One may think that writing is just writing. That there are slight differences from one type to another but the job is always to put words together in various formats. In reality, if you’re a freelance writer, it’s crucial that you understand the different forms of writing there are and how different they are from each other.
Here’s a harsh truth: getting straight A’s in high school English doesn’t make you a killer copywriter. It’s a profession, and like other professions, there are skills and strategies that you need to learn and master.
It’s true that you need a certain amount of natural writing talent, but you also need to learn the rules. Just like a baker has to learn how to separate eggs, or a mechanic has to learn how to use a wrench, copywriters need to learn how to craft a killer headline and create captivating content.
The good news is that there are plenty of free guides to help you acquire those skills and learn how to wield the tools of the copywriting trade. And one of them is by the content marketing guru, Neil Patel, which can be found here. [Read more…]
Freelance writers are often encouraged to find a niche. By focusing on a specific niche, you position yourself as an expert in that area and can charge more for your expertise. One niche many freelance writers overlook is e-commerce copywriting. If you have a knack for sales copy, writing for multi-channel e-commerce clients is a varied and lucrative niche. Here’s what multi-channel e-commerce copywriting involves and how it can boost your income.What is multi-channel e-commerce copywriting? How can it help you as a freelance writer? Click To Tweet
Writing copy for e-commerce websites in itself is a challenge for copywriters. Making a website stand out from the crowd is even more difficult. But with these tips, you’ll be crafting copy that captures the attention of visitors and, more importantly, sufficiently sway them to click and buy.5 Tips to Write Copy That Converts for an E-commerce Website Click To Tweet
Jumping into a freelance writing career is very exciting. Bursting with ideas, writers sit down in front of their computers anxious to discover what this wide, wonderful world has in store for them. Unfortunately, they often find tons of advice full of industry lingo that can be a bit confusing. Here is the first in the latest Article Quickie series designed to help you hit the ground running:
AP Stylebook or AP Style
Called the journalist’s bible, the AP Stylebook is a listing of how things like grammar, religions, titles, times etc. should be written within the text of an article. It was designed to make writing simple, uniform and unbiased within the newspaper industry, however many magazines and websites have adopted the guide as well. It’s my personal fave and I like to thumb through it on a regular basis for entertainment purposes, yes I am a nerd.
One of the main reasons why we do what we do – that little line below the title or way at the bottom of the post that reads “By Terreece M. Clarke” or, of course, your name. Some sites will offer to pay you in byline, but I have yet to find a mortgage company that accepts bylines instead of actual government currency – go figure.
Call-out Box or Pull-Out
A killer quote will often be placed in a call-out box. Some will use the term interchangeably with “pull-out quote.” The graphics department takes the killer quote i.e. “Yeah, so then I shot the bastard for looking at me.” and makes it pretty using a larger font, different color, or literally a colored box. How they do it depends on the publication and writers usually don’t have a say in how it looks.
Chicago Manual of Style
A system of proper notation, citation, manuscript formatting that serves as a guideline for academics, book authors and publishers. Some magazines and websites do use the Chicago guide instead of AP Style and it would be wise for authors to have a working knowledge of both styles and more importantly, their differences.
The catch-22 of freelance writing: a writer needs clips to get a gig, but you can’t get clips until you get a gig!” A clip is an example of your published work. Whether a blog post or a magazine article, it is defined as work you have done for a publication a self-published piece i.e. personal blog is normally not accepted. *See Writing Sample
Magazines that are for the general public are called consumer magazines. Men’s Health, O, Cosmopolitan, XXL, Playboy, etc. are consumer magazines. They are also called ‘glossies’. For some, these are the Holy Grail of bylines, competition to get in is usually fierce, but it is a fluid industry. Magazines are born and die every week and editors change positions and places of businesses more often than soap opera characters change bed partners.
Content or web content to be specific, describes a genre that creates information specifically designed for websites. This work is different than paper articles. The pieces are usually shorter, smaller paragraphs and written to be high on keywords for the search engine rankings.
