A few words on copywriting

While good design and UX shouldn’t rely too much on text, that doesn’t mean the text is irrelevant. Copywriting is a useful part of a UXer’s toolkit and can be useful in just about any endeavor. You may not like it, but the reality is that a well-presented bad idea often gets better traction than a poorly-presented great idea.

Some people see this and complain about life’s unfairness. Instead, I suggest sharpening your communication skills.

I’d heard that copywriting can be a good way to make some extra money, so I decided to dip my toes into the waters of freelance copywriting. So how does one break into copywriting without prior experience?

Before I get into those details, I’d like to discuss a couple of other relevant issues. You might be saying, But I don’t have the skills to be a copywriter. If you’ve ever gotten a decent grade on a paper you wrote for school, you probably do have the skills. If you don’t, find some resources to polish up your grammar.

The other objection is that people sometimes expect to make decent money right away. This probably isn’t going to happen. It’s highly unlikely that your first few projects will pay your bills. That said, the experience you gain on those projects will help you build a decent portfolio, which will help you get better projects.

One way of building experience is by offering your services for free to people you know. You might know a small business owner whose website copy is a mess, for example. Offer your services in exchange for a testimonial. You shouldn’t have to do this more than a few times.

Even if you don’t know anyone who needs copywriting services, you can still get your feet wet. Set up a profile on websites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) or Freelancer. Again, you’ll be working at offshore rates. But even at that level, reliable good work is recognized. I know this because this is the route I took. Lots of offshore companies are looking to hire people with good English skills, and it probably won’t take long before you find one willing to work with you.

At first I was just writing a few short articles every day, but I’ve gradually been assigned more challenging, and more profitable, work. I’ve edited an ebook and written a script for a sales video, as well as written longer, more in-depth articles than when I started. I even got a bonus for the video script! By the time I fulfill my current contract, I expect to have enough work samples to show prospective clients who pay rates closer to what I’m accustomed to.

In fact, I showed some of my writing to a friend of mine who’s a technical writer and has done some freelance writing of her own. She liked my work well enough to point me towards one of her contacts, so I’m in the process of getting some samples together.

One of the fringe benefits of this kind of work is that you get to educate yourself on the fly about different things. I’ve gotten to beef up my knowledge in some areas, as well as learn about areas that were previously unfamiliar to me. This has been surprisingly fun for me so far, and I’m interested to see where it could take me.

Have you considered getting into freelance copywriting? Let me know your questions in the comments!

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