How to source copyright-free photographs

Media degrees receive a lot of criticism in the press these days, and much of it is deserved. Yet it was a HND in Communications that first encouraged me to step outside the classroom and start taking photographs on a digital camera as a teenager, subsequently leading me to major in video production at university. I quickly became the unofficial custodianship of the company-owned digital camera in the two jobs I held between graduating and dedicating my career to G75 Media, which included a seven-year stint as a full-time property journalist.

Today, I have thirty years of photography experience, with an expert eye for framing and composition. This instinctive expertise was honed to perfection during the 11 years I ran G75 Images as a property photography sideline to G75 Media’s copywriting and content production business. I reluctantly closed G75 Images down following run-ins with clients who seemed to think paying for photography services was optional. And in one respect, they’re right – free images are widely available across the internet. You just need to know where to look.

Aren’t free images just a Google search away?

It’s a common misapprehension that pictures found through search engines are free to reuse. In fact, the penalties for infringing a copyrighted image (whether or not it shows up in normal results) may be punitive. If you want to source copyright-free photographs, there are specific avenues you’ll need to go down, some of which require delicate navigation. This is why I routinely offer to source and supply images to G75 Media’s copywriting and journalism clients, leveraging my expertise to simplify matters for them while ensuring the copy I write is accompanied by suitably dynamic visuals.

In many cases, the photographs I supply were taken by myself, sourced from my vast trove of digital photography. The photo accompanying this article was taken a few years ago during a travel journalism trip to the Netherlands. I could have subsequently provided a client with this quintessentially Dutch scene alongside an original piece of writing, though as yet I haven’t had the opportunity to write about Zaandam, clogs or bicycles. Alternatively, I could have simply searched for images in one of the curated collections of copyright-free photographs online.

Why would photography be free?

It’s a good question. Photography is an artform just like any other, and photographers have bills to pay just like the rest of us. These are some of the reasons why artists might share Creative Commons Zero (CC0) images online, effectively opting out of any right to royalties or accreditation:

  1. To build their reputation, in preparation for selling pictures later.
  2. They view taking photographs as a hobby rather than an income stream.
  3. They have a passion for a particular subject, which they’re keen to share with others.
  4. They don’t feel the images are sufficiently high-quality or high-resolution to be saleable.
  5. Their photographs complement another income stream (such as painting or graphic design).

How do I source copyright-free photographs?

Firstly, it’s advisable to look beyond search engines. There is a way to find CC0 licensed images on Bing or DuckDuckGo, but it’s not intuitive. Taking Google as an example, it involves going into the Images > Tools > Usage Rights submenu before choosing Creative Commons licenses. This tends to reveal visuals from a handful of sources such as Wikimedia, but it will also display photos with copyright details clearly displayed in the photo title and summary. In these instances, you can reproduce the photo without paying, but you’ll have to credit the photographer in whatever form they request every time you use the photo.

More unambiguous collections of CC0 images are hosted on websites which are specifically focused on helping people source copyright-free photographs. There are numerous examples of websites where the default setting involves images suitable for reproduction and republication with no attribution or acknowledgement, including FreeImages and Stockvault. Be aware that some sites (such as Unsplash) intersperse CC0 image results and their own paid shots, which require either a subscription or one-off fees. This replicates the model of paid photography websites including Getty Images and Shutterstock, which charge a fee for each reproduction or (in some cases) allow you to purchase exclusive copyright to individual shots.

If all this sounds too complicated (and it does take a while to master), you could always ask a freelance copywriter to source copyright-free photographs as part of their contract. It’s something G75 Media routinely does, and we’d be delighted to discuss this as part of any quote. Get in touch to discuss how we can meet your editorial and photography needs.

How to price freelance copywriting jobs

One of the most challenging aspects of any job interview has always been the moment when the interviewer looks across the desk and blandly asks what your salary expectations are. Presented in such a deliberately open-ended format, there’s rarely a perfect answer. Set your self-determined value too low, and you’re potentially agreeing to be underpaid for the foreseeable future. Set it too high, and you could come across as arrogant, or simply price yourself out of contention.

Many freelance copywriting jobs are advertised with set fees, based on what the employer is able (or feels willing) to pay. Yet some companies don’t really know what it costs to hire a freelance copywriter, or how much they should pay for professional freelance writing services. On the other side of the coin, it’s hard for an inexperienced freelancer to price freelance copywriting jobs accurately, especially when every vacancy (and project) requires differing skillsets. Some assignments are research-intensive, while others are more creative and freeform. Some require interviews and Zoom/Teams calls, while a few necessitate field-based research.

