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There has never been a better time for talented freelance writers. As the demand for quality content has exploded over the past decade due to the growth of the internet, companies are actively seeking professional creators in this field. 

Both major corporations and start-ups with limited budgets frequently prefer freelancers over regular employees since they can be employed on-demand, which is more cost-efficient than traditional employment. However, this also increases the competition as you have to meet customer expectations in order to get new orders and build loyalty.

In order to stand out from the crowd and succeed as a professional freelance writer, you need to acquire these 5 critical skills.

1. Editing skills

While writing is the core skill required to succeed as a freelance writer, you must also possess decent editing skills. Companies expect freelancers to submit quality content that is free of errors. Many customers cannot afford a separate editor proof-reading the texts submitted by freelance writers, especially if you charge high rates for your writing services. Editing includes checking the written content for mistakes, complying with the style requirements of the client, removing tautology, etc. 

In the case of freelance writing, self-editing is very important to constantly improve the quality of the produced content. The ability to distance oneself from the things written and edit them without being emotionally attached to your text is a key skill of a professional writer. 

Polished pieces of content generated through multiple edits impress clients and allow you to develop long-term business relationships with them. However, good editing skills can only be developed through constant practice. Completing a course on freelance editing and proofreading can be a good start for understanding the intricacies involved in this profession. Additionally, these competencies may be valuable for a freelance writer as a way to get new gigs as an editor and proofreader and diversify your sources of income.

2. Marketing skills

Marketing is the ultimate growth driver for any business. Freelance writers need to be good marketers in order to successfully promote their services and consistently find new clients. Some of the marketing skills essential in this sphere are:

a. Promotion

Multi-channel marketing communication via professional blogs, social media pages, and digital advertising media helps freelancers reach more prospective customers. 

b. Pricing

Finding the proper pricing is a fine art. While this may sound counter-intuitive, offering your services too cheap may avert prospective customers associating low rates with poor quality or fraud. To select the optimal price for your services, you need to study the marketing dynamics, client profiles, and competition levels in a specific market and point in time.

c. Customer Service

Establishing effective communication with your customers and helping them with their problems is highly relevant for developing long-term business relationships with them. A satisfied client is a loyal client returning with new orders time after time.

Marketing Tools for Freelance Writers

Successful freelance writers use the following marketing tools to promote their services:

A professional website making your portfolio easily accessible to clients

A well-managed blog that can showcase your writing skills 

Social media profiles to interact with existing as well as prospective clients

An email marketing tool to automate follow-up messages and marketing communication.

3. Business management skills

Freelancing is similar to a one-person business. Freelance writers do not get a fixed salary. Their monthly earnings may vary radically depending upon the quantum of work they manage to complete and the price they charge for their services. Developing business management capabilities will help you maximise your earnings by working smart and making optimal use of the resources available. Below you will find some skills that may be invaluable to freelance writers:

a. Accounting skills

Basic accounting skills allow you to execute customer invoices, maintain a personal profit and loss account, and calculate your tax liabilities.

b. Team management skills

Hiring a small team of assistants will allow you to handle more customer orders. High-earning freelancers usually have several assistants helping them with preliminary drafts and basic customer communication. 

c. Organisational skills

Organisational skills are useful for getting the best out of the time allotted for a specific project, meeting the deadlines set by your clients, and balancing multiple projects. The use of calendars, digital organisers and filing systems may help you rearrange the tasks you are currently working upon more efficiently. 

Business management skills may also help freelancers develop their customer base and start their own copywriting companies in the future.

4. Stylistic flexibility

Different clients require different writing styles. Since freelancers need to work with clients from multiple industries, they should build the awareness necessary to execute such orders effectively. Some of the common writing styles requested by clients are formal, casual, academic, and lifestyle. As a freelancer, you need to understand the differences between these approaches. 

However, some freelance writers just feel more comfortable when they are working on certain types of content. If this is your case, you may choose to adhere to a single format or style of writing. Since this decision may reduce your earning potential, you need to focus on your marketing skills and become a top performer in the selected niche in terms of content quality and productivity. The choice is up to you. 

Freelance writers seeking diversification also need to learn how to create specialised content such as long-form articles, speeches, and press releases. These text formats usually need special attention due to highly specific customer requirements. For example, writing long-form articles requires maintaining a consistent voice throughout the text and keeping the readers interested by including quality information. 

5. Personal development capabilities

Contrary to popular belief, the profession of a writer is not static. Freelance content creators need to constantly update their knowledge of the latest trends in their industry of choice. Since the growth of the internet has increased the global demand for written content, popular websites with international audiences usually require articles that are neutral in terms of tone and cultural references.

Internet users mostly share content they deem to be both entertaining and informative. Hence, freelancers need to develop the skills of creating such material in order to stay in demand. Following popular blogs and joining professional writing communities will help you keep up with the latest trends and update your skill set to match new customer requirements.

