It depends a lot on how much you write, how often, on what topics, and for who.
I did copywriting for several years (2007 - 2013) and was making about $200 to $600 a month depending on how many articles I wrote and for who. I was writing about 5 articles a week from 750 to 5,000 words each (most were around 2,000 words long).
It was pretty good pay, when you consider how much I made and how few articles it took to make that much. Because I'm writing full-time, it wasn't hard for me to sit down and write all 5 articles in one day and then not have to work the rest of the week, so the amount of time put in on it was good for me as well. I could easily have doubled or tripled my income by writing more articles each week. The reason I didn't write more articles is because I was also writing fiction and I was focusing more on that. The problem was fiction writing didn't pay half as much as the non-fiction copywriting did.
One thing to consider is that I am a door-to-door salesman and have been since 1996. So I also had prior experience in knowing how to "get my foot in the door" and sell an item. That really matters in copywriting, because the goal is to snag the readers' attention, so that by the time they get done reading, they click on that "buy" button.
Think of copywriting as writing reviews and then find things you can write a good hype sales pitch for. There is a product out there for every topic. I was only doing the copywriting a short time before sort of naturally flowing over to more content writing, with less ad copy. Over the years, it just kept evolving into less ad copy, and more how-to info and over time I just ended up cutting out the ad copy entirely and switching to writing how-to guides, but I don't think I would have gotten into how-to guides it I hadn't started out with ad copy first..
I was doing various topics that I had personal experience in (sewing, gardening, pets, RV living, homeless survival skills, Autism, homesteading, boondocking, camp cooking, RPG/D&D gaming, etc). I think the reason I was so successful is because I was writing about topics that I was living in my every day life. I'm a CosPlayer and sew elaborate costumes, I live full time in a motorhome, and I boondock in the wilds of Maine, so I was making the most income off of my sewing/costuming, RV living, and survival skills articles, because I knew these topics inside out. It only took me a few months to gain a reputation for being "an expert in my field" ad once I was seen as an expert, suddenly I was in demand and people were requesting articles from me. (People are still requesting articles from me, actually, and I've not been doing copywriting for 2 whole years.)
For example in costuming, I wrote an article on embroidery. It was a how-to article and it was detailing, I use blah, blah, blah's embroidery thread, look at how great the results are. Basically it's writing an advertisement for the company at the same time I was sharing knowledge of how I used their product.
To succeed in it, you have to figure out what you do really well, and then just start writing everything you know about it. For me it was costume sewing and RV living. I was able to rite endless articles on each topic, because I was doing these things every day. You got to look at your life and ask yourself: "What am I doing, that I can write about and teach others how to do?" Once you find the topic that answers that question, just start writing everything you can about it and get yourself known as an expert in it.
(The best copywriters are those who ACTUALLY USE the product they are writing ad copy for, because the company will cling to you once they know you are a screaming fangirl of their product and use it and are willing to yap happily about how great it is. Find products you use every day and start pitching to those companies, telling them how great their product is and how much you want to write for their ads.)
I was basically doing it very part time, just working one day a week at it and making fairly good money for the limited amount of work I put in. It was definitely something I could have turned into a full-time income if I'd devoted more time to it.
Unfortunately the 4 companies that paid me the most all went out of business and so I changed my writing career around after that. I got the rights back to all of my articles (more then 2,000 of them total, over the 7 years I did it) and started putting them up on my website. I got about 400 of them up on my website, and then used the rest to compile together and re-write into non-fiction books to publish on Kindle. The 400 pages on my website, act as quasi-sales pages now. The page has the article, then at the bottom asks "Want to read more? Check out these books on the same topic:" then there are my books on Amazon for them to check out.
My articles kept getting longer and before I knew it I had switched from copywriting for products to content writing for blogs and websites.
In a way I'm still copywriting, because I'm still writing those same sort of non-fiction articles, and I still tell you all the products I'm using, but I'm no longer writing for companies and trying to pitch a sale, and just now I make a short article (2,000 words) for my site, followed by a longer book (35,000 to 75,000 words) that I publish on Kindle. The pay is a lot less doing it this way, but it's more steady, stable, and long term, with a regular income coming in over and over again from the same book. So now I can write 1 article a month, write it's matching book, and then get the same income as writing 5 articles a week and hunting down places to pitch it to. Hunting down places to pitch your copywriting skills is the thing I hated about copywriting, and why I also disliked content writing for others. In both cases I wanted to be free to just publish it on my own and move on to writing the next thing, without having to find someone to publish it for me.
