Michael Clendenen
At 19 years old, Clendenen thought that he had already destroyed his life. @michael.a.clendenen via Instagram

Michael Clendenen's career started at the fast-food restaurant In-N-Out Burger, but he has since transformed his life. Now, he is a six-figure copywriter and direct-response marketer, working with Fortune 100 companies, USA BMX, political campaigns, and more.

In a Business Insider interview, Clendenen described his life at 19 as dire. He was malnourished, penniless, and felt he had ruined his future. Each morning, he walked through fast-food drive-thrus to buy food and collect cans of sweet drinks, scraping together money.

While maintaining this routine, Clendenen secured a job at In-N-Out Burger, recently voted the most popular fast food restaurant in California, US. After a year, he requested a raise from his boss. Instead, he was assigned to the morning shift.

"Little did I know that meant I would be scrubbing toilets at 5 am and waiting for the Arizona sun to come up so I could clean the parking lot," he wrote. "I found myself scrubbing concrete by day and performing at punk-rock shows by night. Meanwhile, my friends were graduating college, getting married, and having kids."

By age 22, his situation worsened. To save money, he lived in a single motel room with five other people and a Chihuahua. He had no computer, smartphone, car, or internet connection.

Becoming a Self-Taught Copywriter

Without any prior experience in writing ads, Clendenen borrowed a friend's phone and Googled "how to write a good advertisement." His research led him to "The Gary Halbert Letter," a newsletter that changed his life.

"I read one of the newsletters, in which he said he could charge a client $15,000 for a letter he wrote in his underwear at his kitchen table," Clendenen shared. "That was when I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Following Halbert's advice, Clendenen started writing letters to companies to gain clients. With limited resources, he wrote his copy at the local library using the Reference USA database, now known as Data Axle, to find business addresses. His persistence paid off, landing his first client through a letter.

Building Client Relationships

After securing his first client, Clendenen chose to work on commission only with businesses he was personally interested in. His first target was chiropractors, as he had a personal history with scoliosis and car accidents.

In his letters, Clendenen expressed his emotional investment in their work, creating a genuine connection rather than focusing on what he could do for them. This honest approach built instant rapport, a principle he still applies in his clients' copy today.

By the age of 27, Clendenen's freelance career had provided him with a furnished apartment and a profitable business, all without dedicating excessive time to social media. He currently works around 35 hours a week, earning between $40,000 and $100,000 per month for his clients and continuously increasing his personal income with each new collaboration.

Michael Clendenen
Clendenen brings home between $40,000 and $100,000 on average per month for clients. Michael Clendenen via Facebook

How To Become A Successful Copywriter In 6 Steps:

1. Decide what type of writer you want to be:

Social media copywriter: Gives subtitles to paid advertisements and social media posts. Examples: Instagram captions, Tweets, and Facebook ads.

SEO copywriter: Ensures that information is seen by the intended demographic by employing search engine optimisation. Examples: SEO blog, keyword research, website content, and meta descriptions and headlines.

Brand copywriter: Carries out the brand's messaging in every correspondence, both internal and external. Examples: brand style guidelines, slogans, product packaging, mission statements, and website content.

Marketing copywriter: Specialises in writing content for advertisements and marketing. Examples: digital ads, press releases, email campaigns, promotional materials, and landing pages.

Technical copywriter: Explains the benefits and advantages of a product in a way that is straightforward and easy to understand. Examples: user guides, product packaging, help content, FAQs, and user manuals.

2. Audit your skill set:

The most productive copywriters are those who are always gaining new knowledge and abilities to broaden their clientele and services.

Skills to mention in your profile and proposals:

  • You are familiar with using email marketing services such as Constant Contact, SendinBlue and Mailchimp.
  • You have worked on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • You are accustomed to writing in AP, Chicago, AMA, and MLA styles, among others.
  • You can write material for paid ad platforms like YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Facebook.
  • You can use website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress.

3. Create a portfolio:

All your clients want to do is get a sense of your writing style. Make sure it's obvious that any samples that aren't from clients are mock-ups.

Samples to showcase or mock copywriting samples to prepare:

Landing page: Using Canva, Squarespace, or Wix, create a landing page for your preferred business or for a nearby company.

SEO blog: Write a brief blog post using search engine optimisation. Remember to include your meta description and title.

Email: Use a platform like Canva or Mailchimp to write an email for a brand as a way to showcase your skills.

Ads: Make advertisements on social media with Influencer Marketing Hub.

Social Media: You can use Media Modifier to create social media posts that highlight your copywriting abilities.

4. Study the market:

When you first start out as a copywriter, research what kinds of abilities are in great demand. Remember that not all clients understand the distinction between copywriting and content writing, so you might need to expand your search to locate positions in your area.

5. Apply for copywriting jobs:

Initially, making time to apply for employment is really beneficial. As a freelancer, you can discover that clients come to you and that you don't need to spend as much time seeking work after you establish a reputable name.

6. Promote your services:

After compiling your greatest writing examples into an eye-catching portfolio, you must market your work to potential clients. To make it easy for them to contact you, be sure to include a contact form or email. Including a contact link and the phrase "accepting new clients" in your professional social network biographies is one approach to draw in business.

According to Google Trends data, the term "copywriting" hit an all-time global high in January 2023. However, while more people are becoming interested in the field, copywriting continues to be in high demand, particularly in the digital sector, where businesses rely on impactful messaging to connect with consumers and powerful content providers.