Freelancers also need to develop auxiliary skills to stay in demand. Basic digital marketing competencies are expected by many customers nowadays. These skills allow you to write Search-Engine-Optimised (SEO) articles, draft marketing emails, and publish engaging posts on social media. Other valuable competencies are the basic knowledge of web development and digital photo editing. Such skills could be learned by taking online courses or reading some quality books on those topics.

As the demand for quality content is expected to continue growing, the specialists developing multiple competencies in this field may capitalise on this trend. However, you need to constantly evolve as a professional and adapt to new market challenges in order to increase your earnings, build a sustainable online career, and ensure your long-term success as a freelance writer.

Author Bio

Steve is the owner behind the website Best Essay Writing Company. He is a retired Financial adviser who now helps students find the right support and tutoring services for them. He is passionate about education and learning.

The spike in stabbings across west London prompted the Copywriter Collective’s Fraser Bailey to recall his time as an advertising student in the area.

On 22 March 2019, 17-year old Abdirashid Mohamoud was stabbed to death in Isleworth, a west London suburb. He is just one of the numerous young people to die in this way across west London in 2019, as London’s murder rates continue to surpass that of New York. A couple of days after Abdirashid’s death, BBC Radio 5Live conducted an interview with a local youth leader who claimed there was nothing for local youngsters to do and highlighted the need for more youth facilities etc. 

 

This is, of course, a regular complaint. But it resonated with me because I was once a teenager of limited means living in the area, whereas I have never been a such a teenager living in Edmonton, Tottenham, Croydon or any of the other places where such stabbings routinely occur. 

 

As such, I know what it is like to live there as a young man from a bog-standard comprehensive attending a bog-standard College of Further Education. And I have some idea of whether or not there is ‘nothing to do’, or whether it is indeed necessary to go around stabbing people in order to pass the time.

 

Of course, one should first acknowledge that the area has never been, and probably never will be, an area overflowing with sophisticated cultural or entertainment opportunities. When I arrived there in 1984 its greyness was alleviated only, as I wrote to my parents, ‘by the colourful saris of the Indian women’. Thatcher’s reforms were already working their magic elsewhere in London, but Hounslow and its environs continued to embody the dull, suburban ennui of ‘That’s Entertainment’ by The Jam. The brick that came through the window one evening when we were watching TV only served to confirm this.

 

Despite this, in the nine months between September 1984 and June 1985, while living in the depths of Hounslow profonde – otherwise known as Hounslow West – I found it perfectly possible to fill my time with a plethora of activities and entertainment. So much so that, looking back from middle age, one marvels at the energy required to fit it all round a full-time college course (four and a half days each week) and its related evening workshops in central London, along with working in the bar of a bingo club three nights a week. 

 

For a start, I saw a half of the world’s best bands of the time (The Fall, REM, Jesus And Mary Chain etc) including The Pogues on about seven occasions, all at venues easily reachable from Hounslow, and before taxi apps and all-night tubes made it easier to get home. I was also to be found at the theatre quite often, not least the Royal Court where I saw a young Gary Oldman in a revival of Edward Bond’s social-realist plays of the 1960s. (All I can say is that one has a high tolerance for such progressive nonsense at that age). The Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford, close to where the unfortunate Abdirashid Mohamoud lived, offered a lively programme of plays, performances and films, and we sometimes went to the cinema in Richmond.

Popping along to QPR on a regular basis was easy enough, and I saw Derby County (and sometimes Stoke City) whenever they played in London or the south-east. Those were the days of real fans in real grounds. I was punched in the face at Reading, terrified when I went to Millwall for the first time, and present at Stamford Bridge for the League Cup semi-final in March 1985 when the Chelsea fan ran on to the pitch and attacked Clive Walker after he’d scored for Sunderland against his old team. Halcyon hooligan days!

 

Then, of course, there were the usual student parties and the like, at which I can be fairly sure that the (mild) drugs were not supplied by murderous gangs. Rooting around Hounslow’s charity shops unearthed gems such as John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension’ and Captain Beefheart’s ‘Safe As Milk’. The second-hand bookshop near the entrance to Osterley Park was always a delight. We went to the muddy dystopia of Glastonbury, and later that summer to Berlin (West and East) in search of Einsturzende Neubauten.

 

Twickenham abuts Hounslow and I attended both Five Nations matches there that year, as well as the first Freight Rover Cup final at Wembley. I played football once a week, tennis once or twice, and attended gatherings of the Derby County Supporters Club London Branch.

 

But, you might say, everything was cheaper in those days and you had the benefit of a full student grant. Well, I can assure you that there was bugger all left over after paying for the necessities of rent, food, travel, art supplies and clothing. Hence the need to work three evenings a week and even that wasn’t possible during internships (or ‘placements’ as we called them).

