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Friday, 26 March 2010

Advice to a copywriter - from a tired old hack who's still banging it out

I get sent so many questions I'm thinking of becoming an Agony Aunt.

An Aussie copywriter wrote today saying "I have been writing copy for micro business clients, however, in nearly all of the training I have had I have been told that controls for big companies is the way to go to make real money in copywriting.

I just don't know how to go about approaching these big companies, as an unknown, and asking to challenge their controls. Any advice on how to go about it?

Well one thing this man has done right (which most don't) is
study. He's been at it for 5 years - in fact I felt almost embarrassed by his list of teachers.

Anyhow, for anyone looking for copy jobs of any kind, here's my advice.

“Make an offer so good only an idiot would refuse” – or words to that effect - said Claude Hopkins.

I have always suggested people offer to do something for nothing – clients don’t pay unless they use it.

But first they must be convinced you’re worth trying.

1. Study the client. See what they are doing and what is working for them.

2. Find out who exactly you should be talking to. Learn something about them.

3. Give them proof – examples of work that did well, testimonials, and results.

4. Send something (be it a letter or an original mailing pack/gimmick*) they cannot ignore.

Make sure you say something relevant to them and to their business and problems. Relevance matters more than cleverness.

44 years ago I got an immediate interview offer from David Ogilvy by sending 5 pieces of work, with results, because that is what he said he liked to see, plus a testimonial from Peter Mayle (now a famous novelist) who had worked for him.

The letter began, if memory serves me right: “Dear Mr. Ogilvy, You have never heard of me, but I have an ability I know you prize. I know how to make people buy things.

I hardly ever see people not because I don’t need anyone but because virtually none send me anything that follows these rules – and most of the stuff on their sites is rubbish.

* Be very careful with gimmicks. People often remember them - but not what you're selling. And NEVER neglect to send a letter.

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