The Catch 22 for new copywriters. How to get work.

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Catch 22 was a book, then a movie, and the premise, during WW II used on pilots acting crazy to avoid more flights...if you want to avoid combat, you can't be crazy.

In getting work, it is: "how can I get experience if I can't get a job to gain experience"?

And it is the dilemma facing the hoard of new copywriters. It is the number one question in all their groups, HOW to get your first client, then how to get more clients.

With copywriting, there is an extra level of Catch 22 because, a COPYWRITER is supposed to be able to use words to persuade and influence action.

So why do so many newbies struggle? Why can't they use their alleged skills and get work?

I have my ideas, what do you think about this dilemma?

GordonJ
#catch #copywriters #work
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  • Profile picture of the author King Manu
    Anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can call themselves a copywriter nowadays. And I mean no disrespect to newbies, but I see so many awfully written ads on groups dedicated to copywriters that I wonder why they even considered they could pursue this job.

    Of course, not every newbie is like this, but it makes you wonder.

    Starting copywriters should ask themselves:
    What makes me stand out when there's a sea of copywriters everywhere? Why I am different from others? What can I do better?

    And then... what kind of clients you want to pursue?

    I think the main problem with not finding work is the vagueness of their target audience. That's like creating a product in a niche, but you don't know exactly what.

    You cannot create a product that can do a lot of things well, and in the same way, you cannot become a writer that can be good at writing everything.



    And the last problem IMHO... is the fact people expect others to spoon-feed them.

    Ok, you don't have a portfolio because no one hired you yet. Make one!

    Find some ads online and remake them. Or use your imagination and create a fake company that needs ads, emails, social media posts, etc.

    Where to find clients? How about start reading dozens of articles and guides you can find online first?



    The amount of laziness is directly proportional to how hard it is to find clients.

    I mean, I started my freelancing career like many others, struggling to find a first client and willing to work for free to get there. And I did it without having someone to guide my each and every step.

    Meaning it is possible.

    I don't think there's a secret formula to freelance copywriting. It's just hard work, resilience, and the ability to get better at what you do.

    The amount of people who want to be successful copywriters but never bought a book or a course that teaches you this craft is too darn high.


    I think finding work or not is a fair indicator of the quality (born from the commitment to be better) of that said writer.
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  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    I would just figure out what niche I wanted to start working in, and do the first job without an up front fee, and just work on increase in sales. Then get referrals from them (assuming you are successful.)

    I also think this should be obvious. If you want to get jobs as a copywriter, first sell something using your copy. Then sell something else.

    You'll make the profit from the sales, while you are getting great at your craft, and then you'll have results to show when trying to get jobs.

    I think my first question would really be "How do I get great at writing sales copy?". Then I would think more about getting the actual work from others.

    That's what I would do.

    I don't think it's a Catch 22 at all. When you start medical school, nobody asks "How can I be a doctor if nobody will hire me before I get my medical training?"

    First, get good, and while you're getting good, sell something with your copy. Now you have something to offer when you talk to potential clients. I can't think of another way.


    Added later: I forgot to add that getting any clients at all involves selling. And although selling in person and copywriting have much in common...they are different skill sets. Like Chiropractors that are well trained, but have no idea how to market their services, or sell potential clients/patients when they get an exam.
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  • Profile picture of the author 1Bryan
    Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

    So why do so many newbies struggle? Why can't they use their alleged skills and get work?

    I have my ideas, what do you think about this dilemma?

    GordonJ
    A bunch of reasons probably. But most, if they were brutally honest, wanna stay stuck in the fantasy.

    And they miss the obvious -- the first copywriting gig ... is getting copywriting gigs haha.

    It's like yeah. Go sell that offer. And sell it. Don't give it away. Actually sell it.

    They also don't usually know. There are ponds where the fishing is easy. And hardly anyone goes there.