 

And not everything is more expensive today. Looking at the website of the Waterman’s Arts Centre in Brentford I note that the prices for tickets, food and drink are very reasonable by London standards. Moreover, it continues to offer an interesting selection of contemporary and historical films, along with a variety of live events and exhibits. There are certainly enough options to keep young men like Abdirashid busy for a couple of nights each week. Equally reasonable, and no more expensive than the 1980s taking inflation into account, are the ticket prices for Brentford FC. 

 

And don’t forget that young people from the area are living at home and spared the cost of rent and food. Streaming services make it easier and cheaper to consume music and film. Clothes and consumer goods are relatively (and sometimes actually) cheaper than they were 35 years ago. Taxi apps and all-night tube trains at the weekends make travel to other parts of London more viable.

 

Earning the money to pay for it all seems just as easy, if not easier. (Officially there were about three million unemployed when I was at college, although of course there was work for anyone that wanted it). The bingo club in which I worked seems to have disappeared, but there are plenty of shops and fast food outlets in the area, as well as an Ibis hotel. Even the Waterman’s Arts Centre has a vacancy. My guess is that working three shifts a week at somewhere like KFC would yield around £120 with no tax to pay in this era of a rapidly rising minimum wage, and a high personal allowance. 

 

Indeed, it seems to me that the only sense in which it might be more difficult for young people these days is the cost of major sporting and entertainment events. Just one evening working at the bingo club would have paid for both my Twickenham tickets. You would have to spend a few evenings working at KFC to buy those tickets now. Equally, one is staggered by the sums that people cough up to see the likes of Drake and Ed Sheeran. (And that’s before all those appalling online scalpers get involved). 

 

All things considered, I sense that teenagers in the Hounslow area in 2019 are no worse off than I was: either financially or in terms of the employment or entertainment options available. As such, there is no need, and no excuse, to further indulge in the national sports of stabbing people or complaining to the BBC. Moreover, I would give anything to be back in Hounslow, 19 years old and heading off to another historic Pogues gig.

Read more about Fraser Baily

 

English copywriter in AmsterdamAbout the Author:

Fraser Baily is a native English copywriter in Amsterdam and creative (director). Baily has vast experience across all sectors and media, including social media. Recent clients include AkzoNobel, ING, Nike, IBM and Atos.

Interested in hiring Fraser? Contact Copywriter Collective today.

 

The #1 mistake most creative freelancers make

If you think freelancing is just about hard work and dedication, you are sadly mistaken, my friend. It’s a mistake most creative freelancers make.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of skills you do need like a good work ethic, being super organized and all of those other “blah, blah, blah” things you’ve already read about in every other article.

But those traits alone don’t make you a successful freelancer.

1. Making connections

Being a successful freelancer means you’re creating relationships and fostering them like little new born babies. (Without all of the disgusting bodily functions involved.)

You’ve heard this lame cliché before, and you’re about to hear it again: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

plastic egg paintingWith one little addition of my own… “And how you continue to know them.”

And the “who” part is where freelance creatives make the #1 biggest mistake: They suck up to the wrong people.

Like the creative director for example.

Sucking up to the creative director is a waste of time. They don’t know your name and they never will (even if you shit gold) as long as you’re still a freelancer. In order to impress a creative director, you need time. And as a freelancer, that’s the one thing you don’t have.

Unless, of course, you were smart and sucked up to the right people. And so, for the sake of SEO, avoided the mistake most freelancers make…

2. Making the right connections

Okay, you ask, so who are the right people?

The creative manager. (And/or in-house recruiter.)

These are the glorious people who bring you in and assign you work.

Let’s take a moment and think about what they do on a daily basis. They sift through creatives’ books all day (and sometimes night) to find the right fit for assignment at a moment’s notice. They deal with our schedules, rate demands and our oh-so-delightful personalities. They deserve a lot of credit. But for some crazy reason, they are the least appreciated by freelance creatives. (Huge mistake.)

The better you treat them, the more likely they’ll bring you back for assignments or give you better ones. No. Seriously.

You want them on your side. Like whoa.

3. How to make creative managers remember you

So let’s look at a few ways to show creative managers some love to get them to like you:

Make friends with them. Ask them to coffee. Hell, bring them a coffee without them asking.

cupcake with strawberries

• Hand-write thank you notes to show your appreciation and willingness to get a hand-cramp for them.

Be flexible with your time AND assignments.

• Be on time and reliable

• Occasionally bring them baked goods and other delicious treats.

• Go out of your way to check in and say hello.

• Most importantly, be genuine for Christ’s sake. They can smell b.s. from a mile away. It is their job after all.

And if for some reason you find yourself scoffing at this article or creative managers/recruiters, remember, they control the freelance gate and can blacklist your ass faster than you can say “cotton headed ninny muggings.” Just sayin’.

Treat creative managers like royalty and you’ll be rewarded. Because when they need someone, or their recruiter friend needs someone, you’ll be at the top of the list. Oh, you’re welcome.