Copywriters write info with an eye on selling a particular product or service. The blurbs on the back cover of books, sales letters, eye-catching billboards – all copywriting. The length of the material depends on the project.
In school it meant a cheat sheet for the test, in the magazine world it means a listing of a magazine’s in-house style guide. For example, one magazine’s guide may require the magazine’s name always written in all caps or a tech journal may list their preference on how the word ’email’ is written (e-mail vs email).
Any A – C terms I missed? Let me know and watch for D – G tomorrow!
If you missed them, follow the links to read earlier parts of the Lessons in Copywriting series:
Part 3 of Lessons in Copywriting teaches you how to make sure the marketing copy you write is succinct using a tool I call the Red Pen Rule, which I discuss in detail in my book, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps.
Let’s take a step back first.
The most powerful copy is clear, concise, and leaves no room for confusion. We’ll talk more about that in Part 4. Today, you need to understand the importance of not getting too attached to the copy that you write. Chances are, a third of it could go and you’d actually have a much better final piece.
And that brings us to the Red Pen Rule.
The Red Pen Rule states that once you have written your copy, edited it, and believe it is complete, perfect, wonderful, and ready for the world to see, you should delete at least 30% of it.
Remember, succinct copy is more powerful than wordy copy. It’s is very likely that at least 30% of your copy is not necessary in terms of driving home your core messages. In fact, at least 30% probably clutters your core message. Don’t hide your core messages behind clutter! Instead, take out your red pen and start deleting words, phrases, sentences — whatever it takes to cut that copy down and make it more concise and powerful.
Keep in mind, 30% deletion is not required, but it’s a good goal to try to hit. The point is to delete more than you think you can bear to see on the cutting room floor.
If you can’t step back far enough away from your copy to be able to clearly judge what parts can be deleted to make your copy tighter, ask colleagues, friends, or family members for their opinions. They might not be copywriting experts, but they’re consumers. Their thoughts might help you look at your copy from another angle and suddenly the parts that can go without being missed will jump off the page at you.
Avoid offering too much information (TMI) and show no mercy for filler words! These are some of the first things that have to go. Stay tuned for future Lessons in Copywriting where I’ll talk more about TMI and filler words and why they can kill even the best marketing copy.
If you take a trip across the Internet to learn about copywriting or find a copywriter, you’re likely to walk away with the impression that anyone can be a copywriter. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who claim to be copywriters but have no experience and no knowledge of how copywriting differs from narrative, expository, or any other form of writing. And let me just say right now that I do not think hard sales letters which promise you’ll be a millionaire if you buy this 10-DVD set or similar pie-in-the-sky claims can be included as copywriting. They’re a different animal all together.
So that brings us back to my original question. Can anyone be a copywriter?
My answer to that question is yes — if a person takes the time to learn how to put a sentence together and learns the fundamental theories or marketing, consumer behavior, and targeting. That doesn’t mean you have to have a degree in marketing from a top university (although that can help), but it does mean you need to understand that writing marketing copy requires far more knowledge than grammar, spelling, and the ability to put together clever phrases.
Frankly, I think copywriting should be taught at the university level as a required course for undergraduate marketing majors because the ability to craft effective marketing messages can benefit even the less-creative marketing majors (heck, I had to take 2 semesters of accounting at the undergrad level and another semester in grad school, and I will never, ever be an accountant – copywriting should get the same face time). It would also be a useful course for writing majors, giving them exposure to a completely different form of writing than they’ve ever done before.
I cover all of this and more in my book, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, which was written for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and beginner copywriters. I’ve written copy for some of the largest companies in the world working on multi-million dollar campaigns, and I’ve written copy for solopreneurs and small businesses around the world. With all of that experience and knowledge, I can tell you that you can learn to be a copywriter, but you need to think more like a marketer and less like a writer to be good at it.
Stay tuned for my upcoming series, Copywriting Quick Tips, here on Freelance Writing Jobs where I’ll offer simple tips to become a copywriter who can actually create compelling copy that moves customers to action and helps businesses attain the return on investment they want and need. In the meantime, do you have any specific questions about copywriting? If so, leave a comment and I’ll incorporate them into upcoming posts in the Copywriting Quick Tips series.
