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Changes in the Copywriting Industry Over the Past 25+ Years

As the Industry Evolves, Freelance Copywriters Need to Keep Pace

The copywriting industry is continually evolving. Seismic changes like the invention of the internet and COVID-19 have revolutionized how we do business.

As a freelance copywriter with 25+ years of experience, I do feel as though I’ve been a witness to history. Below are my insights into the industry as well as some personal information about my own experiences.

What are some notable changes that have occurred in the industry and your business over the years?

As is true for most industries, the internet has changed the way almost everyone lives and does business. I started in the field before the internet was invented.

That means websites, e-commerce and tools like Google didn’t yet exist. My early years were spent writing print copy for brochures, magazine ads, direct mail and newsletters.

Not only have the types of projects I do changed; so has the way I conduct business. I used to meet with most of my prospects and clients in person. We’d talk about their projects and marketing plans.

Today, I can’t even remember the last time I met with a client. It’s probably been 10 years, maybe more. I don’t even have business cards.

Meeting with most of my clients these days wouldn’t be practical. Most aren’t local, which is a change from my early days in the business. My current clients are located all over the U.S. and the world, including faraway places like China and Australia. Most of our interactions take place via email, phone and Zoom. Even though the relationship isn’t physically close, we’re able to get to know each other fairly well.

The acceptability of working with clients via phone and Zoom calls was accelerated by COVID-19 in 2020. The fear of contracting the virus from in-person meetings had even the latest adopters turning to technology. While this isn’t the way anyone would have chosen for business to evolve, most people would have to agree that it has its benefits.

For copywriters like me, the efficiency of not having to travel to and participate in  in-person meetings means I have more time to spend writing. My clients benefit from faster turnarounds and my ability to handle higher volume. For me, it means increased revenue. So a pretty good deal all around!

Another change is that it’s become more acceptable to work out of your home. I used to rent office space mostly for credibility to clients. I now work out of my home and don’t try to hide it, especially post-COVID because so many people have begun doing the same.

Beyond that, my clientele has changed over the years as my business and my copywriting skills have matured. I work less with small, startup businesses and more with mid-sized to large businesses that have substantial marketing budgets.

Have you noticed any individual changes over the years?

I’ve certainly become more proficient at my job. I write faster and better. And I also have years of experience that I can call on when approaching a project. Not everything is new and scary, so I can take on projects with total confidence I’ll be successful in doing the work.

How do you keep up with changes and trends in the copywriting industry?

I read a variety of copywriting blogs and books by industry leaders, successful business owners and marketing gurus. I also belong to various industry-related online groups and follow various copywriters on social media.

Do you have children? If so, how do you balance being a freelance copywriter with parenting?

I have a son and daughter who are now grown. When they were little, it was challenging working full-time. I appreciated having scheduling flexibility and not having to ask an employer for time off if they were sick. But there were many late nights and weekends where I had to make up for shortened weekday hours due to kid responsibilities. Even though I didn’t punch a time clock, I had deadlines and productivity commitments I had to meet.

I should add that my husband, who worked full time for an employer, did his best to help out. As a television news director he had less scheduling flexibility than me – daily newscasts at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm – but was still very much a hands-on parent.

We were a team trying to be good parents while maintaining our careers. It wasn’t easy. Many times we thought about how much easier life could be if we did away with things like Ryan’s Little League practice and Katelyn’s lacrosse tournaments that had us driving across state lines for the chance to compete. But we knew what we signed up for when we decided to have kids. And I think we’d both agree, looking back, all of it was certainly worth it!

Susan Greene & Family

Here’s the fam: my husband Jim, son Ryan and daughter Katelyn.

I’m very proud of my children. They’re kind, they’re smart, they’re successful, independent and happy. What else could any parent want?

How many hours a week do you work?

I typically work 45-55 hours per week. I have to admit that with my children grown, I’m able to indulge my workaholic tendencies. At least 40 of those hours are dedicated to client work. The other 5 to 10 hours are spent on my own projects, which can be adding posts to my blog, writing reports like the one you’re reading now, or doing other activities designed to drive traffic to my website.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’ve had freelance copywriters ask if they can shadow me for a few days to see how a real copywriter operates. I’ve always said no because I think they’d be bored in a matter of minutes. I work alone, so there’s none of the commotion of a busy office and no chitchatting with coworkers who stop by my cubicle to check on the status of some deadline project.

Most of my time is spent typing on a keyboard, working on various projects, answering emails, and interrupted only occasionally by a phone call or Zoom meeting. That’s not exactly the makings of a hit TV show.

I keep a running to-do list and a detailed spreadsheet of all projects and their status. Every day is a race to get to the bottom of the list. The more work I get done, the more money I make. I love that I’m in control of my income. That’s all the incentive I need.

Regarding my income, there’s another aspect to it beyond my copywriting services. I’ve always been a fan of supplementing my income with various forms of passive revenue. Check out the next blog post, Creating Multiple Income Streams as a Freelance Copywriter to learn more.

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