Entries Tagged 'Copywriting careers' ↓

Is Freelancing Right For You?


Oh, for the life of a freelancer.

No more 9 to 5, no demanding boss, no more commuting, no more pointless meetings…

But hang on, freelancing means no more regular pay cheques, no paid holiday or sick leave… what about my pension? Where’s my security gone?

On the face of it being a freelancer appears to be the first step to the utopian lifestyle you’ve always dreamt of.  But once the rose tint has worn off your glasses, you’ll begin to see that it’s not as cushy as you first thought.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t dive in and give it a go (it’s worked very well for me for the past 7 years), but if you do, make sure you have realistic expectations.

The life of a freelancer

Starting out on your own can be a scary business. There are lots of things to consider and if I covered them all this would turn into a novel rather than a blog post. So for now I’m just going to look at two aspects – finding clients and growing a thick skin.

Hello? Clients? Where Are You?

To be a freelancer you need clients, so where are you going to look for them?

In your previous life it was never an issue. The marketing department took care of the ‘finding customers’ malarkey leaving you to get on with your work. But now the responsibility is all yours – you lucky thing.

A website, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog are not going to bring the constant stream of clients you need, at least not without your input. Marketing yourself online is only one piece of the puzzle; the other is getting out there and meeting people.

If that fills you with dread, don’t worry you’re not alone.  Networking isn’t for everyone, I should know. It has to be one of the worst aspects of the job for me. Walking into a room full of strangers makes my blood run cold. But it is a necessary evil if you are to get your name known.

Another way of finding new clients is to actively build relationships with local design agencies – web designers are always on the look out for good copywriters to work with.

To widen your net further and target your dream clients, why not try a mail shot?

Create a list of companies you would like to work with. Then find the name of the person you need to contact (usually the Marketing Manager/Director depending on the size of the company) and create the best sales letter you’ve ever written. Send them a little freebie to make your letter stand out and follow up with a phone call – you never know what doors that might open.

Rhino hide

Once you have your clients and work starts to trickle in, another challenge arises.

On the whole there are 3 types of client:

  • Those who hire you because they need your expertise and trust your judgement
  • Those who hire you, tell you what they want and then change their minds after you’ve written it
  • Those who brief you and then re-write everything because they believe they are far superior writers

The first type is a gift and usually a joy to work with.

The second can be annoying, but a well-written proposal stipulating exactly what your fee covers and the hourly rate that will be charged for any extra work not originally briefed, usually solves any issues.

But the third will make your life hell.

Despite the fact your client has actively sought your professional writing services, they will believe they know better than you.

So what do you do when your first draft comes back with a scathing email?

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Go outside and scream at a tree
  3. Return to your desk and think about your response rationally

Sitting down with them is the best way to sort this out. You can then calmly discuss the original brief and show how you fulfilled it and ask them what it is they don’t like and work with them to resolve it.

This ‘working together’ approach is usually best as it makes them feel more involved in the process and makes them feel valued.

Should you give it a go?


What have you got to lose?

Despite the ups and downs (let’s face it, every type of work as plenty of those), freelancing is a rewarding and enjoyable way to earn a living.

The freedom and potential financial rewards it offers far outweigh any of the downsides. If you’re prepared to work at it and never give up you will succeed.

What are you waiting for?


Sally Ormond is copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Quite possibly the country’s only cycling copywriter, she’s currently training for an epic bike ride from Newcastle to London – that’s 300 miles in 24 hours! – raising funds for the Make A Wish Foundation.





How to Make Your Copywriting Invisible

Invisible?Invisible copywriting

Why on earth would you want to make your copywriting invisible? After all, as a professional sales writer, you’ve spent hours crafting your carefully chosen words – you want people to love them.

The problem is, if that is your motivation (wanting people to love your words) your copy is unlikely to perform as it should.


OK, let’s look at it this way. If you are a fiction writer you want your readers to marvel at your prose. You would expect them to tell their friends about your amazing writing ability and story telling prowess. But that’s ok, because you’re writing fiction: a story that must entertain and enthral.

However, as a copywriter you are not writing for yourself. As a copywriter your role is to take on the voice of your client and to sell their products or services. Your writing becomes secondary to the sales message it conveys. In short, your writing shouldn’t distract your readers; they should just be able to concentrate on its message.

Copywriting aims

Your copy should convey meaning and connect with your readers. It has to satisfy their needs, influence, empathise with them and persuade them into taking a specific action.

There’s no room for your style or views in your copy; to be successful, you must immerse yourself in the style and views of your client – nothing else matters.

