October 31, 2014

Freelance Copywriters: 4 Simple Ways to Make Sure You Get Paid

Image courtesy of Anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being a freelance copywriter is a great way to make a decent income.  A lot of people choose this line of work because it allows them to make their own hours and they get to determine how much money they make each week or even each day. However, and this is a big “however,” in the world of freelancing, particularly online, you’ll need to know how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.  This is because there are any number of scams out there, not to mention, dishonest people who may try to get you to work on projects, meanwhile they have no intention of paying you.

Newbie or not, I’m quite sure you’ve read other freelancers’ rants about difficulties in getting paid from problem clients.  You may have even had one or two of these challenging situations yourself.

You’ll need to make sure that you always protect yourself so that you have a nice, steady income and a great experience as a freelance copywriter.

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to keep folks from cheating you. If you apply the following tips you’ll have a much greater chance of assuring that your fees are protected and that you are not scammed out of your money.

 

1. Find Out About Your Client Before You Meet

 

Look the prospect up before you agree to work with them and before you discuss the assignment with them.  Your findings may help you develop more pointed questions that will serve to safeguard you and your fees in the end.

There are countless, simple ways to research a client, but be creative in your search for information on them. A few quick ways to do a makeshift, but effective “background” check are as follows:

  1. If  this client finds you in an online forum, make sure that you check their feedback score (if any).
  2. If this client finds you on an online staffing platform (e.g., Elance.com), check out the comments made by previous contractors. Make sure there are no  listed problems with that client. Also make sure that you check into the feedback that your potential client has left.  If they show a history of leaving a bunch of negative comments, be wary of that client. It may signify that he or she is impossible to please.
  3. Enter the client’s email address in a popular search engine and scan the results. If that email has ever been associated with a scam, it may be listed in your search results.
  4. Take twenty or thirty minutes to plug their name or their website URL in The Better Business Bureau’s website, and look them up on Yelp, Angie’s List, SiteJabber, TripAdvisor and the like.

 

2. Protect Yourself By Using Written Contracts

 

Another great tip to staying safe and making sure you get the money you earned is to always use a contract. Using a contract/written agreement/quotation agreement can help assure you are paid upon completion of your work. If you do not have a contract, you will not be well-protected and you’ll undermine any leverage you otherwise would have had.

If the client gives you a hard time about signing the contract or starts “nickling and diming” you on more than one provision in the agreement, this may be a sign that there will be more issues and stress ahead. It’s probably best to not work with that person.

 

3. Get a Down-Payment Before You Start the Job

 

Making sure that you are getting paid is key when doing freelance copywriting work or any type of freelance work. Many writers require that clients leave an initial deposit, and you should too. This deposit assures the client that you will provide the copywriting work, and it helps to assure you that the client will pay for the work. The deposit you require should reflect the amount of work you will be doing. For larger jobs you will need to require a larger deposit and for smaller jobs you can require less.  Having the deposit will help to ease your fears about not being paid and will help to develop a trusting relationship between you and the client.

 

4. Make It Simple for Clients to Pay for Your Services

 

When Mr. Pain-in-the-A says, “I only have a debit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I take wire transfers, and there will be a fee of $___ dollars for that transaction.”

If Ms. Bothersome says, “I can only pay by credit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I have Intuit or Paypal, so you are more than welcome to pay by credit card.”

Of course, in order to do this, you’ll have to set these program up.  Luckily, these payment services are user-friendly, and there’s always customer service (with real live agents) available to help you if you have a problem. Today, many, if not most, banks offer merchant services for small business owners (including freelancers). These services allow us to accept a whole host of credit, debit, wire and mobile payment methods the same way the larger establishments do.

 

Conclusion

 

Set and hold to milestones when you are working on someone’s project, especially if it’s a multi-tiered one. Always send a sample to the client before you begin so that you can make sure he or she is satisfied with your work.  Stay in constant contact with the client and confirm that you understand his or her wants by repeating it back to them and getting that nod, preferably the electronic nod – via EMAIL.   The more you and the client are in synch, the more promising your experience is likely to be.

If you do end up with a problem client you will at first need to be patient. In the beginning, if you cannot work things out, it is advised that you cancel the job with the client before things get too complicated. If you have already turned in work, try your best to work with the client and see what you can do to improve the work or meet his or her needs by some other mutually satisfactory means.

