It all started one Friday afternoon in 2003 when I was 15.
I found myself in the contemporary literature aisle of the neighbourhood bookstore.
There was a new book in the section. The cover was pure white, but it caught my eye because it had an eye in the middle. Intriguing.
Without noticing the title of the name of the author, I shuffled through the pages and discovered that it was a collection of short stories.
I decided to read the first story to decide whether the book was good enough for me to buy on my student budget.
“I’m in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls.”
The first sentence immediately hooked me. I continued to read. Nothing much happened except that the guy cooking spaghetti received a call from a stranger. Then he went back to cooking spaghetti.
When I narrate it this way, the story seems bland and mundane. But the way the author wrote it struck a chord in me. Something as ordinary as answering the phone while cooking spaghetti became a surreal experience.
Perhaps because anything can happen within those 10 minutes that you’re waiting for the pasta to become al dente.
And within those 10 or so minutes that I read the short story, something happened to me. I decided to become a writer. And I haven’t stopped writing ever since.
More than 15 years have passed. I evolved into a Copywriter and Content Editor. All thanks to that short story, The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women from The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami.
So you see, sometimes, it pays to judge a book by its cover. Or maybe I just got lucky. But let me tell you, the game of copywriting is not just a game of luck.
It takes 8 to 10 minutes (or less) to decide that you want to be a copywriter.
Where Should You Start?
So you’ve decided to be a copywriter. Great!
Now that your first big decision is out of the way, you need to have a gander if you want this to be a lifelong (or career-long) relationship.
How willing are you to commit?
Is it just a hobby or past time for you? Something you want to do to earn extra income? Something you want to do on a freelance basis so you can manage your own time? Or something you’re looking to do full time?
There are no right or wrong answers, nor is it too early or too late to start.
Then, you need to ask yourself where you want to niche and which area of expertise you’d like to pursue. One of our blog posts explains the different aspects of copywriting that you can pursue.
It’s important to take into consideration your personal interests. When you write about the things you’re genuinely interested in and are knowledgeable about, you’ll produce better results. That will also make you a specialist in that area.
Of course, there are copywriters who pride themselves in being a ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none’.
That’s all good, but if you’re a specialist rather than a generalist, then you can bring something more valuable to the table because you’re an expert.
In other words, it’s all about finding your niche. Case in point, I studied film and I’m also a fashion enthusiast. So I started writing film reviews and fashion-related articles in my personal blog.
That’s how I started. And now, I can say that lifestyle copywriting for blog posts and long-form content is my niche.
Reading is the Oldest Trick in the Book
Yes, you read that right. Reading makes you a better writer because by doing so, you’ll be exposed to different writing styles, ideas and stories.
Different words and worlds as well, which will allow you to widen your vocabulary and perspective. Both are crucial to becoming an effective copywriter.
As Haruki Murakami (yes, I’m a real fan) said, “Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.”. And it’s true.
You can swot up on some hypnotic writing techniques from Agatha Christie and Joe Vitale from this blog post we wrote.
Now, take a look at this example from Oatly.
They’re leading with one of the benefits of drinking Oatly: its high fibre content, which is good for the body.
But look at how they expressed this message: so tongue-in-cheek, funny and authentic- without using fluffy and fancy words.
There’s a misconception that being a good copywriter means displaying your extensive vocabulary and using lengthy, complex words. Nope. The goal should always be to be understood by your audience and to resonate with them.
That’s why it’s better to write in a succinct and conversational manner. And this ties into the ‘widening your perspective’ bit.
If you can put yourself in the shoes of your target audience or customers and see things from their point of view, then you’re on your way towards delivering good results.
Just like what Lush did in this Instagram post. The message they’re trying to communicate is simple: they’re having a sale.
And what do all of us experience when our favourite brand has an online sale? The website crashes, and it’s frustrating, especially if you want to buy something before stocks run out.
Lush made fun of the situation and the fact that there might be technical difficulties on their end. There’s a tinge of self-deprecating humour and unpretentiousness there, which makes the whole thing work.
So just keep on reading. It’s like observing how the experts do it, before having a crack on your own work.
You don’t even have to limit yourself to books. There are magazines, newspapers, articles, blog posts, print ads, billboards, social media posts and the list goes on.
Just look around you and read about anything that you fancy. You’ll have a richer experience of the creative process. And be more prepared to do it yourself.
Find Your Community
This is where the fun begins. I kid you not.
You need to find an avenue to express yourself and experiment in your comfort zone. Specifically speaking, write about what you’re passionate about in the style, tone and format that’s easiest for you. That comes naturally to you.