Edward freelance copywriterEdward is an all around freelance creative, concept and copy, speed strategist. He has worked for very big clients. And very small too. National and international. Edward decided to become a freelance creative in 2001 after working at Bozell, Euro RSCG, Hoofbureau and Leo Burnett. ‘With a lot of brain luggage collected at several agencies I felt it was time to start freelancing. I love to solve puzzles at the speed of light. My specialty  is to come up with Big Ideas in very short time. Online and offline, to me there is no line when we’re talking ideas. Especially when agencies are under pressure, I feel excited and will guarantee the agency can present within days.’

How he started as a freelance copywriter

The first years freelancing Edward joined TBWA\ Amsterdam and worked throughout out all the companies: TEQUILA\, TBWA\NEBOKO and TBWA\Brand Experience Company. Mainly for clients like Albert Heijn (premium supermarket), Heineken, Nissan (automotive) and daily business on clients. Next to other agencies.
Edward freelance copywriter
In the same period Edward worked frequently for DDB/EF and a longer period for Tribal DDB. At Tribal Edward worked as a freelance copywriter in a team with Jean Pierre Kin and Chris Baylis. The main project was introduding Philips Streamium. Till today Edward works frequently at DDB/EF, especially for KLM. ‘Travelling is in my vains, discover different cultures, try strange foods, I love street art and collect these pictures which I use for my own art works. My next trip is with KLM off course. To Madrid.’ A new campaign is launched end of August 2013.
Edward freelance copywriter
Uh, did the copywriter mention art works? Next to being a freelance creative, Edward creates huge digital collages. ‘Doing work without boundaries, reviews or deadlines is also much fun to do. Thusfar I made almost 15 huge collages in Photoshop. Probably I’m the only copywriter in The Netherlands able to make his own roughs and initial lay-outs on a computer.’ Edward can work solo or in a team. He’s connected to the best freelance art directors in the field. English good, Dutch native. But the language of ideas is universal. Willing to work anywhere. Get to know more about Edward on his freelance copywriter website.

There’s no way of getting around it, we are living in tough times. The recession has taken its toll on every working individual over the last few years. Apparently times are changing and the average freelancer is lucky to keep his or her head above water.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. It would be misleading to say that there aren’t any upsides. The domino effect of the recession has lead every company to have a good hard look at their budgets and staff. Larger businesses have ‘streamlined’ their teams meaning the humble freelancer gets a look in. I think we have all had a few enquiries from these larger clients who are looking to outsource as opposed to have permanent team members.

Although a great temporary boost, it isn’t a long-term answer. We are all riding the storm out and taking shelter in the knowledge that it will move on and better times will come to the rescue of freelancers’ bank accounts. These less than certain times are an interesting way of weeding out the less dedicated and forcing us freelance copywriters to take some time to see our trade and expertise for what it really is.

We can all be better, we can all tackle new areas of specialty or network a little harder. If you want to survive right now, there’s basically no excuse for not doing so.

Here comes the question… Financial crisis for copywriters: is it a threat or an opportunity?

1. Complete the ominous ‘To-Do’ list

 

Every copywriter has one. Yes you have your daily snippets but there’s always the master of all to-do lists lurking in the background.

  • Spruce up the LinkedIn profile
  • Create those awesomely original and creative promo materials
  • Do my taxes

Let’s face it, these neglected areas and long forgotten tasks can now get the time and effort they merit. I know the work is still coming in but I find if I have one lazy week it’s a struggle to get back to my previous form. Keep up your copywriting and problem solving stamina.

2. Step up your marketing

Letting folk know you are still open for business is pretty essential. Like I said, everyone is struggling so set yourself apart. You don’t need a monster budget to market yourself successfully. Utilize social media, blog until your fingers bleed and be smarter.finance to do list

3. Social media is free. Simple.

 

Yep, it’s free, plentiful and invaluable if used well. When it comes to social media, I firmly believe it’s best to do a few well rather than having a bash at the lot and doing them badly. I favor Twitter for staying in the loop, sourcing projects and reminding folk I’m still on the go.

Think outside the box, perhaps try channels like Vine. Not typically associated with the world of copy, Vine is an inventive way to gain a following and appeal to the very industries and creatives that are more likely to take advantage of the outsourcing resurgence.

4. Blog and be honest

Chronicle your freelancing experiences. Blog about your honest routines, struggles and reach out to the community of freelancers out there. Now’s the time to position yourself as an unflinching expert and keen observer of the industry’s status. Potential clients will remember you for it. Offer a range of content from topical items to handy tips, present yourself as an authority. Tackle subjects with a broader relevance so you get more than just fellow copywriters interested in your stuff.

5. Be a stickler for quality

It might sound silly but we all know that we’re guilty of working to less than our full capabilities from time to time. No more.

Be consistent and you set the bar higher for every copywriter out there too. The recession has had more than a financial impact, the quality and versatility of the copywriting industry is suffering as a result. Copywriting is commonly the first thing to be trimmed from the project budget so give your fellow creatives something to stand behind.

