I’m a Damn Good Copywriter! Why Do Employers Keep Posting Job Ads Specifically for Digital Writers and Copywriters?

Let me start this post by countering an all-too-common offense taken by traditional copywriters who tend to rise up when they hear terms like “digital copywriting.” Employers who specify “digital writer” or “digital copywriter” in want-ads are not implying that traditional copywriters cannot write for the new media or that writing for the new media requires some magical or secret expertise over which digital writers have dominion. Nor is it a term copywriters created to show that they have a specialized skill. The vocabulary is engendered by technological and social media advances.Digital Writing in a Digital World

Recently, in a copywriting group discussion on linkedin.com, members asked the following questions and follow-up questions (housed in their comments):

Writing for a Different Medium

Question: On a job searching spree, I learned that there is a new term very much in fashion these days, DIGITAL WRITING. How is it different from the rest? Isn’t it just writing for a different medium?

Answer: It is writing for a different medium, but for efficiency purposes, employers want to make sure the writer has a working knowledge of all the other stuff that doesn’t typically come into play in traditional copywriting.

For example:

(a) Traditionally, copywriters write to persuade prospects and customers. In today’s consumer-controlled marketing environment, your text will more than likely have to engage your target audience – an audience that is simply not interested in being sold to. And you need to know how to do this or should I say, how to finesse this, which usually comes from having done it already. Major corporations are still trying to wrap their heads around how to engage their audiences; it’s easier said than done. To me, marketing messages almost have to have a sort of tribal appeal that they did not have to have before. Actually, this seems to be turning into a standard all around;

(b) You need to know what to do to make certain groups of people inclined to share or talk about info/sales/content/contests/events/ coupons, etc. For example, in social media, you run into things, e.g., where certain target audiences have a key influencer, the alpha type person(s) to whom a company may need your text to appeal in order to get the sharing/WOM ball rolling, etc.;

(c) If you don’t understand how “keywording” and other SEO techniques are effectively applied, your knowledge of copy is of less value than a “digital writer’s.” This is very important for a variety of reasons;

(d) Then there’s just the basic stuff, e.g., knowing that “read more” works better in email marketing than “click here” in certain instances or knowing how and where to distribute the words “pay now” on a sales page and knowing what not to put in a subject line to increase an open rate or ways to increase an ads click-through rate . . .

(e) Do you understand how to use metrics to assess performance of campaigns and where to start to improve results or how to exploit promotional structures on a website and drive traffic to ensure a site feels continually updated or how to analyze and document detailed online content with an eye for optimizing user experience?

What about Writing Adaptability?

Question: Isn’t it a matter of decoding the brief and adaptability?

Answer: I think it’s more than that. I don’t know if decoding a traditional brief would give you the appreciation you need of the value of things like social media integration and the direction you need to effectuate that or to offer constructive strategies, e.g., to incorporate online and offline approaches involving an sms text/FB promotion or a Twitter campaign . . . along with all the little annoying things you need to know about the best practices of each of these tools.

Filtering Out Old School Writers

Question: Does it mean that the term is coined to filter out the old school writers?

Answer: It’s coined to filter out copywriters who aren’t aware that the media landscape has been completely transformed and who don’t get that consumers just don’t experience or interact with brands the way they did back in the day, albeit “the day” was only 3-5 years ago. It’s coined to filter out copywriters who are still trying to fight the fact that, good or bad, times have changed, and the copywriter’s landscape is changing.

My take for myself: Even if things are moving at the speed of light, I think it’s my job to keep abreast of and keep up with the trends of my industry and profession, and it behooves me (and my clients) to stay relevant. I don’t always get it right, but it’s nice to get vastly more right than you get wrong, and that only happens when I keep up. But this is what it is, and, well, whether I like it or not, these are the realities of my passion.

Comment: . . . “a great radio or long copy copywriter can rule the digital realm.

Response: Great copywriters already rule the digital realm. And, yes, a great TV or radio writer can write great digital copy. Simply put, I am saying that these employers who ask for digital writers probably specify “digital” because they want someone who can demonstrate that he or she understands the new media, is up to speed and can jump right in WITH all of her or his other writing talents. These employers are not saying you are not a great writer and can’t adapt; I think they just want to be confident that you to have a grasp of the digital environment already. No, it’s not rocket science, but sites like marketingsherpa.com don’t exist for nothing.

IN OTHER WORDS, DIGITAL COPYWRITING IS DIFFERENT IN MANY WAYS FROM TRADITIONAL COPYWRITING.

These are just a few of many, many things copywriters in the digital arena already know and it’s why employers ask for digital writers and digital copywriters as opposed to writers and copywriters. They need to know that you understand the nature and mindset of the digital environment. The same goes for mobile copywriters. Writing for mobile is not merely Internet copywriting. There are different rules when writing for apps, or SMS Text promotions, which you want the writer to have an understanding of coming in.

