If you’re a copywriter and missed out on CopyCon 2017, well you really did miss out. Sorry! Here, while still on a post CopyCon high, I extract my 8 key takeaways from a day packed with copywriting information, ideas and inspiration.
Australia’s first dedicated copywriting conference hit Sydney’s Novotel Rockford on Saturday 29 April 2017.
Organised by Kate Toon, attending was quite literally a no-brainer for me – I snapped up a ticket to CopyCon early on, without thinking or even bothering to check out the line-up of speakers.
The event sold out pretty quickly (though video tickets are still available here). I guess we all had an instinctive confidence in the event based on Kate’s track record as a copywriter and general creator of awesome communities, courses, books and things.
I wasn’t disappointed and can now confirm Kate is also a creator of amazing conferences.
From 8am to 8pm (when my introverted self finally started to fade), the conference was filled with good vibes. It was a blast to meet so many online colleagues who I’ve only ever known as 170×170 pixels headshots.
And I feel like I’ve turned another corner in my freelance copywriting career thanks to the speakers who all shared so honestly and generously.
1. It’s a great time to be a copywriter
During the day, many speakers repeated (in more or less words):
It’s a statement that’s up for debate, though, with the abundance of extremely-low-paid writing jobs around and the never-ending supply of writers who are, for whatever reason, keen to give up their time, energy and creativity for not much reward.
Since quitting my day job to devote my career hours to freelance copywriting, I’ve had a positive experience in many ways, including financially. But I do sometimes wake in the middle of the night and wonder if I’m just on a lucky streak, if I was completely nuts to leave a secure government job.
However, the conference left me with so many new ideas, opportunities and contacts that I know I’ll keep moving ahead in my copywriting career.
Kate talked directly about this issue in her opening keynote, “How to survive in a post Fiverr world”, and triggered a collective sigh of relief when she pointed out that Google’s increasing cleverness is making copywriters big winners:
“Google loves copywriters… Websites can’t get away with shitty copy anymore, they need the help of people like you.”
SEO guru Mez Homayunfard from Online Marketing Gurus (OMG), agreed, telling us OMG has spent a sizeable amount of money on research and content in the last year to come to this conclusion:
“Content is the centrepiece of a fantastic SEO strategy.”
With Google on our side, it surely is a super time to be a copywriter. Three cheers for copywriters….
2. But we need to convince clients of the value of our work
Okay, so there were plenty of cheers and highs at CopyCon, but plenty of reality added to the mix. And that’s where I found the most valuable takeaways.
Some of the speakers touched on the idea that we need to shift our image from producer of words to advisors who add value to our clients’ businesses:
- Canberra-based content strategist and copywriter Matt Fenwick suggested many clients see us as “copy slaves, producers of a commodity”. Shift the conversation, he says by weaving something that is strong, useful and durable into our services. In Matt’s case, he offers information architecture to complement his copywriting services.
- Copywriter Melinda Leyshon wowed us by revealing the MEGA dollars she’s sometimes paid to write business awards submissions. Her formula for success? She developed a niche as an awards submission writer, now has a proven track record in that niche and offers a service that can add immeasurable value to businesses (would you rather have your dream house designed by an architect or an award-winning architect?).
3. Another reality: parenting and priorities
Another reality for many freelance copywriters is the parenting and work juggle. That juggle is the reason many in the CopyCon audience found themselves on the freelance path judging by the many nodding heads and understanding giggles during Angela Denly’s talk about balancing parenting and freelance copywriting.
While freelancing does make the juggle easier, it can also be isolating. So, it was great to hear from Angela who talked about her own experience. There were 2 things she said that were useful reminders for me:
- “It’s really important to know what your priorities are.”
- “It’s ok to not want everything now.”
4. It’s time to stop complaining about having no time
It’s also time to embrace our time constraints, according to Kelly Exeter. Kelly should know about time constraints – she’s a (wonderful and prolific) writer, editor of Flying Solo, Podcaster, author of 3 books and owner of Swish Design.
Kelly convinced us that time constraints can actually encourage productivity with an anecdote from her days as a triathlete (yes, that’s right, a triathlete… she really is some type of superwoman!)
I’m sold on the idea and will be attempting to replace my catchcry “If only I had more time” with Kelly’s more positive and productive one: “Time is not the enemy.”
5. Kate’s secret powers: the other 2 Ps
In her opening, Kate let us in on her 6 Ps of successful copywriting (and in true Kate Toon fashion, she added 2 bonus Ps).
But later, at the post CopyCon drinks, I learned about another 2 Ps Kate does well: persuasion and persistence. This picture tells the story:
Perhaps these 2 Ps are the true secret of Kate’s success?
6. The anti-niche: it’s a thing!
There was a lot of talk about the pros and cons of developing a niche and even a sofa session to discuss the dilemma: “To niche or not to niche”. From my experience, narrowing my focus and identifying my strength areas has meant more work, so I’m firmly in the “to niche” camp even though I feel like my niche is still a work in progress.
But what stood out for me was Matt Fenwick’s “anti-niche” approach. Instead of defining a niche, think about those things that you just don’t touch. Matt listed real estate and food as his own anti-niche areas – things that I similarly don’t go near.
This approach would be particularly useful to those wanting to develop a niche but struggling to define one. And by putting more thought into my own anti-niches, I’m hoping to get more clarity around my developing niche.
7. Getting real about goals
It was up to copywriting superstar Belinda Weaver, who appeared via video link from the US, to settle us back in after our lunch break. And she hit the mark with a 10-minute presentation on turning inspiration from the conference into profitable action.
Her first piece of advice was to wait a day or 2 before looking at our notes and to pay attention to those ideas that keep bubbling to surface during that time. (I’m totally breaking this first rule by writing this post!)
But she did inspire me to re-visit the whole goal-setting thing and I will take a break once I’ve finished this post to allow the bubbling ideas to bubble away. And when the bubbles settle, I’ll be following Belinda’s simple strategy for converting ideas and goals into action:
- List your ideas or goals.
- Break each idea or goal down into tasks.
- Schedule time to do the tasks.
8. Sometimes you’ve just got to listen to Glenn Murray (and Taylor Swift)
Towards the end of the day, we met copywriting Grandfather/Godfather Glenn Murray. (There was some debate at the conference about his title. I vote ‘Godfather’ on the basis that I’m probably older than Glenn.)
He drove home two important things that every copywriter should write down immediately and pin up somewhere in their working space:
- You’re as good as anyone else in the room.
- When you get negative feedback, you’ve just got to “shake it off”.
Bookmark this clip and hit play as needed!
The list could keep going but, hey, I need to take Belinda’s advice and allow room for my post CopyCon ideas to bubble.
But before I wrap up, I want to mention some other takeaways of the food variety.
- the Frazzles hidden in my goodies bag
- the mini quiches for morning tea and chocolate eclairs for afternoon tea were especially delicious
- the iced CopyCon bikkie.
Thanks Kate for an all-round amazing conference and one new snack food obsession!
Were you one of the lucky ducks at CopyCon 2017? I’d love to hear about your key takeaway in the the comments below.