6. Pastures new

Things may be a bit wobbly UK-wise, but not every economy is struggling in the same way. Seek clients outside Britain. A heap of my clients are based in the US and have no reservations with my UK location. Time difference takes a little flexibility but contact is a doddle with Skype and Google Hangout.

Freelancers rarely take advantage of their freedom and privilege in picking their own clients so take this time to indulge. Work with clients you can start forming long-term relationships with. On the whole, the creative climate over there is structured much the same with copywriters being regularly outsourced so be there, ready and online.

….and stop panicking!computers office

Times will change and so will your schedule. Keep calm, focused and remain a pro. Content creation isn’t going anywhere, clients will always need it and if anything its value is more readily recognized now than it was five years ago. Be smart and make better business decisions. It may seem obvious but take pride in your status as a freelancer and preserve the industry. Financially there’s a heap of things you can get busy with while you weather out the storm. Tutor, mentor or consult. The key is broadening your expertise and shouting a little louder.

DON’T:

  • Offer discounts
  • Be bitter
  • Bitch about your lack of work publicly

Chances are the recession will make you a better writer and a damn good freelancer. Value is something constantly overlooked: the value of clients, of our own work and of the copywriting industry as a whole. The ‘financial crisis’ is an insight into what true value means, and costs, to the freelance copywriter.

Focusing on a couple of core industries can be a wise strategy. If you can develop strength in one and become the expert of it, you could be more successful than if you bounce from industry to industry, never achieving skill beyond “adequate” in each one. This article describes five industries that are likely to be profitable and enjoyable. You can get into these top 5 industries for copywriting right now (yes, today), as they all have room for a hero to arise. That hero could be you.

How I chose the top 5

I’d like to say that I called up skills from my engineering days and wrote a complex program that predicted to the nearest cent the profitability of each possible industry and these are the top five. However, in reality my choices were influenced by the following factors:

1) Profitability (Large, Growing, Sticking Around)

I made sure that all of these industries turned up on multiple lists found by searching Google for “high growth industries 2013” and “profitable industries 2013”.

2) Competition

In any profitable industry, there’ll be high competition, eventually. The way around this is to get in first – by being at the cutting edge. From my perspective right now, there’s plenty of room in these industries simply due their high growth and freshness. As far as I can tell there are very few specialty copywriting firms aimed at serving these industries.

3) My own personal bias

I’m really sorry, but this list has biases. Forgive me! But if it didn’t I’d be writing about odd and/or boring industries including hot sauce, cattle ranching, architecture just because they’re high growth/profitable. My sincerest apologies if one of those industries is your pride and joy.

Remember that you have to do what you know and love. These following industries might be all odd and/or boring to you. Never get involved in something just for the money if you won’t also enjoy the journey or derive fulfilment from your success.

The Top 5 Industries for copywriting

technology

1. New / Future Technology

Can you convince people that “The Future is Here“? There is an art to pitching something that is brand new. You’re showing people that the old ways are inefficient, uncool, unprofitable and heading for disaster… while the new way is better than sliced bread (even better than Naan bread, which is far superior to ordinary sliced bread).

You’ll never know what you’re about to write copy for, but if you position yourself as a copywriter specifically for new technologies, you could have a constant influx of businesses needing you to show potential customers that the new way is the only way forward. And hey, one of them might be the next 3D printing – being the go-to expert for a niche like this could prove to be… well… rather profitable, don’t you think?

2. Private Education

I could be biased, but I declare that people are starting to see the shortcomings of public education systems. Products and services improve in a free-market capitalist system because of competition. For a long time there has been very little competition in education, especially at a tertiary level.

We will see the institutions we grew up with start to lose their grip on their education oligopoly as private companies start to educate. You’ll have an easy time working in this industry because you’re writing copy for a higher quality service that is sold at a lower price than the status quo, and you know how easily the words flow when you truly believe in the product.

3. Pharmaceuticalspills

The value chain of the pharmaceutical industry is constantly undergoing massive changes. This means that different sellers are selling different products and services to different buyers. Relationships amongst key players in the game are changing every day.

This means that there are constantly new opportunities for you to help one pharmaceutical company sell to another due to the endless stream of new value propositions that need to be communicated.

Pharmaceuticals aren’t exactly the easiest things to understand – there are certainly very few expert copywriters running around the industry. If you’re looking for a niche where you can charge a lot of money to entities with deep, deep pockets, this could be it. Invest some time into learning the industry and you’ll have an extremely unique selling point.

4. Solar Energy

Two words: Elon Musk. This is the man to thank after you move into the solar energy niche and become incredibly wealthy. Now and in the coming years we’re going to see the solar industry get some serious traction as it literally becomes cheaper to use solar energy than fossil fuels. When businesses start to realise that they can instantly lower their costs (and thereby increase profits) by investing in solar energy, they’ll be queuing up for it.

