create those words. They’re professional writers (in fact, they’re among the highest paid writers on the planet).
Copywriters can write for anyone. There are digital copywriters, corporate copywriters, freelance copywriters, weight loss copywriters, and so on.
It helps to specialize, so keep that in mind as you work on your copywriting career.
Below, I’ll explain exactly how to get started as a copywriter. Follow the process and you can replace your job, move to wherever the hell you want and live life on your terms.
This will be quick.
The secret to becoming a copywriter even if you have ZERO experience is…
…there is no secret.
You need TWO things:
- Mad skillz
Intrigued? Read on…
#1 – You Need Mad Copy Skillz
(be able to write copy that converts)
First, you gotta be good.
Here’s the thing –
You don’t need ANY experience to get started. HOWEVER, before you can get clients, you’ll need to practice and hone your chops and generate your own experience. No client with deep pockets is going to pay a complete beginner.
But herein lies the amazing thing about freelance copywriting:
You don’t need ANY experience to get started. You simply need some discipline, grit and persistence, plus – as you’ll hear about in a moment – a proven process to developing your copywriting chops.
In other words, the copywriter education requirements (or qualifications) are ZERO.
No college required.
No resumé or fancy piece of paper required.
Hell, I didn’t even finish high school… so if I can figure out how to become a copywriter without experience, without a college or university degree, without even finishing high school…
…you can definitely make it happen.
So if degrees and qualifications aren’t required, what makes a good copywriter?
However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to work hard.
As a professional copywriter, you’ll be responsible for making your clients money. The better you are at what you do, the more money you can make for your clients. If you’re a bad copywriter, your clients won’t make money and therefore you won’t. If you’re good (or OUTSTANDING), your earning potential is virtually unlimited (ask any salesman).
So while you don’t need a degree or qualification to do copywriting as a career, you DO need to practice and learn how to write good copy.
But given the amazing benefits – setting your own schedule, traveling, increasing your income as desired – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth investing the time and effort in your copywriting career to become great.
The question is:
How do you become a SHIT HOT creative copywriter with no experience, and quickly?
How do you learn how to write copy fast?
You follow a proven process that works.
I used Gary Halbert’s approach. I suggest you do the same. Forget about everything else… and follow Gary’s strategy to learn copywriting. That’s all you need.
Note: If want to follow the exact process I followed, check out CopyHour. Just click here to get the deetz on CopyHour.
The crux of the strategy is writing out old-school sales letters by hand. Yes, with a PEN and PAPER! I know… it sounds crazy. We have wonderful, time-saving computers… why would anyone waste their time writing old-school sales letter out by hand?
One reason – because they’re committed to becoming a good sales copywriter.
I compiled 10 old-school sales letters and direct response ads into a .ZIP file. Download the 10 old-school sales letters here. (opens in a new window)
The basic strategy is simple, but it requires hard work. Set aside an hour a day and write sales letters out for that entire hour. Do it every day. Day after day. If you need a break, skip Sundays. Track your progress in a spreadsheet.
Dan Kennedy, currently one of the world’s highest paid copywriters, has written out at least 500 sales letters by hand. Ramit Sethi swears by this method, and credits it with his mad copywriting skillz (his latest product was $12k). Gary Halbert encourages his son Bond to do it in The Boron Letters.
I’ve written about 85 old-school sales letters out by hand. And I did it while living in the Philippines and Thailand, so there is no reason you can’t do it. No time? Wake up an hour earlier.
(It doesn’t have to be hard. Instead of spending hours searching for good sales letters, sign up to CopyHour and just focus on writing copy.)
Almost every successful copywriter has used this method.
f you want to know how to become a copywriter quickly, this is it.
My guess is that it trains the subconscious mind.
But that’s beside the point.
I did it because the goo-roos kept saying to do it.
I like the strategy because it requires hard work. It requires you to sit at a desk, with a pen and paper, and write for one hour. In the information age, complete with computers, most people are too lazy do something so archaic and stone-age.
“How silly!”, they think.