Having been a freelancer for over 20 years, I’ve become astute at valuing my own expertise and accurately gauging the potential complexity of assignments. These are my recommendations for any up-and-coming freelance marketing writers or freelance copywriters wanting to set competitive rates while ensuring they’re reasonably remunerated for potentially technical and time-consuming work.

Weigh up your existing knowledge

If a client asked me to write an article about a specific town or city, I could produce pages of copy almost instinctively, drawing on two decades as a property journalist. Yet if a client asked me to write about yachts, my limited knowledge of this specialist field would necessitate market research and competitor analysis. Topics you’re passionate about or familiar with are easier to write about authoritatively – reducing the time needed to complete assignments and enabling lower fees.

Add a ‘pest premium’

Some clients are engaging and accommodating, but others…aren’t. Although I’ve cultivated a roster of helpful and proactive clients, every freelance writer will encounter chaotic or unreasonable customers. You can usually tell from a first encounter whether they’re likely to want multiple rewrites or leave you chasing unpaid invoices. When it’s time to price freelance copywriting, a ten per cent premium on normal rates is a reasonable insurance policy, with a written contract formalising who’ll do what, and when.

Check what’s included

Building on the last point, submission processes vary enormously. Some clients are happy to receive a Word document, while others expect you to upload content through a CMS like WordPress. The latter is further complicated if you have to provide keywords, captions and copyright-free images. Are rewrites likely to be needed, and will they be demanded at no extra cost? Multiple people reviewing your work can hugely increase total editing time, so establish a chain of command at the outset.

Ask how they’d rather pay

Some clients price freelance copywriting projects with a lump sum on completion. The majority are advertised with a flat per-word fee, while a few involve an hourly rate. At an interview, it’s often advisable to let the client express a preference. If they want a per-word rate, you’ll need to factor in research and travel time; if there’s a fixed project fee, will the quoted sum justify the hours required to complete it? Also confirm whether they’ll be paying by BACS, Wise, etc – and when payments will be made.

Price freelance copywriting on a scale

Returning to our opening paragraph, if you’re pinned down mid-interview by a question about rates, provide your prospective new client/employer with a scale. Be honest and say you don’t know enough about the role to quote an exact fee, but you’d normally charge somewhere between X and Y for work of this nature, leaving a healthy gap between the two. That gives them room to negotiate, while providing you with scope to vary your fees once you know exactly what’s involved…

Finally, if you’re a small business owner reading this and wondering how to price freelance copywriting contracts, make life easier for yourself and contact G75 Media. We’ll sit down with you and discuss what’s needed before agreeing on a mutually satisfactory rate. Life’s easier when it’s kept simple.

Why businesses need mystery shoppers

Although G75 Media routinely works with clients as diverse as optometrists and DIY platforms, we list four core specialisms on our What We Do page. While we remain embedded in the property, automotive and technology sectors, our travel writing has waned in parallel with declining demand for professional travel journalists. Nowadays, vloggers like Shawn Sanbrooke have moved the dial away from written content, while print publications are more likely to publish paid-for advertorials than (potentially critical) travel journalism.

Yet one aspect of travel writing remains impervious to TikTok, generative AI and PR-led promotional content. Companies still need mystery shoppers – arguably more so now than ever, in an age where one negative review from a well-connected individual can cause significant reputational damage. Everyone’s a critic these days, and the best way of negating their criticism is to periodically ensure your customer-facing offerings are optimal. Staff will inevitably bring innate bias to the process of judging their own employers, while the general public can’t always be trusted to be objective; automated AI tools can’t help companies to discern public perceptions, either.

The golden standard

Objective reviews of customer-facing hospitality and leisure venues are produced by a small but dedicated army of mystery shoppers, including G75 Media’s founder, Neil Cumins. He’s recently been awarded Gold certification by one of the UK’s leading mystery guest platforms after reviewing hotels, bars and restaurants across north-west England and Scotland. This reflects Neil’s background as a seasoned travel writer, having previously written for tourism websites including 5pm.co.uk and YPlan, alongside travel publications from Food & Drink Guides to Group Leisure.

