The 6 things I’ve learnt about freelance copywriting

I’m relatively new to copywriting. Usually I worked on the sales side so I had to write copy that could get me the sale over the phone. I’m a writer but in most start-ups and SMEs where I’ve spent the vast majority of my career – you have to be multifaceted. So I’ve only been working on copy like this for the last four months. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t a creative person but I think creativity only has a place in copywriting when it helps you get the job done. It’s been strange not being able to talk to customers but I’ve found ways round this by doing the following….

nix the technical jargon

Some people obviously do not know they are writing bad copy. In most cases, the clearest indication of this is the never-ending ridiculously difficult technical jargon. If you read it six times, maybe you’ll figure out what it says by the end of the year. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the industry key words, but try to make it accessible. People are not cyborgs. Simple and clear is always best.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

Steven King

keep to your chosen method…always

A couple of times I’ve tried to use other writers’ methods. If they direct you towards how to use content, then it’s good but if it’s how to actually get my writing together? Not for me. I write with at least 3 drafts. Always have. Always will. The best thing about this method is that it helps me distil my work down. I’ve read some of those drafts back and I’ve been astonished that I hadn’t simply been hit on the head with a hammer. How could it be, that I thought, that sentence made sense? Madness.

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

Ray Bradbury

exercise is your friend

I didn’t know what writers block was until I became a copywriter. I have a Bachelors and a Masters (Politics & Law), I’ve also produced marketing material for almost every one of the 28 jobs I’ve worked in since I was 16. Yet I didn’t understand how writer’s block effected people. For me, it was more: ‘I want to go to sleep but I have a deadline tomorrow.’

So now I’m well-versed, I know that the only thing that works is getting active. It’s probably a throwback from school. I know you were never told outright you had to do a sport, but the slightly threatening letters sent to your house and given to you in lessons made it clear. Top students did sports. It took me a while to find my sport but either way I always looked forward to doing some sport. It gets my creative juices flowing.

pen and paper is where creativity begins

Andy Maslen in his book Write to Sell – the ultimate guide to great copywriting, claims that you should start every foray into writing with pen and paper. I absolutely agree. It’s where you began writing. It’s always where it should start. Well at least for the most people. Future generations may spend all their time writing with a flick of an eyelash but until then, pen and paper. Maybe even pencil if you have one.

“[As a writer] you have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline and desire. If you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.”

nora Roberts

remember who you’re writing for

I’m not sure where this one sits. Maybe it should be first. It seems like the type of thing you should always remember or else you’ll get nothing done. Or you’ll get nothing useful done. I like to work for certain types of client but that doesn’t negate this as the epitome of copywriting. Understanding who your client, customer, audience is, keeps you on the road to good copy.

keep ahead of new content

Find content in the area that you’re writing about. You can use sites like or find sites with RSS so you can follow their content through one site. You’ll know when things change and maybe you’ll be able to suggest content to your client that gets you more work.

Published by Lola Small

Postgraduate Londoner. Podcaster & Writer. Life is always political.

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