I asked this question myself a few years ago.
After freelance writing for blogs, newspapers, and magazines for a years, I slowly started to transition to writing for businesses. A previous magazine editor also owned a marketing agency, so he invited me to write for one of his clients. This client was a small jewellery shop in British Columbia, and I loved writing for them. Not only did I enjoy the topic, but the challenge. I loved getting updates on how my work reflected on their Google rankings, promotions, and social media presence. I was hooked by the results. The transformation was addicting.
After writing for them for a while, this editor said to me: You know you’re a copywriter, right?
Wait—what? I had no idea what a copywriter was. So, naturally, I Googled it. It felt pretty neat to put a fancy name to this thing I’d been doing. This label was the true beginning of my career. The point at which I took things seriously.
Google told me that copywriters focus on making sales. Copywriters write for conversions. It’s not just creative, pretty writing, but a mix of psychology, sales, persuasion, creativity, formulas, and unique positioning. It’s connecting with the reader in a really special way that encourages action. I wanted more.
With my newfound title, I wanted to make this thing legit, so I looked up university programs that would teach me everything I needed to know for a real go at this. I settled on the University of Calgary, studying marketing and public relations with a heavy focus on writing. My courses included copywriting, copyediting, book publishing, content marketing, social media, etc. I learned so much in those few years, all while still freelancing. When I graduated, I was totally ready to go all in and made the full-time jump into my copywriting business.
Since then, I continue to study, both self-study through books, following all the greats and reverse engineering, experimenting with new techniques, and enrolling in digital programs. I’m literally obsessed with what I do, but it’s okay because copywriting requires this dedication though if you want to be one of the best in the field.
Psst… I wrote an entire blog post about the skills found in copywriters, including tips to become a better copywriter.
Which leads to the next question… What does a copywriter do?
I write conversion copy for private clients. My clients tend to identify as creative types, wellness experts, online business owners, outdoor brands, and lifestyle. However, I also have worked with insurance agencies, bookkeepers, engineers, health care, mining, etc. These clients are typically located in Canada, the United States, and Australia—an even split between the three countries.
In general, copywriters work in marketing and advertising, writing copy that persuades readers to act in some way: Sign up for the email list, join the program, or purchase a service, for example.
Note: Copywriting is different from content writing.
My area of expertise begins with brand messaging. This includes core aspects of a brand like its mission, vision, and values. I help with elevator pitches and identifying the ideal target avatar a business wants to connect with. I write value propositions, nail down unique positioning points in order to stand out in a saturated market, and help with voice of customer research. As a copywriter, I help develop a brand voice for clients that feels authentic to them and resonates with their ideal clients. Brand personalities, style, and tone, are all part of my messaging work before writing any copy. Content categories, social media bios, brand best practices—these are all important components of a brand that a copywriter helps create.
Next, there’s brand storytelling. Good copywriters understand the need to outline a compelling story for every brand they work with. What’s the hook? What’s the lesson learned? What can ideal clients count on this business to deliver?
Copywriters summarize all this foundational work into brand messaging guides, which essentially are rule books for how a business acts as a whole. I give this analogy often: If I have a meal at a restaurant, I can probably tell you what ingredients are in the meal from taste. However, I can’t recreate that exact dish without a recipe.
After completing a comprehensive brand messaging guide, the next typical flow for my clients is to audit and improve or write their website copy, so that it reflects the messaging. Website copy is crucial to converting eyes from other places like social media into raving fans of your business.
The natural step for a client moving through my copywriting services is to write copy for their upcoming launch. This could be simply that they want to plan a launch of their new website complete with a fresh lead magnet and email sequence. It could be larger scale, launching a new offer alongside the new website. I work with my private clients to help them strategize, outline, and create all the copy for their upcoming launch. All they need to do is plug it in and turn on the traffic.
