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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org, with company details and a registered head office address at the bottom. The other is from email@example.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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You might not have heard of white label copywriting, but you’ve certainly encountered it. A staple of marketing and PR agencies around the world, it involves one person or company writing an article which another person or company then publishes as if they’d produced it themselves. White label copywriting is often required by firms who want to be credited for work they can’t create themselves, due to a lack of resources or difficulties getting their point across succinctly.
At G75 Media, we’ve long recognised the importance of white label copywriting. One of our first freelance contracts, secured back in 2009, involved producing a four-page newsletter for a national chain of opticians. We had to write each story as if it had been penned by the optometrists in local branches, and we clearly did a good job, because we’ve currently working on our 28th edition of the newsletter!
Whiter than white
Delivering successful white label copywriting requires a specific blend of attributes:
A flair for immersing yourself in a client’s ethos, enabling you to write with confidence about their products and services as if they were your own
An ability to adjust your natural writing style to dovetail with existing written materials, so audiences can’t tell your work from content written in-house by the client
A willingness to accept someone else might be credited with your work – even if it subsequently wins awards!
G75 Media’s founder Neil Cumins started his career as a marketing executive in the motor trade, and two of his white label copywriting projects for regional newspapers subsequently won awards which other people collected. G75 Media’s white label copywriting has itself won awards over the years, which we’re not allowed to publicise because the work was credited to our clients. White label copywriting isn’t suitable for people who want constant affirmation of their abilities, but it gives freelance writers willing to live in the shadows the opportunity to work on prestigious and high-profile projects.
If your business or brand could benefit from high-quality freelance copywriting, and you’d like your name to appear above articles and white papers (rather than the experts who wrote them), get in touch with G75 Media. Our acclaimed white label copywriting services are provided to clients around the world, and we’ve worked on behalf of companies as far afield as France, Israel and Australia. Today, G75 Media regularly handles content production and copywriting for companies in America and across the UK. We have the resources and experience to bring even a modest white label copywriting project to life.
It’s been exactly 15 years since G75 Media was founded – and it’s been quite a ride.
It’s easy to forget that even the largest businesses usually have humble beginnings. Today, we think of Morrisons as a vast supermarket empire, but it started out back in 1899 as an egg and butter stall in Bradford – a town arguably more famous as the birthplace of G75 Media’s founder, Neil Cumins. It’s tempting to assume Microsoft has always been a software leviathan, but Bill Gates and Paul Allen initially worked out of an Albuquerque garage. Coincidentally, G75 Media was also founded in a garage – a garage conversion, to be specific, in a suburb of East Kilbride whose postcode gave the business its name. We’ve since moved to a fine Georgian building in the heart of Glasgow, but our original home is in the photo above.
Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest our modest copywriting agency has much in common with Morrisons or Microsoft. Even so, with 60 per cent of British businesses failing within three years of startup, we’re delighted that we are celebrating our 15th anniversary today. Launching a new company just a few weeks after the Northern Rock debacle wasn’t ideal timing, and neither was attempting to specialise in property journalism just as the housing market went into a steep decline.
Green shoots swiftly trampled
When we made it to 2010, and the much-discussed green shoots of economic recovery were spotted alongside a new coalition Government, we thought the turbulent times were finally behind us. Then came the Scottish independence referendum, from which the country has yet to recover. Then came the unnecessary chaos of Brexit. Then there was a global pandemic that led to incalculably damaging restrictions on our freedom, the horrifying return of war in Europe, endless political upheaval…
Through it all, G75 Media has calmly ploughed a furrow of linguistic excellence. Today, we’ve become a well-established media brand, serving a dozen clients on both sides of the Atlantic. We switch from UK to US English without even thinking, adopting American terminology and cultural references before switching back to the King’s English for our housebuilder, optometry and magazine clients. At a conservative estimate, Neil has written over ten thousand articles in his career to date. You can view a few examples on G75 Media’s Portfolio page.
Discretion where it matters
While a few copywriters regard themselves as fledgling celebrities, and a few media agencies take themselves far too seriously, G75 Media has never been obsessed with statistics or social media likes. Much of our work is printed in magazines rather than published online. We’re routinely tasked with white label copywriting, where someone else’s byline appears beside our lovingly crafted copy. We take far more pride in submitting high-quality copywriting than we do in being recognised for it, though two national awards reflect the consistently high calibre of our content production and copywriting services. And if you ever decide to Google G75 Media, you’ll see a brand with solidly five-star reviews.