The reason I didn't focus on turning copywriting into a full-time income was, I was more interested in writing fiction, so I was only doing copywriting enough to pay the bills, because it was paying so much for so little time, that it allowed me to focus the rest of my week on my novel writing.
I originally started copywriting after reading this book (which was originally published in the 1990s and has gone through several editions):
How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit: Your Guide to Writing and Publishing Books, E-Books, Articles, Special Reports, Audio Programs, DVDs, and Other How-To Content by Robert W Bly [url="http://www.amazon.com/Write-Sell-Simple-Information-Profit/dp/1884995608"]How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit: Your Guide to Writing and Publishing Books, E-Books, Articles, Special Reports, Audio Programs, DVDs, and Other How-To Content: Robert W Bly, Fred Gleeck: 9781884995606: Amazon.com: Books[/url]
I have since read a lot of other books and courses on copywriting, but that's still the best one and remained the method I used.
The other thing is, when I first started, I didn't do it for the money, either. Here's how it all happened:
I write both fiction and non-fiction.
Fiction I write because I'm obsessed with the characters and can't stop writing about them. Non-fiction pays the bills.
I'm not making huge amounts of money, but I make more then minimum wage. I don't promote my books. I just self-publish them to Amazon and then move on to write the next one. I think if I did some heavy duty promoting and marketing, I could make and up swing from a part-time equivalent income, to a full-time equivalent income from my non-fiction.
What do I write?
All sorts of stuff.
In the older days (1970s - 1990s) I did a lot of short articles (magazines, newspapers, etc), mostly under 2,000 words each. (Pay used to be good; but I've not done it in a while so, not sure what the current forecast is on it.)
I write stage plays for local theatre. (pay is next to nothing)
I've done a few cookbooks. (pay is next to nothing)
I've done a few sewing books (costume making, embroidery, cloth doll pattern book, and crazy quilting) (pay is hit and miss, but fairly low)
I've done a few travel items, but lost interest (this could equal substantial income if I put more effort into it)
MOST of my income comes from three sets/series of books.
They are a combination of autobiographical-like essay/opinion/how-to books, on three topics that I know realy, realy, realy well. (Survival skills; writing short fiction, and my culture/family heritage/traditions)
Here's what I do:
I was homeless for 9 years. Unlike most homeless folks I opted to stay on my land, even though it was a very rural area with no near by cities and the nearest shelter was a 2 hour drive away. I did not have access to dumpsters or business or a shanty community. I became a boondocker living off the wild, building lean-tos and eating local plants growing in local forests. As a result I started a blog to keep a record of things that happened to me. I went into a lot of step-by-step detail on various things, like building shelters and cooking food and finding places to bathe, etc. That blog went viral a few months after I started it, because as I soon learned, there were some 20million homeless families in America and not one single solitary how-to guide website on how to survive being homeless. I modernized the blog with Google ads and made about $90 a month from it.
One thing lead to another and I started writing website content on homelessness and survival skills for various blogs and websites. I was making about $200 a month from that one topic alone.
Then I wrote a book (print; now out of print; never had an ebook edition) and gained a following from that. While the book didn't make much and went out of print a year later, word of the book got out a few years later and I started getting requests for a follow up part 2 of it.
I ended up on Squidoo, where I started a series of pages called "On Being Homeless" and BOOM, suddenly I was gaining a lot of fans and readers. Squidoo went offline in 2013, and now I had to figure out where to put all those articles.
Also in 2013 my blog host sold to another company and in the move, accidentally erased all the info off one of the servers, including my blog. FORTUNATELY, I had a copy of the entire thing save on 3 separate spare hard-drives...and suddenly I found myself needing a way to get all that how-to info back up.
By this time, I had saved up enough money from writing, to buy a motorhome and was now, in addition to writing about homelessness, was also writing about full-time RVing, boondocking, and homestead. Basically, I was writing stuff that appealed to preppers. So now I have developed a multiple following: homeless folks, vandwellers, vacation campers looking to rough it, fulltimers, boondockers, homesteaders, and preppers.
I talk to these people on various camper/ RVer/ vandweller/ prepper style forums and yahoo groups, and so I asked them: How do you suggest I get this info back online?
