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I was recently interviewed by a blogger and thought I’d share some of the key questions and answers with visitors to my website. The interview was conducted by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, owner/author of the popular blog, “Quips and Tips for Successful Writers.”
I’ve posted my comments below. I hope you find them interesting and perhaps useful if you are considering a career as a copywriter.
I’m self employed as a freelance copywriter. My primary responsibilities are working with clients to write copy for their marketing materials. Those materials may include websites, landing pages, brochures, press releases, sales letters, ads, newsletters, blog posts and more.
Yes, preferably those that have money! Kidding, of course.
My clients are fairly diverse. I’ve written for a wide variety of industries. I’ll list a few as examples:
Like so many fields, salary depends on your level of experience. The more experienced you are, the bigger the clients you can attract. And bigger clients tend to have bigger budgets.
Also, along with experience comes confidence. That confidence allows you to charge higher rates. As an example, I see beginning copywriters offering to write website copy for $20-$50 per page. More experienced pros, however, quote $200 on up to $1,000 per page. So, as you can see, the range is great.
A copywriter who has talent, some experience, writes fast and aggressively markets her services can probably make $50,000 – $100,000 per year. A copywriter with substantial experience and a solid client base should be able to top 6 figures.
One of the ways I am able to charger higher rates is that I don’t only sell myself as a copywriter, I’m also a marketer. I provide guidance in how clients can promote their products and services. Copywriting is a big part of that, but knowing how to target an audience and determine what marketing tools are needed are also important factors.
Being able to direct clients with a comprehensive marketing plan adds value to my services. It also differentiates me from my competitors.
Getting back to income, I should mention that in addition to the revenue I get writing for clients, I also have a few products that bring in royalties. I’ve written some college textbooks that continue to sell well, and I’ve recently begun marketing an e-book I wrote called “Job Hunting in a Tough Economy,” (www.JobHuntingStrategies.com).
I have a few other ventures as well, all of which are in some way successful because of my writing and marketing abilities. In other words, don’t just put your writing and marketing skills to use for your clients. Look for opportunities to put them to use for your own products too. Multiple streams of income, particularly those that reduce your dependence on clients, will help you thrive.
What I most enjoy about being a freelance copywriter is the diversity. I write for so many different clients that I’m constantly learning about new subjects. For example, in recent weeks I’ve written marketing copy about air conditioning systems, forex trading software, property management, cell phone tower installation, picture framing, dumpster rentals, the Paris subway system, and cable TV services.
Each of those topics represents a specific client. Yes, it’s time consuming getting up to speed on new areas, but I like the challenge. Plus all that learning makes me a whiz at Jeopardy!
The other thing I greatly enjoy about being a freelance copywriter is the freedom and control that come with self-employment. I set my own schedule and decide what clients and projects I want to undertake. I decline any jobs that don’t interest me or don’t have a decent budget.
To a large degree, I also control my income. If I want to make more, I rustle up more business and put in additional hours. Or I get more selective about my clients and increase my rates. While I do answer to my clients, I like that ultimately, I am my own boss. I’ve set up my work world so that I am in control of my day and my success, which suits me just fine.
I dislike quoting jobs. My natural disposition is to help people. I become friends with my clients. Then I have a hard time charging them for my services. I tend to underprice and over-deliver. I need to work on that.
Another thing I dislike is working with clients who have unrealistic expectations. When you ask them questions about their product, they reply in one-word answers, yet they expect you to write an entire website on the subject.
I’m happy to do my own research, but when it comes to specifics about a client’s product, I need input. I sometimes have to remind my clients, “I don’t read minds and I’m not yet an expert on your company or your industry. I only know as much as you tell me.”
I think people are surprised that I work with clients all over the country and the world. This past year, for example, I’ve worked with companies in France, Hungary, Australia, England, Qatar and Singapore. They find me through my website and hire me because they need something written in “American English.” I love that my target market is “the world.”
Back when I started copywriting pre-Internet, most of my clients were within a 50-mile radius of my office. I dealt with them via in-person meetings and phone calls. Nowadays, I have tools like Skype and email that have allowed me to greatly extend my reach.
I’ve never met in person the majority of my clients, even though I feel like I know them and, hopefully, they feel like they know and can trust me.
Unless they’ve tried writing copy themselves, many people think it’s easy. I’ve had clients say, “I need a 400-word web page. That should only take you about 20 minutes to type up.” Typing isn’t writing. The skill is in choosing the words to type.
I’ve also had clients say, “I would write this page myself, but I just don’t have time.” I wonder, do they really think that if they had a few spare hours they could compose something as good as what I’d write, considering I’m a well-trained, experienced professional and have been writing every day for decades?
The best clients are those who’ve first tried writing their own copy. That destroys any beliefs about how fast and easy copywriting is.
One other misconception I’ve run into are clients who take my copy, make just a few edits and then somehow believe they’re copywriters. Editing a few words, particularly when the subject matter is familiar to you, is a lot easier than writing a draft from scratch. Only when you can create something out of nothing and have it read well and accomplish your objectives can you call yourself a professional copywriter.
Sometimes, but not always. There are certain jobs that I can knock out with minimal brain power. But that’s not often the case.
Like most people, getting started is the hard part. How to go from a blank page to a professional-quality draft takes research, copywriting and editing (lots!).
I probably find writing easier than most people simply because I’m well practiced, but it’s still a challenge. I admit I occasionally find myself wondering why I didn’t choose an easier profession like selling a manufactured product.
Yes, I do, more often than I’d like to admit. You’d think that eventually you get to a point in your profession where you are doubt-free about your skills, but that’s not the case. Sometimes the subject matter is completely new and foreign to me or the type of material I’m being asked to write is unfamiliar.
With experience, however, I’ve learned to quash that feeling of being overwhelmed and begin working on each new project one step at a time, starting with the easiest tasks first. With each small accomplishment, the feelings of inadequacy fade away and momentum soon kicks in.
I enjoy meaty projects such as writing a whole website of 20 or more pages. Those give me the greatest sense of accomplishment.
I love to do research and learn about a new subject. Then the challenge is in how to organize and present the information in an interesting way that persuades readers to take whatever action it is you want — make a purchase, request information, schedule an appointment, etc.
I once wrote a website for a real estate company that was over 600 pages. And over the years, I’ve probably added another 200 or so pages to it.
Learn to write content for websites and blogs. That’s where the work is. Writing books, magazine articles, even printed brochures is not lucrative these days. Yet the demand for online content is growing, particularly if you have an understanding of search engine optimization and internet marketing.
I recently wrote an article titled, “A Message to Freelance Copywriters Just Starting Out,” which goes into more detail about how to enter the field. Your readers might find it interesting. //www.susangreenecopywriter.com/articles/freelance-copywriters-starting-out.html
The best way to become a good writer is to write. Practice your craft. Writing is more about skill than talent.
If you don’t yet have clients, write on topics that interest you. You can publish your writing on your own website or blog or on article directories. The point is to develop your skills, and that can only be done by doing!