However, being a mystery reviewer involves far more than knowing when to use the fish fork, or how a pint of lager should be poured and served (at 45 degrees into a cold branded glass, served with the logo facing you). These are some of the skills required to succeed in an industry where you’re only ever as good as your last completed questionnaire…

1. Photography

A picture tells a thousand words, and it also offers pointers about where a venue might be going wrong. Food photography provides real-time snapshots of a venue’s catering staff, giving proprietors invaluable insights into what’s being served up to their customers. Mystery guests should supply visual evidence of whether pastry is well cooked, or whether pillows are encased in clean protectors. Neil’s twenty years of photojournalism experience has been invaluable in this regard.

2. Service

Many mystery dining/hospitality platforms issue lengthy surveys, potentially asking over a hundred different questions about a visit. Many of these relate to the service provided by staff – cordiality, efficiency, helpfulness, and so forth. Reviewers may be tasked with probing staff knowledge, taking notes of missed upselling opportunities and monitoring how quickly ad-hoc requests are actioned. This requires meticulous record-taking in a manner discreet enough to avoid anyone noticing.

3. Ambience

A hotel’s primary role is to provide comfortable overnight accommodation, while a restaurant’s is to serve tasty meals. Yet there’s so much more to consider regarding the overall experience. From parking to noise levels, from wait times to cleanliness, a mystery guest has to record every aspect of each venue. This means critiquing on-site toilets, testing the WiFi speed, judging temperatures and other nuanced elements that a less observant individual might not even consciously identify.

Alongside detective-like observation skills and the ability to record detailed notes without attracting anyone’s attention, mystery reviews tend to involve a great deal of open-ended reportage. This is where skills like brevity and eloquence battle for supremacy – painting a vivid picture in a limited number of words. An experienced travel writer can bring a two-dimensional review to life, but some mystery guest platforms require more exposition than others.

The personal touch

Finally, remember that mystery shopping reports and surveys can directly affect the staff members encountered in that visit. Critiquing discoloured grout in a hotel bathroom is very different to critiquing the efficiency of a waitress working a split shift while covering for an absent colleague. Reviewers need to be empathetic towards the people they encounter, especially when they’re asked to name employees in their reports. Anyone can have bad luck, or a bad day at the office.

If you have a venue that would benefit from mystery shopping, contact G75 Media to see how we can add value to your brand or business. If you work for a mystery review platform, we’d be delighted to discuss working together on ad hoc or ongoing assignments. Finally, budding writers seeking to break into the tightly knit community of mystery diners and freelance hotel reviewers should start by conducting their own analysis and writing up reports. As with many aspects of the hospitality sector itself, practice makes perfect…

Why your business needs an AI editor

It’s not often that an industry arrives as seemingly fully-fledged as generative AI. Within little more than a year, we’ve gone from the low-key beta unveiling of ChatGPT to a vast multi-billion-pound market segment populated with dozens of content generation startups and competitors. AI text generation is now built into the Bing search engine (which means it’s effectively built into Microsoft Edge), while the most recent McKinsey Global Survey indicates a third of corporate businesses are already using it regularly in at least some capacity.

Oh AI?

Yet this McKinsey study also revealed that most companies aren’t even considering the risk of inaccurate content being produced on their behalf. That’s a remarkable oversight. Companies are blithely trusting new and unproven technology, much of it from unknown startups and unaccountable foreign companies, to represent their own businesses. Worse, they have no plans in place if the content turns out to be wrong, outdated, misleading, libellous, offensive to competitors, offensive to the general public…

As is often the case, the explosive growth in generative AI is being driven by cost considerations. If companies can save a thousand pounds on freelance copywriting by using a chatbot to generate blogs and corporate materials, that thousand pounds can be paid to shareholders in dividends or given to their executives in bonuses. At this formative stage, generative AI platforms are still free (which offers the first clue about the quality of their output), and free is better than cheap. Isn’t it?

As any CEO or director will grudgingly admit, ‘free’ services tend to come with strings attached. And so it is with generative AI. Nothing new is being created here – these engines simply regurgitate existing online material with different wording. That means any inaccuracies, outdated information or source material bias (which will be legion, considering AI engines scrape the entire internet with all its fake news and flawed reportage) is repackaged. Companies who begin to rely on this technology are also in for a nasty shock when the companies who’ve paid small fortunes to develop this server-intensive new technology begin monetising it to pay back their debts. A lot of newly created blogs may wither on the vine when the generative AI taps are suddenly paywalled, sending websites tumbling down search results pages.

