Here’s what most people think about breaking into copywriting: You need experience to get clients and you need clients to get experience.
And that’s a catch-22 that stops a lot of would-be copywriters dead in their tracks. But the truth—and good news—is that that’s only half true.
Today, we’re going to talk about which half is true and how you can land clients without already having had clients.
Getting started in copywriting is easier than some people would lead you to believe. (The ones that say copywriting is “hard” to get into are usually the ones that skipped step number one.)
If you’re still dipping your toes into copywriting and have questions like what copywriting is, how much copywriters can make, if copywriting is for you, how soon you can make money as a copywriter, and more, then you’ll want to check out this page. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about copywriting and answered each one.
If you’re pretty sure copywriting is something you’re interested in and are ready for some concrete action steps, read on!
Truth: You Need Copywriting Experience to Gain Clients
So, which part is true? Well, the first part: You need experience to get clients. And I know that might be a little discouraging, so bear with me here for a moment.
The truth is that, no, no one is going to hire you if you have no experience writing copy. Read: No one will hire you if you don’t know how to write copy. Which makes sense, right? Would you hire an electrician who’s never touched wiring? Would you choose a brain surgeon who doesn’t know how to operate?
In order to get copywriting work, you need to know how to write copy. And believe me, writing copy is a skill that requires training, development, and mastery. After all, it’s an entire career! You don’t get to just “decide” that you’re an elementary school teacher or a veterinarian, right?
One of the biggest mistakes would-be copywriters make is to just one day “decide” that they’re copywriters, without doing any work to learn, much less master, the techniques.
False: You Need Copywriting Clients to Gain Experience
The good news for you is what isn’t true about the “you need experience to get clients and you need clients to get experience” fallacy. Namely, that you need clients to get experience.
One of the foundational elements of our Comprehensive Copywriting Academy is building your experience by practicing writing copy, creating spec ads, and landing small business clients who generally don’t require that you have a portfolio.
In a nutshell: Yes, you do need experience—that is, you need to know how to write copy and have practiced it—in order to land clients.
But you do not need to already have clients in order to get that experience. Don’t let that faulty piece of logic hold you back from getting started in what just might be your dream career.
6 Steps to Getting Started in Copywriting
1. Get Copywriting Training
The first step to getting started in copywriting begins with training. There’s simply no way around it. You can’t just decide one day that “Now I’m a copywriter.” I mean, people don’t just walk into airports and suddenly declare “Now I’m a pilot,” right?
The would-be copywriters who fail, the ones that say it’s “too hard” to get into, are the ones that skip this step.
You’ll find lots of online threads saying “you don’t need training, there are free resources.” And yes, there are. The Filthy Rich Writer blog and YouTube channel alone are packed with valuable copywriting tips. But learning the principles and actually practicing and getting feedback on your work are two different things.
If you’re thinking, “Hmm… this copywriting thing sounds interesting, I’d like to try it out” or “I think I’d make a good copywriter” (or both!), it’s time to get the training you need to become a copywriter!
Where to Get Copywriting Training
Copywriting is not like other kinds of writing (it’s why we get paid so well to do it). Of course, if you’re naturally good at writing, the go-to resume and cover letter editor of all your friends, then that’s a bonus!
When you write copy, you’re connecting an audience with the right solution to their challenge or problem. You’re offering a solution to a need they have (whether they know it or not).
That means you need to have a deep understanding of the audience and the type of language and messaging they’ll respond to, in addition to knowing how to write in the brand’s voice. You also need to know the difference between features and benefits (in copywriting, you always lead with the benefit!).
Unfortunately, you can’t get training in school because 99.9% of the colleges and universities in this country don’t offer copywriting majors. If they offer copywriting at all, it’s a single class as part of a broader marketing major. It’s absolutely insane. Copywriting is the ONE way for a writer to make a good living. And they don’t teach it in universities. I mean, seriously?
But you can get still training—and it doesn’t have to be via a $30-40K per year portfolio school. (You also don’t need a copywriting certificate.)
The best copywriting courses will not just teach you the principles of copywriting, but also how to stand out from other copywriters, how to create your portfolio, how to consistently find and land clients, and more.
Too many courses will focus on one way of doing things—the course founder’s way. And often these course creators, while well meaning, don’t have a lot of experience in copywriting. That’s why we designed the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy to cover all the ways you can build a copywriting career: on staff, at an agency, full-time freelance, part-time side hustle, part-time while working at a full-time job … you get the idea! Our team has decades experience in all those areas, and with clients of all kinds: Fortune 500 to solopreneurs and everyone in between.
Take the first step to get started in copywriting today. Sign up to get access to our free, on-demand video training.
2. Practice Copywriting
And no, we do not mean by hand copying ads. So many so-called copywriting “gurus” tout the benefits of hand copying ads. We’re not in second grade detention writing “I will not run in class” 50 times in our best cursive. Instead, once you have training and you understand key concepts like features versus benefits, look for copy in the world and then analyze it. What’s working? What’s not working?
Then, try your hand at rewriting the ad. How can you lead with the benefit? Are there word choices you would change to better match the brand voice? Does the copy make sense for the medium? The target audience?
Analyzing and rewriting ads is how you’ll build and strengthen your copywriting skills.
Be sure, too, to start looking at ads very strategically. What are they trying to say? Who are they trying to say it to? And what do they want those people to do? Do you think they were successful? Start looking at the ads you see every day with a critical eye.
3. Build Your Online Portfolio
Every copywriter needs an online portfolio. This is how clients can see you know how to write copy.
There are plenty of websites that make it super easy to create your online portfolio. (And in the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy, we walk you step by step through how to build, and write, your online portfolio.)