Unlike many of our contemporaries, we’ve survived and thrived over the last 15 years. It’d be foolish to predict what the next decade-and-a-half will bring after so much economic, political and social turbulence. Come what may, we’ll continue to deliver premium copywriting to discerning clients, ahead of schedule and above expectations. If your brand or business could benefit from our award-winning copywriting services, you know what to do…
If you’ve found this article through social media or a search engine, you probably want to know how to become a freelance writer. You’re not alone. A seismic event like this year’s lockdown is bound to make people question their life choices, especially since many employees will have discovered the productivity gains and stress reduction which come from working at home.
It’s entirely understandable that many working-age adults will currently be considering a career change, either through necessity or choice. And it’s equally logical that writing will figure highly on the list of alternative career paths. Writing is enjoyable, requires little in the way of specialist equipment or training, and dovetails with the modern need for flexibility. If you’ve always wanted to become a freelance writer, what better time could there be than now?
The write intentions
The sad truth is that copywriting and content production is
a ruthlessly cut-throat industry. It always has been, and the recent influx of
new entrants (bringing varying degrees of experience and professionalism) has
made it even harder for genuinely talented writers to elevate themselves above
the hordes. With this in mind, I’ve taken an in-depth look at the
practicalities and challenges you’ll face if you want to become a freelance
writer. I’ve added ten important tips to take away, alongside a few case
studies from my own career.
Let me be clear at the outset – I’m not trying to scare anyone off a potentially transformative career change. There’s a lot to love about writing, but work won’t fall into your lap. You might think you’ve got the enthusiasm to carve a niche talking about parenting, but you’d be competing with my wife and our next-door neighbour, who both have very unusual stories to tell. Maybe you’d like to be the next Jeremy Clarkson, but you’d be staggered by how many people apply for any job involving four wheels. A recent LinkedIn advert for a freelance writing gig received 268 applications after 48 hours, and that’s not exceptional these days. A freelance content writing job on a popular recruitment site attracted 439 applications within a fortnight, meaning 438 people were ultimately left to look elsewhere.
A positive spin
Let’s begin with some good news. What are the main upsides if you decide to become a freelance writer?
Getting paid for doing something you enjoy. Imagine booting up your computer every morning with enthusiasm, rather than despondency. And imagine seeing money arriving in your bank account in exchange for doing work you enjoy, rather than something you resent or dislike. Work to live, or live to work?
Make your career work around you. If you’re a night owl, you can work through the small hours and sleep in the next day. If you love being sociable, you can seek the company of fellow creatives in coffee shops and shared workspaces whenever they’re allowed to reopen. Writing about topics you’re interested in or passionate about also plays to your strengths.
Freedom. Freedom comes in many forms – the freedom to move outside a city and live in a farmhouse, or the freedom to use a MacBook where an employer might insist on Windows. You’re also free from office politics, the frustrations of commuting on public transport, and having to watch junior colleagues get promoted ahead of you.
This final point leads into the first main challenge anyone who wants to become a freelance writer faces – the high standards of your competitors. You’re not just up against me. You’re up against companies with entire teams of creatives in their employ. You’re up against media agencies, who can write dazzling copy but also construct websites and record radio ads. And you’re up against hardened journalists, who are increasingly being cast aside as print media continues its dispiriting death spiral. If you think you can wing your way to success just because you own a bookshelf full of paperbacks and love drinking coffee, please stop reading.
When I started freelancing in 2005, I was using a Yahoo email address and working from a dressing table in my living room. That was fine back then, but today, higher standards are required to stand out from the crowd. I’ve since launched a mobile-optimised WordPress website with a proprietary email account, but I also have a backup Gmail address for clients who prefer to communicate through G Suite (some do, most don’t). I’ve cultivated social media profiles, which are often necessary simply to get past the first stage of many application processes. And I have a portfolio of work available to view online. My website is updated regularly for SEO purposes, and if you don’t know what SEO means, it really is time to stop reading.
