12 easy steps to wordsmithing success
Welcome. Have a seat. I see there are a lot of you here today, so let’s thin the herd with a quick endurance test.
Scenario! You are at a party with a drink in hand. It appears you’ve struck up a conversation with another human because that is what humans do in situations like this. Proud of you, champ.
Human: …so I decided to launch my glitterbomb Kickstarter, and the rest is history! HAHAHAHAHAHA. So, what do you do?
You: I’m a copywriter.
Human: Oh, cool! How does copyright law work, anyway? I’ve always wondered.
You: No, I creatively construct words and phrases in an effort to get someone to take action.
Human: Like legal action! Got it.
You: [dying inside] Advertising. It’s a lot like Mad Men, except not at all.
You will have this exact conversation a lot. Still want in? Outstanding. Welcome to Intro to Copywriting, you magnificent idiot.
Be born and decide that words are fun.
Hearing, reading, and telling stories is a blast for you. “Once upon a time…” is one of your favorite phrases. You enjoy the surprising boost in self esteem that comes with writing a delicious sentence. You’re on your way and not at all doomed.
Go to school a little bit.
Initially pick a major like Accounting or Education before realizing that balance sheets and kids are equally the worst. Choose a concentration (any concentration) that will allow you to graduate. When you do, stop going to school forever.
Write all the time.
This is more important than your college major. Employers say they’re looking for concentrations like Marketing, Advertising, Journalism, English, or the wonderfully vague Related Field, but that’s only because “Be Good At Writing Words” is not yet a college major. And to be good at writing words, you must write words.
Go on job interviews.
There are two pieces of advice I can give you as you try to convince an Actual Adult to hire you. One: Be yourself. Two: Be passionate and proud of your work.
If you do that and don’t get an offer, it’s not the right place for you. Chin up. Keep going. And of course, research the company, make eye contact, firm handshake and all that. Oh, and ban cover letters and focus on your portfolio. Can’t emphasize that enough.
(By the way, it doesn’t matter if something you wrote got just two reads, and one of them came from your mom. If you love what you wrote, don’t be ashamed that no one saw it. Be proud that you wrote it.)
Get a foot in the door at a place that underpays or undervalues you.
Maybe you’re like me and you start by writing unpaid articles for “exposure” (cha-ching!) for a now-defunct sports website. Whatever it is, you’ll have at least one bad writing job.
And that’s good! Bad jobs are like bad relationships. You need one to be able to recognize when you have something worth sticking with.
Get a great job at a place that appreciates you.
How can you tell when you’ve accomplished this? Easy: You used to dread going to work. Now you’re excited for it.
Ask them for help when you need it and gladly give some of your own. Your writing will always be better if you’re not a lone wolf.
Take credit from time to time but give credit all the time. The whole group’s collaboration skills will skyrocket. Besides, if you took care of Step 6, your work will be noticed more than you think.
Never stop learning.
Reading equals growth. A few recommendations to get you started:
Creativity, Inc. Collaborate better.
The War of Art. Procrastinate worse.
Ogilvy on Advertising. Possibly priceless.
Procrastinate. Forget. Get stuck.
You are not a writer unless you spend a shocking amount of your life neglecting Step 3.
Receive brutal feedback. Have an identity crisis.
Why are you in this industry? A monkey could do your job. Well, maybe not a monkey. But a robot could. For sure. They’re so advanced now. It’d probably remember to do its time sheets on the daily, too. You suck a lot.
Rebound and absolutely crush it.
Procure a microphone so you can drop it. You were born for this.
Repeat steps 9 through 11 until you retire or die.
Hi, I’m Luke. I’m a professional copywriter. If you ever want to talk about how to get into it, just tweet me on the Twitter at @trukelayser.
Did you enjoy this story? First, thank you! Second, read this one about getting your foot in the door in the writing world. Best of luck out there.