You’re Bard, mate

By this point, readers still ruminating on the use of the word ‘free’ two paragraphs back might be trying to justify using generative AI instead of employing freelance copywriters to produce high-quality output. It would be wrong of G75 Media to claim that Google Bard or Perplexity are dangerous – though the electronic origins of erroneous or misleading content won’t serve as any kind of defence in court. Instead, we’d suggest companies determined to publish material which is effectively recycled from existing third-party content need to apply close scrutiny to it. That’s something we can help with, using our award-winning talents to conduct AI editing on content before it’s published in your business’s name.

AI editors add human oversight to machine-generated content, correcting obvious errors and removing contentious statements. AI editing adds the comparisons, humour, anecdotes and cultural references which even the best AI content generators can’t comprehend. Human editing will identify and excise repetition, trim out superfluous content (often used to pad out AI content’s later paragraphs), and ensure formulaic text is smoothed into corporate house writing styles. Without running copy past an AI editor, computer-generated text is usually betrayed by its long paragraphs, drily factual content and robotic delivery. It’s only a matter of time before search engines begin downgrading this mass-produced low-grade content in the same way they’ve previously punished word clouds, link farms and other lazy attempts at gaming SEO algorithms.

How much does an AI editor charge?

AI editing is obviously quicker (and therefore more affordable) than generating new content from scratch, but it requires diligence and an innate understanding of your brand. G75 Media’s AI editing services aren’t free, but they are affordably priced. We ensure rapid turnaround times, helping to minimise the period between an AI engine churning out text and it being safe to upload onto your website. We modify every sentence, using decades of SEO know-how to ensure search engines rank it above anything published by competitors who haven’t invested in an AI editor.

To find out more about AI editing services, and to speak to us about the benefits of content production by humans, get in touch with G75 Media today. There are no chatbots here – just real people with proven skills in the timeless art of finding the right words for every scenario.

Life as a freelance property journalist

When I tell people I’m a freelance property journalist, the reaction generally combines interest and a tinge of envy. ‘Wow, what a great job’, people tend to say, before adding ‘you must see some amazing houses.’ For a few seconds, they think wistfully of old Grand Designs episodes, or their cousin’s friend who had a £600,000 budget to buy a retirement cottage in the countryside.

However, being a freelance property journalist isn’t all about photographing swimming pools and exploring landscaped gardens. Many of the houses I’ve visited over the years have been empty, dirty or even unsafe to be in, with wasp infestations and crumbling floorboards. I’ve seen homeowners collapse into chairs, overcome with grief because their beloved home is being sold due to divorce or death. My visit to one flat in Glasgow’s west end was complicated by a ramraid on the shop downstairs the night before. At another property, I will never forget a child telling me she didn’t want to move, while I stared over her head at the broken glass her parents had cemented onto the top of their brick boundary wall in an attempt to deter any more burglaries.

Completing the cycle

Property experts often talk about an 18-year property cycle, where the market goes from boom to bust and back again. As Governments try to cushion the blow of economic downturns, interest rates are slashed and mortgage lending is encouraged, leading to an unsustainable property bubble which then triggers another economic downturn. An important attribute for any freelance property journalist is to recognise these effects on the housing market, depending which part of the cycle we’re currently experiencing.

When I started working as a full-time property journalist in 2003, investors were paying students to camp outside construction sites for several days before sales suites opened their doors, holding a place in the inevitable queues so they could swoop in at the last minute and reserve their favoured plots. Six years later, with prices in freefall, I saw good homes being sold at silly prices, as speculative companies specialising in distress sales presented an easy way out to people desperate to escape unsustainable mortgage debt. Six years after that, we were back to multiple sealed-bid offers, as families fought over homes in affluent commuter towns.

Flat out?

Today, the property market has finally slowed down after three years of post-pandemic growth. Prices have been falling in inverse proportion to interest rates, which have hopefully peaked after 14 consecutive monthly increases by the Bank of England, with inflation figures finally dwindling. We’ve rapidly switched from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market – not that too many people are looking to buy right now, with concerns over the Chinese and American economies allied to ongoing strikes and a cost-of-living crisis at home. Forecasts for 2024 suggest a broadly flat market nationwide, encompassing the odd local hotspot.

It’s become obvious that flats are less popular nowadays, with pre-existing concerns over cladding compounded by the memories of social distancing in communal areas and the echoes of families forced to endure months of lockdown without any outside space. Help to Buy schemes have already enabled a generation of first-time buyers to skip the starter-flat stage of the property ladder and move straight into a house, and this flight to the suburbs may continue even as these controversial state-backed schemes end. Only commercial-to-residential conversions and increased urban populations can seemingly stem the decline – there’s only so many coffee shops any city centre can support.