    And there are ponds where the fishing is tough. And everyone's casting their line.
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    • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
      They also don't usually know. There are ponds where the fishing is easy. And hardly anyone goes there.

      And there are ponds where the fishing is tough. And everyone's casting their line.
      Yup. I also think part of it is fear, sometimes, of actually casting the line at all ... also known as the analysis paralysis that comes from impostor syndrome and/or persuading oneself that endless training or course-taking is the same thing as productively working toward actually becoming a paid copywriter. No newbie is Dan Kennedy, and no amount of pre-work training will ever change that. But they shouldn't let that deter them from entering the fray. They can still smartly and uniquely position themselves, and win one of the many lower-paying assignments for which there's still tons of hiring demand (and which, assuming they nail it, will serve as a fundamental building block for the next level up)
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      • Profile picture of the author 1Bryan
        Originally Posted by Matthew Stanley View Post

        They can still smartly and uniquely position themselves, and win one of the many lower-paying assignments for which there's still tons of hiring demand (and which, assuming they nail it, will serve as a fundamental building block for the next level up)
        What I was hinting at is the pay isn't low. Part of knowing how to sell is knowing how to position and package an offer. And then finding who'll pay a premium for that.

        Way better than trying to be a gig worker like ...

        Please sir. Can I please have some work? I'll do it for free. Haha.

        But you can tell who'll struggle most of the time by the hierarchy they have.

        It should be -- Sales first. Words second.

        But the "writers" put words first. And sometimes it's like sales comes third or fourth haha.

        You can tell when they want a critique on a mock sample. They wanna know how awesome their words are.

        Meanwhile the sales of it is dog sh*t.

        Edit: I might even put that in reverse. Find who'll pay a premium. And then figure out how to position and package it so they see it as the premium offer they wanna buy.
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        • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
          Good points. Perhaps the idea that there *are* plenty of folks out there willing to pay a premium (and, related, who are looking for folks to give recurring work to, versus one low-rate one-off after another) is itself a bit of a foreign/counterintuitive one for many newbies. Like you say, positioning a critical part of winning those sales (assuming the requisite copy skills are there) ... and that aspect can take a back seat to some folks' "let the words speak for themselves" mindset
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  • Profile picture of the author markeugene
    Just starting getting paid to write and level up. Take a couple cheap jobs on Upwork. Create a portfolio and starting getting better jobs. You will learn more by writing copy and seeing the reponse better than anything else you can do.

    It's hard work and not for overnight successes.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    One problem is that they believe no one will hire them if they have no experience. They have an incorrect mental model of how all potential clients make decisions. However, if the newbies really can write good copy, there will always be people willing to give them a go despite no track record and no testimonials.

    Also, if they've never seen someone with no experience succeed, they feel they have nothing to go on to get themselves over this hump. If they have a mentor, the mentor's encouragement and suggestions will get them over the hump. If not, they might just freeze.

    It's a mental issue, not a matter of know-how.

    Marcia Yudkin
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  • It is all too easy to hurl yusself into the actschwaahn like sum kinda all-singin' all-dancin' FAIRY gonna swanky the whole place ovah.

    Problem is ... POYSON X (whom you pitchin') prolly bombarded by lovebombs c/o noob copy expoits even stoopider than you.

    Which is prolly why you gotta be SLECTIVE.

    Upon whom you wanna thrust your genius, zackly?

    Less'n you figure where they at, ain't no pleasin' 'em -- speshly if'n you sum self-proclaimed Einstein (or even a half decent trained frickin' dahg).

    What they dun got your juices squirtin'?

    An' how can you say this politely ... affirmitively ... demonstrably ... so they mebbe wanna squirt back?

    Can't remembah now whethah it was Keanu Reeves or Tom Hanks who said the pathway to success was paved with slabs carved from enthoosiasm, diligence, plus also gowin' sumplace we all wanna.

    Or mebbe it was a cartoon Disney animyool I forgot.

