Wanting to start your own business is a fantastic (and doable!) goal as a copywriter. It’s a major reason why many of us pursue this career—because we can increase our work-life balance and make a fantastic income.
But laying a solid foundation for your copywriting career is crucial, especially when you’re first starting out.
One of the best ways to get the foundation you want?
Working at an agency or on an in-house marketing team.
Going on staff for a year or two—or taking a contract role for a couple of months—allows you to do four major things that can help launch your freelance career
1. Strengthen your copywriting.
Constant feedback does two things: it makes your writing better and it builds a thick skin.
I’ll never forget my first creative review. It was in a tiny conference room packed with people: product manager, copy manager, marketing coordinator, and others I’m forgetting (probably because I didn’t understand their roles at the time!). What I don’t forget is walking out of the room realizing I’d have to rewrite the entire project.
But I did. And it came out 1000% better than the first draft (as it always does!).
When you work in an office, you work directly with creative professionals who have been doing this for decades. They’ll push your brainstorming, copywriting, and collaboration skills to the next level.
You’ll also learn to look at copy from different angles. Maybe the product manager has data on a particular word choice not performing well. Maybe the creative director has seen a similar concept before and wants you to push it to a new place.
The skills you learn from your peers and mentors will only increase your chances of success as you look to launch your own business. You’ll understand why creative teams make certain choices based on client needs and gain exposure to ideas and tactics that may never have crossed your mind otherwise.
It’s invaluable knowledge that you’ll be able to pass on to your own clients.
2. Improve your ability to concept and collaborate with designers.
Hello, portfolio pieces!
Starting your career in an office can provide you with high-quality pieces to fill your portfolio. Depending on the company and your role, you may even come away with pieces from different clients and across formats (banner ads, webpages, emails, etc.).
More important than the pieces themselves, however, is understanding the project process. It’s easy as copywriters to want to get a project, sit down at our computers, and type out a final draft on the first shot.
But that’s a surefire way to create sub-par copy.
Instead, you want to come up with a few concepts with the designer first, and narrow those ideas down before writing copy for your best one (or two). While you’ll certainly want to approach copywriting this way when you start your business, it’s arguably easier to build good habits in a structure office setting. You’ll then be better equipped to direct the creative process when the time comes.
You may also get to work with multiple designers, helping you understand how you can most effectively collaborate with different work styles.
3. Increase your understanding of marketing as a whole.
Depending on the size of the company and its structure, you’ll work closely with any number of roles. Beyond creative team members, you may work with project managers, developers, marketing coordinators, strategists, analysts, user-experience designers, and more.
Getting a feel for what each role does and how they fit together will give you a more holistic understanding of marketing. This will help you better understand your prospective clients’ challenges and greatest opportunities, allowing you to create extra-effective client pitches when you’re running your business.
You may even interact directly with your agency’s clients or internal stakeholders. This will help you understand what they’re looking for and why. Getting into their mindset further allows you to hone your ability to offer exactly what clients need.
It may also offer insight into what types of clients you want to work with and how you want to position your business.
Do you want to work with B2B clients? Are you surprised by how much you ended up liking a particular industry? Is focusing solely on digital really the way to go?
You may get clarity on some of your questions, or challenge preconceived notions, that will help you make more intentional decisions when you do strike out on your own.
4. Build valuable relationships with industry pros.
It’s much easier to build a copywriting business when you already have a short list of industry connections. Working in an office gives you daily access to a group of people who can help you grow your career.
When you do leave the organization, you have an entire team ready to write you glowing reviews and recommendations. The creative team, as well as the project managers, marketing coordinators, and more, are a built-in network that can connect you with opportunities from their own networks.
And, just like you aren’t staying at an office forever, neither are your colleagues. When they move to a new job and need freelance help, who do you think they’ll think of?
Thinking of all my current clients, I can trace back all of them to a former colleague I worked with in an office. Some of my clients are former colleagues and, while some clients have several degrees of separation from former colleagues, they’re all connected.
A strong personal network is hugely beneficial for getting opportunities sent to you.
Sure, working in an office may be a more traditional 9-to-5 role than you ultimately want. But not all agencies and in-house marketing are as rigid as in other industries.
And remember: it’s temporary. Think of it as one step (or, more accurately, leap!) toward your long-term goal.
Your turn! Have
you worked at an agency or on an in-house marketing team? How did that help
your copywriting career? Let us know in the comments below!