Yes, you must bring your persuasive writing skills to the table, but you must remember that you’re not writing for yourself. Keep that for the unfinished novel that’s sitting under your desk.

Copywriting qualities

To succeed in your copywriting career there are a few qualities that you must possess:

  • Flexibility
  • Ability to work to strict deadlines
  • Excellent research skills
  • Ability and willingness to learn from your mistakes
  • Being able to think and write like someone else
  • Being able to empathise with and understand different markets

But above all you must have a very thick skin. Sales writing is difficult and often clients won’t ‘get it’ straightaway, so you must be able to explain why you’ve taken the approach you have and give examples how it has worked for other clients.

So remember, your writing skills are secondary when it comes to writing great copy. The most important thing is the message; it must connect with your readers and get them to take an action.

If they are left admiring your writing instead, it’s time to switch careers!


How to Get Into Copywriting

That is something I am asked regularly by people who have been bitten by the writing bug and want to embark on a career as a professional copywriter.Copywriter - Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd

There’s lots of advice out there and a few urban myths too, so here’s my story of how I got started.

You need an agency background

This is a common myth banded about.

Agency experience is useful and it may mean you have a few useful contacts tucked away up your sleeve, but it’s not a necessity.

Before starting my copywriting business, I had no previous experience in an agency or in a role as a copywriter. But what I did have was the ability to write clearly, powerfully and in a way that connected with my readers.

Going right back to the beginning, I started out life in the banking industry and spent a lot of time writing to customers on behalf of the branch manager (skill #1 learning to take on the voice of someone else).

After a career break to start my family, I began working for an international Leprosy charity. During that time I produced fundraising material for local campaigns (skill #2 writing persuasively with emotion to get people to take a specific action).

Then I decided to go back to school and embarked on a BA (Hons) degree in English Language and Literature with the Open University (skill #3 self-discipline and the ability to write with clarity).

After I graduated in 2007, a local businessman and friend asked for my help on a project he was working on. He knew I could write and needed some copy producing for one of his clients. I did the work, the project was a huge success and I was bitten by the copywriting bug.

Within a month, I’d set up my business, launched my first website and started learning about Internet marketing and social media.

As a result, about 70% of my new clients find me through my website with the remainder being word of mouth recommendations.

Networking and cold calling will get you clients

I’m sure for many, these options do bring in clients, but in the early days I did neither.

Cold calling is one of my pet hates; it really bugs me when people call me up trying to sell me stuff, so I refuse to do it to others.

As for networking, my initial decision to grow my business online via social media (‘virtual’ networking) came about because I am not a natural networker. Being of a shy disposition, walking into a room of strangers and striking up a conversation is my worst nightmare.

Of course, not everyone is like me and networking will get you in front of the people you need to speak with. So make sure you present yourself correctly. Don’t just way “hello, I’m a copywriter”, sell yourself by telling them “I help companies communicate more effectively with their customers through writing”.

Today, I do some networking, but I’ll never cold call.

You can only write for an industry you know about

Another myth.

Copywriting is about finding the right words to convey the right message to the right people.

Your client is the person who should know everything there is to know about their industry, not you.

As a copywriter, your role is to:

  • Study the company and its brand
  • Get a good knowledge of the service/product you’re writing about
  • Understand their target customers
  • Discover what it is that their customers want to know
  • Identify the main benefits that will make the customers buy

The client is coming to you because you are an expert in your field not theirs.

You have to charge by the hour

No, no, no, no, no.

Clients aren’t paying for your time; they are paying for your experience and expertise.

You wouldn’t pay a plastic surgeon for the time it takes him to perform your tummy tuck – would you?

You are not just a writer – you are an expert in creating marketing communications that resonate with customers, compelling them to take a specific action.

Anyone can string a sentence together; not everyone can create copy that is powerful, persuasive and that gets results.

Useful links

That’s a whistle-stop look at how I got started as a copywriter, but there are numerous ways you can break into the industry.

A while ago, I was asked to participate in a couple of The Guardian Online’s forums about being a copywriter. The links to these are below so you can also read about how other copywriters started out.

Routes into copywriting

How to break into copywriting

An Interview With Andy Maslen – Part 2: Freelancing

In our last post, we brought you the first instalment of our interview with Andy Maslen talking about copywriting.

In this second instalment, Andy talks about working as a freelancer.

Andy Maslen on Freelancing

1. What prompted your decision to go freelance?

I got sacked while on holiday and realised I didn’t want to be a marketing director any more.