    Anyways ... you don't gotta creep up nowan's ass to thank 'em for (the trooly marvellous) place they at, the potential they got for gowin' so much furthah -- plus also your unique contribyootion (ENDS XXX) for haulin' 'em ovah the precipice.

    The leech-2-catalyst morphola begins with you pamperin' THEIR baby, naht yours.
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    Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff togethah.

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  • Well...you're at the begginning of your illustrious career in the wonderful world of copywriting (keep studying, and practising the craft).

    Do shedfulls of prospecting - worry not someone will hire you.

    Keep prospecting, getting hired and on it goes...

    Work hard and sooner or later you'll become successful.

    All good.

    Then as virtually all good to great copywriters do - you create, write and market your own products or services.

    You're the client, you're in charge, you're in control.

    And you'll get an aha moment. More like a massive cognition.

    Why - all those years ago - didn't you START by doing that.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Back in the day, when I did teach writing copy, the first thing I had my students do, was write a promotion for a PRODUCT, they would create.

      I made them write the PROMOTION FIRST, once we kicked around a few ideas based on their experience, knowledge and skills OTHER than writing copy. Most of the time it was a short report or a HOTSHEET, maybe a folio or checklist. WHAT it was didn't matter.

      Once the promotion was written, then we got some targeted traffic on it and tracked it. Followed up with surveys and questions, and sometimes bribes.

      You are 1000% on the money, if someone has any sort of writing skill, the fastest, easiest and most sustainable and scalable way to income is CREATE (OR acquire) your own product, and take on jobs as they come your way.

      While beating the bushes for some work, DO THE WORK, and make some dough.

      GordonJ

      PS For what it is worth, how can anyone call themselves a copywriter if their writing doesn't produce interest in their service? Like Claude said and Marcia reminded us, it really isn't a catch 22 at all, but a MINDSET. And I almost agree with her, but I believe that the KNOW HOW of a good mental attitude can be learned.









      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Well...you're at the begginning of your illustrious career in the wonderful world of copywriting (keep studying, and practising the craft).

      Do shedfulls of prospecting - worry not someone will hire you.

      Keep prospecting, getting hired and on it goes...

      Work hard and sooner or later you'll become successful.

      All good.

      Then as virtually all good to great copywriters do - you create, write and market your own products or services.

      You're the client, you're in charge, you're in control.

      And you'll get an aha moment. More like a massive cognition.

      Why - all those years ago - didn't you START by doing that.


      Steve
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  • Also...

    If you've produced your own product/service...

    I've found - and I can't see any reason why you won't - prospective copywriting clients are much more receptive to your magnificent "pitch." (do make sure you have a super duper spiel - as in it's virtually impossible to say "no" - and if they do - they feel like the village idiot and frequently see sense and hire you).

    As a proven purveyor of ace products - clients realize...

    You're like THEM a full on business person - not just a "bang out the words" copywriter.

    BTW be very aware clients often feel they can effectively do this themselves - it's rare they'll do it well - you need to diplomatically explain why you can - and they can't... best to say they "could" - but haven't got the time to discover how to do it expertly with extraordinary results.

    And as they see you in a different light - knowing you're leagues above a "10 a penny scribbler" - they tend to pay much more attention, listen to and respect you. With a lot less fussing and fretting.

    All because they can trust you.

    And with copywriting clients - you DO need the expertise you've gained by creating and successfully selling your own wonder stuff - top notch copy and marketing, perfectly targeted traffic/circulation, acres of sales, making customers deliriously delighted, up sells which no-one objects to, referrals etc. etc. - a bagful of supreme knowledge to advice and help clients continually boost their sales.

    An extra bonus...

    Sometimes potential clients see your own Ads and seek you out hammering on your door - which is a lot easier than touting for them.

    These clients usually become your superstars - no trouble, high paying best pals.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      As a proven purveyor of ace products - clients realize...