Your business as a freelance copywriter can be greatly protected by these simple steps. Remember to follow your instincts, and if a job or a client does not feel right, move on to another job.  Require a contract and make sure that you get a deposit before beginning the job. Lastly, create that “paper” trail. If you’re a straight shooter, it’s always to your personal and legal advantage to have a paper trail, even if it’s email only.  Sometimes a financial dispute can very easily be resolved by reminding and showing your client that on X date, you did Y, just as she requested in her email.

 

 

About the Author:Stacey Mathis is founder and president of Stacey Mathis Copywriting.  Get more from Stacey on Twitter and Linkedin.com.

Increase Your Chance of Being Re-Hired as an Online Freelance Copywriter

Search for Freelancers, People

The online freelance copywriting industry is growing by leaps and bounds. More and more copywriters are realizing that finding online jobs is a lot easier than finding offline gigs.  This, however, means more copywriters will be vying for the same jobs. The competition is getting stiffer, so your overall work ethic, attention to detail and work habits must be fine-tuned.

Still, there is this sense that online commitments don’t have to be taken as seriously as in-person pledges.  Don’t make that mistake.  Copywriting projects are taken just as seriously by online employers as they are by offline employers

On that note, there are certain chinks in the armor of some freelance copywriters that turn employers off and which may be the deciding factor for rehiring you or recommending you over an equally qualified and similarly priced copywriter. Those bad practices include the following:

•You ask questions when the answers have already been laid out in the job posting

Read the job description and comments carefully before you ask the employer questions.  If it’s unclear or can conceivably have more than one meaning, then ask away.

•You ask for an extension at the last minute

Stuff that we can’t control happens to all of us. However, if you find that needing an extension has happened to you more than twice, forgo the gigs where the time constraint is likely to be an issue. You hurt the employer and you’ll begin to chip away at your reputation in the freelance arena.
•Offer to email an assignment long before a deadline to impress an employer, and then renege on that promise because the contract said you had more time.

 If you want to complete the assignment early, then do so, but don’t say you will unless you are going to follow-through. If your employer takes you at your word and schedules something based on that promise, you may be putting him in a bad position.  Yes, contractually, you have until the written deadline, but ethically, you’re wrong.  You don’t want that to be what an employer remembers about you. The same way freelancers discuss employers; employers compare notes when it comes to recommending freelance copywriters.

•Ask for half up front, do part one, then slack off for part two

Every leg of your project must be your best work.  Some freelancers have been known to put their best foot forward, initially, get paid, then slack off for the remainder of the project. Remember, the entire project represents your freelance brand.

•Ask basic questions that someone of your claimed expertise and skill set should know

If you hold yourself out to be a Tweet copywriter, then you should be very familiar with how Twitter works and with Twitter stuff.  Asking what he means by “hashtag” is not a good look.

•Hand in well-written fluff work product with filler phrases

Don’t use fluff, well-chosen words filler words and esoteric turns of phrase to meet a word count requirement because you don’t feel like exerting the energy to come up with something of substance.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that just because you’ve included some and a few esoteric phrases, an employer won’t see through it.  She may not say anything to you about it, but in her mind, she’s saying, “never again.”


Request to be rated when your employer seemed dissatisfied

If your employer has demonstrated that you’ve disappointed him, especially more than once, don’t bug him to give you an online review or rating. What he has to say about you may do more harm than good. However, you have to clean up your act so that such work habits don’t become a permanent part of your routine.

  

Employers come to us because they can’t do it themselves or because they don’t have the time.  Let’s not disappoint them and risk our reputations by providing substandard work or by not living up to reasonable expectations.  Even if it is a pro bono assignment or an assignment for which you now feel underpaid (after contract), excellence is all you should be thinking and giving . . . nothing less.

Start Your Freelance Copywriting Life Off Right

Start Now ButtonIn June and July of 2006 I committed to doing three things: (1) buy and read Bob Bly’s book The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells; (2) buy and read Steven Slaunwhite’s book Start& Run a Copywriting Business; and (3) start a freelance copywriting business by September 2006.