Play to your strengths
Once you’ve established a respectable online presence, the
next challenge awaiting anyone who wants to become a freelance writer is finding
specialisms which play to your strengths. If you’ve never written in
American English or taken a Transatlantic flight, don’t even try to bluff your
way through blogging for Stateside audiences, where every tenth UK English noun
has an American variant. Similarly, if your knowledge of football doesn’t allow
you to demonstrate second phase offside laws using sauce bottles on a café
table, you won’t be published by When Saturday Comes any time soon.
(If you’d like to see the standard of journalism required to
write for WSC, there’s an example on the Portfolio page of this website. If you
haven’t already checked it out, take a look when you finish this article.)
In every niche you can think of, there will be retired
journalists, redundant marketing executives and former industry insiders
competing for work. And while that doesn’t mean your hopes of freelance work
stand at zero, it means you’ll need to be passionate and knowledgeable about
any industry or niche you’re hoping to write about. Experts recognise a bluffer
when they see one.
Pro tip #1: Build a portfolio
Developing a portfolio is essential for being taken
seriously by recruiters, with most job ads asking for weblinks to three
published examples in the specific sector/s you’re applying to work for.
However, this is a chicken-and-egg situation – how do you build a portfolio
The best way is to either reference work you’ve had
published earlier in your career, or – and bear with me here – do some unpaid
writing to build a catalogue of online content. I’m not suggesting you apply
for one of those loathsome unpaid internships which callous employers use to
get free labour from desperate graduates. However, you could do worse than
reach out to websites in regular need of content and offer them a freebie. Once
your name is in print, it becomes much easier to secure more work, especially
if your output impresses the editorial team.
Pro tip #2: Never do unpaid work as part of a recruitment process
While unpaid work offers some merit in terms of getting your name out there, it’s ruthlessly exploited. Some uncharitable recruiters are now demanding unpaid trial articles as part of their application process. I recently saw a job advert which required applicants to write three bespoke articles, three Facebook posts and six tweets, just to be considered for an unremarkable-sounding freelance copywriting vacancy. This is known in industry parlance as taking the piss, and should not be indulged in any way – especially since there’s nothing to stop the recruiter uploading a pretend job vacancy simply to harvest a stockpile of free content.
A high percentage of G75 Media’s workload comes from clients
I’ve dealt with in a previous capacity, such as account managers who’ve taken
new jobs, or third parties who’ve reached out to me because they’ve seen my
work in passing and liked it enough to remember me later. I make a point of
being a single point of contact, from brief allocation to proofreading and
accounting. That dependability (allied to being available at least 48 weeks of
the year) sticks in the minds of stressed commissioning editors, who are sick
of less diligent creatives letting them down and leaving holes all over their page
Pro tip #3: Write in your natural voice
Was that last sentence too long? Nobody wants you to become
a freelance writer obsessed by achieving perfect scores in Grammarly, or someone
who sneers at the use of the Oxford comma. I’m not representing a specific
client in this article, where a predetermined house writing style might need to
be followed. Many recruiters like to hear a natural tone of voice in a
candidate’s work, even though successful applicants would obviously have to adjust
their writing style to meet that client’s requirements. A former boss of mine
hated the use of the % symbol, while another was pathological about sentences
starting with words like ‘and’. A good writer can easily work around these idiosyncrasies,
and nobody will expect you to replicate their preferred TOV before you’ve even started
working with them.
Having said that…
Pro tip #4: Spell-check and proofread everything you write
A contributor to a national newspaper recently tweeted a
request for article suggestions. Unfortunately, she didn’t bother to re-read the
tweet before posting it. The result? A request that people “make is a succinct
pith”. Any self-respecting employer or editor who found two typos in a
five-word sentence from a potential employee would dismiss them immediately. It’s
easy to overlook amateurishness, whereas professionalism tends to linger in the
Back in the late Noughties, I freelanced for one of the many content production agencies in London. Because my work was always delivered ahead of schedule and to a high standard, one of the commissioning editors remembered me years later, when she’d moved up in the world. I’m now a regular contributor to one of the UK’s leading engineering publications, even though the articles I send her today are worlds apart from the mass-produced content I used to supply in our agency days.
