According to Wikipedia, a freelancer is ‘someone who is self-employed and not necessarily committed to any employer long-term’. Sounds simple enough right? But, as any freelancer will tell you, there is a whole lot more to the job than that.
The 2012 Freelance Industry Report revealed that freelancing is on the rise, particularly in North America, where 77.6% of all the world’s freelancers live and work. But what does being a freelance copywriter really mean, what are the benefits and disadvantages, and what do you really need to know about the job?
Here’s what you only learn about freelance writing once you’re doing it.
Always be clear on project details
Hundreds of freelance hours and jobs have been lost due to misunderstandings between clients and freelancers on the details of a project. Make sure you know the fee, the word count, and the deadline before you start – and always be clear about who you’re writing for. Do some research and ask for content examples to give you an idea of tone and style.
Freelancing can be lonely
Don’t be fooled into thinking freelancing is just a non-stop party at home in your PJs. Although you have the benefits of flexibility and freedom to work as and when you want, sitting at home by yourself can be incredibly lonely and it can be difficult to get yourself motivated.
Set yourself working hours so you know when (and for how long) you will be working. If you’re working from home, make yourself a work area and fill it with inspiring quotes, images, or whatever gets your creative juices flowing. When work hours are up, take time away from the desk to get out of the house and interact with other people. Take advantage of any networking events in your area and catch up with fellow freelancers as and when you can.
You need to be good at time management
Apps can be really helpful when keeping track of your working hours. If you like to flit between tasks, Toggl will help you get measure exactly how much time you’re spending on projects (so you know how much you need to charge) and work out better time management strategies.
Trello is also incredibly popular among the self-employed. It breaks down your projects and shows what stage you’re at with each of them, while allowing you to make comments and monitor your own workflow.
You need to develop a thick skin
If the thought of your copy being chopped, changed, and in some cases completely rewritten makes you cringe, then a career in freelance copywriting probably isn’t for you. Even though you (and your mom) might think your writing is wonderful, you need to accept the idea that other people might not agree – you can’t be precious about changes.
Freelance pay can be variable
According to a survey by Freelance Writing Gigs, 81% of freelancers say the most important factor when applying for a freelance job is the rate of pay. However, getting paid a fair wage isn’t always straightforward. With rates of pay varying hugely across the globe (and clients’ expectations with them), you are the only one who can determine your worth.
Set your daily and hourly rates and stick to them. If you complete a training course or judge your skills to have significantly improved, don’t be afraid to up your day rate, but always run this past your regular clients – and be prepared to fight your corner.
Setting a deadline on your invoice is also a good idea, unless you want to spend all your time chasing payments.
Social media is about more than just funny cat videos
Being present and active on social media is one of the best ways to stay ahead of developments in the industry and is a prime way to spot (and be spotted by) new contacts. According to a survey by Contently, 65% of freelancers say they update their profiles regularly and most freelancers scored social media 10 out of 10 for importance to their work.
You have to keep up with your contacts
Building good relationships with editors should be every freelancer’s priority. Don’t just get in touch when you have something to pitch; ask them out for a coffee to discuss the direction of their publications, send them news snippets or stories you think are interesting or relevant, and never send a lazy ‘what are you working on at the moment’ email. These get sent straight to the junk folder.
You will become an expert in random things
From EU Trade Policy to Kim Kardashian’s family tree, freelance copywriting covers a whole range of topics and is probably one of the most varied and diverse careers out there. When you accept a commission, you will need to become an expert in that particular field – and fast.
Obviously, Google is your best friend, but don’t be afraid to reach out to contacts on social media (or in real life) to track down more information, case studies, and industry experts. Just think of all the trivia you can pull out at parties!
Freelancing can be disheartening
The truth about freelancing is that it can often be very frustrating. Every freelancer will tell you that you can spend hours crafting perfect pitches and sending them on to hundreds of companies, or weeks chasing invaluable experts – and hear nothing but radio silence.
There can sometimes be a feast-or-famine pattern, where you will fluctuate between having too much work to handle, and being so quiet you continually refresh your email account just to make sure it is working.
Don’t waste your time and energy pitching for every single job out there. There’s nothing worse than trying to hit the word count on something you’re not interested in – you’ll end up doing a half-rate job on something you won’t enjoy. Prioritize the stuff you’re actually passionate about and your motivation will shine through.
The deadline is king
When discussing a deadline with a client, always ensure it is reasonable and do not accept the job if you don’t think you can hit it. Above anything else, your client needs you to deliver, and that means handing in your work on time – no excuses. If you’re really struggling with workload, or perhaps a source hasn’t got back to you in time, inform your client as quickly as possible so you can discuss a possible extension.
Overall, freelancers are very happy people. Freelance copywriting can be both frustrating and difficult at times, but it is not without its rewards. As the 2012 Freelance Industry Report shows, an amazing 90% of freelancers are happier than they were before they became self-employed.
The increase of flexibility means you can work around childcare or other commitments, you can pick and choose what you want to write about and bask in the glory of running your own creative business. All in all, freelancing is pretty fantastic.