And I did.  Starting my own freelance copywriting business was easier than starting a small business typically is because I started off right – emotionally and managerially.  I quickly embraced my new reality – that launching and running this copywriting business was going to be a fun and challenging experience, but that starting off right meant, I needed to fix my mind-set.  Although this business was going to be a big and important part of my life, it was going to have a life of its own; it would be my freelance copywriting life, and I needed to be prepared for everything that promised to come with it (you know, the highs and the lows:  the first huge client payment of $2,500.00; then the frozen computer on the day of a “can’t miss” deadline; the ecstatic customer with the glowing testimonial about your work and who sings your praises to powerful decision makers; then the late arrival of your business cards before your meeting with JP Morgan Chase’s marketing team . . . and you have none left – you know that stuff).

So there.  Strapped with my borrowed, yet reliable mantra “Just do it” and these few tidbits, I stepped out on faith:

•Don’t let poisonous folks whisper in my ear, even the well-meaning ones;

•Develop and follow a simple strategy and stay focused;

•Don’t let things get overly complicated and stay focused;

•Allow only one captain to steer the ship – me – and stay focused;

•Keep tweaking things along the way when they need modifying;

•Launch this thing, and learn the rest along the way . . . WHILE STAYING FOCUSED.

And I did.  And I still am.

Following are practical business reminders I learned that helped me tremendously in starting my freelance copywriting life off right and keeping it right, and I am confident you will find them helpful too:

Your Passion . . . Not!

Don’t wait for that mythical fixation called “your passion.”  Some of the most happily successful people have found it.  Most happily successful people, it’s safe to say, have not.  What the two groups of happily successful folks have in common, however, is: they have a knack for what they do and they find enjoyment in some aspect of what they do.  If you wait for this passion thing to materialize, you may never get that freelance copywriting business off the ground.

Perseverance and the Threat of Rejection

One of the most common hindrances to perseverance is fear of rejection.  I don’t like guarantees, but this one is unmistakable, so I’m going to share it. You will experience rejection in one form or another.  If dealing with rejection is a challenge for you, then from the outset, you have to find a mechanism to help you cope with it.  It could be anything from Yoga to meditation, from training for a 5K to venting in a supportive online community.  Whatever you choose, just monitor the strategy, because if it’s not working, you need to tweak that plan.  And, speaking of supportive online communities – there are loads of them out there for copywriters and freelance copywriters from linkedin copywriting groups to warriorforum copywriting threads.  It behooves you to join one or more. Besides being comforting, they can be quite informative,  and great places to get educated feedback on copy drafts you’ve done, or to simply hang out, “coffee clutch” or network.

Make Good Habits a Habit

Contracts

Unless you are crafting a flyer for your grandmother’s church picnic, use a contract.  An elaborate contract is the safest bet, but a simple contract can work also, provided all of your bases are covered. Heck, if her church has a board of directors, you may want to use a contract for that church picnic flyer too.  Nothing personal grandma!

At the very least, your contract or agreement should contain:

♦the date of the agreement;

♦your name and address, the name and address of the business hiring you and the signer’s name;

♦a detailed description of the project, including the medium and format of the work;

♦the number of pages, if it’s a print document;

♦the various parts and stages of the project;

♦the number of edits and revisions you will allow;

♦the dates of delivery for each stage of the project, if more than one stage;

♦your fee and its due date(s);

♦a list of terms and conditions; and

♦both parties’ signatures.

Keeping Records – Phone Calls

No one remembers everything, especially when you are busy.  When you speak to a client, particularly if you verbally agree to do or not to do something, it is a very good idea to memorialize the phone conversation in a follow-up email. This serves a number of different purposes. It jogs yours and your client’s memory. It solidifies what was said. It helps you recall what you said you’d do or not do. It creates a paper trail in the event something happens and you need proof.

Keeping Records – Billing

If you do nothing else, spare yourself some stress by having some place to drop your receipts and records of incoming payments. If this is too much of a hassle for you and the thought of even doing this much organizing stresses you out, then use as few ways to make purchases as possible.  For example use one credit card and one Intuit Merchant or Paypal account. This way, when it’s time to sit down with your accountant, all of your financial information is in only one or two places. The ideal solution is to keep your files organized in off-line or online folders, categorize them and use one of the gazillion simple accounting software programs out there like Lessaccounting.

