Anyone pursuing a career in screenwriting knows just how hard it is to get a foothold. It’s not about raw talent. It’s about skill, experience and perseverance, and these things take years to culminate into something valuable.
Until then, many aspiring writers must face the reality of continuing to stay in and work a day job for the financial security and stability it provides.
Unfortunately, many of the jobs traditionally staffed by creatives in their formative years — such as waiting tables, bartending, retail and more — have become scarce in the wake of digital disruption and pressures increasing the cost of doing business.
Embracing the Effects of Digital Disruption
I have been on the receiving end of this paradigm shift multiple times as a member of Generation Y but found that freelancing provided more job security than any casual job I’d ever held. And though I struggled at the outset I eventually found my footing in professional copywriting.
Here’s my perspective on the subject of holding down a job as a copywriter and web content creator, having been one for more than two and a half years.
The Distant Cousin of Creative Writing
For those looking to lead the writer’s lifestyle, you can definitely write copy whilst working on that spec script you’ve been chipping away at for months, or that TV pilot you’ve been working on so diligently.
That said, being a writer for hire is not for everyone, and indeed, may not be for some writers. It exacts a toll that makes it difficult to write creatively once you’ve spent your mental energies writing professionally.
At worst, it requires consigning yourself to creating a thinly-veiled advertisement for a corporation or cause you don’t care about and at best, it’s a role adjacent to what you’d rally rather be doing; telling stories for the screen.
It’s the latter that makes this particular career choice a step in the right direction — especially if you don’t live in Los Angeles or have any connections in Hollywood as yet.
If you do, you might be in a position to shoot for those sought-after entry level jobs within the film industry that could land you on the set of a studio or on the roster at a production company.
A Few Harsh Truths
Will copywriting get you noticed in the industry? No, probably not. But it does prepare you with the necessary skills to survive in the writer’s room or independent filmmaking community.
There are other benefits too; you get to write daily, cover a variety of topics and you are afforded the opportunity to work remotely and at your own pace. Such advantages generally come at the cost of a desirable pay packet however and this can be both frustrating and demoralising for newcomers.
I found myself lucky in this regard as I when I entered copywriting, I was contracted to a business that offered various content writing and SEO services and sourced my clients for me. Rarely did I ever work for individual clients on a one-off basis. And if I did, it was only because I chose to.
My advice is that you try and do the same if you want to take the position seriously and use it as your main source of income.
Deadlines for Days
One last thing I want to touch on are those bedevilling, time-sensitive deadlines that eat away at your sanity and into your sleep. They will be your biggest enemy and the most difficult challenge you’ll be forced to consistently overcome.
After a time, they should become a part of your routine and if you’re fortunate, you’ll find your niche quickly and your employer and clients will recognise it.
Ultimately, copywriting aligns quite well what the pursuits of aspiring screenwriters insofar as it makes you feel like a writer and sets you up for an easy transition should the opportunity present itself.
If it is something you haven’t yet tried and you’re looking to make a change, I urge you to give it a go. At the very least, give it your consideration.