The demands of freelance copywriting in 2014 are rigorous, to say the least.  If you’ve survived the ‘shake-out’ that always accompanies a recession – as a freelance or on someone else’s payroll – you’re well placed to make the best of your abilities as a copywriter and get ahead in the UK’s more positive business environment. 

Going forward, it’s important to bear in mind that copywriting is a commercial activity.  That means you must be flexible enough to offer a wide range of high quality services that will maximise your clients’ marketing success.  Equally important is to make all the right moves (at the right price) to ensure your future survival in the business!

Of course, it’s one thing to state your good intentions.  To turn them into reality and achieve your longer term goals is another matter altogether.  It’s certainly true that experience helps.  Or, to put it another way, learning from your mistakes will help with your future success.

Another way of making sure you avoid the more obvious mistakes that could jeopardise your future is to read as much as you can about copywriting techniques and tips for succeeding in business.  The Internet is potentially an excellent resource for this.

To sound a note of caution, however: there’s a lot of online advice that is a bit ‘thin’ and ill-informed.  It may in fact be second-hand advice with very little foundation in personal experience.

Copywriting Skills

At a basic level, to succeed as a copywriter you will need to have a natural fluency when it comes to syntax and grammar.  And if your spelling and punctuation aren’t up to scratch, you should stop reading this article right now!

Moving on to the bigger beasts in the copywriting jungle… There are some important skill-sets that are best acquired through involving yourself in the more traditional aspects of copywriting, especially advertising and direct response.

Ideally, this should be when working for agencies.  As a second-best option – as already mentioned – there are plenty of books around to give you an overview of the minimum skills you’re likely to need in the real world.

We’re talking here about ‘creative concepts’ that are an integral part of all effective advertising – and benefit-led headlines and body copy that are essential to direct marketing success, whether that’s off-the-page direct response ads or sales letters in their various guises.

Coming up with creative concepts involves matching visual ideas with appropriate headlines that highlight USPs as part of a coherent reading or viewing experience, online or offline.

Applying direct response techniques is equally rewarding on website landing pages where you’re going for a sales conversion from the outset.  By incorporating benefits in the headline and following through with feature-rich body copy in a business proposition that’s neatly wrapped up in a credible ‘story’ – your job as a copywriter is done!

An article like this can only scratch the surface of the skills needed in persuasive copywriting.  Suffice it to say that the more skills you have to draw upon, the greater will be your chances of producing top-class work.  Likewise, a short article can only provide an introduction to what’s involved in creating a successful copywriting business.

Your Copywriting Business

A major challenge for copywriters nowadays is having the capacity to offer both online and offline skills.  Implicit in this is your ability to advise your client on the more strategic elements to use in the modern-day marketing mix.

Many copywriters – or ‘content writers’ – are happy to leave this side of things to the client or agency for which they’re working.  However, you’ll command far more respect from your client if you can demonstrate an ability and willingness to engage in the marketing challenges of their business.  If you can come up with credible marketing solutions, you will also be able to justify a higher fee!

What you charge as a copywriter is a contentious area, simply because there are so many variables.  These include the experience and reputation of the writer; how important the project is to the client; the complexity of the job; whether or not it’s ongoing, retainer-based work; and much more.

Many copywriters under-sell themselves and this situation has been exacerbated by the Internet where Third World ‘copywriters’ provide sub-standard work at sub-standard rates; or websites that invite writers to submit bids for specific projects which typically take the form of Dutch auctions.

A decent copywriter, however, should always be able to charge a respectable rate.  The ‘price fright’ syndrome that is prevalent among freelancers of all types is understandable- but entirely avoidable if you can present your value proposition with confidence.

Of course, there will always be people looking to pay as little as possible, especially online where potential clients assume they’re in a buyer’s market.  If you’re looking to create a sustainable business, it’s wise to give these people a wide berth and save yourself a lot of headaches.

For an introduction to Mike Beeson’s thinking on freelance copywriting, visit:

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