Networking and Marketing

Yes, I used to hate this too – networking.  But, I soon learned that I was really good at it. I still don’t love it, but it works wonders and brings me in a lot of business, sometimes more than I can handle alone.  Whether you do it online or off-line, marketing your business is a must. And don’t be fooled into thinking you only need to market when business is slow.  Any self-respecting freelance copywriter will tell you that the optimal time to market your business is when you have customers coming in the door.  This way, you are more likely have  steadier stream of income.   And, by the way, marketing your freelance copywriting business needs to be a big percentage of the time you spend on your business – around 35% of the time.

In addition to networking, there are myriad ways to market your business:

-Article marketing.  Write and publish a few articles on sites like ezinearticles.com or goarticles.com.  Include your URL in your resource box.  The resource box is a section at the end of published online articles where you get to promote yourself and your business;

-Bartering.  You can, for example, offer to consult with a business that agrees to plug your freelance business in their newsletter;

-Cross-promotions.  You promote a local business on your site in exchange for them promoting yours;

-Distribute a press release on a few free press release directories like Press Method (www.pressmethod.com); Free Press Release Centre (http://www.free-press-release-center.info/); SB Wire (www.sbwire.com);  or PR.com (www.pr.com), just to name a few;

-Free classifieds (e.g., craigslist); and

-Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin).

Stay Relevant

Take your eyes of the marketing media road for more than a month and you may feel completely lost when you turn your attention to the trends again.  Between social media, mobile media, cloud this and cloud that, the marketing media environment is growing by leaps and bounds!  It’s imperative that you keep learning. As a part of your routine, subscribe to (and read), a few newsletters or blogs that keep up with the trends of copywriting, freelancing and best small businesses practices. To keep on top of what’s trending, you can monitor Twitter hashtags like #smallbusiness using any number of free tools like Hootsuite.

 

Check Yourself

Check your site and make sure your information is still relevant. Make sure your links all work. Sometimes, unbeknownst to you and for a number of reasons, a link will suddenly die. This happens with WordPress blogs on occasion, so check them periodically just to be sure everything’s in working order.

Check your online business image.  Make sure you’re not tagged in that photo you took at your cousin’s wedding with the chandelier on your head where you’re drunk and dressed only in your bra or boxers. Put security limits on the accessibility of your personal Facebook page(s) so that only folks you want looking at it can see it.  Business people will definitely go searching for your personal Facebook page. So, if you’re doing anything on your personal social media page that could offend your customers and make them go elsewhere in search of a different copywriter, put some blocks in place.

Part of checking yourself, includes checking your competitors.  You want to stay a  step ahead of them or appear to anyway. There is competition out there for almost every copywriter, but particularly for narrowly niched ones. If you are one of 10 copywriters in your niche, definitely keep your eyes on your competition. One way to legally spy on them is by using Google alerts and Twitter alerts by signing up with sites like Tweetbeep.  You can use these sites to have emails sent to you when Google or Twitter finds things like web pages, news articles, blog posts,etc. that match your search item (i.e, your competitor’s name and the name of their business).  It only takes about 3 minutes to set each of them up initially, and they’re both free.

Oh yeah, and do this: Unfollow small fries who aren’t following you back on Twitter. Don’t look socially desperate.  If they don’t respect you enough to follow you back, unfollow them.  You don’t want to be one of those Twitter members who is following 500 people, but who only has 90 people following them back. Businesswise, that’s not a good look.

Even with its ups and downs, the freelance life, as so many people will testify, can be a great experience, and the best way to do that is to start out right. Go in with the proper mind-set and with realistic expectations.  Decide you are going to give it your all, but that you are not going to lose yourself in it.  Whether you choose to do it full-time or part-time, if you have the knack for it and enjoy copywriting and want the freedom that comes with self-employment, get your mind-set, make sure you have a plan you can live with . . . then JUST DO IT!

Happy writing,

Stacey

P.S. Some of the blogs and websites that keep up with the trends of copywriting or freelancing or small business best practices are as follows:

http://contentverve.com/

http://www.nickusborne.com/

http://blogs.targetmarketingmag.com/

http://www.marketingwords.com/blog/?cat=4

http://www.WonderBranding.com/

http://www.seocopywriting.com/blog/

http://blog.crazyegg.com

http://www.awaionline.com/blog

http://directanddigitalmarketing.com/

http://www.psychotactics.com/

http://blog.smallbusinesscopywriter.com/

http://contently.com/blog/

http://www.perrymarshall.com/

http://simplystatedbusiness.com/

http://sparksheet.com/

http://thewordchef.com/blog/

http://www.mpdailyfix.com/

http://www.webinknow.com/

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/

http://www.copyblogger.com

http://blogtyrant.com

http://smallbiztrends.com/

http://www.startupnation.com/business-blogs/

http://www.chrisbrogan.com/

http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com

https://be.freelancersunion.org/blog/

http://freelanceswitch.com/blog/

http://freelancefolder.com/

http://www.warriorforum.com/copywriting-forum/

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Are You Out of Work and Considering Freelance Writing Jobs?