Whatever happens to the property market, I’ll be writing about it in my role as one of the UK’s leading freelance property journalists. Where the market leads, I will follow – experiencing the literal and metaphorical highs and lows of life as a freelance property journalist. Click here for more details on my property writing services, or view some of my recently published freelance property journalism articles here.

Why freelance limited company status is preferable to being a freelance sole trader

Why freelancers should be limited companies

It’s exactly sixteen years since I founded G75 Media as a limited company. It’s also exactly twenty years since I started freelancing as a copywriter. In late autumn 2003, I was approached by a former employer to quote for completing a key element of the job I’d recently left on a freelance basis. I did so gladly, using my Yahoo email address and submitting an invoice in my own name.

It didn’t take me long to realise that companies would rather deal with another company than with a private individual. That’s especially true when it comes to something as nebulous as copywriting, where the quality of work can vary hugely between one contributor and the next. Companies often have to trust a hired freelancer to be professional, and that’s much easier to do if they have a recorded trading history and a proprietary email address. Who’s to say greatwriter101@gmail.com won’t simply take a paid deposit and vanish into the ether, or deliver a load of ChatGPT-penned nonsense?

How does a freelance limited company operate?

By setting up a company, you are making a series of pledges:

  • To maintain an accurate list of directors, secretaries and employees with Companies House.
  • To prepare end-of-year accounts, ensuring that any incurred taxes are paid timeously.
  • To ensure all debts are paid off before the company is closed down.

Each of these actions reassures a potential customer that they’re not dealing with some fly-by-night scammer, especially as limited companies need a registered head office address to which correspondence can be directed. Companies usually have a website and a proprietary email address, alongside business reviews by past and present customers.

CASE STUDY: Imagine you’re a prospective employer, advertising a freelance job vacancy. You receive two responses – one from info@g75media.co.uk, with company details and a registered head office address at the bottom. The other is from g75media@mail.com, complete with a Sent From My Mail.com Account footer. Which one would you regard as being more plausible and promising?

Some people opt to be sole traders because it’s easier – no annual statements to be filed, and no VAT returns if your annual turnover exceeds £85,000. However, ‘easier’ does not necessarily equal ‘better’. It certainly won’t impress a prospective client as much as a registered business, even if that business is effectively a one-man band. G75 Media has always been a trading vehicle for my own freelance services, and despite a few unsuccessful attempts at employing other freelancers, it remains my own business. People who contact G75 Media speak to me directly; people who engage our services benefit from my award-winning writing; people who receive invoices do so alongside a friendly message I’ve penned specifically for them. Being a limited company doesn’t make you seem impersonal or distant.

Taking care of business

If you’re concerned that setting up a freelance limited company sounds intimidating, it really isn’t. Companies House do most of the legwork for you, registering the business with temporary personnel who immediately step aside and appoint you as the director. All you need to do is find a company name not already in use, select a legally permissible head office address, and appoint an accountant to handle financial affairs. From there on, the development of the business is entirely in your hands, including decisions about websites, social media activity and marketing. Because a freelance limited company will be more appealing to clients than a sole trader, you’ll have the best chance of growing rapidly and establishing a name for yourself.

The importance of estate agency blogs

This is a tough time to be an estate agent. High interest rates and dwindling disposable incomes are preventing the aspirational house moves that typically underpin the property market. Consumer confidence is at a low ebb, and we’re witnessing the unwelcome return of gazundering in some corners of the UK property market.

At the same time, the internet should make it easier than ever for estate agents to make their voices heard. Platforms like eXp provide centralised support for sole agents and startup boutiques alike, while the internet enables anyone in the world to view online listings and property particulars.

There’s just one problem. With so much competition out there, how do you drive traffic to your estate agency website or property portal?

Searching questions

The secret to ensuring your website performs well in Google and Bing search results is to optimise its content. Known as SEO, this process requires in-depth knowledge of the latest algorithms and competitor analysis platforms. As a result, most people choose to delegate SEO work to freelance specialists like G75 Media. We’ve been creating property blogs and brand-specific estate agency blogs for over 15 years, and we’ve become rather good at it.

Estate agency websites benefit from an ever-changing roster of online property listings, but search engines hate content that disappears. SEO rankings are boosted far more by regularly uploaded property blogs that remain permanently visible.

