What Makes a Good Copywriter – 6 Tips for Freelance Copywriting

I’ve been freelance copywriting for a while now, and it’s been an interesting journey from deciding to try my hand at copywriting to actually becoming a professional copywriter. The interesting thing about being a freelance copywriter is that there’s no playbook, no relevant qualifications and no gatekeeping; you just set yourself up and go. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned some important lessons and discovered what is (and what isn’t) important as a freelance copywriter.

Keep it professional

Always, always, always, no matter what, make sure that you’re acting professionally. No matter how small the job or how awkward the client, you’ve got to stay reliable, mature and responsible. If you’re committed to a deadline, respect it; if you can’t get it finished in time, let the client know ahead of time. Your clients don’t rule you (one of the many joys of being freelance), but don’t take them for granted.

Always proof before you send

Whatever you’re writing, come back and read it through again before sending it to a client. There’s no other way to catch the little errors and typos that inevitably sneak in, especially when you’re writing a lot every day – no matter how good your spellchecker is, there’s no substitute for a pair of eyes. Also, you don’t want your client picking out mistakes in your work; it happens, of course, but you really want to keep it to a minimum.

Don’t be too fussy on a first draft

I used to find it so, so difficult to write quickly. I’d get attached to each sentence, trying to work out the perfect phrasing as I went, and I don’t think it really helped. I’ve found it much easier to worry about phrasing and sentence structure after I’ve written the main body of content, so the first draft is really just a “mind dump” to create the basis of the content. I’ll then go back and take another look, and nine time out of ten it really isn’t that bad; a few tweaks here and there and it’s more or less good to go.

Get the right tools

You don’t need much to be a freelance copywriter, past a laptop, but I’ve found a couple of little “add-ons” that make life a little easier. First off, my ergonomic Microsoft Sculpt keyboard, which has saved me from carpal tunnel and RSI (so far, at least). When writing on my laptop, I found myself with pains in my hands after a long day’s typing. With a long-time guitarist’s fear of tendonitis I quickly ordered this keyboard, and I’ve suffered much less pain since then – I can’t recommend it enough.

The other thing that’s come in exceptionally handy is a big data allowance on my phone, which means I can safely tether my laptop and work online wherever I am. Whether in the park or on the train, I don’t have to worry about WiFi or hitting data limits, and with the utterly ludicrous 15GB on my current plan I can browse with impunity.

It can always be interesting

I suppose this depends on who you are, but I’ve found that I can actually sink my teeth into pretty much any topic, no matter how mundane. For instance, when writing a piece on chancel repair liability insurance for a real estate client, I ended up reading page after page on homeowners who lost hundreds of thousands of pounds and had to sell their homes because of their local church – while it might sound dull, almost any topic becomes interesting if you’re naturally curious. Don’t turn down work just because it sounds dull, because it’s part of your job to make everything sound interesting.

Enjoy it

Last but not least, you’re freelance! You can work from home, from the bed, from your studio or an office . . . but best of all, there’s no boss. You’re accountable for all your decisions, which is hugely liberating, but don’t be afraid to indulge yourself every now and again. It’s important to know when you have to work, and what you need to do, and to make the most of your ability to set your own schedule – go out for lunch, lay in late, or work from somewhere else. Not many people get the opportunity, so make the most of it!