As you build your portfolio, you’ll want to consider how to set yourself apart from other copywriters. One way to do this is by writing your Unique Selling Perspective (or Unique Selling Point).
At this point, you need to be calling yourself a copywriter (if you haven’t started already!). Start getting used to the idea that you are a copywriter. You are becoming someone who writes copy for a living. Live it, own it, be it.
You’ll also create spec ads. Spec ads, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, are essentially “practice” copywriting samples.
You very clearly label these pieces as “spec” in your portfolio (you always want to be above board, after all) and they’re a fantastic way to demonstrate your copywriting prowess before you get paying clients. And, if you hadn’t yet connected the dots, they’re a great way to help you get paying clients.
Learn more about creating your portfolio >>
4. Land Copywriting Clients
Here’s the catch-22 of every copywriter’s career: you know how to write copy and are ready to land clients, but how can you land clients if you’ve never had previous copywriting jobs?
That’s why you create spec ads. You demonstrate to prospective clients that you can, in fact, write copy. You know how to write in a company’s brand voice. And you can think strategically about solving a creative brief.
Then, you can put together your pitch list and start pitching clients. The way we teach pitching in the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy is very different from the way most people teach it! It’s not about being pushy or salesy or tacky. It’s about adding value. These are the types of pitches that potential clients want to receive in their inbox because you’re providing a solution to a challenge or opportunity they have.
You’ll also want to find out what kind of advertising and marketing groups meet in your city and join them. Attend their events and just get to know people. Feel free to let them know that you’re just getting started in the industry and you’re looking to learn as much as you can—you’ll be surprised at how many people will be willing to offer advice or may even need your help on a project.
5. Know That Resistance is Going to Come Up—And You’re Going to Keep Going Anyway
When you get started in anything new, whether it’s copywriting, another career, a hobby, a new skill, whatever, you may not be an expert right away. If you think about it, it makes sense. We wouldn’t expect a pilot who takes a flying lesson or two to captain a commercial flight full of passengers from Miami to Dubai, right?
As brand-new copywriters (or anything else), we have to remember that we’re learning something new. And when we learn something new, it can kick up feelings of resistance.
For most of us, it’s been awhile since we’ve truly dug into learning something entirely new! It’s hard to remember what learning something new is like.
But knowing that resistance will crop up is half the battle.
6. Surround Yourself with Support
There are many things you can learn to do on your own: change a flat tire, learn another language, and train a dog, for instance. Could some people learn how to become a copywriter on their own? Sure. But just like all the other things you can learn to do on your own, it’s a heck of a lot easier (and more fun!) if you have a support system.
Why reinvent the wheel? Surrounding yourself with pros who know how to do what it is you want to do is a much faster ticket to success.
Whatever it is you pursue in life, take advice from people who had the same or similar goal and achieved it. Too often, the loudest people are those who haven’t succeeded at what it is we want to do.
The Comprehensive Copywriting Academy’s student-only Facebook group is one of the most supportive corners of the Internet (just check out some of their wins from the group here)
Learn more about landing your first copywriting clients and how you can use spec ads as proof of your training and experience.
Getting Started as a Copywriter Has Never Been Easier!
Whether you want to work full- or part-time for a swank ad agency, as an in-house copywriter, or build a 100% freelance copywriting business, the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy is designed to help you reach your goals (even if those goals change along the way!).
Through six, online, self-paced foundational modules, and 145+ deep-dive courses you’ll get step-by-step instruction from copywriting pros. You’ll learn how to write copy, build your portfolio, work with a designer, land clients, and much, much more.
Last Updated on May 23, 2023
I am signing up for your course any day now and am immensely excited that I may have found something I would enjoy doing and be good at. I do have a concern with finding and working with a designer to create my first spec ads since I don’t have any copywriting experience. I live in the Southern Californian mountains in a “small” town and am wondering if finding a designer is possible remotely or if it must be done in-person?
Thank you for your time!
Nicki Krawczyk says
First off, the vast majority of our students don’t have any copywriting experience when they start, so you’re in good company. 🙂 And, yep, you can absolutely work remotely with a designer to create spec ands—and, eventually, client projects. You can work with designers and clients anywhere in the world.
Thanks for commenting!
Jelkyes Joel Gushi says
Its quite a privilege learning from your wealth of experience. Can’t wait to have all the necessary skills I need to excel. Thanks for your time and this opportunity you’ve create for thousands of interested intended copywriters.
Nicki Krawczyk says
I’m glad the post resonated with you and that you’re finding my info helpful! It’s genuinely my pleasure to help people build their own copywriting careers. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!
Can you use sites like canva until you have more experience and look for a designer? I create items in canva for my job now for email blasts, training reports and updates/website.
Nicki Krawczyk says
Remember that two of the reasons you’d use designers would be to demonstrate your ability to collaborate with designers (a very important skill) and to build your network of people who can refer *you* when they get a project and the client needs a copywriter. Plus, as great as canvas is, it’s just never going to match up to the quality of a professionally designed ad or sample and all of the nuances of that design. But you don’t need to be waiting until you get more experience – you should be seeking out designers who have the same level of experience as you do and who, similarly, need to build their portfolios so that working together is a win for both of you. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!
I AM a designer who wants to add copywriting to my offerings since finding design clients has proven very difficult lately and I actually enjoy writing. What are your thoughts on being able to offer both services to clients?
Nicki Krawczyk says
Few people are able to do both visual and verbal things well, but if you’re one of them, go for it! I would still certainly be sure to build your network with other designers and writers but being able to offer both design and copy in one could be extra convenient for your clients.
Thanks for commenting!
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
We agree! Check out this post we put together all about the importance of spec ads – http://filthyrichwriter.com/copywriting-qa-importance-of-spec-ads-in-your-portfolio/