Pro tip #5: Record all your victories
Whenever you get something published, add a hyperlink to a
Word or Google Docs file, with a one-sentence summary of what the article’s
about. If you’re covering multiple industries, it’s also beneficial to note the
sectors each link relates to. When you’re looking for work, you can instantly
find examples of published online content to cite and include in your
If you don’t have any demonstrable experience in the
specific areas the employer is asking for, don’t waste your time (or theirs) by
applying anyway. They’ll have dozens of high-quality writers getting in touch,
and they’ll have no interest in someone with no expertise “but a lot of
enthusiasm” or someone who’s “keen to learn”. Such clichéd platitudes cut little
ice in today’s ferociously competitive freelance marketplace.
Pro tip #6: Establish yourself in directories
A better way to showcase your availability is to create
profiles on media directories and bulletin boards. Many of these are still
free, though an increasing number charge either a monthly or annual membership
fee. In the style of service provider platforms like Rated People, some are
free to sign up to but charge you for every position you apply for. It can cost
up to £10 just to make a proposal to a client looking for copywriting work.
While most free listings give you a chance to create an
external link back to your website (with attendant SEO benefits), I would
strongly advise against spending money through pay-to-bid platforms. They’re fine
for tradespeople, where only three professionals in the client’s local area are
allowed to respond. On an international copywriting site with no limit on how
many people can bid on the same job, they’re basically exploiting people’s
desperation. Some don’t even indicate whether you’re the first or the tenth person
to get in touch, while I was once quoted a fee of £10.20 to bid on a
vaguely-worded editorial project of “up to £120” in value. You’d make more
profit buying scratchcards.
Penny wise, pound foolish
The thorny topic of paying for the chance to become a
freelance writer brings us onto the main reason you’ve probably read this far.
If you’re planning a career change, you’re not going to be writing for
philanthropy or out of sheer passion. You want to earn enough to enjoy a
comfortable standard of living. And yes, there are clients out there willing
to pay generously. But they’re usually looking for many years of
industry-specific expertise, and writing a 1,000-word article at ten pence per
word once every two months is not going to pay your mortgage. It’d barely cover
your broadband bill.
Pro tip #7: Be flexible about income
When I first started freelancing, I put a very ambitious
per-word fee on my website. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get any work. It took a
while to realise I couldn’t apply the same expectations to a 500-word listicle
about interior design trends as I could to an in-depth review of CNC machines. Today,
some of my clients pay three times more than others, but that’s fine because
the lower-paid content is far easier to produce. You’ll naturally evolve a sliding
scale of costs (per word, per hour, per project) based on how long assignments
take and how straightforward you find them.
There’s a spectrum of payment rates across copywriting and
journalism, but most entry-level work tends to be at the disappointing end. Two
or three cents per word will regularly be quoted by clients and agencies whose
desire for quantity outweighs their desire for quality. Negotiating with a
client you’ve never worked with before is unlikely to endear you to them,
though you might be able to up your per-word price once you’ve proven yourself
to be dependable and original. Originality is critically important in the age
of Copyscape plagiarism checkers, and any attempt to repurpose existing
content will be spotted and censured.
Pro tip #8 Build a blog
If you’re unable to get work because you’re unable to get
work published, a personal blog gives you a way to become a freelance writer under
your own steam. More importantly, it gives you something to post in the
Portfolio section of a job advert.
I had a fairly lean year in 2013, and I spent the year blogging about whatever took my fancy. I then referenced specific blog articles in relevant job applications, until I was able to replace them with more heavyweight content. Although these blogs were personal rather than corporate in nature, they accurately represented my tone of voice and writing style.
Pro tip #9 Set yourself up with all the hardware you’ll need
My blog was rather over-engineered – written on a custom-built PC using the latest versions of Office and Windows. I didn’t need an HD webcam or a combined printer and scanner to produce foresighted articles about poor grammar, working from home and self-repairing lampposts. However, when I started attending Zoom meetings with clients (long before Boris tried to make it fashionable), having high-speed broadband and Bose speakers made the process much easier.
It’s very embarrassing to have to tell a prospective client
you can’t sign and scan the Non-Disclosure Agreement they’ve just emailed you
because you don’t have a scanner. Similarly, being unable to provide a landline
number becomes an issue if your mobile phone is faulty or needs replacing, your
network experiences issues, or your signal strength fluctuates.
