Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail
The 25 secrets of freelance copywriting
by Bob Bly
Here's something you may find useful - even helpful: "the 25 secrets of
freelance copywriting success."
(Coming soon from Bob Bly: "the 25 secrets of Internet marketing
1-Work with clients whom you genuinely like - or at least have good personal
2-Your freelance copywriting business exists to serve your clients. Without
them, you'd starve.
3-If you want to have the final say on your copy without being told what to
say and how to write it, market your own line of products, and make yourself
your primary copywriting client.
4-Do not promise your copy will generate a specific result. It is unethical
and not true: no one can guarantee a particular response rate.
5-Proofread every piece of copy before you send it to the client. I
recommending hiring a freelance proofreader; it is difficult to proof your
own copy well.
6-When can you raise your fees? When you have so much business that you can
afford to lose clients who are not willing to pay the higher fees.
7-Use a standard PC with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and other standard
software packages. Don't write on oddball word processors, use antiquated
software, or send nonstandard file formats that your clients can't open and
8-Number each page in your copy manuscript, so that if the pages get
separated, you can easily put them in order. Also, in a discussion, it lets
you and the client reference sections on specific pages.
9-The easiest way to prevent yourself from getting ripped off by deadbeats
is to get half your fee in advance before you even start the job.
10-Never work without a written contract that the client has signed off on.
Verbal go-aheads are not enough.
11-Trust your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about a client or a
project, turn it down. Your gut feelings are right 95% of the time.
12-Be humble, not arrogant. If you are a nice person and your copy doesn't
work, the client will give you another chance. But if you are a jerk and
your copy flops, you're out.
13-Find a peer or someone else whose judgment you trust. Give the headline
and lead of every promotion you write (the first page or two will usually
suffice) to that outside reader for a second opinion. Never send out copy
that at least one person other than you, even your spouse, has read and
14-Use more charts and graphs in your copy to support your key claims. Even
when the reader doesn't really understand a chart or graph, the fact that
there IS a chart or graph helps convince them that what you say must be
15-Keep up-to-date in your field - both in marketing as well as the topics
(e.g., health, investments) you write about.
16-The only way to become a better writer is to read and to write. Read and
write every day. Read magazines, newspapers, and books during your leisure
17-Get up early and dive into your toughest copywriting assignment first
thing in the morning, without delay. Work until you tire. In the afternoons,
you can tackle less demanding tasks like reading background material or
18-Create a workspace that is comfortable, isolated, and quiet. Barking
dogs, ringing door bells, TV in the background, and screaming kids all harm
19-Give yourself small rewards throughout the day for accomplishing various
work-related tasks; e.g., going out to a coffee shop for lunch instead of
eating at your desk.
20-While negotiating the work agreement with your client, ask for at least a
week more than you need. As a corollary, never accept jobs that must be
started and finished overnight.
21-Don't take it personally when a client calls and says "I don't like the
copy." Instead say: "I want to make it as strong as we can. Tell me your
thoughts and suggestions."
22-Should you argue with changes your client suggests if you think they are
wrong? Only if you think they will depress response. If the client does not
change his mind, acquiesce pleasantly and make the changes. But send a
polite e-mail noting your objection and keep a copy in the file.
23-Get adequate rest. If you are not rested after a night's sleep, start
going to bed an hour earlier. You need to be mentally sharp to write copy,
and you won't be if you're tired.
24-Read your copy aloud at a normal speaking pace. Doing so will reveal
awkward constructions that you would otherwise gloss over when reading copy
25 -- Write in a conversational manner, using words that your prospects
would use to help create rapport with the people you're selling to.
If you have additional tips to add to my list, please e-mail them to me at
P.S. For more advice on how to succeed as a freelance copywriter, see this
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