In turn, providers will be crowding the market place to proposition their service as the best. They’re all going to need to market themselves better than the next guy and they’re going to need someone to turn to. Is that person going to be you, or your copywriting competitor?

5. Information Productslight

Internet marketer “Brendan Burchard” stresses that “you can make money by teaching other people what you know”. The Internet is starting to facilitate regular people teaching the skills and knowledge that they have learned over many years. Productivity? Self-development? How to do Yoga? How to exercise? There are information products for all of these.

But these are just the most obvious categories. The next decade will see information products for just about any skill or area of focus you can imagine. Information products can sell for up to $3,000 a pop. They are extremely profitable for their creators and it is in their interests to increase conversions to as high as possible with the most persuasive copywriting.

Right now most creators of information products do their own marketing, including copywriting – that leaves the door open for you.

Your Action Step

As you read this, you probably started to identify the industries that are perfect for you. They might be the industries that I mentioned or other industries might have floated into your mind.

Take action today. Position yourself as the go-to expert for your favourite industry. Start approaching businesses in that industry and telling them you specialise in it. Watch them easily choose you over a general copywriting services provider.

It seems like the dream, doesn’t it? Quitting your day job to write full time? What could be better than that? Well, for one thing, a regular, guaranteed pay check. But you get to employ your skills, while sitting at home, in your pyjamas. The life of a freelance copywriter (or any freelance writer) is one of give and take. There are great perks and there are also significant drawbacks. For the motivated, there are some ways to enhance the perks and mitigate the drawbacks of freelance copywriting. So, let’s ask the question… 

Freelance copywriting: does it make you happy?

1. The perks of freelance copywriting

Let’s face it: freelance copywriting is a great way of life. You have total freedom, freedom to travel, freedom to work where you want, when you want, and for whom you want. You are, technically at least, your own boss. Why? Because you answer only to yourself, never to anyone else…except your clients. But there’s no one to ask if you need or want to take a week off. All you have to do is, you guessed it, take a week off. Like any other job, you’re not going to be paid for that week, but you also don’t have to find anyone to cover for you, or worry about someone else snatching up your position when you’re gone.

If you’re not a morning person, you don’t have to start work until noon. And you can do it sitting at your kitchen table, in your pyjamas, eating a bowl of cereal. Or if you are a morning person, you can utilize those early hours to get through a few writing assignments before the sun is even up. You can head to the local café and occupy a table for hours if you like the atmosphere, or you can sequester yourself alone in your apartment and enjoy the absolute silence while you finish up your projects.

And you do, in general, get to choose who you work with, which means you can say goodbye to all those unreasonable customers.

2. The drawbacks of freelance copywriting

Okay, so the freedom isn’t total freedom. Most freelance copywriters report that they work just as much, if not more than when they held down fulltime jobs—for the same pay. Plus, there’s great job insecurity. If you’re trying to find work through a website you set up yourself, you are going to rely heavily on referrals and customer reviews.

And while you may labour under the delusion at first that you get to choose who you work for, it will quickly become apparent that if you want to make money, you will have to share your freelance copywriting skills with people you don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with, and even people that will be impossible to please, no matter how many revisions you provide for them. There will be people that will demand that their projects be moved to the top of your pile and that you be available to them 24/7. And guess what? If you’re strapped for cash, you might have to just put up with it.

3. Whatever makes you happy

You will have to determine for yourself if the perks outweigh the drawbacks. For plenty of people, they do. The long hours and demanding clients cannot colour the freedom of being your own employer. If you yearn for nothing more than being out from under your boss’s thumb, freelance copywriting may bring you the happiness you are looking for. But if a guaranteed pay check and the protection of an established business is what will make you happy, then freelance copywriting probably isn’t for you.

 

Ad agency copywriters and freelance copywriters do much the same job but enjoy very different lifestyles.

So, which is best? Here are five big differences… but tell us what you think in the comments box below.

1. Work security

Probably the biggest difference between the two types of copywriters is in the work security of the one and the unpredictable nature of the other. Working at an agency brings a monthly salary, a company pension, maybe even a car. All agencies go through boom and bust periods of work but if you’re an employee that’s not really your concern because you’ll get paid whatever the amount of work coming in to the company. And even if the worst comes to the worst there’s the prospect of at least a bit of redundancy money if you were to be let go.

It’s all rather more precarious for the freelancer. The money you earn each month cannot be guaranteed. It depends on a lot of things including how much effort you put into finding work (either from existing or new clients) and how much work those clients have to offer. You have to plan for lean times and make the most of busy times. It’s the same with pensions. No one else is going to arrange this for you so – as with everything else in the freelancer’s life – it’s up to you to arrange it. One last thing: holidays.

The ad agency copywriter enjoys guaranteed paid holidays every year which he or she can take more or less whenever they want. Not so for the freelancer. Taking a holiday is always a bit of a gamble because Sod’s Law says that some peach of a job will come in while you’re away and you’ll miss the chance to do it. What’s more, while you’re sunning yourself in Spain (or more likely camping in Cork) you’ll have no income coming in for the time you’re away. It makes you wonder sometimes why people freelance at all!