Freelance Industry Report 2012

Have you been wondering whether or not you should become a part-time freelance writer while you look for full-time permanent employment?  Or, perhaps you’ve been thinking about pursuing freelance writing jobs on a full-time basis.  To be effective at either option, you will need some guidance. Before you make such a serious commitment, you’ll want to explore the field and see if, in fact, it’s the right decision for you and your family.  The 2012 Freelance Industry Report is just the guidance you need to answer probably the vast majority of the questions you’ll have.

The study surveyed 1,491 freelancers to grasp who freelancers truly are.  You can use the information in this report in a variety of ways, including to see how you stack up against your colleagues and learn what areas you need to work on.

As stated in the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, when you read this report you will find:

• The most common professions for freelance work.

• Key demographics such as age, gender, location, experience and work status.

• The biggest challenges freelancers face and how those challenges differ by

profession, location, experience and other factors.

• Attitudes toward freelancing, self-employment, running a solo business and the

economy, as well as freelancers’ business outlook for the next 12 months.

• Income trends, hourly rates, billable time, how different freelancers price their services

and structure their fees, and the impact of the economic downturn on those fees and

rates.

• Lifestyle choices, including average number of hours worked, the importance of free

time and flexibility, and attitudes toward reentering the traditional workforce.

• How freelancers attract clients today, how much time they spend promoting their

services and what marketing strategies they’re planning to implement over the next

year.

• An analysis of displaced workers who have given up their job search in favor of the

freelance path: what challenges they face, how they feel about self-employment, their

lifestyle changes and their likelihood to remain self-employed.

Whatever you decide in the end, after reading this report, you will certainly walk away with a better idea about the freelancing field and whether or not it is the style of employment that fits you.

 

CHECK OUT THE 2012 FREELANCE INDUSTRY REPORT

Just Click the Pic Freelance Industry Report 2012 Cover

 

 

Stacey

Three Ways to Make Money When Your Freelance Copywriting Business is Slow

As a freelancer, and as with almost any kind of business ownership, there may come times when business is slow.  If you experience a down-swing in your freelance business cycle, there are measures you can take to get through it. Below are three activities you can engage in to pay the bills and stave off the pangs until business starts rolling in again, all while staying in touch with your market:

Make Money When Your Freelance Business is Slow1.  Look for employment with temporary staffing agencies that specialize in the field or industry of your copywriting niche.  There are temping opportunities for almost every occupation.  Most companies use temp agencies. This is also a great way to see your niche from the inside, from a different prospective.  There are myriad ways this can help you hone your crafting skills for your niche. You will be privy to valuable experiences that you could never get from research.  And think of all the contacts you stand to make as a result of working in such an environment, perhaps answering phones, making calls, meeting or greeting customers, affiliates and your employer’s colleagues, and attending external office meetings (if any), etc.

2.  Write, market and sell an ebook or 25-page special report to your existing and potential new customers. You’d be amazed how many of your customers would like a DYI manual on certain hot topics that you, their niche expert writer, can help them with.  Of course, you are not going to share all your secrets, just a select few.  Think about it like an informative, easy-to-follow book report about marketing or blogging or Tweeting or Facebooking in their area of expertise.  To promote your ebook or report, you can do some basic marketing: write and publish (at no cost to you on several press release directories); you can launch a Twitter and Facebook campaign if you have business related accounts; you can do a 2-minute youtube intro and lead listeners to the webpage that houses your ebook; you can sell your book on sites like Clickbank or E-junkie, etc. You can also offer other small business a percentage to sell your book on their websites or blogs.