Remember those days when LiveJournal and Tumblr blew up? Perhaps not, if you’re from the Gen Z demographic, but I’ll fill you in.
So a long time ago (in 2005 until 2009 approximately), teenagers chose to vent their emotions by writing blog posts.
The topics ranged from sharing personal experiences on unrequited love to fan fiction about their favourite film characters (think Harry Potter and Twilight) and sharing indie band discoveries.
Of course, the topics weren’t limited to those. They were just the most common at that time. And fellow LiveJournal and Tumblr bloggers could follow each other, comment, give feedback or just say hello.
I joined the LiveJournal and Tumblr bandwagon too. I wrote film reviews and some fashion-related posts. I was able to connect with like-minded people whose feedback and comments encouraged me to keep on writing and get better at it.
Now, we have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we can tell our stories, share bite-sized thoughts, caption our fondest memories and tell our stories to our circle of friends and loved ones.
YouTube and even TikTok allow us to fire up our creativity too when writing a script or structure for the video content we share.
And then, there’s LinkedIn, where we can share relevant content to peers in the industry.
All of these social media platforms give us the opportunity to write and target our personal and professional communities. And the best way to practice your writing and hone your skills is by posting on social media!
When you analyse your posts, you’ll see that a certain style of writing or technique will appeal to your audience. These kinds of posts get the most likes and comments.
And that’s your cue to uncovering the techniques that work for you, then carry that over to the copywriting work that you’ll be doing for your clients once you’re fully trained as a copywriter.
Take a look at these LinkedIn posts by TCC’s CEO, Konrad Sanders (who is an influencer in the marketing world) for inspiration.
If you’ve written blog posts that you feel are of a good standard and were well received by your community, you can include them in your portfolio, which you can then present to potential clients or employers.
Check out this blog post we’ve written to get to grips with building your portfolio from scratch.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a support system. Especially from friends who are also in the creative industry, or professional connections you’ve met through networking.
This blog post we wrote briefly discusses the difference between digital and face-to-face networking so that you can decide which one’s for you.
If you’re not the networking type, scan your personal contacts on your phone or on Facebook. Chances are, you have friends who are just beginning to grow their business, or about to launch one.
If you’re already confident with your copywriting skills through all the reading and writing you’ve done so far, you might want to offer to help them out with your services for FREE.
Check out their business and its marketing set-up and think about what copy they regularly need. It could be a brochure, some web copy, a press release, blog post, etc.
You’ll be doing them a favour while adding more copywriting samples for your portfolio, which potential clients and employers could look at.
And if you have friends who are graphic designers, then you could offer to do a swapsie. Offer to write the copy for their website, and in exchange, they can design your portfolio or website.
Either way, it’s a win-win situation.
Find a Copywriting Course that Suits Your Needs
Some copywriters hold degrees, while others are self-trained. You could choose to go either of these routes.
But if you want a structured learning process with lessons and practice tasks and the flexibility of doing them at your own pace, then an online copywriting course would work well for you.
Remember what we said earlier about finding your niche and community? It’s important to tick those two boxes before enrolling yourself on a copywriting course.
You don’t have to decide at once. In this blog post, we’ve listed down the different copywriting courses available online, each catering to different levels of expertise and areas of speciality. That should make it easier for you to decide.
But if you want to be a freelance copywriter, or if you’re looking to make a career shift to copywriting, then our very own TCC Academy might be the best place for you to start your copywriting training.
It’s made up of 8 courses, a chockfull of activities, instructional materials and more. You’ll get the chance to master copywriting techniques like a pro, build your portfolio from scratch, learn how to win projects and set up shop.
And speaking of finding your community, the course will also give you access to the Academy Community, where all subscribers can post their work, get feedback from our agency’s leaders and interact with each other.
These are all super valuable experiences that would open a lot of opportunities for you, so why not take the chance?
Every goal has a starting point. If you want to be a copywriter, taking the initiative to learn and practice can take you places.
You’ll have to pass by different stops before arriving at your destination. To make the most out of your journey, remember to:
- Fuel your creativity by reading. It opens up a portal to different worlds, words and writing wonders that you’ll learn a lot from.
- Find a platform that will serve as your comfort zone in writing, then get out of your comfort zone when you’ve developed enough skills to determine which techniques work for you.
- Keep your connections close. You’ll get most of your first projects from friends and industry peers, and offering to write for them is also a way to add more works to your portfolio.
- If you’re fully committed to becoming a copywriter, you can complete your copywriting training through an online course. Choose one that is suited to your niche and level of expertise.
Now you can start the first chapter of your own copywriting journey. May your story be filled with great experiences and adventures. Make them count.