How to become a copywriter.
- Start doing the job
- Keep doing the job
Let me explain.
When I was younger I didn’t want to be a copywriter. I wanted to be a stunt man. I’m not sure exactly what started it but I think I was partly inspired by TV’s “The Fall Guy” and partly by the opportunity of being paid to behave recklessly. No pun intended.
Anyway, it didn’t take me long to realise that you didn’t start in the stunt business as the driver of fast cars. You started as cowboy #3 thrown through a window… or as ‘second victim’ floating downstream. The driving thing wouldn’t happen for a long time – and that’s assuming your bones had healed enough for you to sit down properly.
So I became a telephone engineer. I could picture myself as “Fall Guy” Colt Seavers when I sped through the countryside in my yellow van. I looked like the star of “Danger UXB” when I spliced cables together. And I didn’t need to jump from helicopters.
Fast-forward twenty years and I now write about technology instead of installing it. It’s a job I’m very fond of. Except… a few months ago I was given a copy of “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook”. You’ve probably seen one; it’s spawned a series of books that offer tips about everything from avoiding an unwanted romantic encounter (disguise yourself) to jumping from a moving train (look out for fence posts and try not to break anything when you land).
Suddenly I wanted to be a stunt man again. Or perhaps a secret agent. The book was entertaining. Amusing. Based in fact. Yet, to quote the authors, “Do not attempt to undertake any of the activities described in this book”. Because this kind of thing needs training, experience and – occasionally – a bit of luck, too.
Which brings me to my point. “Faking it” can work in the short-term but it’s no alternative to experience. You can’t start your dream job simply by picking up an e-book or listening to a series of MP3s. Sure, you need to read what other people have written and see what other people have done – but that’s just part of the process. Cowboy #3 was thrown through an awful lot of windows before he ever rode a horse with John Wayne. The vast majority of copywriters – heck, the vast majority of people working in any darned job whatsoever – start somewhere near the bottom of their chosen ladder. So don’t waste your money on “get smart quick” schemes. And get smart slowly.