Tackling commercial life as a copywriter can be confronting, particularly if you are more comfortable with creative writing pursuits, with perfect pieces of prose penned just for you.
There are a few invaluable pieces of advice that I have been lucky enough to come across during the last few months. Advice that has stood me in good stead and enabled me to deliver prose that satisfies client requirements, and gets the bills paid. Much of this advice is fairly straightforward, easy to implement, and really does work.
Tips for Commercial Copywriting
Take Your Ego Out of It
By its very nature, commercial copywriting is all about delivering a message on behalf of someone else. It really doesn’t matter who that someone else is. Whether it’s the latest hipster brand, a high flying executive, or a not-for-profit, you need to take your ego out of the process. And that means taking your voice out of the copy. You cannot write from your own perspective, with your own viewpoint in commercial copywriting. You must take on the voice of your client. To do this, take a look your client’s existing material. If that doesn’t really cut it, talk to your client about it. What is their brand personality? It is a hip, too-cool-for-school, cutting-edge brand? Is it a highly polished, highly professional, highly corporate director? Is it a compassionate, caring charity? Naturally, all of these entities have a very different voice. I find that it helps if you think of your client as an actual person. If that person was sitting opposite you, having a chat with you over your morning latte, what would they say? How would they speak? What sort of words would feature in their vocabulary? Use these words as you write; not your own.
Hone Your Customer Service Skills
In commercial copywriting, you have a client. And, customer service (or account management) is likely to constitute approximately 40% of your time. No exaggeration. There are meetings, and phone calls, and emails, and invoicing, and following up. Crazy as it might seem, I actually enjoy this aspect of my career. I have so many different clients, from so many different industries, with so many different backgrounds and points of view. All this variety makes life interesting. It means that I’m constantly learning, constantly being made aware of new opportunities, new ways of thinking about things, new approaches to business.
But, I’m well aware that for some copywriters, the thought of having to deal with clients on a daily basis (for around 40% of the day) can seem about as appealing as a root canal. It definitely isn’t for everyone. So, if you’d rather chop off your right arm than deal with clients, there are a few basic things to remember when it comes to customer service for commercial copywriting: return phone calls promptly, return emails promptly, answer queries thoroughly, and deliver work on time, and in accordance with their brief.
Come to Terms with Taking Direction
By their very nature, copywriters are usually quite creative creatures. As such, constructive criticism can often be difficult to stomach. It can squelch the creative process. As a commercial copywriter, there is no room for bruised feelings or dented egos. You have to take direction from the client. After all, they’re the ones footing your bill. While it is more than acceptable to offer your expert advice, if they choose not to follow your advice, you simply have to roll with their decision, without taking it too personally.
Realize that You’re More than Just a Copywriter: You’re a Problem Solver
Oftentimes, clients won’t be 100% certain of exactly what it is that they want, or need. This is particularly true if your client is a business whizz without any experience in marketing and communications. So, you might need to solve this problem for them, provide them with expert advice, with options, with some guidance. Sometimes, you need to provide more than just words on a page. You may need to think about a broader approach, more akin to a brand strategy or information architecture.
If your client is a little unsure of what they need, the best place to begin is with a thorough brief. I’ve created my own little client briefing form. It includes fields such as project overview, audience, message, and more. I find that this forms helps clarify all the ins and outs of a project before it even starts. It galvanises a common approach and objective for all parties involved.
If you’d like a free copy of my client briefing form, all you need to do is subscribe to my mailing list: https://wordly.com.au/subscribe/
Get Your Billing Structure Nailed Down
Do the maths. Work out what you need to bill to cover all your costs, and from there, determine your hourly rate. Work out how long different types of jobs take you to complete. I find keeping an hour log on jobs comes in handy. That way, if you have a similar job pop up in the future, you have an easy reference guide at your fingertips. After all, if you underquote a job, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Tell Everyone that You’re A Copywriter
If you’re committed to breaking into the world of commercial copywriting, then it’s time to scream it from the rooftops. Tell everyone about your new venture. Build a website. Print yourself some business cards. Register your Twitter / Facebook / Google+ handles. Do a little bit of self-promotion. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Every successful business has done, and will continue to advertise their wares. Get on board.
Don’t forget, if you’d like a free copy of my client briefing form, all you need to do is subscribe to my mailing list: https://wordly.com.au/subscribe/