Trade Secrets: marketing yourself

On a freezing Monday evening in January, six writers (including Laura Silcock via Skype from Leeds) gathered at Free Word to learn how to market themselves. Justina Hart reveals what she learnt on the day.

We kicked off by discussing the (mostly circuitous) routes via which we all got into copywriting. How we arrived here may have involved throws of the dice, but from now on, the trainers told us, we’d be able to choose to a large degree the types of writing we do and for whom. Marketing yourself is about being more strategic.

Having assessed our passions, and delved into that interviewer’s favourite question, ‘Where do you want to be in five years?’ a light bulb went on. Instead of writing about dislikes (say drying paint) we could pursue clients in worlds we love (say fine art) instead. Imaginative doors started springing open. We were rabbits poised to leap out of traps – after all, what organisations don’t need copywriters?

Next, we had a look at branding and all the things that might come under that umbrella: from email signatures (your url should be clickable or you might be given the death penalty) to your own tag line and tone of voice. If self-employed, would it suit to have a funky biz name or go with plain Jane? Branding even concerns your clothes, your lipstick or the topiary you do on your hipster beard.

We covered ‘lateral collateral’ – from creating a spiffy free booklet to impress potential clients (my favourite was Simon Griffin’s Fucking Apostrophes), to writing ‘buzz pieces’ and other ways of getting your name to stick in people’s minds. Rubber chicken key ring anyone?

Using a Venn diagram – yes, really – and keywords Trust, Respect and Interaction, we covered copywriters’ websites and examined a few standout ones. We looked at networking – there’s no substitute for actually meeting people, although face-to-face on Skype also works well, as it did here.

We went away with handouts including a terrific 10 top tips, the last of which is “Don’t stop doing all of this when you get busy”. I’ll leave you to work out one to nine. The conversation continued in the pub, meaning that we were networking straight away without even trying.

This training would be perfect for people who don’t yet have their own branding or site, or who haven’t refreshed these in a while. But a reminder at any time is always a useful kick up the bum. I found the trainers’ personal anecdotes particularly useful, such as “I’ve got lots of work from other writers but they have to know what you want”.

The session gave me more confidence to draw a line in the sand underneath the type of writing work I no longer want to do. Here’s the new elevator pitch, which is a work in progress. What do you think?

“I’m a freelance copywriter and editor who likes to make words zing on the page and screen. I work for clients of all stripes who’d like to inject fun, humour and sass into their brands. Oh and I have 20 years’ experience of making clients happy.” If you know anyone I could help, please drop me a line.

By Justina Hart

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