Yes, conventional copywriters can learn digital copywriting, but it helps the employer (and his client, if any) tremendously if the writer is already aware of all these differences and nuances, and knows how to incorporate all this as they go along, etc., especially for time-sensitive promotions and campaigns.

No one has time for folks to learn this stuff on the job, when you need them to hit the ground running.

Let’s not even talk about what happens when the writer doesn’t even know that he or she needs to know this. And many copywriters don’t.

Traditional Copywriters – If you saw the following job description for a “Digital Writer,” could you jump right in and get started?:

“Need Digital Writer Who Understands Social Media Strategy As Well As SEO”

Primary Responsibilities: Write for search engine optimization; evaluate existing content assets and feeds based on target audience and business objectives and make recommendations for content migration; wireframe content for use in design discussions; provide rationale for all recommendations; ensure content management systems meet publishing and legal requirements (this is especially true with mobile); utilize metrics to assess performance of campaigns and know where to start to improve results; understand how to exploit promotional structures on a website and drive traffic to ensure a site feels continually updated,; analyze and document detailed online content with an eye for optimizing user experience.

No matter how great a copywriter you are, if you are not up to speed in the digital realm, it’s not like learning what text goes on which panel of a brochure. There’s a method to this stuff and even the absolute most talented copywriters in the world don’t learn this osmotically and it’s why employers request “DIGITAL” writers.

They’re not asking you to learn it; they’re asking you to know it.

 

 

 

 

 

FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

 

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.

7 Common Mistakes New Freelance Copywriters Make that Could Cost Them Business

One of the luxuries of being a nube copywriter in the day of the Internet is that you get to learn from the mistakes of others.   There’s always a slew of experienced folks who are willing to share the mistakes they’ve made so that you don’t make them.  That’s what this post is all about.  Listed below are the top seven mistakes new freelance copywriters make:

1.  Being lax with your own marketing because business is good

It’s lovely when your freelance business is bombarded with so many clients that you need to create a wait list of some sort. But, as veterans know, business ebbs and flows. Because it does, you have to prepare for times when clients aren’t ringing your phone off the hook. When you are new to freelancing, it’s easy to go into panic mode, especially if it’s your only source of income.  It’s hard to stay focused and be productive when you are in that mind frame.  This is, however, a crisis that can be averted.  Market your freelance business, including networking, with the same seriousness you do when business is good.  For a whole host of reasons a current client can become a former client. Even worse, an anchor client may need to make copywriting and marketing less of priority and put your contract on hold. Don’t wait for this type of thing to happen.  Keep marketing.  Keep networking.

2.  Not keeping up with the trends in your field

Technology, social media and the reality of consumer control are forcing businesses to stay in a constant state of alert because they change every day.  As a copywriter, you need to make time in your schedule, even if it’s just an hour, reading up on the latest “best practices” and the latest technology that is relevant to marketing and to your particular niche. Clients are becoming more sophisticated in their knowledge of, well, everything.   As a professional  your clients look to you for guidance, so you need to keep up. You want to be able to intelligently discuss a client’s needs and answer his or her questions.  You want to be able to offer the most ideal and relevant solutions to their problems.  If you feel you are too busy, add an hour in your weekly schedule and read during down time, like when you are waiting to be called in the doctor’s office.  Successful freelancers make time for relevance.

3.  Forgetting to follow up

When a potential client or a referral source gives you a call . . . follow up.  When a former client or an old friend you know calls your business line . . . follow up.  When you meet someone at a networking function off or online, especially if they express interest in copywriting . . . follow up.   This is your bread and butter.  These are potential ambassadors, evangelists.  You want the word on the street to be, “Oh, yeah John the copywriter is very responsible.   Building strong business relationships is important to growth or staying afloat for that matter.

4.  Not keeping track of your receipts, invoices and client payments

Staying organized is one of those aspects of business that people take least seriously.  Why?  Because they can always do it later.  Besides, they only need to have it all together by April 15th or some quarterly tax deadline.  If anything can zap the energy you’ll need for completing copywriting assignments and drumming up business it’s record keeping.  Make it easier on yourself by starting out in an orderly way, and it will save you so much ajada.   You don’t have to be insanely meticulous, but a few basic housekeeping tricks will go a long way.  Keep a folder entitled “2013” or whatever the current year is and when you get a Staples receipt or something from Amazon, print it out and dump it in there or save it to an Expense folder on your computer, but keep everything in the same place so you are not looking in 10 different locations when the time comes. Do the same thing for your client’s payments. You can organize them later, but it really helps when everything is one place.  Open an invoice directory and set up one sub-directory per client and keep their invoices in there or do it off line. You don’t need state-of-the-art software or apps. They help, but don’t let not having them stop you from keeping your records in basic order.

