How do you choose a freelance copywriter?



How do you choose a freelance copywriter or a content agency?

It’s a tricky choice to make. But here are a few things to consider – in no particular order…

1: Personality

Do you like the copywriter, or the managers at the content agency? Will you enjoy working with them?

Personality and likeability are important factors because you’ll need to get along, especially if your project is challenging (i.e. with a tight deadline).

2: Skill

Does the writer have the skills to write great copy for your business? If you’re using a content agency, be aware that the account manager may not do the writing. Your contact might be an expert but is the writer equally qualified?

3: Experience

Direct experience of your industry isn’t always essential – and in some cases a fresh perspective can be invaluable – but sometimes you want to know that your copywriter ‘gets’ your business immediately, without you having to bring them up to speed.

Check out their portfolio and ask whether they have any relevant experience.

4: Price

It’s a terrible idea to base your choice entirely on cost, but you may have a fixed budget and need to rein in costs. It’s best to be open about your budget so you don’t waste time talking to someone you can’t afford.

5: Availability

The best copywriters are usually the busiest. So if you have an urgent project and just can’t wait, you may have to settle for a second-tier copywriter.

6: Longevity

How long has the copywriter been in business? If a copywriter has been in business for a few years it’s safer to assume that they’ll still be in business when you need them next.

7: Your needs

Some copywriters have minimum project sizes (e.g. £1000) or are only looking for ongoing client relationships. Make sure the copywriter you pick is going to be happy doing the work you need.

8: Approach

How does the copywriter tackle projects? Do they work remotely – or will they come to you? How will they get to know your organisation? How will they deliver content? How do they manage amendments? Does their approach fit with your organisation?

9: Location

Do you need a copywriter who can travel to your office? While the majority of content projects can be adequately completed remotely, there are occasions where face-to-face meetings and workshops are invaluable. Check your copywriter’s location – and whether they’re happy to travel.

Are you looking for a freelance copywriter? Get in touch to discuss your project and how we might help >>

Your ideal customer is looking for you. Will they find you?

Google Classic: Please Allow 30 Days for your Search Results (Original artist unknown) #Google

Marketing is often a process of badgering people to take an interest in stuff they don’t want to solve problems they don’t have with products they can’t afford.

Advertisers cast wide nets and end up catching all the wrong consumers. But they persist because they catch enough of the right consumers to make their methods worthwhile. And who cares about all the bycatch? It’s just collateral damage.

To my mind, inbound web marketing offers an altogether more satisfying connection between producer and consumer, a connection that’s instigated and directed by the party in need.

Web marketing flips the flow – so customers seek suppliers. And that’s an incredibly powerful difference, because…

When customers come to you, they are ready to buy

With inbound marketing, customers come to you.

Customers identify their own need and determine their preferred solution.

They search for products and services to meet their needs. They single you out as a potential supplier. They make contact. They have some questions, but because they’re already clear on their problem they have a clear sense of what they need.

And because they’ve done some searching, they know what you offer. They know how you work. Heck, they even read that blog post you wrote last week, so they have taken the time to reinforce their motivations for choosing you.

And because they came looking for you (and found your up-to-date website complete with case studies, team bios, a physical address and informative blog posts) they don’t have any doubts about your credentials or your ability to fulfil their order.

The inbound lead is ready to buy. You have less work to do – less effort to persuade them to buy. Instead of dragging a prospect reluctantly through a sale you can casually guide them to the destination that they selected.

The inbound lead has identified themselves as your ideal client – because they think you’re the ideal supplier.

The inbound lead has an immediate need for your business, and they have decided to spend money now with a business like yours.

Is your ideal customer landing at the feet of your competitor?

Customers with an immediate need for your products and services – who have a budget to spend – are looking for you.

All you need to do is make sure that your business is findable.

If your business is not findable – if your competitors are more prominent – then these promising prospects will head directly for your competitors.

Catch the perfect customer

If you’re interested in being found by your ideal customer, I may be able to help. Send me an email or give me a call.

Why front-loading is important when writing online

Your website is probably taking too long to make the points that matter.

Writing for the web should feel as urgent as trying to de-fuse a bomb.

