The concept of “experience” for copywriters can be a bit tricky: Adequate experience for one project might not be enough for another. And just what constitutes ”experience”, anyway? Is it years? Types of projects? Let’s break it all down.
Experience is made up of a combination of knowledge and practice. You gain a base level of knowledge first through training, you practice by writing copy for spec ads and small business clients, and your knowledge naturally increases as you practice. As you get more practice, you can land larger clients if you so choose. (But you may find you love working with small business clients, too! And there are plenty clients of all sizes that are willing and able to pay your rates.).
At the most basic level, you need enough experience to be able to help your client. And when I say help, I mean really and truly provide useful service.
That means that clients who have less complicated needs and less general marketing expertise will benefit from you first. Even without a great deal of experience, you can be of service to most small businesses.
As you acquire more experience, you can broaden your client base to include solopreneurs (who tend to be more savvy about marketing than typical small business owners), design studios, and then in-house agencies and ad/marketing agencies.
You Can Get Started in Months or Even Weeks
So, how much experience do you need? Not a ton for your first group of clients. Depending on how much time you have to devote to practicing copywriting, you may do this in as little as a few weeks or a couple of months.
Others may decide they want to spend more time practicing before pitching. Or, you may be building up your copywriting business alongside a full-time job and decide to pace yourself to ensure you avoid burnout.
Once you have a handful (~5) of spec pieces that reflect your abilities, you can start pitching. But other copywriters decide to start pitching before their portfolio is live! It’s really a personal decision. You can certainly pitch smaller businesses that may not ask for a portfolio.
But also, as you build your experience, you need to make sure you stay focused on building your portfolio and populating it with great work across a broad range of clients and media.
Your portfolio proves that you know what you’re doing. It showcases your skills and talent without you having to lift a finger. Even if you don’t have much experience, clients and hiring managers may be willing to take a chance on you if you’ve got a portfolio that shows that you’re a superstar.
If, however, you’re trying to land an ad agency job, you need more than just a few months’ worth of experience. But you don’t need more than that to start landing clients and start building your career so that that ad agency job can eventually be yours.
And don’t worry about looking only for entry-level jobs. One brand-new writer went on to land a senior copywriter role soon after starting in his new career!
On episode 14 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are talking about how soon you can make money as a copywriter. As you can imagine, there are as many timelines for becoming a copywriter as there are copywriters! So, instead of giving a b-s answer, Nicki and Kate share the factors you need to consider when figuring out your own personal timeline.
Copywriting is real career training and not a get-rich-quick scheme! While some trainings may say you can make six figures in a week working your pajamas, that’s not actually true. You can absolutely make six figures as a copywriter—here’s how to figure out what may influence your timing.
What’s your biggest “experience” stumbling block? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on September 23, 2023