5.  Being lazy

Let’s keep it real. We all want to relax and should relax.  But, not when you have deadlines to meet.  Not when you are supposed to be churning out your best work – which is always.  When you freelance, particularly when you first start, it’s easy to forget that the money you saved up to start this venture may not always be there.  You have to hustle.  But, if this is your passion, and I believe it should be, then the grind should  not be as bad as it would be for someone who is not really interested in copywriting and is doing it for all the wrong reasons.  Having said that, you can lay down and watch a Law & Order marathon when you have work on your desk.  Your effort or lack of effort will show in your work product and this will come back to haunt you.  People don’t refer business to someone whose work or obvious work ethic they don’t admire.  If you have to take a break and re-energize to get motivated again, then do so, but don’t allow laziness or even complacency to become your rule; those habits are too hard to reverse.

6.  Not using a contract of some sort

Even if you trust the person who is about to become your client, use a contract or at least a clear, detailed quotation agreement.  This helps when there is some disagreement later on down the road about expectations.  You always want to have something in writing to refer to prevent any misunderstandings.  Try not to promise anything that is not spelled out in your contract, no matter how tempting it is to be Mr. Nice Guy or Gal.

7.  Charging too little

Check or ask on the copywriting forums and places like the copywriting groups on linkedin.com what you should be charging for the type of copywriting work you do or want to do.   You don’t want to low-ball yourself.  When you do, it typifies the quality of client you’re going to get – cheap, hagglers, etc.

Once you get  your freelance copywriting business off the ground, sidestepping the mistakes will get easier.  All freelancers make mistakes – newbies and veterans.  I’d love to hear some of the mistakes you’ve made and what you learned from them.

12 Copywriting Book Recommendations from your Fellow Copywriters

A few of our colleagues from WarriorForum.com have listed their favorite books for copywriters.  I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing this list. Enjoy.

The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters
Joseph Sugarman

Hypnotic Writing: How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words
Joe Vitale

Steal This Book!: Million Dollar Sales Letters You Can Legally Steal to Suck in Cash Like a Vacuum on
Harlan Kilstein

Breakthrough Advertising: How to Write Ads That Shatter Traditions and Sales Records
Eugene Schwartz

CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

Drew Eric Whitman

Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy
Maria Veloso

Grabbing the reader with headlines that work.: An article from: The Newsletter on Newsletters
Clayton Makepeace

Magic Words That Bring You Riches
Ted Nicholas

Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End
Karl Iglesias

How to Write a Good Advertisement
Victor O. Schwab

How to Write Sales Letters That Sell
Drayton Bird

Making Ads Pay: Timeless Tips for Successful Copywriting (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science)
John Caples

There is something in this list for everyone and for every copywriter’s style.  If you find yourself getting stuck as you write copy, perusing some of this material will certainly help get you back on track.

 

Happy Writing,

 

Stacey

Streamline Mobile Web Content Writing

Copywriting for today’s mobile readers demands quick, short and strong text.  Even though mobile users spend a lot of time idling and doing frivolous stuff on their mobile devices, they still want to do it in a hurry.  And they get agitated when they can’t do it in a speedy fashion.


Also, mobile users want only the information that is absolutely necessary for them to achieve their immediate goal.  Reading on a mobile device is hard enough as it is, but then when you have to scroll through an unnecessary number of words to get where you’re going, it’s maddening.

This increases the writing challenges for the copywriter.  The copywriter now has to think in terms of digesting a copy message, not writing it in the traditional sense.  When you are crafting mobile copy and you have second thoughts about whether text should be there, it’s probably best to omit it.

Freelance Copywriting Rates: Getting Paid What You Deserve

Freelance copywriting jobs can mean fast business and a nice chunk of change, even for the beginner freelance copywriters. Of course, this is if the newbie understands ways to strategically charge for their freelance copywriting services.  Setting a rate is often sticky and tricky, especially for beginners, because you don’t want to be forced to turn folks away and certainly want to get what you’re worth.

Why You Must Charge at Least $50 an Hour
Before we even begin, this is 2011.  Do not work for less than $50 an hour. If you plan to, keep your day job and stop freelancing, because it’s pointless, unless you are doing this just because you like the challenge and you don’t need the money.

Seriously, if you don’t think your copywriting talent is worth $50 an hour, wait until it is, then start your business. More than likely, if some little bird told you that copywriting is what you should be doing, then you are already worth $50. What “little bird” do I mean: You have proof that you get this copywriting thing and have proof on some level that you’ve got what it takes because a client told you, or you have repeat business from a client, or because you asked and were told your work product brought in business. The bottom line is, anything less than $50.00 is insulting.