2. Work style

A huge difference between the ad agency copywriter and the freelancer is how they work. At an ad agency the writer will invariably work with an art director to form a creative team. ‘Team’ is the operative word here because very often the two creatives will get the most out of each other by pushing ideas just that little bit further. It’s important that they get on because they spend a heck of a lot of time together. They also need to know what makes the other one tick and, rather like a marriage, know when to push and when back off. The freelancer’s work life is very very different. Although they may be called in to an ad agency to work with an art director in an emergency, generally they work at home, alone. For most this is one of the great attractions of the job. Not so much the absence of an art director but the freedom to be able to work whenever and wherever they fancy.

The freelancer’s work life is very very different. Although they may be called in to an ad agency to work with an art director in an emergency, generally they work at home, alone. For most this is one of the great attractions of the job.

A lot of the freelance copywriter’s work is also ‘long copy’ – brochures or articles and the like – which take quite a bit of time and concentration to get right so being alone in one’s den is the perfect environment. Many writers also work best at night for some reason which is not an option that’s really open to ad agency staff who need to squeeze their creativity into daylight hours.

3. Work variety

A general rule of thumb is that the ad agency copywriter is going to enjoy more opportunities to work on nicer jobs. Big companies with large budgets will always tend to work with ad agencies rather than with individuals. Having said that, an ex-ad agency copywriter who has set him/herself up as a freelancer later in their career may have built up a good relationship with a particular client and continue to get work from them (the incumbent ad agency will generally try and stop this happening though).

There’s also a strict hierarchy in ad agencies which means that as a relatively junior copywriter you’re not going to get the pick of the work available. As you progress the opportunities to work on potentially award winning work will increase. That’s not to say that the freelancer won’t get any chances to win awards. They’ll just be for different kinds of clients, that’s all. Smaller, niche clients may well prefer to work with more independently minded (and possibly cheaper) freelancers and these type of clients often give a copywriter much more creative freedom to do what they really want. The freelancer will also tend to accept work that many agencies would turn their nose up at (for instance ad hoc work for a local business). For the freelancer it’s bread and butter while for the personnel-heavy agency it simply may not be worth their while to get a suit and a creative team involved.

4. Hours

Which would you prefer: nine to five or twenty four seven?

Well, maybe that’s a little extreme but, in principle, the ad agency copywriter is contracted to work five days a week during office hours while the freelancer is – by their own choice – more or less on call whenever and wherever. They can’t afford not to be. With only one pair of hands to rattle out the copy on the keyboard they’ll have to work all the hours god sends at busy times to get it all done. Conversely they need to learn to make the most of the quiet times and relax rather than worrying where the next penny is going to come from. The ad agency copywriter, of course, is not a true nine-to-fiver either. Most copywriters will tell you that they never stop working and that they’ll get ideas at any time of the day or that they’re constantly mulling over a certain bit of copy in their heads. And, when there’s a deadline looming then there’s no rest for anybody. All-nighters are a common feature of ad agency life and one of the few things that the freelancer has in common with his or her full time compatriots. As for overtime, just forget it!

5. Salary

There are so many variables here such as location, experience, specialisms and (above all) track record and it varies drastically depending on what country you’re in. The best advice is to look through Campaign or job websites to see the salaries on offer, or talk to people in the industry.

Choice? What choice?

Looking at stability, variety, work hours and salary it seems like the lot of the ad agency copywriter is generally the more rosy one. But ask any freelance copywriter why they do it and nine out of ten will tell you it’s the sense of freedom to work the way they want that makes the self-employed route so attractive. The idea that it’s a choice, however, is a little misleading. It would be virtually impossible to set yourself up as a freelancer without any ad agency experience so, if you’re just starting out on your career that’s the place to begin. Build up your portfolio. Get some awards under your belt. After that, it’s entirely up to you.

 

Of course everyone will tell you that long copy is dead. Copy should be short and punchy. People don’t have long enough attention spans any more. People don’t like reading nowadays. Everyone will tell you that people are too busy in this so-called ‘Internet Age’ to read long copy ads.

It’s certainly true that clients are less likely to commission long copy these days. But is that the same thing? Advertising as a whole has become a lot more conservative in the last ten or fifteen years. It’s rare that ads grab the public attention and actually become loved like they once were. So, just as clients play it safe on TV the same is true in print. They tend to do what everyone else is doing and, unfortunately, everyone else seems to be doing short copy.

Who’s afraid of long copy ads?

Since short copy ads have become the norm though, it’s difficult to go back. By definition a short copy ad is easy to grasp – and that’s not just for the customer but for the marketing manager who’s asked for it too. It’s easy for him/her to sell on up the line to senior bosses because, on the one hand, there’s less to discuss and, on the other, all the bosses think this is the way advertisements are meant to look these days.