They had a lot of suggestions, but the thing that kept popping up over and over again was: "It'd be easiest for me to access it on my Kindle." or "It'd be nice to have it on an ebook I could keep on my smart phone." Basically they were all telling me to publish the stuff on Kindle so they could have the info whenever they needed it.
So, I spent about a year sifting through the blog (which had 6,000+ posts at the time it went offline.) and sorting the posts together by topic, rearranging them, rewriting them, and compiling them into a set of, what eventually became a series of 30 books.
Each books starts out with a notation that reads along the lines of:
This book is just one author's opinion (mine) and is more of an insider's look at how I did things and what did and did not work for me. It in no way guarantees that your results will be the same as mine. Everything in this book is all based of what I've personally done and experienced, so take or leave it. Your results may vary. I'm just telling you what I've done, what worked for me, what didn't work for me, what I liked or didn't like, how I did things, how I solved various problems, etc and you can decide if any of it applies to you and your situation or not. Some of it might, some of it may not. It is in no way advice on what you "should" or "should not" do, just advice on what I recommend based on my own experiences and you can choose to consider all, any, or some of those recommendations, or you can throw them all to the wind and do completely the opposite.
In each book I strive to focus on a narrow topic, within a broader topic. I'll write, re-write and expand the book, adding more information and details until the book is 100 to 250 pages long.
So I end up with one book on how to survive being homeless during blizzards and hurricanes; one on how to build a shelter out of found items and how to maintain it for several years of homelessness; one on how to upgrade from a shanty tent to vandwelling; one on how to find safe access to food and water; one on the dangers you'll face while homeless and how to protect yourself; one on how to outfit a motorhome into a full time boondocking bugout machine; etc.
I make my goal to have all my non-fiction books at least 100 pages and more then 100 pages if I have enough to say on the topic and usually I can get a book well over 150 pages.
I brand them as a series, with matching covers, then put them up on Kindle. Books 100+ pages I sell for $2.99; and under 100 pages I sell for .99c; the few over 300 pages I list for $4.99.
In most cases, shortly after one volume sells, within the next day or two, one of each of all the rest (30 volumes) sells as well. It is very common for someone to buy 1 volume then come back and buy the whole set a few days later. Well, most of them are $2.99, earning $2.09x30 volumes. That's $60 income in one day.
And then I have another series, done the same way, on writing short fiction. I've been writing short stories since the 1970s. I've got hundreds of them up on Kindle. There are 3 volumes out now and the set will have 25 volumes when finished. Again, each volume is 100+ pages and sells for $2.99, and when someone buys one, they often come back and buy the rest a few days later.
Then I have a third series, again, done the same way, this time on the history of my clan and it's traditions. I am the keeper of the records in my clan, I know the family history inside out. So far it is as 7 volumes published and 30 planned, again, each volume is 100+ pages and sells for $2.99, and when someone buys one, they usually come back and buy the rest a few days later.
I'm selling several a day now and once the full set of each set is up, these 3 sets of books alone will be bringing in about $500 a week.
In each case, it is me, taking some that I know really well and am on some level and expert on, and writing about it, to share my knowledge of it with others.
Everybody has something they are good at or know well enough to write about. It's just a matter of figuring out what it is you are interested in and writing about it.
And it may surprise you what you are an expert in. 10 years ago, I lived in a house and if you had told me that a major disaster was going to wash through my yard and take my house with it, and result in websites all over the world listing me as the top expert in homeless survival skills, I would have told you, you was crazy. But that's what happened. a flood took my house, and I did what I had to o to survive, and out of frustration I started a blog to vent about it and one thing led to another and next thing I know, I've got people coming from all over the world to meet me and see my camp set up in person. I didn't plan on this. I never intended to become a writer of survival books, but here I am, writing books on how to survive when nature attacks you from behind.
Somewhere in your life, you have something that has really impacted your life. It could be war, illness, natural disaster, a hobby, your job, your culture, your car, a pet, something, that you can write about and turn into a non-fiction writing career. And it may be the last thing you expect you'd ever write about too.
And I'm sure there's more ways I could spin my survival skills writing. Maybe I could write a newspaper column? Do lectures? I don't know. There's a lot of RVers out there requesting I set up a sort of "caravan tour" where I take my motorhome across the country and do lectures at campgrounds, and invite other RVers to follow me in their motorhomes. I'm thinking of doing that. Not sure how to set it up, yet, but working out the ideas... but anyways, you can see how, I started out with simply copy writing some articles on something I knew a lot about and because I knew it so well, it just exploded from there into a full time career about the topic and no longer was about me just copywriting anymore.
