How can you, as a copywriter, move on from small local companies and attract bigger brands?
I was asked this question recently and wanted to explore this question here, and canvass for opinions from the PCN posse.
For many copywriters, small, local organisations are ideal, providing a steady stream of work and income.
But others succumb to the siren song of the big brands. Perhaps it’s the promise of bigger budgets, prominent projects or just the kudos that comes from working with someone your mates have heard of…
Whatever the appeal, some copywriters want to know how to swim clear of the small fry and into the path of the big fish.
So how do you do that?
Big brands want security. They want reliability, and they usually want a safe bet. So big clients are unlikely to hire you if you haven’t some kind of track record. You can’t hope to leap straight into a big-brand gig, but you can get there with a series of small hops.
Consider each job to be a stepping stone, leading you closer to bigger organisations. As soon as one job is finished, add it to your portfolio. Make it prominent – and consider hiding away any portfolio pieces that make you look amateur (i.e. weird companies with homemade-looking logos).
Let’s say you really want to write for Apple. You could start by becoming an expert on technology, and writing for smaller tech brands. The same applies to charities and public sector organisations. You can engineer your career – and your portfolio – so that you’re more attractive to the big clients when they eventually come knocking.
Big brands won’t hire you if they can’t find you. If you want to bag bigger clients you need to be all over the place. Every road should lead to you. Have your own online space, and make sure it’s connected to every profile, page and social media space you have. These things take time and effort, but they all improve your chances of finding bigger clients. (don’t forget to make the most of your PCN profile. Is it up to date?)
Clients aren’t just judging you on your writing. It’s horribly unfair but they are looking at your website and wondering why you chose that colour scheme. Clients will judge your logo, and your domain name, and everything else. This doesn’t mean you have to invest in a brand manager; but at the very least you need to have a crisp, clean and functional web presence. And if you can afford professional help, a little bit of a designer’s time could do wonders for your professional image.
What makes you seem ‘professional’ really depends on who is looking at you. But I think lots of little details add up to create a professional copywriter:
- Company identity (are you trading under your own name or a corporate identity?)
- Approach to projects (can you walk the client through your process?)
- Client management (do you use contracts and ask for a deposit?)
- Communications (do you respond quickly and consistently – from a professional email address?)
When a big client makes contact, don’t freak out. Stay cool. Breathe. Respond with the same cool, calm professionalism that you would offer to the plumber down the road. Try to remind yourself that the job might be amazing, but no amount of wishing will win you the project. If the client likes the cut of your jib, you’ll get the gig. If the client prefers another copywriter, you won’t get anything. You win some, you lose some. And while it can be painful to watch an amazing project slip through your fingers, it’s inevitable, so let it go with good grace, and get yourself ready for the next amazing opportunity (there will be more).
Get engaged with your profession
I was chatting to a friend recently (Hetty Meyric Hughes of Scroll) who pointed out that, when her content agency is looking for copywriters, they like people who are connected to their industry. We work in an exciting field that is constantly changing, and by getting engaged with your peers you can show the world that you’re not just here to make a fast buck. So this might mean attending meetups, going to conferences (if the budget allows), speaking at events, writing blog posts, tweeting and generally being involved in groups for copywriters, content strategists, advertising, social media, content, technical writing and marketing (as appropriate!).
What do you think? Do you have any top-secret tips for landing big clients?
(thanks to Bradley Davis for the Russian dolls picture)