In short, those commissioning ads and those providing them are scared of doing anything different.

People still read. Shock horror.

What’s the reason for that though? Received wisdom says that it’s just the way of the world: life has moved on from the days when we had the leisure to read anything more than three paragraphs. But even today, according to The Reading Agency, “reading is one of our most popular pastimes” in the UK, more popular than going to the cinema, theatres or concerts. People do still read.

2000 words on why Mars bars are good

That’s not to say that every product would benefit from a long copy treatment. There are plenty of studies that show that short copy is better suited to low cost, impulse buys like a bar of chocolate for instance. (Imagine an ad with a 2000 word exposition on the delights of a Mars bar. Hang on, actually that could work!) And if we’re already very familiar with a product or brand we’re more likely to be sold on short – or at least shorter – copy. But when a product is a big ticket item, when it’s something technologically advanced or simply has a lot of features then a long copy ad is not only more informative but it’s reassuring too: “Look at all those words, it must be a serious bit of kit.”
I use the phrase “Look at all those words” advisedly, freely acknowledging that a big wodge of text might seem off-putting. But that’s where the craft and guile of the copywriter comes in. For a start a copywriter doesn’t necessarily expect a reader to read every word. That’s why the ad is divided up by sub-heads which give the whole story in a glance. The clever copywriter also knows that people are most likely to read the beginning and the end bits first so those paras had better be especially good. And if the copy is well crafted and compelling it should draw the customer in beyond that cursory look.

Gone? Or just relocated?

There’s one other thing that we tend to overlook in this ‘Internet Age’. The internet. One of the reasons why advertisers can get away with making every ad a short copy one is that they include their web address at the bottom of the copy where a prospect can go for more information. All the copy that used to be on the page is now on screen. Now, whether online copy should be long or short is a question for another day.


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The problem with being a freelance writer or copywriter often lies not in getting the work, or doing the work, but in getting paid for the work.

Quite naturally (in their philosophy) some of the people who own or run ad agencies don’t like paying the people who do the work. Nor, quite naturally (in their philosophy), do the companies who commission the work like paying the agencies who farm out the work to the freelancers who do the work.

This can leave the freelance copywriter at the end of a long row of people who don’t like paying for the work. Then, of course, most people in Europe are sick or on vacation most of the time, which adds to the delays. And that’s before you factor in the staggering incompetence of many accounting departments.

Quick guide to get paid as a freelance writer

  • The power of protest

The longest I’ve ever had to wait for payment was 18 months, from a company in Munich called Gate One. Or Late One, as I renamed them. In that particular instance there was little I could do except vow never to return to Munich in this life or the next.

When the late- or non-payer is closer to hand, one’s natural instinct is to go along at night and paint phrases such as ‘Give me the money’ all over the building. Or to stand outside during the day protesting. But I’ve tried this and you just get cold. Moreover, you can’t get on with your work when you’re standing outside waving a banner that reads ‘Justice for freelancers’.

  • Sharpen your words

Thus one’s only recourse is, on the whole, a politely worded but slightly biting email. For instance, I have one client who is completely incapable of paying a regular and small amount for a newsletter I write. They are one of Europe’s leading business schools, an irony that I pointed out in an email recently. This did in fact elicit a response from someone quite senior in the accounts department, and prompted the payment of an invoice that had been ‘lost’ in the system.

But this client has already returned to its usual ways, which brings me on to another observation. Namely, that companies who are unwilling or unable to pay promptly will never change. I have worked with one agency for over 12 years now. During that time they have been through various management structures, not to mention countless locations, agency websites, art directors and coffee machines. The only constant has been their complete and utter failure to pay a single invoice within a reasonable time period. Time and again they have promised that things will change, blah, blah. But it never does. It’s in their DNA – Do Not Authorize.

  • Meet The Man

If you’re freelancing at an agency for a few weeks you can actually go and challenge the accounts department personally. This involves entering deathly parts of the building that have not heard laughter since news of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact filtered through. It involves being polite to people that you would normally cross the continent to avoid, and who really, really don’t understand the need for ‘creatives’ or why they should be paid.

I remember one accounts guy at what is generally acknowledged to be the world’s most cynical agency network. To this day I’m not sure whether he was actually alive, or simply a ghost, condemned to walk the corridors of Amstelveen forever. (Excepting those periods when he wasn’t sick or on vacation, of course.)

  • A shameless plug at the end

Of course, one way to get paid promptly is to work via The Copywriter Collective. Sure, they sometimes have to wait a long time for the client to pay. But at least they do all the calling and emailing that’s involved in chasing payment so that you don’t have to. And when the money has been received, The Copywriter Collective pays you instantly, unlike some freelance agencies.

To be fair, most people and companies do their best to pay quickly. In fact, I am sometimes surprised by how quickly some payments are made. But you can never relax. And to work as a freelancer is to be frequently reminded of man’s inhumanity to small suppliers.


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