Four Obvious Things About Running A Copywriting Business

You’re really incredibly creative, I promise.

Pleased to hear it, right? I guessed. Freelance copywriters have a tendency to need a little ego massage from time to time, something that makes them feel like an artistic force to be reckoned with. Not just another business body.

But now we’ve got all that out of the way, put your craft to one side. Because, if you’re not running your business like a professional, none of it matters.

A few months ago, I wrote a little guide to copywriting for people who know nothing – Four Obvious Things About Copywriting. Now, it’s time for some even more obvious advice on looking after your freelance copywriting career.

If you don’t keep these things in mind, you’re a dummy. A creative one, sure. But a dummy all the same.

Here are 4 oubvious things when you’re running a copywriting business

And I can say that because, as you’ll read, I’ve been something a dummy myself…

1. Come to terms with sending your terms

phones in hands

The honest truth is that sending out terms can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Once you’ve sealed the deal and sweet-talked your client into a decent budget for an interesting project, the last thing you want to do is put them off with your strict business talk.

Forget that. Send them.

Not so long ago, I worked with a mid-sized agency. After signing their NDA, I got started on a blog post. They loved it. They asked for a few more.

Those ones they didn’t love so much.

What really constituted a changing brief was now making the client question if they had to pay me. If the copy isn’t used, why should they part with their money?

Because I’ve worked on it. Because you commissioned the work based on a previous post, one you were very happy with. And Because my terms say so.

If only they’d seen them.

You’ll be pleased to know I got my money – but after making such a fundamental, obvious error, I’m not sure I really deserved it.

So send terms. Every time. Every single time.

2. Learn how to ask for moreenter arrow

Do you want more money? I thought you might.

We all want our businesses (and reputations) to grow, whether we’re doing well or scraping by. We all want more money. And I’ve got an excellent tip.

Ask for it.

Ask new clients to pay what you’re worth, not what you think they’ll be willing to part with. And don’t forget old clients.

I’m guilty of keeping people on my books for a long, long time. Clients regularly come back for more work, and my desire for money tells me not to turn it down. It’s that perpetual fear that, as a freelancer, if I ever have a day off I’ll be effectively unemployed.

But that means, for a long time, I was charging new clients at a rate that reflected where I’m at, while charging old ones at a rate that reflected a beginner just trying his luck.

Find out what those older clients are worth. Is it enough? If not, ask for more. Simple.

3. Don’t be an employee

You’re not an employee when you’re filing your tax return. Or when you need a day off sick. Or when you go on good - hand

So don’t be an employee any other time.

If a client expects you to simply take instruction, make sure they know what they’re talking about. It’s too easy to go along with making clients happy when, in fact, your knowledge could make clients money.

They prefer money to happy, trust me.

And if you don’t want to take a project, work weekends, or work late, don’t. Keep expectations in-line with what you actually do, not what could be expected of an employee.

4. Be good

I’m consistently amazed at the people who have trouble with freelance copywriters.

Every so often, somebody comes to me with a horror story that a copywriter has only delivered half the work – but taken all the money. Or charged a deposit, then disappeared.

Be honest, be upfront, and be really, really good at what you do.

And, if you can avoid it, don’t be the bad guy. Is there a different person who could chase that invoice or charge that interest?

Give all that stuff to someone else. So you can be the helpful one, the person who fixes problems.

stephen marsh - profile picAbout the writer: Stephen Marsh – Freelance copywriter

Stephen Marsh is a freelance copywriter from the UK with clients from private healthcare to private detectives. You can find him on Twitter @smcopywriter.
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3 replies
  1. Tom Albrighton
    Tom Albrighton says:

    Great post.

    On point 2, I would add ‘think very carefully before offering an introductory discount’, whether explicitly positioned as such or not. It’s very, very tempting, particularly if things are quiet, to offer a lower price to gain a new client. But you’re then faced with the challenge of upping the rate later on, which is far more difficult than simply setting the right price in the first place.

    I try to agree a price at the outset that I’d be happy with in any situation – however much work I get from that client, and however much I’ve got on from other clients.

    The worst-case scenario is that you end up resenting a new client because YOU offered them too low a price, which is ridiculous. Getting the price right first time (for BOTH sides) safeguards your motivation, your commitment to quality and your ongoing relationship with that client.

  2. Jamie Thomson
    Jamie Thomson says:

    In agreement with Tom, this is a great post.

    I wish you had written it 6 months ago when I first started writing for clients – it would have saved me hours of scrolling through business forums hoping someone had already asked these questions :) It turned out no-one had.

    You touch on some really good points here and I particularly agree with number 4. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I first started copywriting was ‘Be nice. Nice people get more work’ and your point reiterates this perfectly.

    I’ve therefore taken it upon myself to rename your post ‘Four Obvious Things About Running a Copywriting Business (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)’.

    Thanks Stephen.

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