3.  Are small business owners your clients?  Offer to write an e-newsletter for their companies. With sites like Aweber.com, you can very easily set up an e-newsletter for your client’s small business. A newsletter is a valuable tool your clients can use to inexpensively collect real-time, unrestricted feedback from their customers and prospects in order to build profitable relationships.  A newsletter can enhance your client’s reputation, increases lead generation and provides instantaneous trackable results.  In addition, a newsletter presents an opportunity for your clients’ customers to effortlessly interact with them.

Watch this video and get a real feel for the advantages of using sites like Aweber:

 

Send Your First Email Newsletter Today – AWeber Communications

These are just a few of the things freelancers can apply to earn extra money during slow moments. But the best weapon, however, is to regularly market your business, especially during the feast periods.

Happy Writing,
Stacey

Looking to Get Into Copywriting? Here’s Some Advice from Veteran Copywriters

Wise Old OwlA new copywriter visited my linkedin.com Advertising Copywriting  group discussion and asked “What advice would you offer to someone who is looking to get into copywriting . . . ?”  I scoured the lengthy comments and came away with my top 12 responses below:

1. Start writing things: student newspapers, blog posts, anything.

2. If a company you’re applying to work with has a blog, read it and reference it in your cover letter.

3. Listen to the intended audience; listen to a client’s direction; listen to the tone of your writing.

4. In an age of social media, networking helps a lot.

5. Don’t give up.

6. Get to know your own voice or style.

7. The most important thing your portfolio has to do is engage and amuse the screener.

8. If you’re sitting at your desk feeling stupid, stop. That “stupid” feeling is a signal from your core self that you do not have the information you need in order to complete the task.

9. Visualize the person you are writing to.  See them as they go about their busy day, not really interested in what we have to say to them.

10. Pick up a copy of Bob Bly’s “The Copywriter’s Handbook ” — or at least check it out at your local library. It’s perhaps the best one-stop resource for new copywriters I’ve come across.

The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells

 

11. At its core, all marketing is about giving pleasure, reward, satisfaction, and fulfilling desire, or it’s about alleviating pain, or symptoms, or problems, or lack.
12. Get a website, promote your services and start to watch the clients slowly come in.

 

Join Advertising Copywriting on linkedin.com.  It’s a delightfully intelligent and insightful group of helpful professionals.  The above tips are just a glimpse into all that this wonderful group has to offer.

 

Happy Writing,

Stacey

 

P.S.  You can never have too much brilliant and valuable advice.

 

 

 

 

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

Write and Grow Rich . . . Really

My colleague, Bob Bly, author of 70+ books and the man McGraw-Hill calls “America’s top copywriter,” shows you how quickly and easily you can . . .

“Write and Grow Rich!”

Write and Grow Rich (Pens with Golden Dollar Sign)If you’re thinking about starting a freelance copywriting business now or have started one already, you’re in luck. Bob Bly, in his infinite marketing wisdom, has developed a proven and systematic way for writers to build a successful freelance business . . . just as he and many of our colleagues have done.

You’ll see in a moment Bob Bly’s best-selling writer’s manual Write and Grow Rich is much more than just your run-of-the-mill writer’s guide. It’s brimming with practical methods you can use to quickly and easily start and run your own well-paying freelance writing business.

Bob walks you through establishing your own manageable, lucrative writing practice . . .

Read More

Getting a Copywriting Job in London

Posted By Guest Blogger: Tim Green-

I was told that copywriters need to be creative, have a love of language and be adaptable.  I was all of these things so surely it was a perfect fit. Indeed, having studied journalism and with a love of books and writing, I figured this should be easy. London Underground - Getting a Copywriting Jobs in London

The reality was a little different. Getting a copywriting job was not as easy a task as I had thought it would be.  Most people like to think they are good with words and most are able to speak English.  But a good copywriter requires a host of other talents beyond this: attention to detail, ability to work to tight deadlines, adaptability, good communication — these traits are ones which anyone going into the business must have.

Freelance

I initially pursued the job by doing some freelance work. Luckily I had a few friends in publishing who required corporate articles and advertising briefs for their sports blogs or for online magazines. This was not overly glamorous or well-paid but it did help me to build up a portfolio and make contacts. And the experience was invaluable—writing an advertorial on sportswear one week, a pitch for party planning the next— I was learning all the time.

