advice to new copywriters, from someone who hires copywriters
Today I had an ambitious up-and-coming copywriter reach out to me via private message.
Normally I would leave this kind of convo unread and not engage – life is much saner for me that way.
But his approach caught my attention and I felt inspired to try and help him out by sharing some advice that once helped me out.
Note: this was someone who had pretty decent “copy chops”, but outreach is something we all struggle with from time to time, no matter what “level” we’re at. So whether you’re new, have some notches on your belt, or are even pretty advanced… it’s still a good reminder on where and how to focus your energy when talking to a prospective client.
I hope it helps you out on your writing journey:
Up-and-Comer copywriter (UCC): Hi Angie, Quick question – do you ever use experienced freelance copywriters?
Me: I’m not sure I understand your question.
(UCC): Thanks for getting back to me, Angie. I mean, do you work with them for your projects?
Me: I do.
(UCC): Awesome. I’m a copywriter myself and would love to be of use if you need something. Anything I can help you with?
Me: I’m not looking to hire at this time.
Unsolicited advice, in the interest of helping you out someday: good job getting me into a convo by asking a question that made me curious. Not great job at keeping/holding my attention and here’s why – I get pitched to hire copywriters all the time, especially given the clients I work with and the teams I run.
(UCC): I see. How do you suggest I reach out, then? 🙂
Me: What helps me as someone in a position to hire, who’s busy, is to not have to stop and think about how YOU could help ME. I don’t know you or what you specialize in, which means that I’ve got to spend time digging in, getting to know you and trying to figure out where I could use you – and suddenly work on my projects has stalled because I’m focused more on helping you than getting work done. Do you see how even though you’ve sincerely offered to help me, you’ve actually created more work for me?
(UCC): Got it. Yes, makes sense.
Me: None of this is intended to be mean or make you feel bad or like you fucked up. This is what we mean in copy circles by digging into your ideal prospect, seeing what kind of marketing they do, and reaching out to offer help with something SPECIFIC.
If you’d done a bit of digging, you’d figure out who I work with, which would give you enough info to start checking out sites and social media profiles to see what kind of marketing we do, which would give you a better “in” (by suggesting a specific tip you think might help me) vs asking how you can help me.
(UCC): Got it, Angie. I’ve been hearing plenty of people advising me to research and then go specific.
Me: Absolutely – and it’s tricky, because the advice is to be proactive and reach out, so I get why you approached me the way you did and am not upset or anything. But there’s a passive proactive approach, where you reach out and rely on me to do the work of identifying where I can best use your talents – which automatically gets pushed lower on my never-ending to-do list. And there’s an active proactive approach, where you dig, decide this is someone you’d like to work for, identify some places you could help, and offer me specific solutions to the point that all I have to do is say yes or no.
The second one requires more work, which means a lot of people don’t do it – they go for volume “spray and pray” thinking spamming more people means more success. But if you’re willing to do the up-front work where others won’t, you get ahead much faster… it’s very counter-intuitive, but folks who get this go far.
(UCC): It sure sounds more counter-intuitive. I’ve reached out with content / copy suggestions in the past. But didn’t yield any results. I think I’ll do that at scale. Thanks so much, Angie.
Me: It’s hard to do that at scale and do it well – that’s why it helps to focus on who you WANT to work with, and try to build a relationship based on your genuine desire to help/be part of their world.
Don’t take non-response as a sign that you’re failing – you may have identified something that they’re already working on, they may be in a hiring freeze, they may not have seen your message. There’s any number of reasons as to why they wouldn’t have replied, most of which have nothing to do with you.
For most folks it takes 5-7 impressions before they recall they’ve seen your name before – so fortune is literally in the follow-up. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply to one single message. Most people do – so again, you stand out if you don’t take it personally and stay in touch with the goal to HELP (focuses on ME, the client, which I like as a busy human being) vs get HIRED (focuses on YOU and what you want from me, which feels not great and doesn’t inspire me to take action).
(UCC): Thanks so much, Angie.
So there you have it… random convo I had with an up-and-coming copywriter this week.
Here’s the thing: we were all beginners at one point, and most of us who’ve been around for (dear lord, 10 years already??) awhile generally aren’t afraid to help newer folks step up and figure out a way forward.
Someone once gave me this advice and it changed my whole career trajectory… and it’s my sincere hope it will do the same for you and yours, if you’re willing to take action on it and follow through.
If you’re an aspiring freelancer who’s working up the courage to leave the day job… good news! I’m sharing all the things I WISH I’d known before making the leap so that hopefully your journey goes a little more smoothly than mine.