Decisions about whether or not to invest in dedicated workstations and full spectrum lighting speak volumes about whether you really do want to become a freelance writer. Professionalism is easy to identify, just as amateurishness tends to betray itself in the unmodified ‘Sent from my mobile’ signatures on webmail accounts, and the typos which slip through the net without a proper spell-check. I’m not suggesting you need to invest in thousands of pounds worth of technology to make it in this industry, but at the minimum, you’ll need:
A laptop you can take to meetings, events and presentations, once they resume (as they inevitably will)
A large monitor and full-size keyboard at home, connected to a docking station
A printer and scanner – it’s surprising how often you need to sign things, even in 2020
High-speed wired internet connectivity, which is crucial for uploading media files and accessing cloud-sharing platforms like Dropbox.
So can I become a freelance writer?
The short answer is yes. But you’ll need to commit to it for
many years to really get anywhere. I started freelancing in 2005, went
full-time freelance in 2010 and won a national freelancing award shortly
afterwards (for a client I still work with today), but it was 2012 before my
career as a freelancer really took off. Copywriting and journalism are
industries where – and I hate typing these words as much as you’ll hate reading
them – the cream really does rise to the top.
You won’t get anywhere if you approach freelance writing as either:
(a) A short-term fix, while you plan for bigger and better things
(b) An evenings-and-weekends way of supplementing your day job
Or, worst of all:
(c) Something you try for a few months until the rejections get too much.
It’s no exaggeration to say I have had thousands of rejections
over the last fifteen years. I once sent 300 personalised letters to marketing
and PR agencies, offering my services for holiday cover and overflow work. It
cost well over £100, back in the days when that would get you a night in a
five-star hotel, and took countless hours of letter editing, mail merging and
Acknowledgements: 0. Work: 0.
It turned out that the world didn’t want or need yet
another writer. And this was a decade ago. If you tried a similar exercise
today, the postman would probably return your envelopes out of pity.
So if you’ve read this far and you still want to become a freelance writer, you know where to start. Set up a dedicated working environment, build a portfolio, register on directories, quality-check everything you put your name to, and…
Pro tip #10 Remember it’ll be years before your labours bear fruit
As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. You’re
welcome to join me in this uniquely exciting industry, and the very best of
luck to you.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t finish this article with what marketing professionals refer to as the CTA – the call to arms. If you’re looking to recruit rather than be recruited, and you like what you’ve just read, I am available for copywriting jobs, freelance journalism and all forms of print and online content production. Get in touch if you’d like to receive a competitive quote for copywriting services. A typo-free reply will arrive in your inbox shortly.
It’s May 2000. A fresh-faced young graduate by the name of
Neil Cumins is starting a marketing job in the motor trade, writing press
releases and producing a customer magazine. Among the key features being
promoted by manufacturers at the time are a four-speed automatic gearbox
(Chrysler PT Cruiser), twin airbags (Suzuki Jimny) and electric windows
(Vauxhall Astra Coupe). Radio-cassette players were still being fitted in every
new BMW 3-Series, and the entry-level Citroën Saxo model didn’t even have power
Fast-forward to May 2020, and even buyers of affordable
family cars increasingly take for granted features which would have astonished
any freelance motoring journalist two decades ago. Scotland’s current Car of
the Year, the Mazda 3, has a head-up display which projects satellite
navigation instructions onto its windscreen, while the Ford Fiesta can reverse
itself into parallel parking bays only 20 per cent longer than the car itself.
Increasing levels of automation enable cars to keep themselves in lane on the
motorway, with radar-guided cruise control maintaining a steady gap to the
vehicle in front. We may not have fully autonomous vehicles just yet, but the
prospect feels increasingly close.
The car’s the star
Keeping up with such rapid progress would be a challenge for
any freelance motoring journalist, but it’s a challenge which your humble
correspondent has embraced. A 40-year archive of motoring publications and
manufacturer brochures fills a six-foot bookcase in the G75 Media office, augmenting
an encyclopaedic knowledge of model specifications and technical attributes. As
such, every piece of freelance motoring journalism produced by G75 Media is
thoroughly fact-checked for accuracy before it’s filed (ahead of deadline,
Twenty years spent proofreading sales materials and
marketing copy (mostly as a freelance motoring journalist) means there’s no risk
of any confusion between ABS and EBA, or selectable four-wheel drive being
described as permanent. And because G75 Media currently works for motor trade
clients on both sides of the Atlantic, we’re equally comfortable talking about PS
or HP, hoods or bonnets, NHTSA or Euro NCAP.