You also have to consider that there will be factors relating to running your business and getting your projects completed that will take time and incur expenses, like marketing your business, administrative work and minor outlays that will eat into your $50 an hour.  That $50 when it’s all said and done, may end up really amounting to $25 to $35 an hour.

DON’T start out by undercutting yourself.  Word gets around, and it will be harder for you to raise your fees later. Equally important: It’s not about your price; it’s about your value!

Please note:  This is not the same as working pro bono to get experience when you have absolutely nothing to use to demonstrate your copywriting skills.

Flat Fees

For straightforward, run-of-mill projects, you can set a flat fee. A flat fee does not change. Charge a flat fee for example, when a client asks you to revise a flyer or create a sales letter and provides you with pretty much everything you will need to complete the job; or when you are asked to critique a web page or write a blog post, etc., for which you don’t have to do much research, and they are clear as to exactly what they want.

However, when you are uncertain as to the time it will take you to finish your client’s project due to uncertainty about the client’s objectives or you expect a series of delays and rewrites on their part, charge an hourly rate.  Also, tell your client there is a minimum for which they will have to pay. In other words, you tell them, for instance, the minimum is four hours even if it only takes you an hour. This is not uncommon in business.  Just make sure you are clear, up front and honest. And put it in writing!

When you set your copywriting rates, consider and apply the following important steps:

1. Justifying Your Copywriting Rates
People see the end result in their mind and don’t take into account all of the labor that goes into reaching that powerful result. Show your client the value they are getting for the money they are spending by detailing the individual tasks you have to perform in order to complete the assignment from the beginning of the project to the very end. Note the interviews, file organization, telephone calls, creating rough drafts, conferences, researching their competitors, reviewing background data and other material, editing, proofreading, redrafting, travel time, etc.  Incidentally, this specific information should appear on their invoice, as well.

2. The Type of Copywriting Services or Type of Project Can Influence Price
The type of copywriting project you work on can shape your copywriting rates.  A blog post, white papers, Facebook wall entries, brochures, newsletter articles, press releases, Youtube and PowerPoint scripts, radio ads, case studies, print advertising copywriting will require different types of preparation, the research methods and writing styles. Other necessary components that add value to your copywriting services, e.g., using HTML or designing a piece for search engine optimization mean you can charge more.

3. Subject Matter Can Affect Copywriting Rates
The topic will also shape your copywriting rates.  A blog post written on a general topic, for example, may be charged at a lower rate than a blog post focused on a specialized idea. If your background is in a specialized field such as law, medicine, fitness, non-profit, bio tech, finance, botany and you have esoteric knowledge that a general copywriters don’t have, that adds value to your service and thus your price should be higher.  Additionally, the more technical, involved and complex the writing is, the higher your rate can and should be.

Use the Following Price Ranges as a Gauge for Flat Fee Billing

Articles used as web content: $50 to $500 for a 500-word article
Press releases $100 to $600
Sales letters $200 to $2,000 per letter
Flyers $50 to 300
Case Studies $500 to $1,000
Print Advertisement $500 to $2000
Web pages $100 to $500 per page
Brochures $50 to $300 per panel

Use the Following as a Gauge for Billing Hourly

Beginner $50 – $75.00/hour ($100 for specialized background)
Mid-level $100-$200/hour ($250 for specialized background)
Veteran Freelance Copywriters $250-$450/hour (unlimited for specialized background)

If projects are ongoing, you can charge a lower copywriting rate than you would for an assignment where you are hired on one-time basis.

As you can see, there are many factors that account for the rate charged by freelance copywriters, so think hard and take everything into consideration before blurting out a price that committing to a contract you’ll be stuck and unhappy with.

Increase Your Visitor’s Interest In What You’re Selling . . . Refocus the Text on Your Website Pages

Freelance copywriters have a great deal to offer business owners – large and small.  In this Internet-happy market, this is where your website is supposed to work for you.  Yet, many copywriters sometimes forget this simple bit of wisdom:  Focus on the customer, not you – the copywriter.  Anything you say should mirror what you think your potential target customer would want to know in order to decide if you are the right copywriter.

They want to if you are the right copywriter for them.  Your website should tell your prospects how they will benefit by hiring you.  How you save them time.  Show them that you can capture the attention of the market they wish to sell to.  Prove to them you have the experience or know-how to write blog posts for them that will drive traffic to their websites.


The copywriting program you graduated from is neither here nor there. These are business owners (not law school admissions directors).  They are looking for writers whose web pages say:

• Can you sell their stuff to their customers?

• Do you have skills to change their customers’ minds about something?

• Can you assist in their social media efforts so that they can raise their company profiles and generate more leads and more clientele?

• Can they afford you?

•  Do you have the credentials that demonstrate you can do the job?

Your website content should show and tell your potential customers these the answers!