There are a lot of variables and flexibility in copywriting, which is part of what makes it such an appealing career for people who love to write. But I can also tell you that over the course of my 20+ years in the industry (and from making my own mistakes…so many mistakes!), there are also certain inescapable truths. Here, for your learning pleasure, are eight common copywriting mistakes and what you can learn from them.
Copywriting Law #1: ABP
You’re probably familiar with the ABC scene in David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which he explains that ABC stands for “always be closing.” ABP is similar: It stands for “always be prospecting.” No matter how much work you have coming in, no matter how busy you are, you have to Always. Be. Prospecting.
No one is going to bring work to you—at least not in the beginning. The only way to avoid a work dry spell is to make sure you’re prospecting all year long. Whenever we hear from copywriters who say, “I had so much work, but now I don’t have any work,” it’s because they stopped pitching.
Pitching (or not pitching!) in April is going to impact your work in June and July (and maybe even May). Pitching in September is going to impact your work in late October, November, and December. You need to look ahead and plan for your future, not just your present.
Luckily, it’s not quite as hard as most people think it is. Set up a system and follow through. ABP.
Copywriting Law #2: You Will Work Weekends
No, you won’t work every weekend. In fact, you might not work most of them or any weekends. But at some point, you’re going to be up against a deadline, and there’s a chance that the only way to hit that deadline is to work over the weekend.
To be clear: You must always hit your deadlines. There’s no better way to make your work dry up and your career tank than by missing your deadlines.
You might not have to work many (or any) weekends if you set your deadlines right (remember: you’re working with your clients to set deadlines based on your schedule and theirs). But if you have to work weekends, you will. Because you always hit your deadlines.
Copywriting Law #3: You’re Only as Good as Your Reputation
No matter where you live, the copywriting community is small. And if you drop the ball on projects or you’re difficult to work with, it will follow you.
Copywriting Law #4: If You Don’t Invoice, You Don’t Get Paid
A shocking number of copywriters (and creatives, in general) are behind on their invoices. Not on paying invoices, mind you, but on sending them out for work completed.
A lot of copywriters push hard to get the project done and, once it’s finished, want to relax and celebrate. They put off sending out the invoice because it’s a piddling little task that they don’t feel like doing.
And so they way a few days, a week, a month, a few months before sending their invoice out. Know what’s happening in the meantime? They’re not getting paid. On top of that, when a client gets an invoice a month later, it usually takes them longer to pay it because they have to go back and look up a closed project.
Make invoicing your automatic next step once a project is approved.
Don’t complicate this. Here’s a simple invoice template you can use >>
Really, it can be this simple. Your clients likely process this invoice immediately or forward this to a finance team. They do not care if the template is pretty or has colors or anything beyond that it has what they owe you.
Copywriting Law #5: You Will Owe the Government Money
If you’re doing any kind of freelance work, you’re invoicing and receiving the whole amount. Your client isn’t holding anything back for taxes, which means you will owe the government money. You must, must plan ahead for this.
Take 25-40% of every check and sock it away into an account you never touch except in April when it’s time to pay your bills. (Or four times a year if you pay quarterly.)
You will owe the government money. Plan for it so you don’t come up short.
Copywriting Law #6: Want to Work? Keep Your Portfolio Site Up to Date
I almost titled this one “If a Client Asks to See a Sample, It Will Be the One You Haven’t Uploaded.” Just as you’re only as good as your reputation, you’re also only as good as your portfolio.
It’s a very common bad habit among creatives to wait to upload new samples until they’re looking for a new job or a new client. And what that means is that when a great new opportunity falls in their laps, they’re completely unprepared to take advantage of it.
Keep your portfolio updated and upload new samples as soon as your client approves them.
Copywriting Law #7: Things That Seem Easy, Aren’t
From those job-bidding sites to those copywriting trainings that promise you six figures if you write online sales letters, if something seems like an easy solution with a big payoff, you’re being taken for a ride.
The only way to create a successful business is by being willing to put in the time to learn copywriting, practice your skills, prospect for new clients, and build your portfolio. It’s effort, but it’s fun effort.
All those “easy,” too-good-to-be-true solutions do is waste your time and waste your money.
Copywriting Law #8: You Have to Market Yourself Like You Market Your Clients
A lot of copywriters put in plenty of effort and skill into writing copy for their clients. But when it comes to writing their portfolio site, their LinkedIn profile, or pitches, they let things slip.
They forget to use the copywriting principles they’d use for their own clients. They flex their skills for their clients but forget to do it for themselves.
Don’t get me wrong: It can be hard to write about yourself. So, just forget you’re you. Write for yourself as if you’re your client. What is your benefit to consumer? What’s your USP? What do you bring to the table?
You need to take your own business just as seriously as those of your clients.
Want to Know About Our Biggest Copywriting Mistakes?
The best way to learn to do something (like copywriting) is to learn it from someone who’s actually done it. That includes learning from their mistakes as well as their successes. And that’s exactly what you can do by listening to this episode of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast.
Nicki and Kate dive into the biggest mistakes that they’ve made in their careers and what they could’ve done differently in each situation. Listen and learn how you can prevent yourself from making the same errors in your career! And to read more about how to burn bridges, check out our post here >>
Have you come across any laws of copywriting that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 14, 2023