Ever wanted a job where you could spend all day, every day, writing clever and inspiring prose? Yes? Well dont become a freelance copywriter!
Dont get me wrong,
its a great job, and for some of us its a calling that wont
be denied. And you definitely do get to write clever and inspiring prose.
Its just that you dont do it all day, every day. In fact, when you
sit down at the end of the day and think about what youve done, the
percentage of time spent writing is surprisingly low.
So what does a
freelance copywriter do other than write copy? Well, basically, they run a
business. This article discusses 11 daily rituals involved with running a
freelance website copywriting or advertising copywriting business (other than
writing). It also provides some tips for performing them successfully.
Freelance copywriters serve many masters. They
generally have quite a few clients, and spend quite a bit of time quoting on
new jobs. When you quote, youre calculating how much to charge for the
job. For a freelance copywriter, there are a number of important factors
influencing quoting. You need to have some way to accurately estimate time.
Generally the best way to achieve this is to be diligent in your tracking. If
you know how long past jobs have taken you, youll be much more confident
and accurate in your estimates. You need to know how much time you spend not
writing (as you should try to cover as much of this as possible). You need to
have a feel for what the client is prepared to pay (are they a big or small
company, how highly do they seem to value copy, etc.). You need to know how
much your competitors are charging for the same thing. You need to understand
what differentiates you from your competitors. You need to think about how
badly you want or need the work. And, of course, you need to estimate how
time-consuming the client will be.
2) Submitting Proposals
A quote is not the same as a proposal. A quote is generally contained
within a proposal, but its not the same thing. When you submit a
copywriting proposal, youre marketing your skills, your solution, your
work ethic, your customer service, your commitment, and your experience.
Basically, youre justifying your price, and differentiating yourself from
your competition. And its not just about WHAT you say. Its also HOW
you say it and how you PRESENT it. Everything about your proposal plays a part
in the clients decision! If possible, include additional helpful
information. Use a title page, a table of contents, headers, and footers.
Introduce at the beginning and summarise at the end. Include your price, but
call it an investment, not a cost. Show the client
youve thought their job through by summarising their requirements.
Outline your proposed solution. And most importantly, give the client a clear
call to action (Where to from here?).
The freelance copywriter is almost never the bottleneck in
a copywriting job. In 99.99% of copywriting jobs, the bottleneck is the review
process. Most clients take a long time to review. In fact, about a third of
clients need to be prompted at least once before theyll get back to you
with their changes. Its not uncommon for a one-day writing job to take a
full month to reach sign-off or longer. Some clients will put the copy
review on the backburner for months (just another reason to request a deposit
before commencement of work)! As a result, freelance advertising copywriters
and website copywriters spend a lot of time chasing reviews. Make sure you
factor the delay and the chasing time into your quotes as best you can. And
always record which clients take a long time, so you can be prepared when
discussing deadlines on the next job.
4) Project scheduling &
No matter whether you work on big projects or small,
project scheduling and tracking are vital. You need to know the exact status of
all work in progress (tracking), and you also need to be very aware of
whats coming up and how youll manage it (planning). If youre
doing it right, you should be using your tracking and planning tools several
times a day. In fact, they should be the hub of your business. TIP: A good way
to track copywriting projects is to use a job (and contact) tracking database.
I created my own database using Microsoft Access. Visit
http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/contacts and jobs.mdb to download a 208KB
working copy for FREE. Youll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it.
Im no database expert, so its not a work of art. Itll
certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using the database, press Ctrl + ;
to enter todays date.)
invoices, processing payments (and part payments), chasing outstanding
invoices, recording expenses, managing bank accounts, putting tax aside
It all takes a lot of time. Dont be fooled into thinking you can handle
your accounts manually (or with Microsoft Excel). Even if you only have a few
clients, you NEED a proper accounts package like MYOB or Quicken (they both
offer small business versions). Youll understand why the first time you
do your GST reports or annual taxes. In fact, youll understand why
whenever you need to chase down outstanding invoices
Although the wonders of modern email let a freelance
copywriter get through about 95% of their work without ever leaving the office,
its sometimes still a good idea to do things the
old-fashioned way especially if you expect to work with them
quite a bit. Shake hands and put a face to a name. And remember, everything
about the meeting reflects on you and your business. As with your proposals,
think about WHAT you say, HOW you say it, how you PRESENT. Always organise the
meeting with plenty of notice, confirm the day before the meeting, be on time,
summarise the meeting, and provide a call to action. (Try to do these last two
both at the end of the meeting and via email after the meeting.)
Even for a low overhead business like copywriting,
theres always something! Changing phone plans, upgrading/fixing
computers, your internet service is down, your website is temporarily
unavailable, youre enhancing your data storage procedures, you need new
printer or fax ink cartridges
Office administration takes up a
surprisingly large chunk of your day. Make sure you allow for it. This means
allowing time to do the work, and factoring that time into your quotes. If you
dont, youll be continually working into the wee hours and/or losing
8) Marketing strategy
How do you generate
business? Cold calls? (See
Website? (See http://www.divinewrite.com/articles.htm for numerous
website & SEO articles.) Networking? Word of mouth? Repeat business?
Agencies? (See also
some tips on succeeding as a freelance copywriter.) No matter what your
strategy, you need to give it the time it deserves. Its a good idea to
average around an hour a day to thinking about and implementing marketing
9) Industry research
Stay up to date on the
latest copywriting industry research. Read research on usability, readability,
and scannability (visit http://www.useit.com or
http://www.goodexperience.com and subscribe to their
newsletters). Read up on search engine optimization (see
http://www.divinewrite.com/SEOCEO.htm or try subscribing to
a newsletter from http://www.webpronews.com or
http://www.site-reference.com). Try to track how day-to-day
language is changing (what buzz words to use, what buzz words to avoid, what
rules are being overlooked in spoken English, what sounds make a positive
impression on people, etc.). Know the difference between writing for the web
versus writing for print versus writing for search engines (see
http://www.divinewrite.com/articles.htm for some relevant
articles). If you want to scratch the surface, spend 10 minutes every day.
10) Subject matter research
Whether its website
copywriting or advertising copywriting, to do a good job, you need to know a
lot about your subject material. This means both specific knowledge about the
clients product or service as well as more generic domain
knowledge. Clients have a tendency to not supply enough information. Make sure
you interview them thoroughly. And then let them know youll probably need
to ask further questions. Even then, you may find yourself doing a bit of
independent research. The Internet is your saviour, but always run any
information by your client before publishing. When youre quoting on a
job, try to figure out how much detail the client will be able to supply. You
can even ask them to estimate how much theyll supply (i.e. All, Most,
Some, or None). This is a good technique as it gets them thinking about your
requirements while at the same time giving you some idea how much time
youll spend researching.
important respect, website copywriting and advertising copywriting are no
different from any other form of writing; planning is vital. For more specific
planning information, see
About the Author:
Glenn Murray is an SEO
copywriter and article submission and article PR specialist. He is a director
of article PR company, Article PR, and also of copywriting studio Divine Write.
He can be contacted on Sydney +612 4334 6222 or at
for further details.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FREELANCE COPYWRITER by Glenn Murray
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