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A question for freelance copywriters

(14 Posts)
hotdogdiggity Mon 17-Nov-14 11:41:50

I have been a journalist, both employed and freelance, for 15 years. I write news and magazine features specialising in two areas. I am a qualified journalist if that means anything...

Anyway, I recently helped a designer friend out with some copy for a project she was doing. I really enjoyed it and I'm thinking about moving away from journalism (disenchantment with the media, bored of writing the same old stuff, crap pay) and into freelance copy-writing. I have done a lot of writing for a large PR agency in the past so I am hoping I can use those skills/contacts. I would like work for myself for the flexibility and because I am used to it now.

My question is a technical one. As a journalist I just provide words and nothing else really. I send my pieces in a Word document, or on the wire, and they are used as and when. If I were to offer my writing services to a small business say for a website for example, would I need to have some input into the design process as well? What if the design of their site was terrible? I have not the first clue about designing/coding/creating a website (my designer friend is doing mine) but I am willing to learn. I suppose my question is: as a copywriter do you provide more than just the words?

Apologies for the waffly, very un-journalistic way of phrasing what is clearly a simple, perhaps obvious, question!

CopyWoman Thu 20-Nov-14 11:55:08

I have recently started freelancing as a copywriter. So far, I have only done paid work for small businesses and they have set up their own websites. I have provided the copy for them in Word and they have lifted it onto their own sites. I have had to be quite disciplined about not looking at their websites, once my work is complete. It is hard to let go! I have proofread websites and given suggestions for layout (where paragraph spacing and headings are inconsistent). I've also made suggestions about navigation and call to action, where I can see that it is not clear what the reader needs to do next (so maybe I am not that disciplined!)

The work I am doing at the moment is for a family member and I am updating their website too. I am charging a set fee for writing the pages and charging by the hour for updating the website. I am only doing this because it's family and they won't be expecting a long term commitment from me! They just don't have the time at the moment to do it themselves! Most people running a small business seem to have DIY websites with Vistaprint, Wordpress, Moonfruit etc. Hope this helps!

FriendlyLadybird Fri 21-Nov-14 15:00:02

As a copywriter, I think you're expected just to provide the words -- and that's why I've never been just a straight copywriter!

I came to it from a different direction as I went from journalism to PR to what I do now, which is a bit of everything. But I've always found that, in trying to pin down the brief (most people are rubbish at doing this), I have exposed other areas where work is needed. This is a good thing, as it usually leads to more work -- and of the usually satisfying consultancy, project-management type. It's also good because I can spread the love amongst my contacts -- I don't do web design and building myself, but I know plenty of people who can.

DixieTreats Wed 26-Nov-14 18:16:43

I'm a freelance copy writer with many different clients and the only thing I've done other than provide the words is to stick a photo or two into the text to illustrate the topic. IME it's very unusual for clients to request anything like that. Most want SEO optimised copy and a certain keyword density, but that's it.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 01-Dec-14 19:41:12

It's just the words. Although like Friendly I often manage to spin that into consultancy and general comms work too. No-one has ever asked me to design a website, although obviously I can back up all the decisions I make about their copy by referring to user habits and preferences. But most of that is just sound writing skills - like most important info first, break things up, keep it short, etc.

hotdogdiggity Tue 02-Dec-14 11:12:07

Thanks so much for your responses, very helpful ta.

Bobisyouraunt Wed 03-Dec-14 20:41:35

I am a freelance journalist (with many years experience) who would very much like to change direction. How would I go about breaking into freelance copywriting?

wasabipeanut Wed 03-Dec-14 20:50:06

I'm a copywriter specialising in technology and my input on layout, diagrams etc. is directly dependent on whether I'm doing a white paper, research write up, data sheet, web content etc. and, to be fair, how much I'm being paid.

I'm from a sales and marketing background so I do have views on presentation which I use as a value add to win business. For a datasheet for example I set out the copy in Word using tables and text boxes to indicate what I think should go where and explain why in accompanying notes.

hotdogdiggity Thu 04-Dec-14 09:36:08

Bob - I am new to this too but so far I have got work through people I know or have worked with. My friend is a graphic designer as is my BIL and they tell me that designers are always on the lookout for good writers. I have also set up a website so I look more professional. I have been looking at things like people per hour etc but definitely don't want to go there - they look like the digital equivalent of Victorian workhouses....

I would ideally like to work for local businesses so that I can have some connection to people with my work instead of just being a monkey at typewriter (I have been that for so long...). I am still not sure about how to go about getting this type of work. Any advice from the more experienced would be welcome. But I think, like journalism, it's all about who you know...

wasabipeanut Thu 04-Dec-14 10:57:29

When it comes to breaking into local markets I'm afraid you really have be pro active. Join local networking groups and start building contacts. A friend of mine who is a freelance designer has got loads of work this way and it snowballs when the word of mouth recommendations start coming in.

I had lots of IT contacts do spent months (and I do mean months) calling people telling them what work I woukf like to do for them. Spitting errors in people's websites is a good place to start. Just calling and saying "I'm a copywriter and I'd like to work for you," will get you nowhere. Calling up with some specific recommendations might get you in.

wasabipeanut Thu 04-Dec-14 10:58:32

Apologies for the highly ironic typos....

hotdogdiggity Thu 04-Dec-14 11:13:59

Thanks wasabi. When you say local networking groups what sort of thing do you mean? I am naive when it comes to this as I have mainly only got journalism work through one large press agency. I am new to 'putting myself out there' but definitely up for it! I'm not shy...

Bobisyouraunt Thu 04-Dec-14 11:24:22

Thanks HotDOG and good luck

WaitingForMe Tue 09-Dec-14 16:32:41

My views on networking is that you need to try out a few groups until you find the one(s) that are right for you. Put networking and your town/city into Google or ask on Twitter. I joined a group in early 2012 and joined another last month but I've gone as a guest/visitor to loads.

Costs vary massively and some give a hard sell. Mine cost £250 a year (weekly meetings, lots of free/subsidised stuff) and £50 a year (monthly meetings). I've been a guest at meetings costing over £1k a year.

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