A freelance copywriter is anyone who produces content or text on demand. The ‘freelance’ indicates that they operate as a free agent, usually carrying out clearly bounded copywriting projects or commissions on an ad hoc basis and for a range of clients.
‘Copywriter’ is a loosely defined term, since copywriting often includes a range of tasks that may be much more precisely defined in other industries (such as publishing): writing, rewriting, structuring, planning, editing, copy-editing, proofreading and liaison with a range of other professionals such as graphic designers and web developers.
When they work with businesses, copywriters provide support to the marketing function by writing marketing materials such as brochures, advertisements and websites.
Typically, the freelance copywriter will deal with the marketing manager or marketing director, although in a smaller firm the MD or CEO may approach the freelance copywriter direct.
Freelance copywriters also work with agencies, where they support the creative work of the agency by adding a copywriting function to their service portfolio.
While many agencies offer writing services, they may choose to use a freelance to do the actual work – either because they lack the capacity for copywriting in-house, or because they need the skills of a specialised copywriter.
Freelance copywriters also work with other types of client – public sector organisations, charities, academics – anyone who needs something written might be interested in the services of a copywriter.
Many freelance copywriters list their services in traditional directories, just like any other business. However, for the vast majority, the key way of linking up with new clients is through the internet.
Most copywriters now have their own web presences, often SEO optimised for search engines so that they can attract web users who enter terms such as ‘copywriter’ or ‘freelance copywriter’.
To reduce competition, they may also seek to rank for terms such as ‘buy melatonin’ or ‘melatonin buy’ . To build up the profile of their site, copywriters may seek coverage in online copywriting directories, such as these examples at Yahoo and Free Index.
Once contact has been made, the freelance copywriter meets with the client to determine what kind of copywriting is required.
This means considering such important aspects as purpose, tone of voice, target format and (most importantly) the situation of the reader and the response that the copywriter is aiming to elicit from them. Good copywriters will carefully gather all this information before beginning their copywriting.
Before beginning work, the freelance copywriter will seek to agree a price with their client. Most copywriters charge by the day, although some may agree to charge by the hour, or (for some types of commission) by the word or thousand words.
Charging by the word carries the risk that many revisions will be required in order to get the copy right, leaving the copywriter undercharging. However, for some tasks (such as the creation of large amounts of search-engine friendly copy), the per-word basis may be appropriate.
A realistic estimate of time requirements is essential, and the client needs to appreciate how much work can go into a freelance copywriting commission.
For example, the creation of a three-word slogan might involve several days of liaising with company executives, reviewing competitors’ content, brainstorming and evaluation.