But in recent years, interest has grown dramatically. Maybe it’s the economy and job losses that has people seeking new opportunities. Or it could be the small industry that has grown around promoting copywriter career information.
Whatever it is, there are more people interested in discovering what this “copywriting thing” is all about than ever before.
I’m always getting questions about this, so I’ve put together a Copywriter Information Center on my main business website. Aspiring copywriters can find information about what copywriters do, who does the hiring, typical pay, available full-time jobs, and more.
I’ll be adding information over time, so bookmark the page for reference. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, let me know. I’ll make notes for future updates or answer your questions on my ProCopyTips blog.
People use the word “freelance” quite a lot these days, generally to refer to someone who doesn’t have a “real” job. But that’s hardly an accurate definition.
The word freelance comes from the Middle Ages, when there were basically two types of knights. There were the knights who worked exclusively for one king. Then there were the “free lancers,” or knights who worked for anyone who would pay them.
The idea of freelancing is still with us, but kings have been replaced by businesses, while knights have been replaced by professionals of all kinds. Today there are more freelancers than ever before and more freelancing opportunities as well. But it’s important to have a firm understanding of what freelance really means today.
Here’s a good definition:
A freelancer or freelance worker is a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.
It seems every time you turn on the news, there’s another crisis. Another business failure. Another bailout. Another depressing statistic. More evidence that no one has any clue what they’re doing.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little numb with all the drama.
Fortunately, a good sense of humor can help you survive and even thrive when all those around you are panicking. This applies especially to the advertising and marketing industry, which has been hit pretty hard in this wacky economy.
Whether you’re a copywriter, designer, manager, business owner, salesman, or anyone trying to stay sane, you might find a little inspiration (maybe even a smile) in this small collection of familiar observations.
I’ve just added a “free publication store” to my Web site.
You can get FREE subscriptions to trade magazines in a wide variety of industries, including sales and marketing.
There’s no catch. Most of the subscriptions are 100% free. A handful offer cheap trial subscriptions.
How does this work? Well, a little-known secret of the publishing business is that there isn’t much money in subscriptions. The money is in the advertising and spin-off products. This is particularly true for magazines catering to niche business markets.
So what many publishers do is give away free subscriptions in order to build their readership. The higher their circulation, the more they can charge for advertising. Simple, huh?
Click here to browse my catalog of publications and subscribe to as many as you like. There are no limits and they’re all free. Plus, there are lots of extras, including white papers, podcasts, downloads, and more. You can browse by title or by industry.
Here are some of the most popular publications in the sales and marketing category:
Take your time. Look around. Subscribe or take as much of the free stuff as you like. And don’t forget to bookmark the home page because there are new magazines, newsletters, and other good stuff added regularly.
What’s the difference between high-earning freelancers and all other freelancers? For the most part, the high earners have a professional mindset.
And what does that mean?
It means making a shift from the paycheck mentality to the professional mentality. Here are 11 tips for doing just that.
1. Think like a professional. Whether you want to earn a little extra income on the side or go full-blown freelance pro, you should consider yourself in the same class as all other professionals, worthy of the same respect and income.
2. Ignore most of the advice from the freelance “industry.” Many magazines, books, and online sources give bad advice for those wanting to make money at freelancing. You must carefully weigh the advice you get, choosing to follow only what you know will further your business interests.
3. Politely disregard the advice from friends and family. Everyone thinks they’re an expert, even those who have never freelanced before. But you have to avoid seeking emotional support and start seeking success. If someone gives you advice, look at how much money they’re making from their own freelancing, if any. If they’re no better off than you, smile, nod politely, and promptly forget what they say.
4. Think long term and never give up. It will probably take 3 to 5 years to establish a profitable clientele and to get comfortable with your new business. Many freelancers simply give up too soon. Make a commitment to persist against all odds and slowly grow your business over the next few years. Easier said than done. But persistence pays off.
5. Offer special expertise. You must offer clients unique knowledge, experience, or skill in some area besides the physical task you perform.
For example, if you’re a writer, what expertise do you have in addition to writing? Perhaps you work in the PR department of a hospital, or you have a few years of volunteer experience raising funds for a nonprofit, or you’ve written a number of successful radio commercials, or you have a chemical engineering degree. Whatever it is, your specialty gives you the edge you need to a) differentiate yourself from all other writers, b) narrow your market and find the right clients, and c) charge higher, professional-level fees.
Neither your technical skills nor your special knowledge is enough by itself. Put them together, however, and you have the edge you need. Read more
One mistake novice freelance copywriters make is to think of themselves as “writers.”
It’s an understandable error. Usually, those who get into this profession are people with a background in writing. They see freelancing as a way to write and actually get paid decent money for it.
But freelancing is really a service business. You provide a service (copywriting) to various companies, not because they want writing, but because they need copy to help them sell products and services.
