“A lot of people don’t realize you have to be good with psychology,” Lewis said.
And to know how people think and behave, she is attuned with what they see in the world.
According to Lewis, the average person sees anywhere between 2,500 and 3,000 advertisements daily. At that number, creating something eye-catching is a formidable task.
But Lewis likes a challenge. Her business, Brenda Lewis Copywriting, is all about helping businesses market themselves more effectively by crafting together the best language in print, online or broadcast materials. And it’s a challenge that she says takes a little more than just a pen and paper.
The former saleswoman of 11 years finally became tired of her past career and realized instead of pitching products herself, she wanted to help other companies sell their services through words.
“Most people just think, ‘Oh, well, I was a good writer in high school,’ but they have to know how to do marketing,” Lewis said.
And in her experience, to understand marketing, learning about the target audience is key.
“Most (business owners) say, ‘I’ll just take whatever I have on my brochure and put it on the Web site,’ ” Lewis said. “And I say, ‘No!’ You’ll bore the heck out of people.’ ”
Lewis has done copywriting for companies of various sizes and industries. For Simple Pump Company of Gardnerville, she produced copy for a brochure and its Web site that highlighted its three major markets. The Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada hired Lewis to pen a letter to communicate to businesses that it was conducting a president search.
Recently, she has been selecting clientele that include large corporations specializing in alternative health, which is more difficult to market, she said.
“In alternative health and finance, you’ve got a small audience and more competition,” she said.
She also helps small businesses in any type of industry, her personal favorite for which to write.
But the profession is difficult to start a career in, Lewis said. For aspiring copywriters in the Reno-Sparks area, she advises getting to know people and what they want.
“What they really need is a deep understanding of humanity — what makes people buy, what makes them react,” she said.
“Say you work for a terrible upper manager and you found out that he got killed in a car accident,” she gave as an example. “Well, don’t you think, ‘Who’s going to be my manager?’ instead of ‘Oh, poor family?’ ”
And breaking the rules every now and then is just as important, especially in language.
“When you do copy, read it as if you’re speaking.... You can’t be totally grammatical; you have to break a lot of rules.”
In Lewis’ line of business, she said, there are three informal levels of success. The highest paid level, or “A-level” as Lewis called them, can make up to $3 to $4 million easily. Those professionals often earn a portion of what their clients make.
“If you’re working for a big client out there, and you get 5 percent of their sales, so if they sell a bazillion widgets, you can bring in $1 million,” Lewis said.
“B-level” copywriters, those who are starting to establish themselves professionally, can earn a moderate living in the $1,000 to $10,000 range per project, while “C-level” amateurs make a few hundred dollars as they’re able.
Lewis considers herself a B-level based on her experience, although she aspires to reach the top tier, which is comprised of only 1 percent of all professionals in her business, she said.
“I was mentored by an A-level (professional),” she said. “I was very fortunate.”
Being an independent copywriter is not always glamorous. Lewis takes on all roles of a company on her own.
“I wear so many hats. I’m my own bill collector, my own accountant, my own manager,” she said.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If you don’t love what you do, then it feels like work.”
Lewis moved to Sparks from Seattle, Wash. and she runs her copywriting business out of her home office, which allows her to create her own schedule.
“I get to work from home or a Starbucks, anywhere with a WiFi connection,” she said. “I get to pick and choose who I work with, and I like peole who are extremely passionate about their business. They’re there because they love what they do and love to help others and I get excited because I get to make it happen.”