Copywriting Clients - Are yours Peppermint,
Bitter Lemon or Pure Humbug?
Clients can get in the way of a perfectly
good career; or at least that's the impression
given by some freelance copywriters who work in
the advertising and Internet marketing sector.
Like it or not, learning to love clients - warts
and all - is essential if you want to succeed in
what is an incredibly competitive business. This
article gives some useful tips for those on the
threshold of what could be a truly great future.
you set yourself up as a freelance copywriter.
You've always fancied yourself as an advertising
copywriting sort of person. So what's stopping
you scaling the heights of fame and fortune as
a true copywriting professional?
The stark lesson is - and it's a lesson that comes
as a shock to so many who are new to freelance
copywriting: copywriters need clients. Convincing
clients to use the services of an unknown copywriter
is hard enough in itself. If you don't have a thick
skin, an adaptable personality and a physical presence
that confirms you can at least spin a sentence
together, you're likely to have a hard time of
Like copywriters, clients come in all shapes and
sizes. As they're paying the bill, they're likely
to come in some surprising flavours too. There's
'bitter lemon', the type that that will always
be hard to please. There's 'humbug' who will always
downgrade your offering, the more to minimise your
fee. And you may come across 'peppermint'-flavoured
clients whose sharpness and critical faculties
are so highly tuned, you'll wonder why they bothered
to hire a freelance copywriter in the first place!
But - despair not! With a little more experience
you can at least purport to be an expert - although,
it has to be said, any copywriter who cannot back
up his or her claims to be able to walk on water
will soon be found out.
Depending on which copywriting sector you enter
and what type of expertise you are offering, there's
a wide spectrum of responses that could greet you.
In the early days, you're probably best avoiding
copywriting projects requiring an understanding
of the marketing context of what you're expected
to write about. This requires commercial insight
and experience that doesn't come with a degree
in English, useful though that is.
Clients who are used to hiring creative copywriting
talent will find you out in seconds. Obviously,
they won't expect you to know as much about their
business as they do, but naivety is the kiss-of-death
for freelance copywriters, especially in the world
of owner-managers of small and medium-size companies.
Off-line or online copywriting?
Before 'the ubiquitous Internet' entered the marketing
fray, an aspiring copywriter could sometimes get
away with selling his or her 'creativity' - as
opposed to good, solid commercial awareness. The
good news is that off-line copywriting techniques
still make up a big part of the total marketing
mix. That isn't to say that online copywriting
isn't creatively demanding. It is. But in a different
The BIG change is that Internet marketing is the
message itself. It's an informational medium that
sets out to inform. In this respect, it's more
like PR. The type of copywriting this calls for
is therefore more akin to a journalistic style
that 'tells before it sells'.
There is a subtle difference here and one which
demands even greater subtlety on the part of copywriters
who need to develop an informal yet authoritative
style. Many clients themselves will not be aware
of the changes the web has brought to copywriting
techniques. Unaware, that is, until their website,
online articles or blogs simply bomb out.
Despite all this, for aspiring copywriters, the
web has to be good news. It's not ALL about fiddling
with on-page search engine optimisation (SEO).
In many cases, a half-way decent freelance copywriter
with a lively style could satisfy the needs of
The web is a massive consumer of words in the quest
for developing keyword-rich content to generate
website links. The need for informative press releases
and newsletters (on and off-line), for example,
has never been greater. Website content, articles,
e-mails, blogs... the world of opportunity for
aspiring freelance copywriters is exciting and
full of potential if you're looking to make your
mark - and a dollar or two!
Already, there are website copywriting 'gurus',
especially in the USA, who could claim to match
the legendary status of direct marketing copywriters
of the past. And although nothing stays the same
- even in the world of freelance copywriting -
clients of the 'bitter lemon', humbug' or peppermint'
persuasion will always be around to get under the
skin of new and experienced copywriters alike.