VocationVillage.com interviewed Copywriter Sonya Carmichael Jones about her copywriting and marketing consulting business.
How would you describe the main functions of your work in your copywriting business?
I write marketing content for businesses, primarily in the retail, finance, and medical industries. I also write articles for magazines, newspapers, and newsletters. And I teach marketing classes on local college campuses and online.
What does a typical day look like in your business?
I start my day with an affirmation. This helps me center on what’s important to me personally and professionally. From there I move into reading news, issues, and trends that impact the vertical markets I write for. I also read something that helps me learn a new skill or enhance one. Lately I’ve been indulging in everything related to SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
When I’m engaged in a client project, I dig in, usually before daylight. I’m naturally nocturnal so I often work through the night. But I don’t spend the entire day working. I get outside and play with Zeke (he’s the dog). If I’m between client projects I work on developing my business and devote extra time to increasing my copywriting skills.
I can’t say that any two days are identical and that’s fine by me because I like unpredictability.
What do you like best about your work?
What I like best about my career as a marketing copywriter is that I can make my own opportunities without the conflict of office politics. I don’t waste time in non-critical meetings. I rarely have a dry cleaning bill. I go to lunch whenever I get hungry, even if it’s midmorning. I also like having the flexibility to work as late or early as I want. Plus I get to choose the projects that align with what I’m interested in most.
What are the most challenging things about a copywriting career?
I thrive on challenge and fun and I feel blessed to have projects that have a great mix of both. So sometimes the biggest challenge for me is ending my work day.
How did you build your copywriting business?
Initially I started with a direct mail campaign, about three weeks of telemarketing, and sent queries to magazine editors. Now I focus on a combination of online marketing activities that work well for me and my target audience. It’s all been a learning process and still is because there’s always something new. A writing business is no different than any other business in that you have to market and do so effectively if you expect to earn money.
What was your professional background before becoming a copywriter?
My previous career was in business continuity planning. In other words, I helped companies prepare for and recover from emergencies and disasters. The job included selling my program to executive management and managing product delivery and then facilitating training programs throughout the organization.
What is your educational background?
I have a B.A. in Communications and an M.B.A. in Marketing.
What skills are important to succeed in a copywriting career?
Copywriters should be able to develop ideas, write well, and effectively market their products and writing services. But as long as they have tenacity and motivation, they can acquire and develop these skills. A sense of humor helps, too. You just can’t take yourself or your clients too seriously. Laughter keeps things in perspective, especially when a product gets you rejection in one place and a lucrative assignment in another. Did I mention tenacity? Because in this business you can’t give up when things get tough.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work as a copywriter?
Think deeply about your personal and career goals. Determine whether or not you can truly make the commitment to fulfill them through your freelance writing. Identify what steps you will take to achieve your goals, identify resources you’ll need (including seed money). Then create a back up plan or have a list of alternatives you can implement easily if you face setbacks.
Are there any commonly held misperceptions about a copywriting career that you would like to clarify?
What I started freelance writing almost 10 years ago, I didn’t consider much beyond the fact that I would enjoy working for myself and that I’d be doing something I loved very much. I think many freelance writers think along these same lines without fully realizing the entire scope of launching and running a successful writing business.
The accessibility and convenience of Internet tools enables anyone to create and publish written content. This makes writing look easy as pie. But if freelance copywriters want to earn a substantial income, they should know there’s a huge business side to writing. For example, marketing is the business function that generates income. Yet many freelance writers don’t feel comfortable planning and implementing marketing activities or they might not market their products or services enough to earn steady money.
Writing looks and feels easy. Until you start doing it for a living.
What is the income range for copywriters?
Earnings vary depending on the writer’s geographic location, what type of writing they do, their experience level, the writer’s fee structure…so many things. There are writers I know who make well into 6 figures. There are writers making a few dollars for articles that take days to write, and there are writers who don’t earn a penny because they repeatedly write for free. I always advise writers to select a writing specialty so they become an expert in a particular area. Writers who specialize in a certain niche are highly sought after and routinely get higher paying assignments.
What are your long-term career goals?
Knowing I’ve only got so much time on earth, I’ve narrowed my list down quite a bit. First off, I’d like to finish the creative piece I’m working on before next year. At some point, I’d like to be a stand up comedian or at least do a comedy routine — on stage before an audience other than my friends. I’ve even thought about lounge singing. I know my family is laughing at this one. I see motivational speaking in my future because I love encouraging others. I think everyone has natural talents and abilities that either get lost or go dormant in the daily grind of life. I just want to do my part by helping people rediscover them.
Thank you, Sonya!
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