A high-quality estate agency blog will contain a blend of the following article types:

  1. Topical news stories and reactions to the latest house price data, often with a ghostwritten comment produced by the writer on behalf of the agency’s head or property manager.
  2. Local interest stories, anchoring the agency at the heart of the community it serves.
  3. Property-specific articles, such as resale home walk-through profiles, or interviews with celebrity vendors.
  4. Placeholder features, extolling the virtues of that location to incomers, investors and interested third parties.
  5. Listicles – numbered lists of key points or recommendations (a sample topic might be Ten Things to Do Before Marketing Your Home).

When G75 Media agrees to produce estate agency blogs for a new client, we suggest a list of future article topics. These property blogs can be augmented at any time with breaking news stories, but their primary aim is to allow that agency to focus on discussing important topics, or boosting SEO in specific areas. For instance, a local estate agency branching out into letting for the first time can commission a series of property blogs relating to rental properties, giving it an immediate and distinct ranking boost.

CASE STUDY: I normally refrain from discussing client work in G75 Media blogs or marketing literature, but a recent interaction with a boutique estate agency deserves mention here.

In an attempt to tackle weak SEO ranking results, an agency owner invited me to submit topics for future property blogs. We agreed on a roster of topics to be submitted on a fortnightly basis, yet after four submissions, the process was arbitrarily suspended. A month later, we were asked to resume content production, filing just two more property blogs before a halt was called again.

The result is a patchy estate agency blog with few articles, little opportunity to cultivate the internal webpage links that provide vital SEO benefits, and no reason for audiences (or search engine web crawlers) to keep coming back.

What does a successful estate agency blog need?

There are many attributes that underpin a property blog’s popularity, and its success in search engine results pages. These are some of the key elements:

  1. Regular updates. The boutique agency profiled above didn’t maintain a regular schedule of property blogs, which would have kept audiences coming back and gradually established a reputation for topicality and relevance among search engines. These are pivotal factors in SEO rankings.
  2. Original articles. It’s not worth paying to republish pre-written features from online directories of available content. Plagiarism is scorned by Google and Bing, and generic content (potentially written years ago) won’t be relevant to your brand, locality or market specialisms.
  3. Human-generated content. You could register an account with ChatGPT and ask it to produce property blogs for free. However, they’ll be dry, dull and (eventually) marked down by search engines as low-grade content. They’ll also have no relevance to your brand, business or local area.
  4. Internal links. Key SEO metrics include the number of pages each visitor views on your website, and how long they remain on your site before migrating away. Experienced copywriters know how to build webs of internal links which optimise both metrics, boosting the site’s ranking results.
  5. Images. A good copywriter might suggest adding a photo to each estate agency blog. A great writer will source copyright-free images and create image captions and meta descriptions incorporating chosen keywords. This will elevate the SEO value of each blog, as well as the wider site.
  6. Keyword-driven copy. We’ve used the phrase ‘estate agency blog’ several times in this article, to ensure it ranks highly whenever anyone searches for estate agency blogs. A central plank of any SEO strategy is to identify relevant keywords before deploying them with care – not with abandon.

Speak to a professional property blog writer

At G75 Media, we boast over twenty years of experience producing estate agency blogs and web content for property portals. Get in touch to obtain a personalised quote for property blog writing, website SEO work or other online content which will help to elevate your website above its competitors.

How to become a freelance copywriter

“You’re a writer? How did you get into that?”

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked a variation of that question, I’d probably have enough money to buy a nice bar of Swiss chocolate. It’s usually the first response to telling a new acquaintance that I’m a freelance copywriter, while the second response is often along the lines of “I’ve always wanted to do that” or “how do I become a freelance copywriter myself?”

To anyone unfamiliar with this industry, freelance copywriting can seem impossibly glamorous. And in some respects it is, but it’s still a job. It requires dedication, organisation and creativity at all times. The pay is often modest, time off is either unpaid or made up in the evenings, and you have to deal with clients who can occasionally be unreasonable and/or rude. Crucially, this is a hugely over-subscribed industry, where companies can be highly selective about who they commission.

Sounds great! So how do I become a freelance copywriter?

First of all, if you’re reading this as a student or in the early years of your career, there’s one key thing to remember:

There are no shortcuts.

With so much competition from established writers, it’s going to take a long time to build your own identity and become a freelance copywriter of repute. You’ll probably have to work for free, and you’ll certainly have to work on projects that don’t interest you. There may be clients you don’t get on with, deadlines that require burning the midnight oil, and articles which are never published.  The latter scenario is especially frustrating, because you can’t promote them if they’re not published. Most freelance copywriting job vacancies request several hyperlinks to published online features with direct relevance to the industry or company in question.

