When you get the itch to change your career, it fast becomes an itch that you just can’t ignore. But even with the greatest urge to do it, changing careers can seem like almost too big a task to accomplish. Luckily, the first step to becoming a copywriter isn’t so very hard at all.
Today’s question comes to us from Alice A., who asks “I really think that becoming a copywriter is the right road for me. But I can’t just leave my current job and jump into it. What’s the best way for me to get started without giving up my salary?”
Well, the great news is that the very best place to get started in your new career is right in your current job!
You know that as you dip your metaphorical toe into the copywriting waters that you’ll need to have a portfolio to show off your skills. (This is actually where most people start to panic and give up. “I don’t have a portfolio! I can’t do this!”) But the best way to start building your portfolio is in the job you’re already in.
First of all, broaden your mind: Just because something isn’t a banner ad or a spread in a glossy magazine, doesn’t mean it isn’t copywriting. What kinds of writing do you do every day? Do you write newsletter articles? Memos to the company? Flyers about company activities? Or do you ghostwrite memos and letters from your boss? Great—gather your best ones.
Even if they feel like the same-old, same-old work you always do, they’re going to be your first copywriting samples. (You won’t always have to keep these in your portfolio; as you get more work and more samples, you can cycle these out.)
Next, start looking around to see what other writing gets done in your company. If you don’t write the newsletters, who does? If it’s not your job to write the corporate bios or the press releases, whose is it? Chances are, it’s someone who would relish a little help. Offer up your services.
Let them know that you want to learn more about what they do and you’d love to help them out when they get too many projects. Be sure not to come on too strong, though—you don’t want them to think you’re gunning for their job! If you have a great boss, there may be some opportunity there, too: Let him/her know what you’d like to learn more about and see if they can help you get involved in it.
A word of caution, though: You probably don’t want to let people know that your end-game may just be to get writing samples so you can quit that pop stand and become a fabulously wealthy copywriter. Thinking in terms of “benefits to consumer,”that certainly doesn’t benefit your boss or your coworkers and they’re very unlikely to give you a hand.
I would suggest, instead, that you position doing more writing as building your base of skills so you can better succeed at your job. (Which, by the way, happens to be true. How convenient.) Then, as you start working on these projects, be sure to save your samples in print and electronic form so you’ve got them for your portfolios.
First step toward a fabulous copywriting career? Accomplished!
Your turn! How have you maximized the opportunities in your current or previous jobs to help your copywriting career? Let us know in the comments below!