2. How do you make sure you manage your time effectively?

I’m not sure I always do, but I try always to write copy between 8.30 and 11.00 a.m. because that’s when I do it best. I ensure we have deadlines for every project, then stick to or beat them. I have an office, not a space in the house. We have a dog and two children to look after as well, so there really is only a finite amount of time for working – that concentrates the mind, I find.

3. What would you say is the biggest challenge of working on a freelance basis?

It has to be money, doesn’t it? If you don’t work, you don’t make any. That would lead you on to selling yourself. So that’s the number one challenge. I happen to enjoy selling, but I know a lot of freelancers don’t.

4. What are the advantages of being freelance?

Where do we start? Freedom, up to a point. Earnings potential, ditto. No office politics. It’s very motivating running your own business, too.

5. Do you have any tips on how to network effectively?

To paraphrase JFK, ask not what this person can do for you; ask what they can do for your network. I’d also say, figure out who you want to work for then identify people who could help you enter that market. If you want to work for international oil companies, you probably won’t need to worry about your local business breakfast club. You might, though, need to fly to Dallas for a conference. And also, get over your shyness. Everybody feels a bit nervous, so practice your introduction: smile, shake hands and say, “Hi, I’m Andy. What do you do?” (You’ll get your chance to say what you do in a minute or two, but asking questions is an easy way to develop quick rapport.)

6. As a freelancer, which marketing tool have you found most effective?

These days, as MD of a copywriting agency, my reputation seems to open the doors. When I didn’t have a reputation, I used to telephone people I wanted to work for, or write to them. My newsletter, Maslen on Marketing, is a great marketing tool, and we devote a lot of time building our list.

7. What advice would you give someone who is considering going freelance?

Build up a six-month financial reserve. And either be good at selling, become good at selling or hire someone who is good at selling. I’ve written a book called Write Copy, Make Money that gives a lot more detailed advice, including interviews with some pretty successful freelance copywriters – you included Sally!

8. Just for fun, what little known fact can you tell us about Andy Maslen?

I once went on a summer holiday with John Mackay, who went on to play guitar for Souxsie and the Banshees.

9. Is there anything you have in the pipeline you want to share?

We’re launching a new venture called The Andy Maslen Copywriting Academy. It’s a website with a free resource centre and we’ll be running a ten-week online course in copywriting twice a year, in March and September. The 2012 course starts on 10 September. The site’s in beta just now but it will be at www.copywritingacademy.co.uk.


Thank you so much Andy for taking the time to do this interview. As for all you copywriters out there (established or just starting out), you can get your hands on Andy’s books here. Plus, you can sign up to Andy’s Copywriting Academy and receive his 5 free resources (including his newsletter) here.


Andy Maslen F IDM

Andy Maslen is Managing Director of Sunfish Ltd, a copywriting agency specialising in corporate publicity, direct marketing and subscriptions. He writes and speaks regularly on copywriting and corporate communications and is a best-selling author.

Andy has worked with, among others, The Prudential, Nobel Biocare, The Economist Group, Emap, the DTI, BBC Worldwide, Hamleys, The London Stock Exchange, The British Standards Institution, the RSPB, Time Out, The New York Times Company and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Andy is a lifetime Fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing and author of Write to Sell: the Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting; 100 Great Copywriting Ideas: from Leading Companies Around the World; The Copywriting Sourcebook: How to Write Better Copy, Faster – For Everything from Ads to Websites, and Write Copy, Make Money: How to Build Your Own Successful Freelance Copywriting Business, all published by Marshall Cavendish.






An Interview With Andy Maslen – Part 1: Copywriting

It’s not every day you get an email from one of your idols, but that’s what happened to me last year.

When I started out as a copywriter, my holy grail was a book called ‘Write to Sell – The Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting’ by Andy Maslen. His words helped me develop my writing techniques to enabled me to become a successful copywriter. So, you can imagine my shock (in a good way) when I received an email from Andy asking if he could interview me for his new book ‘Write Copy, Make Money‘. I finally got to meet him at the launch of his book and we’ve stayed in touch, which has led to this post.

Now it’s my turn to interview Andy. He’s been kind enough to talk to Freelance Copywriter’s Blog about working as a copywriter and the world of freelancing. Today’s instalment is all about copywriting.

Andy Maslen on Copywriting

Andy Maslen

1. How did you get into copywriting?

My first ‘proper’ job was working as a marketing assistant for a research publisher. Copywriting was part of my job – for mailshots, press releases and catalogues. I discovered I was good at it and tried to do as much of it as I was able. I started buying books to find out how to do it properly and nagging my boss to send me on courses.

2. What is it about copywriting that gets you out of bed every morning?

Simply that I love writing it. No two days are the same and I get to spend my time working on some fascinating projects with some very nice people.