      You're like THEM a full on business person - not just a "bang out the words" copywriter.
      This should be etched in stone.

      Being a business owner who has sold their own offers using their own copy positions you as a colleague, not hired help.

      When I was selling my own online marketing service, I approached them as a business owner, and then showed them how I used the service I was selling to build my own core business.

      The difference in how you are perceived is night and day.

      Added later; An added benefit of selling your own offers with your own copy...is that you are not in a position where you really need the job.

      Being able to say "No" to jobs that you know will be headaches is a perk of not needing the money.
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  • Ohhh yes, you must be able say, "No thanks"

    Of course your pitch is still crammed full of empathy and understanding with the proviso - if you don't feel you can help the client - you will say so.

    (maybe not proclaiming too loudly - you don't want the business because the client is a complete pain in the neck, the "esteemed" product is essentially a sackful of moldy old garbage - with a complete refusal to let you make it a good - and all in all they are the last person on earth you want to work for).

    Your prospect needs to know you can say "No."

    Otherwise you become a "needy" sales person.

    Which lands you with the worst ever clients.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Saying NO to some people is something they are NOT used to, especially if they are known as high paying clients. And sometimes, the best thing is to be too busy, and put them on YOUR schedule, maybe months down the road.

      I call this the Dan Kennedy, talk to you in a few weeks, when I have time approach.

      He was masterful at this positioning. And, it probably got him tons of work too.

      I agree, there is no need to tell them YOU SUCK, unless you are certain you will never work with them or their circle of influence again...but often it is better just to be polite and maybe even refer them to someone who is "more suited" to their needs.

      I turned down a lot of work over the years, and in doing so, I stayed as busy as I wanted. Something magical about wanting to work with someone who is busy. Good point.

      GordonJ


      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Ohhh yes, you must be able say, "No thanks"

      Of course your pitch is still crammed full of empathy and understanding with the proviso - if you don't feel you can help the client - you will say so.

      (maybe not proclaiming too loudly - you don't want the business because the client is a complete pain in the neck, the "esteemed" product is essentially a sackful of moldy old garbage - with a complete refusal to let you make it a good - and all in all they are the last person on earth you want to work for).

      Your prospect needs to know you can say "No."

      Otherwise you become a "needy" sales person.

      Which lands you with the worst ever clients.


      Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Ohhh yes, you must be able say, "No thanks"

      Of course your pitch is still crammed full of empathy and understanding with the proviso - if you don't feel you can help the client - you will say so.

      (maybe not proclaiming too loudly - you don't want the business because the client is a complete pain in the neck, the "esteemed" product is essentially a sackful of moldy old garbage - with a complete refusal to let you make it a good - and all in all they are the last person on earth you want to work for).

      Your prospect needs to know you can say "No."

      Otherwise you become a "needy" sales person.

      Which lands you with the worst ever clients.


      Steve
      A little more about that, as it pertains to selling.

      When I say "No" to a client (meaning I didn't want the job) it was usually because the type of business they had was either not a match for what I was selling, or I would have to create all content, formatting, copy from scratch.

      But when selling, I almost always find an opportunity to say "No" to something. Or if they ask a question, and the answer is No, I say the "No" first, then explain it. I never hedge, or try to soften the answer. It's a matter of positioning.

      Even when cold calling (a million years ago), they would say "Can you mail me something?" and I would say "No. I want to meet you".

      You can be empathetic and tactful, and still be the authority figure. (I know you know all this)

      In practice, it's astounding how little of this you have to do to completely change the way they see you.
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  • Great stuff about "No".

    And now...

    Why you don't need to pressgang the prospect to say "Yes" to your wondrous product or service.

    In "selling" it's usually - push, push, push...

    Human nature and quite possibly a law of physics tends to make the other person - run, run, run...

    Hence the phrase - nobody likes a "pushy" sales person. They tend to sledgehammer out their pitch with little thought for the beleaguered prospect.