Driving up standards
Of course, quality freelance motoring journalism isn’t just about knowing the difference between pushrods and overhead camshafts, or understanding why carbon ceramic discs provide fade-free braking power. A successful freelance motoring journalist needs an instinctive ability to judge a car’s effectiveness and quality – something which can only be achieved with hands-on testing. That’s why the review of the Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain on the Portfoliopage of this site highlights the impracticality of thick carpet in the boot of a vehicle designed to tackle rutted fields. It’s also why ride quality is a high priority in any road test review – because who wants to be jiggled around over motorway expansion joints or scarred urban tarmac?
If you need freelance motoring journalism services, or require a freelance motoring journalist to produce copy for your brand, give G75 Media a call or send us an email here. We’ll be happy to assist with any motor trade editorial brief, and provide a competitive quote for motoring journalism in the UK or overseas.
We are living in historic times. The Coronavirus pandemic
has led to the suspension of public life in ways unseen in British history, including
restrictions which prevent businesses up and down the land from trading.
However, even companies unable to trade are still able to advertise and market themselves
online. And promoting your business during the lockdown is particularly
important given the unprecedented number of people trapped at home with unlimited
internet access, and plenty of free time to surf and browse.
3 – 3 – 0 – 6 – 3 – 3
At some point in the near future, the current state of lockdown will be partially lifted. And very quickly, people will start trying to catch up on everything they’ve missed. As a result, there is likely to be a dramatic upsurge in demand for products and services, as all the things we’ve postponed start happening alongside all the things which would have been occurring at that time anyway. Temporary restrictions on movement and trading haven’t stopped people needing to replace faulty appliances, or negotiate a new mortgage, or choose a new car. A massive backlog is growing across numerous industries, and the months after lockdown are going to be much busier than the months before it in many industries.
This simple fact gives forward-thinking companies an
opportunity. By promoting your business during the lockdown, you can position your
products, services or brands in consumer minds. You can become a go-to firm
when the nation starts tackling everything that’s been neglected and put off. Forward-thinking
companies can also extol the virtues of services which are desirable rather
than essential – the holidays, the clothing, the spa trips. Because what else
is there to do today other than plan how we’ll spend tomorrow? And if finances are
tight – as they will be for millions of UK households – brands with compelling
sales pitches will be optimally placed to attract available cash.
Search and destroy the competition
The benefits of promoting your business during the lockdown
are particularly compelling when you consider search engines. We’re all
spending more time online than ever, with Google and Bing acting as gatekeepers
to the internet. Positioning your brand towards the top of search results is
more important at a time of unprecedented internet traffic than it’s ever been.
And the benefits of search engine optimisation tend to last for years.
Informative original content won’t just benefit your brand today – it’ll remain
a valuable resource which attracts enquiries and custom for years to come.
As a freelance copywriting agency, G75 Media is used to
working remotely on behalf of clients. For the last 13 years, we’ve exchanged
contracts via email and uploaded content to WordPress. We hold Zoom meetings
with opticians in Hampshire, write new car reviews for American consumer
websites, and use Trello to manage blog schedules for Ofcom-approved comparison
platforms. We can handle content production and copywriting for business of all
sizes, from start-ups seeking to establish an online presence through to
household-name brands wanting to bolster their market share. And by promoting
your business during the lockdown, we’ll ensure it emerges from this
frightening and unprecedented period with an optimal online presence.
Don’t put off til tomorrow what you should be doing today. This is the perfect time to boost your SEO, refresh your online presence and assemble a stockpile of content in readiness for normality returning. The latter is especially pertinent, as marketing and PR might be a low priority while trying to rebuild your customer base and dealing with a backlog of orders. Get in touch with G75 Media to discuss how we can help with promoting your business during the lockdown.
At the time of writing, the UK is experiencing the unwelcome advance of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. Sporting events are being suspended, festivals are being cancelled, and commuters are nervously applying hand sanitiser while sweating underneath stifling face masks. We’re being encouraged to avoid large public gatherings and refrain from unnecessary travel, while consumers panic-buy toilet roll and shysters try to sell us 49p bottles of antibacterial gel on eBay for £25.
