“Making It” as a Copywriter & Voice Over Artist

Dear Copy Bitch:

My name is Kenya, and I love your website.  It is very informative, resourceful, upbeat, but to the point! I’m writing you because I’d like to learn more about your experience and history of how you became a successful copywriter and voice over artist. I know I’m a good writer, but I’m always looking to perfect my craft and gain a competitive edge. How does one gain corporate clients/on-going clients, and how do you know when you’re really hitting the mark? (We can’t really measure how many clients’ customers respond to the copy we write, and copy can be so subjective – it seems more of an art than a science.) I have a few questions for you as a ‘working freelance writer’ as well if you have the time. Also, I have a strong interest in becoming a voice over artist. How do I break into that industry?

I’ve been freelancing writing part-time for the past four to five years. I started out magazine writing, and have been published in at least seven local publications in [city redacted] – where I reside – including the [name redacted] as one of their community columnists.

Currently I’ve expanded into copywriting. I’ve written a sales letter and bios, done brochure writing, and I currently work with a steady/on-going client doing webcopy, press releases, ad copy and other business writing.

I graduated with a creative writing degree. I’m a natural when it comes to writing, and therefore feel comfortable exploring different genres of writing. However, I’m still in the ‘starting-out’ stage, and want to know how to gain that leverage to the point where this isn’t supplemental income, but can be considered sustainable income – a real business.

Please visit me at my website (I created this more so as an online resume, and am working on getting a new website): [site redacted]

Thank you for your time!

Best wishes,

Answer:  Hi, Kenya. Thanks so much for your kind words and for visiting my site. I’ll answer your questions as best I can.

How does one gain corporate clients/on-going clients, and how do you know when you’re really hitting the mark?
You have a lot of experience between your feature writing and the copywriting you’ve done so far. The most important thing you can do at this point (in my opinion) is invest in an optimized website. The portfolio you have on Google pages is fine to point editors to when they ask for clips. But corporate clients are going to want to see a deeper website that lists your services and has examples for each service. Of course, these clients need to find you first, which brings me to the optimization part of the equation. If you’re not familiar with search engine optimization, then definitely read up on it. In a nutshell, an optimized site will help attract targeted, quality traffic (if it’s done right). Did a search engine lead you to my site? If yes, which one did you use and what phrase did you search for? That’s search optimization at work. I’m a firm believer that your website should be making you money. A well-built site will likely give you the edge over competitors—or at least allow you to effectively compete with them.

As for me, I usually get clients in one of three ways: my website, referrals (from clients or people in my marketing “sphere,” such as web developers), and word of mouth/grapevine. I also have a monthly newsletter (make sure you sign up!), and I have gotten clients from that as well. I’m active on Twitter, and, as you know, I have a blog—social media is becoming more and more important (the blog you have is fine for now and highlights your writing chops, but I’d recommend developing a blog as part of your new website—and it should focus on writing).

How do you know when you’ve hit the mark? When you can pay the rent and stop eating Ramen noodles every night. 🙂  Seriously, everyone’s definition of success is different. Work backwards. How much do you want to make in 2010? How many projects will you likely need to complete in order to make that number? How many clients does that mean? How many prospects do you need in order to yield that number of clients? And so forth. As you probably already know, you’re running a business, so you need to think of it in those terms: keep good books, pay quarterly taxes, determine how much your monthly expenses are, create a marketin plan, etc.

The good news: there are tons of resources for us writers, and many are free. Here are a few sites I recommend you check out:

Here’s one caveat: it’s harder to be “just” a copywriter these days. Learn to wear many hats. Educate yourself on marketing. Consider doing some project management (e.g. manage a website launch, including the messaging, design, SEO, writing, etc). Become active in social media. I do project management, marketing, and social media in addition to plain old copywriting.

Network, network, network. The best way to get corporate clients is to surround yourself with other businesses that cater to corporate clients. Think web developers, graphic designers, marketing firms, ad agencies, etc. A great networking group to check out is Business Networking International (BNI). The beauty of BNI is that it’s designed to get you referrals (in exchange, you get referrals for fellow members). You meet with your chapter once a week, and you’d be the only copywriter in your chapter. Look for a chapter that already has a healthy marketing sphere (i.e. make sure you check out chapters that have web developers, marketers, graphic designers etc). Women’s organizations are also a great way to expand your reach.

Also, I have a strong interest in becoming a voice over artist.  How do I break into that industry?
I got into VOs through sheer luck. I was a radio intern during the summer before my senior year of college, and that position quickly turned into a full-time gig. I started doing voice work shortly thereafter. However, I can recommend an incredible voice coach who is also a good friend of mine: Moneen Daley Harte. She co-runs voice over boot camps that teach students the ins and outs of starting and developing a VO business. Here’s her site. If you contact her, feel free to use my name.

I have a few questions for you as a ‘working freelance writer’ as well if you have the time.
Absolutely. Ask away. A lot of people helped me out in the beginning, and I believe in the concept of paying it forward.

Good luck!