A Day in the Life of a Freelance Copywriter

Ever wanted a job where you could spend all day, every day, writing clever and inspiring prose? Yes? Well don’t become a freelance copywriter!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job, and for some of us it’s a calling that won’t be denied. And you definitely do get to write clever and inspiring prose. It’s just that you don’t do it all day, every day. In fact, when you sit down at the end of the day and think about what you’ve done, the percentage of time spent writing is surprisingly low.

So what does a freelance copywriter do other than write copy? Well, basically, they run a business. This article discusses 11 daily rituals involved with running a freelance website copywriting or advertising copywriting business (other than writing). It also provides some tips for performing them successfully.

1) Quoting

Freelance copywriters serve many masters. They generally have quite a few clients, and spend quite a bit of time quoting on new jobs. When you quote, you’re calculating how much to charge for the job. For a freelance copywriter, there are a number of important factors influencing quoting. You need to have some way to accurately estimate time. Generally the best way to achieve this is to be diligent in your tracking. If you know how long past jobs have taken you, you’ll be much more confident and accurate in your estimates. You need to know how much time you spend not writing (as you should try to cover as much of this as possible). You need to have a feel for what the client is prepared to pay (are they a big or small company, how highly do they seem to value copy, etc.). You need to know how much your competitors are charging for the same thing. You need to understand what differentiates you from your competitors. You need to think about how badly you want or need the work. And, of course, you need to estimate how time-consuming the client will be.

2) Submitting Proposals

A quote is not the same as a proposal. A quote is generally contained within a proposal, but it’s not the same thing. When you submit a copywriting proposal, you’re marketing your skills, your solution, your work ethic, your customer service, your commitment, and your experience. Basically, you’re justifying your price, and differentiating yourself from your competition. And it’s not just about WHAT you say. It’s also HOW you say it and how you PRESENT it. Everything about your proposal plays a part in the client’s decision! If possible, include additional helpful information. Use a title page, a table of contents, headers, and footers. Introduce at the beginning and summarise at the end. Include your price, but call it an “investment”, not a “cost”. Show the client you’ve thought their job through by summarising their requirements. Outline your proposed solution. And most importantly, give the client a clear call to action (“Where to from here?”).

3) Chasing reviews

The freelance copywriter is almost never the bottleneck in a copywriting job. In 99.99% of copywriting jobs, the bottleneck is the review process. Most clients take a long time to review. In fact, about a third of clients need to be prompted at least once before they’ll get back to you with their changes. It’s not uncommon for a one-day writing job to take a full month to reach sign-off – or longer. Some clients will put the copy review on the backburner for months (just another reason to request a deposit before commencement of work)! As a result, freelance advertising copywriters and website copywriters spend a lot of time chasing reviews. Make sure you factor the delay and the chasing time into your quotes as best you can. And always record which clients take a long time, so you can be prepared when discussing deadlines on the next job.

4) Project scheduling & tracking

No matter whether you work on big projects or small, project scheduling and tracking are vital. You need to know the exact status of all work in progress (tracking), and you also need to be very aware of what’s coming up and how you’ll manage it (planning). If you’re doing it right, you should be using your tracking and planning tools several times a day. In fact, they should be the hub of your business. TIP: A good way to track copywriting projects is to use a job (and contact) tracking database. I created my own database using Microsoft Access. Click to download a 208KB working copy for FREE [http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/contacts%20and%20jobs.mdb]. You’ll need Microsoft Access 2000 to run it. I’m no database expert, so it’s not a work of art. It’ll certainly get you started though. (TIP: When using the database, press Ctrl + ; to enter today’s date.)