At this stage, it’s impossible to know how far COVID-19 will
spread, or how serious its repercussions will be. However, the latest
Government advice is to work from home if possible. And that has raised a wider
debate about why millions of people struggle through chaotic rush-hours to
reach an inconvenient place for an arbitrary time, to sit at a desk and email
people sitting six feet away. Accountancy firm KPMG is running a trial where
many of its staff work from home on Fridays, to see whether productivity is
affected. In fact, there’s a good chance productivity will increase, since
people will be committed to making the trial a success. Plus, they’ll feel more
energetic and less fatigued without an early-morning commute…
No place like home
It’s a shame that it’s taken the Coronavirus outbreak to make
employers question the necessity of making staff sit in an office all day. The
benefits of home working certainly aren’t lost on me. Exactly ten years ago, I quit
the safety of a full-time job as a property journalist to become a full-time
freelance writer, running my fledgling copywriting agency from a spare bedroom in
East Kilbride. That didn’t just mean surrendering a guaranteed salary, a
pension scheme and a chance to chat about last night’s episode of Homeland
while the kettle boiled. It also meant giving up an expensive and frustratingly
slow commute into a draughty and noisy office in an industrial estate, and then
repeating the process in reverse when I was tired and it was getting dark. And
although the ability to dramatically reduce my exposure to airborne pathogens wasn’t
a key factor behind establishing G75 Media, avoiding other people’s germs is
one of many advantages to working from home.
Of course, some professions lend themselves to home working
better than others, and not everyone has the flexibility a freelance writer
enjoys. Doctors can’t squirrel themselves away in their spare rooms, though
they could potentially make greater use of video calls. Taxi drivers still have
to collect passengers, albeit with their windows open and a box of tissues handy.
And nobody expects police officers or firefighters to log on remotely. Yet
millions of people could base themselves at home for at least part of the
working week, from call centre staff to architects. And if they did, they might
discover the following benefits:
More time. How many hours would you save by not having to endure ten rush-hour journeys every week? You could spend some of this extra time doing additional work, some of it taking proper breaks from your desk, and the rest enjoying quality time with family and friends.
Less distractions. Office camaraderie can be enjoyable, but small talk and blaring radios become a distraction if you’ve got a deadline to meet. Large offices can be antithetical to productivity, with constant interruptions and background noise. Being based at home may provide greater freedom to concentrate – helping you to be more productive and efficient.
Greater flexibility. The concept of working from 9am to 5pm with a one-hour lunch break seems archaic in today’s 24-7 global culture, yet this 19th century hangover persists through sheer inertia. Many people work better at other times of day, don’t want a full hour for lunch, or would benefit from more flexible working hours due to family commitments.
Better breaks. Isn’t it annoying when you have to wait ten minutes to use the solitary microwave because someone’s cooking a baked potato? At home, you can eat and drink whatever you want, whenever you want. No more stolen milk, no more fixed break times, and no more offending everyone around you as you unwrap an egg mayo baguette.
Same. But different.
Many people are surprised to discover how much of their
working week relies on technology, rather than proximity. We’ve all emailed colleagues
sitting within a few metres of us, driven to meetings which would have been equally
productive as a Skype call, and printed off emails to hand out when simply forwarding
the email would have saved paper and ink. Collaborative workplace tools like
Slack and Trello make project management easier than the traditional
whiteboard-and-weekly-meeting approach, and email remains the finest method of
data distribution ever invented.
As a freelance writer, I am typing this blog on a laptop at
home, which I could relocate anywhere with a decent WiFi connection. According
to Google Analytics, you are probably reading it on a portable device – another
laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. And while any of us could potentially
contract an airborne virus like COVID-19, my ability to avoid public transport while
picking and choosing when I leave the house should reduce my risk of (a) being
infected and (b) unwittingly infecting other people.
If you’re an employer reading this, it’s worth considering the
extent to which you could permit staff to work from home. If you’re an
employee, consider what (if any) parts of your job may be achievable while
being based at home, and suggest it to your line manager. And if you want to
enjoy the benefits of high-quality content production by an award-winning
freelance writer, from blogs and listicles through to opinion pieces like this
one, drop me an email or give me a call. You don’t need to arrange a
face-to-face meeting to benefit from G75 Media’s copywriting and content
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