It’s time to answer YOUR questions!
It’s Monday, which means I’m diggin’ in the ol’ mailbox, and I think I’ve got a good one for you this week.
It’s all about how to break into financial copywriting…
More on that in a moment. But first, remember: Every Monday I answer your questions on copywriting, marketing, selling, business-building, entrepreneurship, whatever…
All you gotta do to get your question in an upcoming Mailbox Monday is send it on through to Roy@RoyFurr.com, and I’ll add your question to the queue!
On to today’s question…
I’ve been a copywriter in a couple different niches like health and supplements along with others I’d rather not mention.
But I want to jump into the financial market. The thing is I don’t know a darn thing when it comes to the market. How would I go about starting, or learning the financial ways?
Let me know if you can answer, it would be greatly appreciated.
So, you wanna be a financial copywriter?
Let’s see… Financial and investment publishing is known as the industry where all the money is for freelancers…
You’ve got a topic with a HUGE market appeal — most people want to retire with money, and quite a few are doing something about it and want guidance…
You have a very mature direct response presence — which means good clients who are willing to pay a lot of money for good copywriters…
And there’s a ton of need for copy — since market conditions are changing literally every day, every publisher out there is on their toes, trying to stay one step ahead!
It’s also a highly-competitive market — where many of the best-of-the-best copywriters play… But if you’re willing to do what it takes to compete there, you might be making a really good decision!
So, I’ve broken this down into five steps, based on my experience getting into financial copywriting…
Step 1: Start losing your own money in the stock market…
This may sound silly, but let me explain. First off, I hope you don’t lose too much money, because that would be no good. But you need to lose a little (and if you’re investing in stocks, you most definitely will).
The reason you want to lose money — and start actively investing in general — is because if you want to be a good financial copywriter, you need to understand investor psychology.
— What does it feel like when you pick a winner?
— How does it hurt when you lose your money on a bad bet?
There’s a lot of nuance I don’t have time to get into here, but this is really important. If you want to talk to your readers on their level, you must have LIVING EXPERIENCE of the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.
These days, I don’t trust myself much with my investments. But when I was starting to look toward financial copywriting in early 2008 (note the timing here), I knew I had to do this. So I started actively buying things in my IRA. Right before the market started crashing. I lost a ton of money. I learned how that felt. Then, I did well. And I learned how that felt. Then, I lost a lot of my gains. And I learned how that felt!
Investing is a psychological and emotional roller coaster you can’t understand if you don’t experience it firsthand. Since you need to deal with all the motivations and objections that come up as a result of having ridden that roller coaster before, you need to know it, and know it well.
Step 2: Subscribe to and follow the CONTENT of several publishers…
I’m assuming you’ve already looked at the marketing of a bunch of publishers. You know the long-form financial copy that the publishers are using.
While that’s critical education for copywriters, I believe you need to immerse yourself further.
Find market segments, publishers, and writers who interest you. Most of them will write weekly, if not daily. Follow them. Read their stuff. Dig in. Develop a working knowledge of the market, such that you could at least discuss current market news with a mom and pop investor. You don’t have to become a guru yourself, you just have to know what’s going on and how to talk about it.
One of the things this does — that I think is underrated among novice copywriters — is it gives you a depth of content to pull from.
For example, if I’m talking about a gold stock today, to be able to talk about the 10-year uninterrupted bull market through 2011… Plus the agonizing slump that’s lasted from then ‘til now… Along with all those times in the last couple years where it felt like gold was going to turn up again… Well, suddenly I’m talking about a shared experience and have connected with my reader on a much deeper level than talking about the company itself.
The more you know and can talk about the zigs and zags of the market, the anticipations fulfilled and foiled, the better you’re going to connect and the easier it is to sell.
Step 3: Find spec assignments and do them…
Once you have a working understanding of the market and can read through the financial news and discuss it with others, you’re on the right track.
Then, seek out opportunities to get any experience.
I don’t often recommend spec work, but switching industries is a situation where it can work (and it’s how I got my first financial project). You can search job boards, etc., looking for financial publishers offering spec work. AWAI’s annual Bootcamp is a great place to find a bunch of financial specs.
Financial publishing is a very mature direct response industry. They know what good copy looks like, and what bad copy looks like too. They have an abundance of copywriters. So often the best way to break in to a financial publisher is to write a headline and lead about one of their products for free, and let them see what you’d do with their stuff.
(Side note: my “irresistible offer letter” as described in this post about how to get your first copywriting client could also work. Although with financial publishers I probably would tweak it to only offer the head and lead for free, and ask for a modest fee to do the full project.)
The goal here is simply to get your first project under your belt. Almost whatever it takes. Once you have one, it’s a whole lot easier to get two, then three, then ten…
Step 4: Try to get an ongoing gig with a publisher…
I’m assuming you’re a freelancer. This is actually a detriment (and one I face, too).
Because the financial publishing industry is mature, many of the biggest publishers with the best marketing have brought the copywriting function in-house.
Yes, you can get one-off projects with some of them. Others won’t touch you unless you’ll move to their city (a lot of the Agora divisions, for example), and work in the office.
My recommendation is to look beyond single-project work.
If you are willing and able to move across the country to make this happen, make that a point when you speak with publishers. You gotta be good, but if they see promise, this can be a huge opportunity to get a couple years’ experience before being able to work from wherever you want.
If you are unable to move across the country (it was never an option for me), consider trying to land multi-project or retainer deals with good clients. As I said above, most need a lot of copy, and want to hold on to good copywriters.
My recommendation for doing this is that if you’re doing one-off projects, you are in a very different position with each client. They want the project to be successful, but they aren’t invested in you.
In a longer-term relationship, you’ll get more development time, where you’re not just writing copy, you’re improving your skills. It’s a situation where you can get paid to learn. And if you’re relatively new to this field (less than 5 years or so), this can be extremely valuable in shortening your learning curve.
Step 5: You did it!
So, you learned first-hand about investing. You started following the markets, so you could talk (and write) intelligently, you got some experience, then you got more experience!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,