5) Accounting

Issuing invoices, processing payments (and part payments), chasing outstanding invoices, recording expenses, managing bank accounts, putting tax aside… It all takes a lot of time. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can handle your accounts manually (or with Microsoft Excel). Even if you only have a few clients, you NEED a proper accounts package like MYOB or Quicken (they both offer small business versions). You’ll understand why the first time you do your GST reports or annual taxes. In fact, you’ll understand why whenever you need to chase down outstanding invoices

6) Visiting clients

Although the wonders of modern email let a freelance copywriter get through about 95% of their work without ever leaving the office, it’s sometimes still a good idea to do things the ‘old-fashioned’ way – especially if you expect to work with them quite a bit. Shake hands and put a face to a name. And remember, everything about the meeting reflects on you and your business. As with your proposals, think about WHAT you say, HOW you say it, how you PRESENT. Always organise the meeting with plenty of notice, confirm the day before the meeting, be on time, summarise the meeting, and provide a call to action. (Try to do these last two both at the end of the meeting and via email after the meeting.)

7) Office admin

Even for a low overhead business like copywriting, there’s always something! Changing phone plans, upgrading/fixing computers, your internet service is down, your website is temporarily unavailable, you’re enhancing your data storage procedures, you need new printer or fax ink cartridges… Office administration takes up a surprisingly large chunk of your day. Make sure you allow for it. This means allowing time to do the work, and factoring that time into your quotes. If you don’t, you’ll be continually working into the wee hours and/or losing money.

8) Marketing strategy

How do you generate business? Cold calls? (See http://www.divinewrite.com/coldcallingcopywriter.htm.) Website? (See http://www.divinewrite.com/articles.htm for numerous website & SEO articles.) Networking? Word of mouth? Repeat business? Agencies? (See also http://www.divinewrite.com/freelancecopywriting.htm for some tips on succeeding as a freelance copywriter.) No matter what your strategy, you need to give it the time it deserves. It’s a good idea to average around an hour a day to thinking about and implementing marketing strategy.

9) Industry research

Stay up to date on the latest copywriting industry research. Read research on usability, readability, and scannability (visit Jakob Nielsen’s website on usable information technology or GoodExperience.com and subscribe to their newsletters). Read up on search engine optimization (see http://www.divinewrite.com/SEOCEO.htm or try subscribing to a newsletter from WebProNews.com or Site-Reference.com). Try to track how day-to-day language is changing (what buzz words to use, what buzz words to avoid, what rules are being overlooked in spoken English, what sounds make a positive impression on people, etc.). Know the difference between writing for the web versus writing for print versus writing for search engines (see http://www.divinewrite.com/articles.htm for some relevant articles). If you want to scratch the surface, spend 10 minutes every day.

10) Subject matter research

Whether it’s website copywriting or advertising copywriting, to do a good job, you need to know a lot about your subject material. This means both specific knowledge about the client’s product or service as well as more generic ‘domain’ knowledge. Clients have a tendency to not supply enough information. Make sure you interview them thoroughly. And then let them know you’ll probably need to ask further questions. Even then, you may find yourself doing a bit of independent research. The Internet is your saviour, but always run any information by your client before publishing. When you’re quoting on a job, try to figure out how much detail the client will be able to supply. You can even ask them to estimate how much they’ll supply (i.e. All, Most, Some, or None). This is a good technique as it gets them thinking about your requirements while at the same time giving you some idea how much time you’ll spend researching.

11) Planning

In one important respect, website copywriting and advertising copywriting are no different from any other form of writing; planning is vital. For more specific planning information, see http://www.divinewrite.com/benefits.htm and http://www.divinewrite.com/webbenefitwriting.htm.

Happy writing!

2 Ways to Re-Evaluate Your Business

There comes a time in every business when things tend to become muddled. This is especially true if your a one man/woman team that is still taking care of all aspects of your business. Things will get left out or left behind or you may end up taking on more than was intended. The point is your business is muddled up and it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate how things are going.

It’s time to take a look at your business and see what all this hard work has done for you so far. You may want to set aside some time for this kind of work and although you won’t be able to get much else done it’s still worth it to help your business, and you, run much smoother.

Trimming down your business will help your business become more streamlined and always moving forward. There are several ways to do this. Here are 4 ways to re-evaluate your business:
(note: I’m no financial expert or productivity guru but these are tips that I have found to help make my business move forward and wanted pass it on to you.)