You want to know something funny? As a result of my writing those survival skills books, I have since started featuring homeless, vandwelling, and/or RV full timers as main characters in my fiction writing. and guess what: my top selling fiction novel right now, is the one about a guy who became homeless, lost his home and his family to a major disaster event, and just started walking all over the world, being homeless and trying to survive. a lot of that book, even though it's fiction, was based off actual events in my life. A lot of the stuff that happens to him, are things that happened to me. So, you can even take your non-fiction and write fiction based off of it.
So, yeah, that's how I took copywriting writing non-fiction and turned it into a steady income.
My current personal writing process is less organized then what most copywriters do, and is much more emotion driven, and usually follows something like this:
Disagrees with something someone said, either a news article or a blog post I read or something a reporter said on TV or something someone said during a conversation with me, etc. Or something happens to me and I'm really upset about it and need to talk about it. For example, the first time I set out in my motorhome, I had this nice set of china dishes. By the end of the day all the cupboard doors were open and smashed dishes were in the floor. Taught me two things: use plastic dinnerware in a motorhome and secure the doors with bungee cords. Well, I got several articles out of that event. It was just a simple thing, but I was: "OMG! This pisses me off so much, I must write about it."
Writes a rant on my blog, rambles on every thing that annoyed me about the issue, however it pops into my head. Ends up with a post about 2k words long.
Make a top ten list for my website (Top Ten Things NOT to take with you in your RV; Top Ten Reason Every RVer Needs Bungee Cords; etc) Make sure the Top Ten list contains a link to any blog posts and books published on the topic.
Soothes the savage beast inside me by painting or drawing and BOOM gets an idea for a book cover to match my rant.
Rushes to ChaseyDraw to create a book cover, and wonders what I'm going to do with it now that I've created it because I can't publish a 2,000 word rant with a cover.
Spends a week or so, editing and re-writing the rant trying to determine how I could turn it into a book. Soon I am picking the issue apart and writing a more organized and detailed rant on why I wrote the first rant.
100 pages of in depth rating later I now have something that looks like a book.
Re-write the whole thing into a more logical, less hysterical, stream of consciousness "here's how this made me feel and why I felt that way" sort of opinion piece, that doesn't rant as much as it did when I first wrote it.
Edit it, add the cover, slap it up on Amazon Kindle, hit publish. Done.
Look for new issue to set a fire under my rant button and start the process all over again.
As you can tell, my approach is very "unprofessional" and more "this is how I feel".
I guess you could say my non-fiction is less "expert in my field" and more "Dear Reader, this outraged me and I needed to scream at someone about it, thank you for letting me vent", whatever genre of non-fiction that may be. But then because I'm writing about actual events that happen to me on the same topics over and over again, I ended up becoming seen as "the go to expert" of my topic.
The thing of what I'm doing is, I'm NOT selling my writing, I'm selling my knowledge of how to do a thing that I'm really good at doing, and it has a group of people out there who want to do it to and are willing to pay money to learn how to do it well. That's the thing you have to focus on. Not making money. If you focus on making money, you'll fail. Instead focus on finding out what it is you have to share with others. Then find the people who want to know that information and get information to them.
In the early days I was writing content for others, but today all my writing goes 100% into my own site, my own blog, my own books, my own lectures, etc. I no longer do any outsourcing to others anymore, so I've now cut out the middleman and turned this into a business that s no longer copywriting. But copywriting for others all those years taught me how to do stuff, that I wouldn't have been able to figure out on my own, had I just jumped in and started off on my own site. I think it would have been really had for me to gain a reputation had I started out with my own website first. It was definitely because I was writing so much content for so many others, that I gained a reputation in my niche, so I definitely recommend starting out in copywriting and building up your reputation before heading out on your own with your own website.
So, yeah, that's the basic road map of my own copywriting career and where I took it and how it evolved out of copywriting for products I used, into content writing that no longer pitched products, into book writing, into a full time career about the topic itself. I never expected that taking up copywriting in my spare time, would evolve so far away from copywriting and end up becoming a fulltime career elsewhere. I completely did not plan on any of this. It just happened as one thing snowballed into another and I sort of went with the avalanche, changing to match the changes around me. I think that's the most important thing of all:knowing when to change and adapt and move away from the thing you started out with, and go to the thing that speaks to you.
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