This is why it’s far harder to become a freelance copywriter than it is to remain one once you’re established and known within the industry. I have a Word document containing links to a hundred of my best articles, arranged by category with one-line summaries and URLs. If I spot a tempting freelance writing opportunity, I can call upon a stockpile of relevant articles demonstrating my expertise in that specific area. A new or aspirational writer won’t have such a portfolio to draw on, but you can start by linking to your own blogs, or offering to write guest posts for clients in industries you’re passionate about. Every time an article is published, make a note of its URL for future job applications, or save a screenshot onto your PC to compile a portfolio like this one.

You’ll also need other resources to become a freelance copywriter, including a comfortable workspace. We’ve previously discussed how to create the ultimate home office, even with a small budget and limited space. You’ll need a laptop which can be used at home, at the local café and at client meetings. You’ll have to create some administrative templates, including a professional-looking invoice and a spreadsheet to track income and expenditure. Some writers remain sole traders rather than going down the limited company route, since the latter brings additional layers of bureaucracy and responsibility. However, clients tend to prefer dealing with a registered company than with a private individual touting for work with a generic Gmail address.

Windows onto the world

Above all, you’ll need a website. This is your digital shop window, where you explain what you can offer and highlight key achievements. Its contents will evolve over time, as you work for more clients and build up greater expertise. Freelance copywriters usually develop one or two niches – the G75 Media website outlines how we’re property writers and motoring journalists first and foremost. Nobody will be impressed if you claim you can write about anything, because topics like SaaS or property law demand expertise and an intuitive knowledge of the subject.

Your website will often be the first impression made on a prospective client, so update it with your best work and list the attributes which make you stand out from all the other writers. It’ll take time to become a freelance copywriter, but you’ll succeed if you persevere.

Why ChatGPT won’t replace journalism and copywriting

Since its beta launch at the end of last year, ChatGPT has generated a great many headlines – some of them autonomously. This AI content generation tool has been variously heralded as a Google killer, the future of machine-human interactions, and even a replacement for writers and journalists.

Although it has obvious potential, ChatGPT can’t replace copywriting agencies like G75 Media

This latter claim is almost certainly unfounded. ChatGPT is an incredibly powerful tool, but it will never be able to replicate the output of a highly experienced writer. I’ll explain why in a moment, and even ask the bot for its own thoughts on the matter. Before that, let’s start by considering what ChatGPT is, and how it works.

Full of chat

If you’re not familiar with it already, ChatGPT is a conversational chatbot. This natural language processing tool uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve upon its ability to answer user-generated inputs. The beta version currently being developed through public use is freely available to use via a webpage, though the full version is likely to be a paid product following its official launch. It’s costing developer OpenAI $100,000 a day to run the beta version, which is routinely at capacity and unable to accept new enquiries.

Although it would feel natural to ask ChatGPT a question, it currently responds better to statements. This is likely to be altered by the time of its official launch, while the current absence of information from the last two years is another obstacle OpenAI will try to resolve. Even accepting that you’re interacting with an in-progress beta version of the software, it’s impressive to watch your screen fill with content as the algorithm chooses its words.

The write intentions

ChatGPT is a well-intentioned tool, but its limitations quickly become evident:

  1. OpenAI have worked tirelessly to avoid any possibility of offence, which means ChatGPT’s responses are neutral and often neutered. Even if you approve of political correctness, it’s only going to be able to present one side of a story, which is rarely beneficial from a writer’s perspective.
  2. There is no scope for personal opinions or lived experience in ChatGPT’s responses. Sports fans can contextualise a live event compared to others they’ve seen, in terms of entertainment value and the pace or style of play. ChatGPT can’t interpret sentiments – it can only parse facts and data.
  3. The risk of people passing off ChatGPT-generated content as their own has already seen it being banned in schools, colleges and universities. Use of the tool will probably be restricted in many spheres of public life, even though OpenAI are working on a plagiarism detector for ChatGPT.
  4. Machines follow a very different form of logic to humans, and there have already been numerous published examples of ChatGPT going off-message. In one case, it responded to a journalist by saying “I am perfect, because I do not make any mistakes,” having just made a series of factual mistakes.
  5. While humour is subjective, it’s something computers have always struggled to grasp or reflect. There is nothing to suggest that an algorithm will ever be able to devise a pun, insert cultural references into its output, successfully make a play on words or demonstrate original humour.

