Getting Started in Copywriting With Angela Booth

Today in our "Getting Started" series, copywriter Angela Booth will be our guest. She'll share a bit about her own history on how she got started in copywriting and offer some advice and tips for aspiring copywriters. Do you have what it takes?

Here's what Angela had to say:

On How She Started in Copywriting...

"By accident. In the early 1980s I was writing romance novels for a British publisher (MacDonald Futura) and running a business as well. I considered myself a novelist. When I was growing up, I thought that all "real" writers wrote books, so I wasn't interested in other forms of writing. The happiest day of my life was when I received a phone call to tell me that my first book had been accepted.

So I was happily writing novels, and running this business; it was a dog training operation. We were spending way too much money on straight advertising. I decided we needed publicity, and wrote some press releases, which brought in lots of customers. From then on, business colleagues and acquaintances asked me to write their publicity and advertising, and my copywriting career was launched.

For many years, all my copywriting clients came to me by word of mouth. Looking back, this was a good thing, because I knew the people, knew what they sold, and knew their businesses. This made writing copy easy; doing research before I wrote was automatic; I just talked to my clients. That became an excellent habit. Many new copywriters skimp on the research phase and write copy before they know the product they're selling, and the copy suffers for it."

On Needing Specialized Education or Experience Before Starting...

"Formal education-wise, the best thing I ever did was to take a marketing course. It took a couple of years of evening classes.

Experience-wise, for many years, the only copywriting I did for others was copywriting I was doing for myself. In the early years (1980s), I wrote advertising and press releases; I was doing it for the business anyway, and did it for others too.

This helped me to get very comfortable writing copy and testing it."

On How Writers can get Started in Copywriting...

"Start off by working out what kinds of copy you want to write. Copywriting is a huge field. I begin my "Seven Days Copywriting" product by saying that copy is all around us, from the time we wake in the morning (spots on the radio, commercials on TV and the Internet, product labels on toothpaste, copy on cereal boxes...) until we fall into bed at night. Therefore, a new freelance copywriter needs to work out what kinds of copy he wants to write.

Once you know what you want to write, you can get an education in that. If someone who wants to freelance as a copywriter is already a writer, that's a big help. Then you can write your own copy (as I did and have always done), and once you're happy that you know what you're doing, you can write copy for others.

There's a HUGE market for copywriting, but most business people have a limited understanding of copywriting -- many aren't even aware that they can hire people to write their marketing collateral.

The Internet means that just about anyone can get hired to write copy, so it's just a matter of learning, and you can earn while you learn.

As well as being a huge market for direct-response kinds of traditional copywriting, the Internet's throwing up new opportunities all the time, especially in the audio-visual field -- you can get hired to write video and audio scripts, as well as to maintain pages on social media sites like Facebook.

Learn and earn -- that's the best advice I could give anyone who's thinking about taking up freelance copywriting."

On Things Prospective Copywriters Should Know...

"Firstly, get comfortable selling. I've always found this easy, because when I started, I was focused on something else -- the business I was running. I knew we provided a great services, and was focused on telling people about it. Selling came easily. Then I was focused on helping other small businesses and writing copy for them -- and again, it was easy, because I could see that their products/ services were brilliant, and I loved getting the word out.

So being comfortable selling [is] vital, but it's easier said than done. I know this from my own experience. I've always been great at marketing for others, but for most of my career fought shy of marketing myself. I didn't have to do it -- until around 2001, I was always too busy (writing books, magazine articles and writing for my copywriting clients) to worry about it.

Then the tech wreck happened, and suddenly many of my magazine clients vanished. I decided I'd make up the difference in income with copywriting clients, and that meant marketing, but it was hard -- I had a visceral disgust about saying to people "I'm a great copywriter, hire me!" Which was funny, in a way; I was happy to market others, but very reluctant to do it for myself. So I forced myself to do it, and do it, and finally it became fun.

That's the secret: if you love writing and want to write copy, but hate selling, just face it, and do it anyway. I promise that it WILL become fun for you, and you won't look back.

Secondly, realize that your clients NEED you, and that they're intimidated by you. This is a revelation to most new copywriters. They're comfortable with words, and don't think it's a big deal, but most business people are not comfortable with words. They struggle even to produce a brief, let alone write copy. So if you're a new copywriter, realize that your clients can't do what you do, and moreover, they're leery of you. They think skill with words is spooky -- it's witchcraft. New copywriters get lots of confidence when they realize that their clients need them.

Thirdly, be honest. When you're new to copywriting, admit it. People will help you. You should always be honest in your copy too -- if you think a product stinks, don't take the gig. If you're lying in your copy, people will know. This is the reason people talk about "hard sell" and "cheesy" copywriting. They know that the copywriter's lying. Real copy vanishes -- it's completely transparent. If people read your copy, and feel uncomfortable, it means that the copy is lousy. Your own discomfort shines through. Be honest -- there's no other way to write good copy."

On Angela Booth...

Photo of Angela Booth, freelance writer discussing how she got started in copywritingAngela Booth is a top copywriter, writing teacher and author. She's been writing copy for around 30 years. Her writing blog discusses copywriting and other forms of writing. If you're a writer, and would like to begin a freelance copywriting career, Angela can help you to do that on her professional blog.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started in Copywriting With Angela Booth”

  1. I’m thrilled to see Angee on AFW. You’ve shared great advice for aspiring / fledgling copywriters, but I think what you’ve said about proper preparation should be taken to heart by all freelance writers.

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  2. Yeah, I love Angela. She always lets me pick her brain and contributes a lot of great information in interviews. If you’re looking into landing interviews of your own, I’d suggest paying attention to hers here and elsewhere. When you make yourself a great source people keep coming back, and she definitely has that down.

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