Recruitment Agency

After I built up a decent portfolio of work I sent my CV to a couple of big London recruitment agencies. It was a tough market to begin with.  While they liked my work, they reminded me that copywriting is a competitive business and places didn’t come up very often. But one day a friend of mine recommended me to a specialist recruitment agency in London.

They had a link to many of the more interesting companies around. Luckily, they liked my portfolio and my determination to find a job in the industry. They also liked that I had shown initiative on my freelance work and the diversity of things I had written about.

Be Persistent

I learnt that it is as hard to find a good copywriter as it is for copywriters to find a good company.  In the end, I was put forward for three interviews.  The second one I went for offered me a job as a trainee.  In the last year I have moved up and now handle a couple of client accounts myself and work on others with more senior colleagues.  It can be very rewarding work, learning about new industries and meeting and liaising with a diversity of interesting people. I’ve worked with fizzy drink companies, telephone makers, banks and fashion agencies. You need to have good writing skills, creativity and work to tight deadlines to succeed. Registering with a good agency is also a pretty good avenue to pursue in my experience. Just remember to be both patient and persistent! It will work out.

 

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Tim Green works as a copywriter at a marketing company in London. He supports http://www.yellowcatrecruitment.co.uk/

 

Tags:  Advertising copywriter, copywriter salary

Why Do American Companies Only Want Freelance Copywriters Who Are Fluent in American English?

American English (Flag) Hitting TargetCopywriters of all stripes are eager to jump on the American copywriting bandwagon. That’s a wonderful thing, since, compared to many countries, particularly emerging nations where many new copywriters come from, American companies pay well and there’s enough work to go around.

Quick Story: I recently placed a few ads on some online employment platforms and specifically requested that the applicants be fluent and able to write in “American English” simply because the vast majority of my target audience speaks American English. I received a number of responses from offended, foreign candidates who basically told me I should consider all English speaking applicants, that I was being unfair and that not hiring them was my loss . . .  What’s more, the respondents were not really fluent in English (of any dialect). For some reason the responders believe there is no difference between American English and all other English dialects. However, there are differences.  Very meaningful differences, especially when it comes to writing copy.

 

 American English – What’s the Big Deal?

Just like copywriters who speak American English, copywriters whose native (writing) tongue is not American English have to meet certain basic communications standards.  To be effective as a copywriter, you have “to get it.” You have to communicate in the vernacular of the American audience, which means having a sensitivity to the nuances,  knowing the transitional terminology, the idioms, spellings, usage, and phraseology that American markets are accustomed to reading in copy. There are also implied meanings that have power when you place them in the context of a few well-chosen words. “Just do it” is an example of this. It needs absolutely no more explanation other than those three words, yet Americans just get it.

Copy Must Sound Natural

Another factor is authenticity, sounding natural. American copywriters already struggle with pulling off authenticity, and marketers know this. So, imagine hiring someone whose second language is English and there’s no immersion in the culture to boot. Time is of the essence in marketing, advertising and copywriting, so there’s not a whole lot of room to catch writers up on the basics of American English and what I dub, the language-culture while you’re facing a deadline.  And, if a marketer has to then get someone to rewrite passages simply for American customers’ understanding, they have now hired two people to do the job of one; it’s counterproductive.

You only have seconds to grab a prospective customer’s attention. You then have to hold their attention.  There is a higher chance of generating copy that does not resonate with the target audience when they are stuck trying to interpret what the text actually means.  If the customer is spending those few precious seconds trying to grasp your meaning, you’ve lost them.

To my fellow copywriters who would like to get more copywriting projects from American businesses, marketers, ad and PR folks, I would simply recommend studying basic English and intermediate American English.  In doing so, you can also pick up cues on the culture, including the faux pas.

As to the free route to improving your American English, I would suggest that you:

 

●Listen to and study American song lyrics, but not rap, because the language is too trendy and esoteric, unless your niche market is hip hop.

●Read American blogs

●Read American popular culture online magazines (People, TimeOut NY, Vanity Fair, etc.)

●Join and participate in LinkedIn groups. There are many LinkedIn groups that cater specifically to copywriters, but you don’t have to limit yourself to groups for copywriters.

I don’t recommend Twitter and Facebook because the slangy, abbreviated words and the intentional misspelling writing style would only be more confusing. It confuses Americans too.