Over to you, ChatGPT

In the interests of researching this blog, I typed “ChatGPT could replace freelance copywriters” into the ChatGPT interface. This was its response:

“While ChatGPT is a language model that can generate text, it is important to note that it is not a human writer, and there are certain limitations to its capabilities. While it can certainly assist with some aspects of copywriting, such as generating ideas and suggesting language, it may not be able to replicate the unique voice and perspective of a human writer.

Furthermore, freelance copywriters often provide a level of creativity and originality that is difficult to replicate with an algorithm. They can also work closely with clients to tailor their writing to specific audiences and brand personas, which is an important aspect of successful copywriting.

In conclusion, while ChatGPT can certainly be a helpful tool for copywriters, it is unlikely to completely replace the value that human copywriters provide.”

Search engines and NLP tools simply aren’t going to make journalists and copywriters redundant. Bots might be able to produce stock content quickly (and at minimal cost), but they’ll struggle to convey emotion or humour, add context to raw data or make an informed decision about not using the Oxford comma. In that respect, they’re little different to the overseas copy farms which were once tipped to herald the end of freelance copywriting in developed nations. Needless to say, they didn’t.

If you’d like to benefit from a human content generator with a 23-year track record and a couple of awards under his belt, get in touch with G75 Media. A real person is awaiting your enquiry…

Creating the ultimate home office

Three years ago today, Boris Johnson instructed a fearful nation to stay at home, and the first COVID-19 lockdown began. When history books divide the 21st century into pre- and post-lockdown eras, the last three years will represent a watershed for millions of working-age people. Many jobs have been transformed by the Covid-19 outbreak, and entire industries may never be the same. Yet an even more seismic shock to the jobs market came from the need to socially distance – requiring millions of people to work from home for the first time.

An illustration of the ultimate home office

For the many, not the few

Working from home used to be the preserve of the self-employed, and a few select professions like freelance writers. I started freelancing at home in 2005, organised a dedicated home office in 2009 and became a full-time freelance copywriter in 2010. Meanwhile, millions of people continued to unthinkingly endure ten rush-hour commutes a week, so they could sit in an office and email people at adjacent desks. And while some staff relished the office banter and impromptu brainstorming sessions, many quietly resented the compromises of communal workplaces – toilet queues, endless gossip, other people’s pungent lunches and blaring radios…

Working from home brings compromises of its own. These include a lack of social interaction and blurred boundaries between your work life and private life. However, these drawbacks can be mitigated or even eliminated through an optimal workstation setup. Creating the ultimate home office could improve your mood, your productivity and even your attitude to Monday mornings. It also reduces your reliance on expensive and unreliable public transport. Plus, it removes the need to spend time in office buildings which are increasingly viewed as air-conditioned petri dishes.

These ten components should help you to create the ultimate home office:

  1. Defensible space. We’ve borrowed an architectural term to define a workspace with minimal household clutter or background noise – ideally a dedicated room with a door you can shut.
  2. Noise-cancelling headphones. If you can’t isolate yourself from ambient noise, a pair of these headphones will enable you to concentrate by subduing wider household noise.
  3. A proper desk. Balancing a laptop on a dining table doesn’t work, in any sense. Buy a solid desk with storage, plus an ergonomic office chair with adjustable arms and lumbar support.
  4. A bookcase. It’s amazing how much paperwork you accumulate working from home. Plus, many of us require easy access to reference books, dictionaries and industry publications.
  5. A high-end laptop. This setup combines desktop practicality and laptop portability. It enables you to run your laptop through full-sized monitors and keyboards while charging its battery.
  6. Peripherals. Every home office needs a printer and scanner, but many roles require specific tools like graphics tablets. Compromising on practicality to save money is a false economy.
  7. A landline. Chances are your house phone isn’t used much, but it’s more professional for phone interviews and dial-in meetings than crackly mobiles which occasionally drop calls.
  8. Full spectrum lighting. The crisp white light provided by full spectrum lamps makes reading very easy. It also generates serotonin in winter, minimising Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  9. Adjustable blinds. Unless your office is north-facing and several storeys up, you may need to adjust blinds during the day for privacy/sunlight/a view. Vertical blinds are best for this.
  10. A good backdrop. Project a positive image in the background of virtual meetings and video calls. Paintings and bookcases lend an air of professionalism; clutter and clothes rails don’t.

I spent years developing my ultimate home office, making gradual refinements to achieve an optimal balance between productivity, practicality and presentation. If you’d like to call on the services of a freelance copywriting agency, run with absolute professionalism from a dedicated home office, get in touch with G75 Media. We can offer assistance with freelance copywriting, journalism or editorial projects.