When it comes to making six figures as an independent copywriter, there are two options you can choose from.
Option A, which is my primary activity and produces a six-figure annual income, is that of being a traditional freelance copywriter.
This entails writing copy, usually on a project basis, for many different clients selling a variety of products and services.
Option B, which I also make six figures from, is to write copy for your own products.
Some copywriters do one or the other, while other writers do both.
Ted Nicholas, for instance, has had huge success writing copy to sell his own products but also has written winning promotions for many clients.
Both options have their pros and cons. So which option do I recommend for beginning copywriters? Option A.
The reason is simple: Getting clients aside, there are two primary copywriting skills. One is the ability to write persuasive copy; the other is the ability to quickly learn and understand a variety of markets and products.
When you are a pure “Option B” copywriter, you may be a great persuasive writer. But, you are writing only about products you created and are therefore familiar with.
Therefore, you do not gain experience in writing for products and markets other than your own. And you do not learn how to quickly study and understand different products and communicate their benefits to unfamiliar audiences.
As a result, as an “Option B” practitioner, you are in a sense an incomplete copywriter. You only possess half the skills needed to succeed as a traditional freelance copywriter, should you ever want or need to do so.
As an “Option A” or traditional copywriter, I am constantly asked to write about new products and to new markets—everything from medical services and dietary supplements, to mutual funds and golf, to software and jets—which has honed my research skills and made me a quick study.
This gives me an added skill and an advantage in the marketplace that copywriters who only sell their own products cannot match.
An especially limiting trend today is so many copywriters restricting their work to just their own information products, training, membership sites, or social media groups. For instance, one copywriter told me he makes virtually all his money running a group of copywriters and marketers on Facebook, and selling his training to them.
The reason this insular approach to copywriting is so limiting is that about 90% of these copywriters teach Internet marketing and copywriting only, and so marketing is all they know.
“Some of these Internet guys have put together a small community who seem to like their writing, and if they can make a living doing this, more power to them,” says superstar copywriter Richard Armstrong.
“But if they aspire to be a freelance copywriter working for the nation’s biggest and best direct response marketing clients, I can tell you for a fact these guys wouldn’t survive 5 minutes there.”
By comparison, if you are a health writer, you know two things: marketing and health. If you are a precious metals writer, you know marketing and geology.
That’s why I tell young people who want to be copywriters not to major in communications or marketing in college.
Much better to major in a topic you can write about. For instance, a geology or engineering degree will position you well to write about the oil and gas industry. My own chemical engineering degree has gotten me dozens of clients who might otherwise not have hired me, as has my certification as an IT professional.
If you’ve already graduated from college, consider taking a staff job with a top marketer in a field that interests you, whether investment letters or real estate.
Working with a top company in an in-demand copywriting niche can be worth much more than a college degree. You learn on the job, and instead of you paying tuition, your employer pays you. Sweet deal!
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.