Potential deliverables included in launch copywriting packages:
Lead magnet and landing page
Email sequences: nurture sequence and/or sales sequence
Search engine optimized blog packages
Social media consultations
Like any career, there’s a huge range in the earning potential for copywriters. Average copywriters will make an average salary, probably around $50k per year in Canada, according to salary tracking websites like this one. However, skilled copywriters can make a lot more than that. My income already exceeds that average this year.
The key to earning more as a copywriter is twofold: Become a damn good copywriter that delivers actual results. Then sell those results well to higher paying clients. Also, value-based pricing is always the way to go. Why? Here’s an example for you. If a copywriter writes a sales page and launch emails that bring in $500k in sales from a single launch, I sure hope that copywriter is paid more than $50k annually because the value they bring in is worth more.
Of course, we’ve come to the question of: Why hire a copywriter? It’s tough to balance all the things as a business owner, solopreneur, or freelancer. How do you know what you choose to outsource is the best next step for you? Here’s when and why you should hire a copywriter…
I typically suggest that businesses hire a copywriter after they’ve made a few sales. Prove your product or service first, then bring in the experts to help you make even more sales and really grow your business. This is because when we’re new to business, our products and services are likely to shift drastically over time as we learn what works and doesn’t work for ourselves and clients. I would hate to write website copy for a client that needs to change in 6 months because they pivoted from the original plan.
Instead, I recommend learning the basics of copywriting in the early days, taking courses to improve (like my course: Client Attraction Academy!), and once you have consistent sales coming in, outsource your copy to someone who can help you level up.
Of course, if you really don’t think you can do it alone and just need some help, it’s okay to hire a copywriter when you’re new to business. Just know that your direction might shift and that’s okay!
If you want to grow your business, hire a copywriter. If you want to nail down your messaging and really stand out from the competition, hire a copywriter. If you want to launch a new offer in a way that’s compelling, strategic, and attracts dream clients, hire a copywriter. Need I go on?
Essentially, only hire a copywriter if you want to make more sales online. If you like the level you’re currently at, then don’t hire a copywriter.
If you’re ready to hire a copywriter, start by finding someone who you respect. Who really seems to know what they’re talking about? Which copywriters give off a vibe that you want to work with? Even in business, I look for personalities that click, along with the skills and results to match.
And of course, consider your copywriter’s areas of expertise. Not all copywriters write all copy. It’s up to you to ask the necessary questions to determine if this person is a good fit for your current needs.
Next, if you’re hoping to contract an independent copywriter, think of them as an expert you can trust to guide you through the process, rather than an employee that needs to be managed. As a business owner, I take the stress off my clients’ shoulders. They come to me because they know that the experience will be easy, clear, and that I can keep a project on track to launch on time. I confidently offer recommendations, give direction for the overall project, create the outlined deliverables by deadlines, and consult as needed for the business’ marketing strategy as a whole—all with little involvement needed from clients aside from gathering information and receiving feedback.
If you’d rather take control of the entire process, it’s probably a better idea to hire a full-time in house copywriter to help you.
Now if you go the route of finding a self-employed copywriter, it’s likely that they have a process to help both of you determine if it’s a good fit. For example, leads find my website and complete my contact form. From there, my client management software automatically sends information to these leads, including a bit about my process, past experience, and starting points for popular packages. This information helps the lead decide if they want to move to the next stage, which is a discovery call.
While on the call, we both have the chance to ask each other questions and get to know each other. At the end of the call, if I think the person is a good fit, I ask them: Would you like me to create a proposal for you? If they say yes, I know that we’ve made a good connection.
The proposal outlines all project details. I send this along with a contract. When they accept the proposal and sign the contract, my system also populates their deposit due on the attached invoice. They are added to my calendar after the deposit is received.
There’s so much to learn about the world of copywriting. If you’re in the stage of DIYing your copy, but aren’t sure where to start, check out my free 4 Steps to Profit course. This 4-day course includes video tutorials, templates, and exercises to improve your copywriting skills and start getting more clients online.
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