/  2024   /  Quick chat with Bernadette Schwerdt

Quick chat with Bernadette Schwerdt

You’re a copywriter, founder of the Australian School of Copywriting and the head copywriting tutor at the Australian Writer’s Centre. Plus, you host the So You Want to Be A Copywriter podcast. You’re clearly passionate about copy – why?

Being able to write good copy is a super power. Not only does it enable you to become a digital nomad who can work from anywhere, and with anyone, and get paid to be creative, it also enables you to influence others. When you truly understand the underlying principles of copy, you have the power to persuade people to see your point of view – is there anything more powerful than that?

You’ve trained over 10,000 people to become freelance copywriters – many of whom have switched from entirely different careers – to copywriting. Do you believe it’s a career where writers really can carve out a six-figure income?

Absolutely. Let’s do the math. If you write 5 blogs a week, for $300 per blog, that’s $78k a year. If you write 1 website a month, at $200 per page, and do 10 pages, that $2000 per month. By 12 months, that’s $24,000. That’s your six figure income. And that’s working around 25 hours a week. If you seek out retainers, you can earn a lot more and halve your business development time. My advice is to try and get a small job first, test the waters, show your ability and grow it from there. Once they like you, they won’t want to let you go.

If you can learn how to upload content to a website or social site and edit a video or two, you’ll become even more valuable.

What have been the highlights of your own career so far?

It sounds dramatic but learning how to write copy and build a freelance business can be lifechanging for many people, particularly for those who didn’t even know copywriting was a thing. They say, ‘You mean I can get paid to interview people, research a topic, and write about it?’ I say ‘Yes’ and their eyes light up.

I also love writing books. I’m on my 7th book now and in particular I love ghost writing business biographies for leading entrepreneurs. I get to sit with some of the best and brightest business minds of our times, unpick their success methodology and write about it. I enjoy working intensely with that one person for a time and then helping them share their story with the world.

Acting opposite Guy Pearce in Jack Irish was another big highlight, as was sitting alongside Margot Robbie in the makeup chair when I worked on Neighbours. (She did okay, didn’t she?) Oh, and getting a message on my answering machine from the inimitable John Clark letting me know he enjoyed my work on The Games was a definite career highlight. I kept the recording. 😊

You’re doing the keynote on day 2 about how to find high-paying clients in your niche – what do you hope copywriters, journos and content specialists attending will get out of your session?

My goal is to firstly help people believe that they could actually get paid to write about something they are passionate about. If you can, you will never ‘work’ another day in your life. Half the battle with copywriting is to truly belief that you can do it and that your work is valuable. I also want to share some simple but creative tips on how they can find that kind of work. I know most people loathe selling, especially themselves, so I’ll share a technique on strategic storytelling that will help them get prospects to say ‘yes’ to hiring them as a copywriter so they can work on projects that excite and motivate them.

What skills do you think are the most important for freelancers to acquire, especially now?

The first skill they need is to increase their awareness that copywriting opportunities are all around them. When you have that awareness, any interaction or exchange with someone can turn into a copywriting job. You don’t need to be formally ‘networking’ to find a copywriting job.

The second skill I would say is learn how to follow up. It’s not easy and no one likes to do it but when you know how to do it respectfully and ethically, you’ll find the jobs flow a lot faster.

And lastly I’d say have a long-term vision. Don’t expect miracles overnight but do expect that if you put the time and effort in and do the basics consistently, you will find work. It’s the law of cause and effect.

Why do you think freelancers need to attend conferences such as the Summit?

We copywriters spend so much time alone so it’s important to sometimes get out and about and see what’s going on in the world. Copywriters by nature are really friendly, curious, empathic people so it’s nice to be in a room sharing your experiences with like-minded people. Also, you’ll get to learn some new strategies on how to be more effective so that you can go home and apply those techniques and be more confident in your work. If you’re struggling with motivation, or have run out of energy, attending a course and learning a new skill can re-invigorate and re-energise you.

The conference theme is all about futureproofing your career. What steps are you taking to futureproof your own?

I believe we have to constantly reinvent what we do and who we are to keep up with what’s happening. Ghost writing has been a huge ‘extension’ to my copywriting services. Each book is one long piece of copy. I’m enjoying using ChatGPT and Claude and other AI tools to write more effectively. I find that when you combine the traditional approach of writing via the creative brief with the power of AI, you get some incredible results.

I am also always creating new courses and training programmes to meet the needs of a changing market.

You can’t sit back on your laurels and say, ‘Everything is done now.’ You have to keep up with what’s happening and amend your services accordingly.

Do you think the future is exciting for freelancers, and if so, why?

I do.

The prevailing notion that ‘I work for XYZ company, therefore I am safe’ is not accurate. Everyone is vulnerable but it’s those who take control over sourcing their own clients and who can manage their time and resources effectively, are the ones who will succeed in the future.

What are you most looking forward to at the Summit?

The cocktail party! Catching up with past students and some of the speakers who I’ve always wanted to see in action – and being a delegate and learning new things!

Bernadette is one of our keynote speakers. On Day 2 her topic is Finding high-paying clients in your niche.

Find out more about Bernadette on her profile page or her website. Also, check out Copy School for courses and resources.

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