Since it’s hard work, most people won’t do it. Therefore, if I do it, I have an instant advantage over most people. You will too… IF you use the strategy.
Along with writing out sales letters, there are a number of specific books you need to read. All these books are recommended by Gary Halbert. I hate overwhelm, so don’t worry about reading all the books on his list at once. Start with the follow three books, read in this order:
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
- The Gary Halbert Letter by Gary Halbert
David Ogilvy, one of advertising’s greats, was writing about Scientific Advertising when he said the following:
“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”
#2 – You Need Copywriting Clients
Once you have your mad skillz, you need to get paid. To get paid, you need to get clients (related: How To Get Copywriting Clients).
Cold calling, cold emails and advertising are all popular methods of finding clients.
But talk about inefficient…
Go ahead and cold call if you wish. It works, but there is a far better way to go about it.
So let’s talk about my approach to finding to so many freelance copywriter jobs that you have to turn people away.
How To Get A Job As A Copywriter
Think of it as strategic networking.
First, pick a target prospect. At a bare minimum, your target prospect must have money to spend and must understand the value of good marketing.
Next, find someone who has an audience full of those prospects. An influencer. This could be someone with a blog, a list, or in my case, a podcast.
Then, find a way to get in front of them. Essentially, offer your influencer something they want. In almost all cases, they’re looking for ways to help their audience. So what you want to do is this… help their audience solve their problems.
When I went on Dan’s podcast, I explained how we increased email subscribers by 257% by making it harder to opt in. Dan’s readers are interested in email marketing, so I helped them with their email marketing. Then I made them an offer (“Hire me to do the same for your site.”)
Tip: An easy way to break into an influencer’s world is to help them for cheap, or free. Find a problem with their site, email them the details, then offer to fix it for them in exchange for a guest post or interview.
Rewrite their sales letter or landing page. Give them some good email subject lines. Outline an autoresponder sequence. Make their blog convert better.
There’s no perfect way to do this.
Just add value.
By doing this, you can skip the cold calling and cold emails and jump to the front of the line.
It’s easier than you think, too.
You see, most people overestimate the competition.
This is a HUGE thing to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how to get into copywriting.
Most people (ie. YOUR competitors) assume that an influencer is hounded by people like this. Yes and no. Yes, they receive a lot of requests for this type of thing, but most of those requests suck. Most of those requests are entirely focused on the person sending the email, not the influencer’s problems. That will never work. When you contact influencers, solve their problems and don’t for a second talk about yourself unless it’s relevant or you’re asked.
Not sure what to copywrite? Use my email template:
Getting copywriting clients isn’t rocket science 🙂
The trick is being friendly, offering value WITHOUT asking for anything (especially in the first email), and making it personal.
If they reply, see if you can help them some more. And if they have a podcast, offer to share some more tips and strategies on their podcast.
BONUS TIP: Find A Copywriting Agency
Instead of hunting for copywriting jobs yourself, one idea is to hook up with a copywriting agency and have them send you their work.
Often, agencies will outsource copywriting projects to freelance copywriters (both offline and online copywriting). Getting agencies on board is one of the fastest and easiest ways to go about starting a copywriting business.
How can you land one of these positions?
- Make a list of all the online marketing agencies in your city or town
- Go into their office and introduce yourself as a copywriter looking for freelance work (visiting them in person is best, however, you can also try emailing them or cold calling them)
- Follow up
The agencies may or may not be a copywriting agency. They might do web design, or paid traffic advertising. The key is finding agencies that have people who might need your services. It’s easy for a web design agency to upsell people with copywriting, because everyone with a website needs good copywriting.
Want more templates? Post a comment below with your template requests, and I’ll update this post.
. . .
That’s it – that’s how you become a six-figure freelance copywriter (even if you have no experience).
Easy? Hell no.
Props to ya if you go and do it!
I wrote a post about how to copywrite for your copywriter career on CopyHour. Click here to read it.
P.S. If you want to know why Gary Halbert called himself the world’s best copywriter (and got away with it), read this.
P.P.S. UPDATE: I made a video about how to get into copywriting with no experience: