A question for freelance copywriters(14 Posts)
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Thanks so much for your responses, very helpful ta.
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?
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.
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...
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.
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...
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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