Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can a Freelance Copywriter make a lot of money?

The answer is: YES.
But then, a few things need to be qualified. ‘A lot’ can mean different things to different people. It would be reasonable to define ‘a lot’ as ‘more than is necessary to make both ends meet’. Again, ‘more’ and ‘necessary’ are subjective terms, and we can leave them for individual interpretations, as we should.
The other important thing to qualify is the style of working that you as a freelance fancy.
A: Do you prefer to work in the comfort of your home?
B: Are you OK with meeting your clients at least once in a while?
C: Are you game for meeting clients anytime?
From my experience, I can tell you with confidence that A, though the coziest, is the least sensible thing to do. Business will be unpredictable, cash flow erratic, and life on the whole uncertain and tense. Here, I am assuming that a freelancer you tend to get more business from local businesses and clients than from elsewhere. This has been true in my 13 years of freelancing. Operating locally has its advantages: Familiarity and trust through face-to-face, negotiations on advance payments and delivery schedules, and the good possibility of developing long-term relationships. That brings us to B: certainly a better option than A. By extension, C is even better.
Let me explain why B and C are better than A. Again, the scene is local. Generally, clients are happy when you meet them. Some of them look forward to meeting the ‘creative guy’ and also consider it useful to deliver the brief directly and get the benefit of an immediate interaction. They feel respected and pleased, and the honest ones feel that they are already getting their money’s worth. Remember, apart from getting enquiries through references, you can also get a lot of steady business from small creative outfits and agencies that don’t and can’t employ copywriters on a full-time basis, but instead would love to have in readiness a good copywriter who is willing to come along for client briefings and presentations. When you are a good and sweet ‘creative guy’, both clients and the creative outfits tend to hire you for most of their requirements. By cooperating with both parties, you can increase your business volume and bill better, for you bear greater responsibility and give additional service gladly and the chances are they will pay you that extra money ungrudgingly.
The most important consideration is the quantum of money you make, at the end of the day or the month. The various options here are:
1. Pick up any copywriting assignment, whatever be the remuneration.
2. Pick up any good copywriting assignment, but on your rates.
3. Be choosy and dictate your terms.

Option 1 might fetch you volumes and make up for low rates, but if word gets around you will not be able to build the kind of reputation that you have always wanted. Your price is a crucial aspect of your overall personality, and it has to keep going upwards, perhaps gradually, but you can’t afford to have it stagnate for months and years and certainly not go south at all. For a rookie freelancer, it may be an OK option, only for a while though. But then, why would a rookie copywriter risk freelancing?
Option 2 is doubtless interesting and even challenging for one with great talent. The approach can pay dividends, if one can bring into play wide business knowledge, market understanding, strategic thinking, and great presentation and selling skills.
Option 3 is quite risky. I would not recommend it unless one has a huge store of references and high optimism for conversions.
I have stuck to Option 2 right from Day 1.
A Few Things a Freelance Copywriter Should Do
a)
Have a neat, well-written web site for yourself
b) Print neat business cards that spell out what you do (mine says Corporate Communication – Strategy and Creative) and keep them handy
c) Keep in touch with those who have given you business, now and then

1 comment:

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