Expenses and Income

There are a few things to look at here. The first and most obvious is to take a look at what money you have going out that relates to your business. If you keep track of everything, this part will be easy. If not just make a simple list of all your expenses. These are the things you spend money on to help run your business. It could be a membership, course, plug ins, books, tools, desks, computer, everything and anything.

Kind of like taxes you want to list everything that you buy or spend money on pertaining to your business. The idea is to look at where your money is going. Then take a look through your list and see what you don’t really need.

Now if you have the extra money to be spending on certain things that are not really necessary but are convenient, then keep it. But only if you think it’s worth it. That’s what you want to look at here. Is what your spending money on worth it for your current situation and income?

For example if your just starting out it may not be a good idea to jump into a course that costs 50 bucks a month when that’s all your making. If you making 50 bucks, that could be better spent on something that will move your business forward. While you may like the course a lot and granted it will help in the long run, at this moment in time it may not be the best idea.

Just set that off to the side and come back to it later when you have more income. The idea here is to see if the money your spending is helping your business move along. If it’s not absolutely necessary, such as your monthly hosting bill for your blog, then put it off for now. You can always come back to it later when your income allows for that extra expense.

Do this and you’ll end up with just the necessities and should be making a profit off the rest that you can invest back into your business and bank it.

Tasks and Productivity

Just like before you want to make a list of all your tasks. List everything from checking email, checking Twitter, writing posts, setting up affiliate links, interacting on forums, making phone calls. Make a list of all the activities that pertain to your business.

Once again take a step back and look at each one and find out what is moving your business forward and what isn’t. You have to remember that you only have so much time in the day. Every one of us only has 24 to a day, no more, no less. So if your trying to squeeze in too much then it may be time to trim away some excess tasks. Or at least trim down the time.

There are some tasks that you may have just got hooked on and there are some that you may just plain enjoy doing. But you have evaluate each of these tasks and figure out if they are really moving your business forward. What is pushing your business closer towards success?

Another way to help minimize this list is to combine tasks. I’m not talking about multi-tasking here as that can ruin the quality of some tasks, but more of how can you find a way to do something that accomplishes more than one task. For example instead of constantly checking blogs to see if there are anymore responses, sign up to receive responses in your email. Then when you check your email, you can check responses as well.

Or a more simple example; when your driving, instead of putting in a music CD, pick up a couple audio books that pertain to your business and listen to that instead. Or burn some interviews you have onto a CD or put them on you mp3 player and take them with you when your driving or walking. It’s good to use your imagination here.

Another way to shorten your to do list is to outsource. If you have the extra expenses then outsource the mundane tasks that take up time but are still necessary. This gives you precious time to work on the other tasks. And believe it or not can save you money as well just by giving you that extra time to make it.

(part 2 coming soon)

Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit – Take Great Care

Do you have bad credit? Some people like to refer to it as credit issues, either way; there are some things you can do to get yourself back on the right financial track, even if your credit is far less than perfect. You may be among the many Americans that constantly fight and deal with the piling mountain of high rates of interest and many different bills.

There are some things you can do to solve this problem, such as debt consolidation. This is perfect for those with a large amount of debts, with particularly high rates of interest. Are you aware that some credit cards for people with bad credit exist solely to help people overcome their bad credit and straighten out their lives? If not, you have come to the right place!

You walk to your mailbox one day and see your credit card statement; before you even open it, you get that sick feeling in your stomach. Then you actually open the bill, the nausea gets worse, the rates of interest has risen, and without your knowledge. This is the main reason so many people suffer from bad credit. These bills are often unaffordable and unfeasible at the time. Even if you have had horror stories just like the one above, it is still possible for you to find credit cards for people with bad credit. After the mess of previous credit card debt has been solved and is finally behind you for good, it can still be hard to find a reasonable and new credit card solution.

It is easy to stress about it and think you will never get another credit card. However, the internet comes in handing for helping you with solutions. The internet is full of companies offering credit cards for people with bad credit, as a solution. It is important that with these credit cards, you take great care not to end up back in the same situation again, facing a mountain of debt. It is all to easy to get carried away, even with credit cards for people with bad credit.