When you get the changing-your-career itch, 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, especially if you currently have a job on rely on that income. After all, we all have bills to pay!
Luckily, the first steps to becoming a copywriter aren’t as hard as you may think. There’s no need to quit your job and go all-in. I’m not a believer in the “jump and the net will appear” idea.
First, as you know you need training. Copywriting is a specialized skill and there are foundational elements you need to know before you can write it. The good news is a large majority of Comprehensive Copywriting Academy students begin learning how to write copy while they’re still at their job. (And while some have the goal of leaving their 9-to-5, others are building up a side hustle business.)
Once you have training, the even better news is the very best place to get started in your new career is right in your current job!
Build Your Portfolio At 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.
Consider the Writing You’re Already Doing
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, emails, 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.)
Look for Other Writing Opportunities in Your Company
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.
Consider How You’re Positioning Your Offer to Write Copy
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 portfolio.
First step toward a fabulous copywriting career? Accomplished!
Hear From Other Copywriters Who Changed Careers While Working a Full-Time Job
Students in the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy have all sorts of goals (there are as many goals as there are students in the program!). But many of them dream of leaving their full-time job—and do. They do so by building up their freelance client base (and a financial safety net specific to their needs!) before leaving their full-time jobs.
Hear from a few of them:
- Freelancing During the Covid-19 Pandemic – Stuart’s Story
- Changing Careers to Become a Copywriter: Adele’s Story
- How to Be a Part-Time Copywriter with a Full-Time Job – Catching up with Alicia
- Building a Copywriting Side Hustle With a Full-Time Job – Claire’s Story
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!
Last Updated on May 10, 2023
Linnea Dolan says
Love this article, it is so timely for me! I’m a CCA student and officially launched my freelance copywriting side hustle about a month ago.
Question regarding saving your pieces from your 9 to 5 to use in your copywriting portfolio. Do you need permission from someone at your company to publish those work samples in your portfolio? If so, do you have a suggested way to spin that request so you don’t sound like you’re using the portfolio to find the fastest track out of their employment?
Always appreciate your sage advice! Thanks for this article.
Kate Sitarz says
Hi Linnea! Great question. Typically, if the copy is out in the public domain, it’s fair game. That said, best practice is to ask. You can say something like: “I’ve been exploring copywriting as a side hustle and would love to put this piece I wrote in my portfolio. Does that work for you?” The thing is: the chances of someone stumbling across your portfolio are very, very slim. And worst case is someone asks you to take it down. But, getting permission just shows you’re a considerate partner. Chances are, they’ll be appreciative that you asked vs. concerned about your side gig. If it’s something like an internal piece (e.g. the rest of the world has no chance of seeing it; it contains private company info, etc.), then definitely ask for permission—if a piece hasn’t launched yet or contains private info, they certainly want to keep it under wraps! Hope that helps and congratulations on starting your business! We’ll look forward to cheering on your continued success 🙂
I’ve watched several of your intro videos and testimonials. I believe in your program. However, I have some questions…
What is the success rate with this freelance copywriting? I’m not looking for exact numbers, although you may have those, but rather some estimates. I know there are some that don’t do the work and will quit. I know there are some that are super skilled and/or lucky and make tons of money right away. But what’s your majority? Like, the people who want to put in the work, work from home, follow the steps, etc. and make more that $2000 a month on a fairly consistent basis? Do you have any numbers? Do you have 50% of your people taking the course go on to be successful? Or is more like 1% of the people that go on with it and make $2000+ a month?
If I am going to quit my job and focus solely on this, I want to know what I’m getting in to. Thank you.
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
Hi Vicki! I definitely understand the question—it makes complete sense. If you’re getting into something and investing in something, you want it to work. And, as you said, it’s hard to give you exact percentages and ratios because they’re affected by what pace students are working at, what their goals are, and whether they need to take some time off from making progress for various life reasons. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect percentage we can give you. I hope, though, that the testimonials we share on our website and the student stories on our podcast has made it clear that our system works. Because that’s what really matter right? That the system works for people who work it. And, truly, the only success rate that’s going to be relevant for you is: Your own. We can (and do!) give you all of the tools and tactics and support, but it’s up to each student to use it all. The good news is that your success is completely up to you: You’ll see the exact amount of success in proportion to the work you to do learn the materials, practice the skills, learn and use our outreach systems, and take action, even when it’s uncomfortable. 🙂