    So, try a consultative approach - ask valuable questions... listen carefully...and give brilliant "solution" benefit laden answers (you have of course researched and expertly prepped everything in advance).

    If all goes well...the prospect should never feel they're being "sold" to.

    And if they see you have the proven definitive cure to their perplexing problem.

    They often ask to buy - which is a touch easier than asking them 1,279 times.

    Or until the end of time - whichever happens first.


    Steve

    P.S.

    Slight Alteration to the Above

    At the finale of the "consultation" prospects sometimes need a little "nudge" to get them say yes.

    Because the prospect is thinking "F... sake, I've got to make a decision - what if it's the wrong one" and panic alarms go off -

    But you don't have to worry...

    Usually a gentle reminder of the key "must have" benefits with a sprinkle of "fear of loss" and then "shall we go ahead" is suffice.

    End of Alteration


    (I know, I know...they are 1,001 different closes you can use - just choose the most suitable - the one that is an ace match to the prospects personality).
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Great stuff about "No".

      And now...

      How you don't need to press gang the prospect to say "Yes" to your wondrous product or service.

      In "selling" it's usually - push, push, push...

      Human nature and quite possibly a law of physics tends to make the other person - run, run, run...
      Yup. Prospects pursued run away.

      One of my favorite things to tell in a seminar is about how small kids will start running from you and say "You can't catch me! You can't catch me!". That's selling.

      By the way, along with opportunities to say "No", I use the word Recommend or Recommendation a lot.

      Even early on, if they ask a question that has a "No" answer, I might say "No, I wouldn't recommend that". It's another small step in positioning yourself as someone who recommends.

      And at the close (or close to it), I may say "May I make a recommendation?". And if given with authority, empathy, and obvious expertise...it's almost impossible to say "No" to. After you give a recommendation...if they don't follow it, it's like a personal insult on your expertise. And it really...really breaks rapport...which most people will do just about anything to maintain.

      Wow, I really worked up a sweat on that one.

      Added later; I like to watch interviews with A list actors, when asked about accepting a part. They go on about how they were contacted and said 'No" repeatedly, but were eventually won over by the script. They make it sound like the last thing they want is another part in a film. It sure sounds better than "I hounded the Director, and begged until I got the part"

      Dan Kennedy is like that. Strong implication that demand far outstrips supply...that there is a long line of offers to give him large sums of money, and if you are very lucky.....you may get permission to cut in line.

      If you ever hear someone on the phone selling a high dollar coaching program...it's 100% that.
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  • Profile picture of the author tokyocafe
    True. However, there are companies such as Eleven Writing (elevenwriting.com/writing-jobs) that occasionally hire those without experience given that they demonstrate exceptional ability. I applied yesterday but haven't heard back just yet other than an auto-response. I do know someone who got accepted last month though, which is how I heard about it. From what I can see and have been told, writers are matched with topics based on expertise, and there's a lot of work to go around - my friend works full-time remotely as a copywriter on their team.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    New copywriters need to get to work and talk to prospective clients. Too many people in every field are afraid to talk to customers. I'm in the space industry and this is rampant there, too. Technical founders believing they deserve $200 million because they thought of an idea. Who's your customer? Blank stares.

    A new copywriter who expects clients to fall on their lap is delusional. In 2000-1 I ran my first copywriting consultancy in Vancouver. No internet. It existed but we didn't use it and it wasn't widespread...no expectations of having a website. I went out door to door in industrial parks. No sales training yet, either. Just talked to people. Landed clients. Didn't land others.

    I remember a guy who had a stained glass window making machine. It was such a surprise find. No signage in his industrial condo. Off the main drag... how the heck people found out he existed I have no idea. Just a guy with a machine in a building. I spent a half hour or so with him. 20 years ago and I remember. Didn't become a client but still a pleasant conversation. Are you willing to go through the same, new copywriter? It's not walking through flames.

    But you have to get started.
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