Guest interview alert! This article features an interview with fellow copywriter, Will Lyth.
A few years ago my business started blowing up.
I had too many leads, but too few copywriters I could refer them to.
Good copywriters are hard to find.
And great copywriters (meaning those who are not only great writers, but also professional, reliable, easy to work with, etc) are even rarer.
Despite this, I knew they were out there, I just had to find them – so I posted on LinkedIn asking interested copywriters to send me a message with their bio and website/portfolio.
I got a ton of responses, but as expected, only a small percentage were even close to my high standards of quality, experience, and professionalism.
One of those standouts was conversion copywriter, Will Lyth.
What set Will apart was his polished (yet personality-filled) website, clear, story-driven copy, testimonials, and a portfolio that featured really great samples of his work.
Will was also friendly, responsive, and professional – and most importantly, he made me feel confident that if I were to send a lead his way, he’d treat them well.
Since then, Will has expanded his portfolio to include big-name clients – including Adidas – and was gracious enough to share his story and some words of wisdom for current and aspiring copywriters.
There’s also some great advice in here for business owners and marketers who want to learn more about what makes copy effective and the kind of mistakes they can avoid when writing their own.
Alright, let’s get into it!
Q1: How did you get into copywriting? Tell us your origin story.
I jumped from job to job for years, never knowing what I wanted to do. Then somehow, I found myself working as a web developer in central London – and I couldn’t stand it!
But I did get to work with copywriters. I was so jealous… I kept thinking about starting a freelance copywriting business; it became an obsession.
So I quit the web development job and started learning about copywriting. I bought books, took courses, and started my website. Within weeks I had clients and it became my full-time source of income.
Q2: How did you choose your area of expertise or niche? What was that process like for you?
It can be quite scary as we fear that we might niche ourselves into a corner and not find any work! But that wasn’t the case for me, thankfully.
I got picked up by a marketing agency on a 20-hour-a-week contract when I first started and most of their clients were SaaS companies, so I did lots of conversion copy which I enjoyed. I stayed in that lane for a few years and then I started focusing more on coaches and consultants as I found them fun to work with.
The big question all freelancers ask is: “do you need a niche?” After 6 years of freelancing – for me – the answer is no. I know many freelancers that do very well; some have a niche and some don’t. As long as you’re great at what you do and market yourself well, I’m sure you’ll do well.
Q3: Take us through your process as a copywriter. Are there any key steps you always follow regardless of the project type?
I have a process that I tweak depending on how much I know about the client. Should they send me a detailed email and brief, I’ll book a call and have some questions for them too.
Should I get a vague email, I’ll send them a “work with me” application form for them to answer; this gives me a better idea of what they’re after and if I can help them. If I like their answers, I’ll book a call with them; during that call, I use specific documents to get the clarity I need to write their copy.
I have one document with questions for the client. And then I have another internal document that I use to create the copy hierarchy; it also serves as a checklist once I’ve finished their copy.
Q4: You started working with Adidas a bit ago. How did you land them as a client?
It’s funny, I’d been doing this for 6 years and never landed a blue-chip client. I’ve worked with some multi-million dollar companies, but no household names. I never cared too much as I was enjoying the work and getting paid well, but it did make me wonder what I have to do to land a big name…
Then, one morning I was catching up on LinkedIn and saw a post from someone working at Adidas. They were after a freelance copywriter. I messaged her, we had a call, and I got the contract. It was a 6-month contract, but I have been extended a few times now. Still there.
Q5: What would you say are the main differences between working with a “big-name” client like Adidas vs an individual entrepreneur or small-to-medium-sized business?
There are pros and cons to both, but the biggest difference is speed: big corporations don’t move as fast. With huge teams, different departments spread all over the world, tonnes of guidelines, lengthy sign-off processes, and a global brand name to protect – they move much slower.
Startups and smaller companies aren’t as constrained. They tend to be bolder and take more risks, not scared to tear something up and try again quickly if their initial approach didn’t work.
Working with solopreneurs is fun as you work closely together. You become the ghostwriter for their brand, so they’re putting a lot of trust in you to write in their voice.
I enjoy working with companies of all sizes. They all have different energies though. That’s for sure!
Q6: When it comes to writing clear, high-converting copy, what is your #1 piece of advice?
It might sound basic, but I always remind myself that people are people! They have jobs, they might be tired, distracted by their phone, and not in the best of moods when they see your website. Plus, they might have 5 tabs open to compare your website with your competitors as they choose which one to buy from.
So as a copywriter, it’s your job to get their attention IMMEDIATELY by learning (researching) what the audience wants. So many times I read website copy and all the information customers want is there, but… the key points aren’t concise and they’re buried too far down the page so few are going to find it.
There’s no space to warm up, you need to hook their attention and make them care RIGHT NOW otherwise you’ve lost a giant percentage of people right away.
Q7: What are the most common copy mistakes you see (either in the world or with clients) and what is your advice for avoiding them?
A lot of companies fall in love with their products, which is great!
But they get stuck in an echo chamber, as they’re not speaking to customers or researching. So often this can result in alienating people with buzzwords that nobody understands and talking about features.
Their copy fails to connect their product to a problem that people are looking to fix. So people don’t care.
Q8: Are you working on anything cool / interesting / new that you’d like us to know about?
I am currently writing an eBook to help people launch a freelance copywriting business. So many people have asked me about going freelance, but they’re not sure where to start. So I’m putting it all into an eBook.
It’s not fluffy like most advice you’ll get from a quick Google search – it’s bold, probably too bold for some! I know some people start freelancing copywriting and give up pretty fast as it’s not for them. And I know some people (like us!) who absolutely love it. So this eBook is going to be super concise, blunt, and actionable.
I want people to read it and start landing clients within weeks, avoiding the many pitfalls that first-time freelancers fall into.