Some Good Sites to learn American English Include:

 

http://www.learnamericanenglishonline.com/

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

http://www.englishpage.com/

http://www.englishdaily626.com/idioms.php

 

Books on American English

The following books come highly recommended from my colleagues – American copywriters on Warriorforum.com and other American writers:

 

The Elements of Style (4th Edition)

Speak English Like an American (Book & Audio CD set)

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment

McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, 3rd Edition

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

English Grammar: Language as Human Behavior, Second Edition

 

Grasping American English like an American Can Be Done

One writer I know, who I was eager to hire is Hungarian; she lives in Hungary, and Hungarian is her first language.  However, she writes American English better than a lot of American copywriters I know.  My point is, it can be learned. My other point is, however, “learned” is the operative word.   It can’t be faked.

A Web Designer Asked: How Can You Tell If You Have Either a Good Copywriter or a Bad One? Copywriters of All Stripes Raced to Answer This Question

A web designer recently asked a question in “Advertising Copywriting” and “Copywriter’s Beat,” two very popular copywriting linkedin groups.   He quickly received a large number of answers.  The question was:  “How can you tell you have either a good copywriter or a bad one?”Good Copywriter versus bad Copywriter

I combed through all the answers in each group and pulled together a list of my 10 favorite responses.  I believe this will be quite helpful to new freelance copywriters as you develop your portfolios and your copywriting skills.

1-“A track record of delighted customers who are happy to recommend the writer to you.”

2-“Are they reaching your target audience? It’s good to keep in mind that your internal people/colleagues may be good at evaluating the copy from the ‘representation of the business’ perspective, but not necessarily from the customer perspective. A good copywriter will be able to balance that delicate line. Also, response to feedback and if you don’t understand something, they should be able explain in a non-defensive manner. As with any subject, you’ll get what you pay for, as well!”

3- •”Talk to them about your target market to see if they understand it.
•Evaluate their work in the medium you want to use. There are slightly different writing requirements for print and social media, for example.
•Take up references, preferably in a similar industry.
• If you like what you have seen so far agree on a small, paid assignment. When you brief them, if they are any good, they will ask lots of questions about things like your target audience, the messages you want to put out, the offers you have, the style that’s most appropriate, the word count etc. Personally I put a lot of work in at this stage to make sure I really understand what is required
• Evaluate the copy you get back. If the copywriter is good I would suggest it should be at least 80% what you are looking for. Your time is valuable. You want to be able to brief the writer and let them get on with it, rather than getting involved in orchestrating lots of rewrites.”

4-“Everything you need to know about a copywriter will be evident by their portfolio. If their work is good. They’ll be good. And vice versa.”

5-“A good copy writer is first of all a good listener.”

6-“I, personally, think empathy towards clients and consumers is one of the most important prerequisites for a strong copywriter, and it makes them genuinely curious about the world around them. Conceptually, this should help your creative tailor specific messages for specific audiences. I would go through their portfolio and then decide whether or not you actually like their work. Is the messaging effective? Last, I’d look at their styling.”

7-“I think every communication you have with a copywriter tells you about him or her. Are they clear, concise and thoughtful in their email messages, for example? Or are there misspellings, improper punctuation, wrong tense, etc? If it’s there, that’s going to tell you something about the product they’ll deliver for you.  I have samples of many different types of projects on my website, covering everything from trade show presentation scripts to press releases. But I also like to remind my clients that EVERYTHING on my website (with the exception of clients’ testimonials) is my writing. I want them to see not only how I sell for my clients, but how I sell myself, as well.  In short, a good writer is a good writer. You don’t turn in on and off. You do it in everything you do, or you just don’t do it well enough.”

8-“Read things the copywriter wrote. Did you get to the last line? Did you want more? You found a good copywriter. I speak to this on my homepage at www.feldmancreative.com and offer what I feel is an insightful paper on the subject. ‘Find the Right Copywriter.’ ”

9-“Good copywriters can sell themselves first, sell you second, and sell your product third.”

10-“I would say, no such thing as a stupid question, if a copywriter is asking, then they are trying to fully understand your brief and needs, and may just raise things that you haven’t though of or realised.”

There are just so many wonderful and valuable reasons to be a part of linkedin.  It’s not simply a social media site to use when you are out of work.  This list is just a tiny representation of the plethora of helpful information linkedin has for new and veteran copywriters.  Register, join groups and join the conversations!

 

Stacey