Eight copywriting tips that aren’t about copywriting but are crucial to freelance success…
I’m feeling my age, and not because I’ve hauled wheelbarrows full of horse manure across our property to the garden. No, I’m feeling my age because I recently had a phone conversation during which I passed along some wisdom to an aspiring copywriter.
In truth, as much as I felt like a wizened old copywriter talking about “back in my day…,” I loved passing along wisdom I learned the hard way: through experience.
In fact, the whole reason I started BetterFasterWriter.com was to pass along wisdom!
So with that in mind, I sat down to pass along these eight copywriting tips to anyone else out there who might want to level up their freelance copywriting career. And here they are:
Copywriting tip 1: Set your bar higher.
Be nitpicky. The details do matter. I see far too many mistakes in email marketing that shows up in my inbox, in LinkedIn in job titles, on websites, even on milk cartons! Maybe the client won’t care or even notice your grammar error or random capitalization. But you should.
Copywriting tip 2: Know your strengths.
It’s okay to say “no” to certain types of work. For example, I didn’t do social media copywriting because I knew I would suck at it. On the other hand, I loved writing whitepapers and case studies, and I liked the challenge of email copywriting. And I spent about 90% of my copywriting career working in B2B because that’s where I was happiest.
Find the stuff you like to do, that you’re good at, and you’ll do better work and enjoy it more. In the long run, you’ll be better off specializing vs. trying to do every type of project that comes your way.
Copywriting tip 3: Focus on the customer.
By that I don’t mean the client who is your customer, but their customer. The client will want to bombard you with information about what they sell. But you need to first focus on what their customers want to buy…and why. And that’s your advantage as a freelance copywriter: You have the customer’s point of view. That means you can ask the kinds of questions a potential customer might and write copy through that lens.
Copywriting tip 4: When you disagree, push back once.
Push back once to maintain your integrity, but then do what the client wants. A PR professional gave me this advice more than two decades ago and it has served me well countless times.
Because the fact is, as a copywriter, you’ll sometimes disagree with your client. I once wrote the website content for a company that had paid $20,000 to a PR firm to craft their messaging. I was supposed to use that pricey messaging as the basis for the website copy, but it sucked: It was all about the company and the features, nothing about the customer and the benefits. I pushed back once with my concerns, but they were adamant so I wrote it the way they wanted. I pushed back once, then did what they wanted. I didn’t like the result, but they did.
Copywriting tip 5: Be thick-skinned.
For years, I wrote the magazine ads and direct mail copy for a software company and the marketing director tweaked my copy every…single…time. When I say tweaked, I mean changing maybe one word—and always to the negative. I think she needed a sense of ownership over the copy.
In other cases, I’ve had really really really good copy changed for no good reason. I once had someone tell me how talented I was but that they wanted to use their own version of a particular sentence even though it wasn’t any good. It goes on and on. You can love your work, but you can’t get all personal about it. Just be thick-skinned. Be a kickass copywriter! But be one with a thick skin.
Copywriting tip 6: Meet every deadline.
Meet every deadline. Meet every deadline. Meet every deadline. Try to build in a cushion for every project just in case. This cushion also gives you a chance to review your copywriting with fresh eyes before you submit it to the client, and it allows for life’s mishaps, like the emergency trip to the vet or the child sick with the flu or the power outage.
Copywriting tip 7: Avoid the Sin of Assumption.
Yes, copywriters sin. See what that means here.
Copywriting tip 8: Under promise and over deliver.
Try to get your work in before the deadline and the cost under the estimate. If you can add extra value, do, like suggesting a design element or another piece of content they could build from what you’re writing. Doing so will make you seem more like a team member who really cares rather than a freelancer who is just in it for the money.
And we’ll close out those eight copywriting tips with one bonus tip: Be so good they can’t ignore you.
Now get out there and write some kickass copy!
P.S. These copywriting tips apply to other freelance careers as well, such as designers, photographers, proofreaders, etc. So pass this along if you know a fellow freelancer who might benefit!