3. What has been your greatest challenge so far?

Sending in the first draft of my first-ever copy as a freelance, back in 1996. I could hardly bear – or dare – to let it go. I wanted to ensure it was perfect, which, of course, it never can be, before letting the client see it, and I was terrified it wouldn’t beat their control (it was a mailshot for an IT magazine). It did, for which I will be eternally thankful.

4. What has been your best copywriting experience?

I do like it when clients send me grateful emails without being asked. And I love it when we write something that helps a client hit their business targets. In straightforward copywriting terms, probably writing the Annual Report for a Swiss client – stakeholders up to and including the Chairman of a quoted company.

5. What has been your worst copywriting experience?

Ooh, tough one. There was a job I turned down – to write copy for a new product on which, as I was told, “Our Chairman and our CEO don’t agree, and we also have a few other directors of business units who don’t want to launch it. Oh, and we haven’t fixed the price yet. We thought you could help us sort it all out.” In general, I am grateful, still, for every copywriting job. Even if it ends up not going in the portfolio, we still get paid.

6. What would be your dream copywriting job?

Writing launch copy for a new Jaguar sports car – but I’d have to spend a few days driving it round country roads and test tracks to ensure I got all the emotion-led benefits copy just right.

7. How do you deal with difficult clients?

We try to avoid problems in the first place by taking on clients who think the same way about copywriting as we do. We’ve developed a very simple set of questions we ask them that helps everyone decide whether working together would be a good idea.

If they’re asking reasonable but challenging questions about the copy, we explain why we’ve written it the way we have. If they’re challenging our copy on the grounds of personal taste, we will argue the point but may decide to concede. After all, they’re paying the piper.

If they’re being difficult about paying, we send a series of emails culminating in a friendly note that we intend to seek legal redress.

8. Can you describe the creative process you go through when starting a new project?

You’ll have to forgive me for quoting my hero, David Ogilvy, who said, “I don’t want you to tell me you find my adverts ‘creative’, I want you to find them so compelling you buy the product”. In other words, I don’t see what I do as a creative process; it’s a commercial process. And it goes like this: I spend some time thinking very hard about what problems the client’s product or service solves, and for whom. I find out everything I can about the customer, and the product, preferably from the people who make it as well as sell it. And I get a very good written brief from the client.

Then, once I’ve done all this I usually go for a walk with my dog. I mull over the approach I want to take and come back to the office. Then I sit and stare at my screen very hard for a few minutes. If something comes, I start writing as fast as possible without looking at the screen until I run out of steam.

If nothing comes, I do some more thinking and switch to a different project or activity. I find that an approaching deadline stimulates my creativity wonderfully.

9. What advice would you give someone thinking about breaking into copywriting?

Go for it! It’s a lovely way to earn a living. More specifically, read everything you can lay your hands on about selling, marketing, advertising and, of course, copywriting. Know the kind of copy you want to write and the kind of company you want to work for, either as a freelance or as an in-house copywriter. Develop a thick skin and good diplomacy skills. And realise that you should break into copywriting because you love selling not because you love writing. If you love writing for its own sake, write fiction or poetry or be a journalist – copywriting is a business and it’s a tough one at that.

10. You’ve written a number of books about copywriting, how did that come about?

When I set up my agency, Sunfish, in 1996, I wrote our marketing strategy on a little piece of paper. In full, it read “Books – Articles – Speeches – Training”. So I always knew I would have to write a book. I wrote a draft of one that sat in my pending tray for about five years, then a friend introduced me to her publisher and he expressed an interest. I wrote a second draft and submitted it and he liked it, so that was that. It sold moderately well, so my publisher was keen for me to write more and I was happy to oblige.

Stay tuned for Malsen on Freelancing…

Andy Maslen F IDM

Andy Maslen is Managing Director of Sunfish Ltd, a copywriting agency specialising in corporate publicity, direct marketing and subscriptions. He writes and speaks regularly on copywriting and corporate communications and is a best-selling author.

Andy has worked with, among others, The Prudential, Nobel Biocare, The Economist Group, Emap, the DTI, BBC Worldwide, Hamleys, The London Stock Exchange, The British Standards Institution, the RSPB, Time Out, The New York Times Company and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Andy is a lifetime Fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing and author of Write to Sell: the Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting; 100 Great Copywriting Ideas: from Leading Companies Around the World; The Copywriting Sourcebook: How to Write Better Copy, Faster – For Everything from Ads to Websites, and Write Copy, Make Money: How to Build Your Own Successful Freelance Copywriting Business, all published by Marshall Cavendish.