Once you make that little mental adjustment, you realize that if you can provide one service, you can also provide other services. This is what most businesses do and it’s what you should do as well.
That’s the premise of a new book by Don Hauptman, one of the most respected copywriters in the industry. The book is called The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting.
Don shows a variety of ways that copywriters, or any type of freelancer, can make extra money using the core knowledge and skill they have as writers.
For example, Don starts out by talking about “critiquing,” which is a service I’ve offered my clients for many years. This is both practical and timely, given today’s tough economy.
Sometimes a client wants to work with you but doesn’t have the budget to pay your full copywriting fee. By offering a critique of ads, brochures, Web sites, direct mail, or other items, you can provide a valuable service at a lower cost. I’ve also found that it’s a good way to “audition” for some clients. Once they see how helpful your critique is, they feel less risk in hiring you for your premium services.
Don also covers public speaking, training, giving seminars, and other services, with lots of specifics and personal anecdotes about how he used these ideas in his long and successful career.
What I think you’ll enjoy just as much as the sound advice is Don’s writing style. He’s a master wordsmith and a well-known author of books on language and wordplay. I guarantee, Don agonized over every word to make The Versatile Freelancer a joy to read.
If you provide copy, design, consultation, or any kind of service to advertisers, you already know how difficult it is to deal with pricing.
One of the hardest decisions to make is whether to charge by the hour or to charge a fixed rate.
This is just one of many issues I’ve been thinking about lately after reading Steve Slaunwhite’s definitive book on the subject, Pricing Your Writing Services. It’s written from the professional writer’s perspective, but the principles apply to graphic designers, Web professionals, consultants, and many other service providers as well.
The short answer to this quandary is that it’s better to charged a fixed rate in most cases. Why? Well, that requires a longer answer.
Quoting hourly prices seems more natural when you’re starting out. That’s because we’re all used to the hourly concept. People are often paid hourly. And it’s an easy answer to the question “What do you charge?” But hourly rates present problems for professional level service providers. Read more
They say the best things in life are free. Some of the best things for copywriters sure are.
One of great things about running a copywriting business is that your overhead can be incredibly low. You can work from your house, avoid commuting, dress casually, and take advantage of all the comforts of home.
And when it comes to some of the tools of the trade, some of the very best are totally free of charge.
Here are a few of my favorites:
OpenOffice - I loath Microsoft Word. It used to be a fine piece of software, and the .doc format is a standard most clients will want. But it’s become so loaded down with features, it’s a pain to use. And since millions of others feel the same way, OpenOffice is now available to replace all the core Microsoft Office products. Read more
About once a week, someone contacts me with a letter or ad they want me to “tweak.”
Definition of tweak: “I read a book on copywriting over the weekend and wrote my own copy. It sucks. I desperately need your help, but I’m too cheap to pay you to write something for me.”
This, my friends, is a no-win situation for a highly paid copywriter.
If you tell the prospect their copy sucks, you’ll insult them. If you quote them your full price, you won’t get the job. If you take the job and do it on the cheap, you’ll have a hard time because a) you’ll have to rewrite the copy without it appearing that you rewrote it or b) you’ll have to start from scratch and get paid a fraction of what the work is worth.
How you handle a tweaker is up to you, but here’s what I do:
I ask to look at the copy before I say anything else. If the copy really isn’t that bad, I play along and agree to a rewrite. If the copy is bad, I say so. I quote my price for new copy and let the chips fall.
Will this result in a loss of business? Yes and no. Yes, because if you charge high fees, any time you give a quote, you’ll lose business from someone not willing to pay what you charge. No, because if someone can’t afford your fees, that’s not a client you want anyway. You really aren’t losing anything by not working for those who do not fit your client description.
What if you’re just starting out and need the money? Take the job. Early on, you need experience more than anything. And you won’t have to deal with the “opportunity cost” of working for less than your standard fees because you probably don’t have work queued up for weeks or months anyway as do many top copywriters.
Takeaway: Beware the tweak. For some copywriters, this means more trouble than it’s worth.
I’m curious, do designers and other freelancers experience the tweak too? Are there similar situations in other businesses?
Most people who get into the freelance copywriting business do so because they love to write compelling copy. They seldom do it because they want to spend time finding clients.
However, to survive as a freelancer, you DO have to find clients. It’s just part of the profession.
Recently, I ran across a unique resource called “The Freelance Copywriter’s $64,000 Direct Mail Self-Promotion Package.” It’s written by Pete Savage, a copywriter in Canada.
Now I’ve been around a while and have seen all sorts of e-books and reports that promise to give you the “secret” for success in this business. Most, frankly, are full of tripe and nonsense from people who don’t actually earn a living as a copywriter.
Pete’s book is different. For one thing, Pete really does earn a living writing copy. For another, it’s very specific and practical. It’s not just “how-to,” it’s “here’s exactly how-to.” Read more