The advantages of a corporate freelance writing job are many:
- Corporate freelance writing jobs tend to be long term.
- Also, if you have a contract with a corporation, you can usually count on being paid.
- Plus, let’s face it, it looks good to have a well-known corporation in your portfolio and on your writing resume.
Finding a corporate freelance writing job can seem daunting if you don’t know where to look. In this post, I share five places where you should focus your marketing efforts if your goal is to land a corporate freelance writing job.
1. Professional Societies
It was no coincidence that I listed a link to a professional society with each type of writing opportunity that I shared with you in an earlier post. In my experience, a professional society is one of the best places to look for a corporate freelance writing job. I found many of my technical writing contract and staff positions through contacts that I met in the Society for Technical Communication (STC). You can find freelance jobs through professional societies too.
A professional society can help you find a corporate freelance job in three ways:
- Corporate contacts you meet (be sure to have your business card handy)
- Professional job bank
- Source of training to expand your writing skills
After you join, make sure to list your society membership on your writing resume (and include any training classes that you take). I had one client tell me that my membership in the STC told him that I was serious about writing.
Many corporations rely on staffing agencies to find short-term personnel for their projects. Knowing this, there is no reason why you shouldn’t sign up with one, or more, agencies. Your contacts in your professional society can help you learn which agencies specialize in providing companies with the type of writing that you do.
Be aware that agencies exist to prescreen candidates for corporations. You should expect that the agency to interview you and carefully check all of your references. Remember, their reputation is at stake if they send you to a corporation and you don’t work out.
3. Social Media Oriented Towards Professionals
Many corporate managers are just getting started on the popular social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn seems to have caught on more quickly with the corporate crowd. Your LinkedIn profile can also serve as sort of a mini-resume for those who look at your profile.
I tell freelancers who ask to maintain a presence on several major social media sites. Make sure, of course, that your profile on any social media site is professional. (In other words, don’t post anything online that you’d be embarrassed by if a client saw it.)
4. Your Phone Book
That’s right, I said your phone book. Your yellow pages will list all major corporations in your area. Many writers have found corporate freelance work by cold calling local companies. Use the following steps:
- Cold call. Ask the receptionist for the person in charge of the area where you would like to work. (Technical Communications Department for technical writers, Marketing Communications Department for copywriters…) Even if there is no writing department in the corporation, the receptionist will often connect you to somebody or at least give you the name of a person who fulfills that function for their company.
- If you are connected directly to someone in the company’s writing department, make a note of their name and introduce yourself. Briefly explain that you are a local independent writer and that you’d like to send an information packet. (Don’t push too hard or try to close a deal at this stage.)
- Send the packet, which should contain (at a minimum) a cover letter, several samples of your very best work, and a brochure listing your services.
- Follow up with the person you spoke to earlier. Ask if they received your materials and whether they have any questions. If you have a newsletter, or other periodic mailer, offer them a free subscription.
There is an art to cold calling, so don’t be dismayed if you don’t get results right away. The main goal of a campaign such as the one described above is to get your name in front of the corporation’s writing manager. Even if they don’t have a writing job when you talk to them, you will have succeeded if they file your information and pull it out when a project comes up.
5. Traditional Job Ads
Corporations sometimes place advertisements for freelance writing jobs in the same places that they would advertise for a permanent employee. This is especially true if the freelance work is long-term. So, don’t overlook the help wanted ads in your local newspaper or the online job sites such as Monster or Indeed.
Tip: try searching an online job database with and without using the words “freelance” and “contract.”
A Final Word About Corporate Freelance Writing Jobs
Finding a corporate freelance writing job is largely a matter of persistence and patience. The more persistent you are in applying the marketing efforts described in this post, the more successful you will be in finding corporate freelance writing jobs.
Also, when talking with corporate staff writers remember that your goal is not to replace a company’s in-house writing staff, but rather to come alongside them and help out when they are shorthanded.
Have you worked on a freelance writing basis for a corporation? What method did you use to find a project?