Jim Rodante knew early on that he didn’t want a life on the road in pursuit of a paycheck, instead preferring a life at home with his family and time to pursue other interests. That’s exactly what he got when he dipped his toe into the world of copywriting, though it came in an unexpected way. Read on to learn how he’s made this adaptable opportunity work for him.
I understand you have a staff writing job. How did that come about?
Funny story. I actually went on an interview for a sales position at a mid-size tech company (about $500 million in annual sales). The marketing director told me the only sales positions he had required 50% travel. With a young family, I did not want that. So he asked me, “What else do you do?” I told him I was a pretty good copywriter (having never been paid to write a word in my life, mind you). After a few writing “tests,” I got hired. That gig lasted five years. I’m now a staff writer at Panasonic and have been a working writer going on seven years now.
What do you like about being a staff writer, as opposed to freelancing?
Stability and being around people. Plus, it gives me the freedom to do other things. When I leave the office I can unplug, which allows me to pursue other business opportunities unrelated to writing.
Do you ever freelance?
Not often, but when I do, it’s usually a barter situation. For example, I recently wrote a press release for my lawyer with the arrangement that she reduce my bill by $400. Took me less than three hours to complete! You’d be surprised at the professional services you can barter for when you tell people you’re a copywriter.
What kind of training did you have to get started writing?
All my training has been self-taught. I read and write constantly. AWAI remains my biggest educational resource, along with Mark Ford’s teachings. I’ve bought several AWAI programs, including the B2B program and the Bootcamp Home Study Program a few years ago. Highly recommend them to anyone starting out.
What kinds of projects do you work on?
In a corporate marketing department of a Fortune 100 company, I work on a variety of projects, including emails, infographics, print ads, banner ads, brochures, sell sheets, web/landing pages, etc. And, for a variety of divisions (consumer electronics, AV, solar energy, automotive, HVAC, to name a few). My favorites at the time: Infographics, for sure. You can really get creative and edgy with them. Also, landing pages for a cool new wearable 4K video camera for the adventure market. We’re co-promoting with Spartan Race on this product, so it lets me use my love of fitness and adventure to influence my copy. Cool stuff!
What’s the most unusual writing project you’ve ever worked on?
Not many “unusual” projects in the corporate world. But having to write a customer service email — informing customers of closings, tech support disruptions, etc. — after Hurricane Sandy battered the northeast was surely a bit different than the norm!
Please share your top advice for new writers.
I’ll start with the advice to read and write as much as possible — especially read the right people, like Dan Kennedy, Michael Masterson (Mark Ford’s pen name), David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz, and anything published by Agora.
AWAI is the best place to start. Follow the AWAI track, take their courses, and you will create a very rewarding profession for yourself. There are not many really good copywriters in Corporate America, believe me. Most just wing it, having never studied the principles of our craft. If you get even basic training, you will be far ahead of your competition.
Know that copywriting is a humbling profession, so always keep your ax sharp. Improve a little every day. Bob Bly has been a professional copywriter for over 35 years and he says he still learns new things.
Previous Job (before your writing job): IT Sales, stock trader
Current Writing Interest: Infographics
Best Part of Barefoot Living: The variety of work, with something different every day
Top Advice for new writers: Read and write as much as possible. But read the right people. Dan Kennedy, Michael Masterson, Ogilvy, and Schwartz, to name a few.