Mike Beeson

Article Summary:

Freelance copywriters must learn to love their clients and understand the field as they begin in theis competetive field.

A Freelance Copywriter Gives Advice

So you set yourself up as a freelance copywriter. You've always fancied yourself as an advertising copywriting sort of person. So what's stopping you scaling the heights of fame and fortune as a true copywriting professional?

The stark lesson is - and it's a lesson that comes as a shock to so many who are new to freelance copywriting: copywriters need clients. Convincing clients to use the services of an unknown copywriter is hard enough in itself. If you don't have a thick skin, an adaptable personality and a physical presence that confirms you can at least spin a sentence together, you're likely to have a hard time of it.

Like copywriters, clients come in all shapes and sizes. As they're paying the bill, they're likely to come in some surprising flavours too. There's 'bitter lemon', the type that will always be hard to please. There's 'humbug' who will always downgrade your offering, the more to minimise your fee. And you may also come across 'peppermint'-flavoured clients whose sharpness and critical faculties are so highly tuned, you'll wonder why they bothered to hire a freelance copywriter in the first place!

But - despair not! With a little more experience you can at least purport to be an expert - although, it has to be said, any copywriter who cannot back up his or her claims to be able to walk on water will soon be found out.

Depending on which copywriting sector you enter and what type of expertise you are offering, there's a wide spectrum of responses that could greet you. In the early days, you're probably best to avoid copywriting projects that require an understanding of the marketing context of whatever it is you're writing about. This requires commercial insight and experience that doesn't come with a degree in English, useful though that is.

Clients who are used to hiring creative copywriting talent will find you out in seconds. Obviously, they won't expect you to know as much about their business as they do, but naivety is the kiss-of-death for freelance copywriters, especially in the world of owner-managers of small and medium-size companies.

Off-line or online copywriting?
Before the ubiquitous Internet entered the marketing fray, an aspiring copywriter could sometimes get away with selling his or her 'creativity' - as opposed to good, solid commercial awareness. The good news is that off-line copywriting techniques still make up a big part of the total marketing mix. That isn't to say that online copywriting isn't creatively demanding. It is. But in a different way!

The BIG change is that the Internet is an informational medium that sets out to inform. In this respect, it is more like PR. The type of copywriting this calls for is therefore more akin to a journalistic style that 'tells before it sells'.

There is a subtle difference here and one which demands even greater subtlety on the part of copywriters who need to develop an informal yet authoritative style. Many clients themselves will not be aware of the changes the web has brought to copywriting techniques. Unaware, that is, until their website, e-zine, online articles or blogs simply bomb out.

Despite all this, for aspiring copywriters, the web has to be good news. It's not ALL about fiddling with on-page search engine optimisation (SEO). In many cases, a half-way decent freelance copywriter with a lively style could satisfy the needs of many companies.

The web is a massive consumer of words in the quest for developing keyword-rich content to generate website links. The need for informative press releases and newsletters (on and off-line), for example, has never been greater. Website content, articles, e-mails, blogs... the world of opportunity for aspiring freelance copywriters is exciting and full of potential if you're looking to make your mark - and maybe even a dollar or two!

Already, there are website copywriting 'gurus', especially in the USA, who could claim to match the legendary status of direct marketing copywriters of the past. And although nothing stays the same - even in the world of freelance copywriting - clients of the 'bitter lemon', 'humbug' and 'peppermint' persuasion will always be around to get under the skin of new and experienced copywriters alike.

Mike Beeson is a UK freelance copywriter, PR consultant and journalist specialising in advertising copywriting, media relations, website copywriting and direct marketing. Mike's company, Buzzwords Limited, is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester). For more information, visit: Buzzwords.ltd.uk.

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