If you can’t get your point across quickly, the reader is going to explode. Or just stop reading.

People scan websites. Eyes flit across the page looking for something that meets their needs. People skim.

They don’t kick back in their arm chairs, light a pipe and soak up your prose.

Eye-tracking research suggests that people typically scan in a vaguely F-shaped pattern (as depicted in my crude illustration below).


Front-loading means putting the important details, special information and keywords at the front of sentences, headings, paragraphs, links, list items and calls-to-action.

Put your key details at the front and your readers are more likely to discover the key messages – and less likely to get bored.

Let’s consider a few lines that are NOT front-loaded:

  • Enter our competition and win a new iPad
  • Learn how to train your dragon
  • Download documents to help you sell more cattle
  • Discover how to deal with difficult relationships

I’ve highlighted the key words in each line – these are the words that are likely to cause our reader to respond.

Clearly, it makes no sense to hide the trigger words at the end of a sentence, especially when most readers scan pages in an F-pattern.

Here are those same sentences front-loaded:

  • Win an iPad by entering our competition
  • Dragon training – we show you how
  • Sell cattle with our advice
  • Difficult relationships and how to deal with them

By moving the key words and most pertinent details to the front of a sentence, link or list item you can improve the odds of your reader seeing them.

By front-loading your copy you don’t just improve your chances of success, you improve the user’s experience by helping them find what they’re looking for.

Why I won’t be your grammar pendant*

The Egregious Sin of the Erroneous Apostrophe

Among copywriters you will find plenty of grammar pedants. It’s not surprising that people who work with words take pride in knowing the rules of language.

So you might think that I, as a professional copywriter, would be a total grammar nerd.

But I’m not.

Grammar is important, certainly, but grammar ≠ copywriting.

Copywriters must understand grammar, but it’s important to remember that copywriting is about more than writing correct English.

Copywriting is about writing compelling, interesting, clear, commanding, intriguing sentences that help organisations achieve goals.

Here’s why I prioritise effective copy over grammar:

Copywriting is about selling

Copy is there to sell, persuade, inform and entertain. Your copywriter should use words to help you achieve these goals. Clarity and correct spelling are important, but your copywriter should focus on creating an impact, getting attention, persuading an audience and inciting action.

Language can flex

The English language is an incredible beast, evolving so quickly that our dictionaries struggle to keep up. Copywriters make use of this space between canonical English and current usage – particularly in the more conceptual world of advertising. Slavish commitment to grammar can kill inspiration and leave you with dull, limp copy.

This ain’t your old-school English

Your English teacher might not approve of today’s copy. They may object to sentence fragments, split infinitives, beginning sentences with conjunctions (and, but), ending them with prepositions (about, with, by, in, on) – but these are all rules that copywriters like to break. By breaking these rules copywriters can create active, direct copy that makes a powerful connection with your audience.

Accuracy is still important

Correct grammar and spelling are still vital in all your business communications. Spelling mistakes, typos and mangled sentences can damage your organisations’ reputation. So check and double-check everything your business publishes. Your copywriter should understand grammar and they should be a stickler for the details. If your business is selling anything remotely valuable, or critical, or sensitive, then it’s doubly important that your copy is well written.

But don’t let an obsession with grammar get in the way of great copy.

*deliberate mistake

A tale of two taglines

Slogans are tricky little buggers.

It’s hardly surprising that slogans are tricky to write (and get right) because we expect so much from just a few short words. Slogans may need to sum up a brand, capture the essence of a product, or suggest a transformative experience.

So what makes a good tagline in practice? In this post I look at two slogans in action and consider what they do well and how they fail.

Exhibit A: 

2015-09-08 09.37.24 (3)


This tagline, spotted on a van, is rather mysterious: “The Total Coffee Solution”.

Unless you’re familiar with UCC Coffee, this copy doesn’t tell you exactly what the business offers. And I think that’s a missed opportunity. The tagline could have conveyed some details of the products and services offered – or a sense of the quality of those offerings. The tagline is certainly confident and authoritative, but it seems to assume the reader already knows a lot about UCC.

And we have yet another example of the word ‘solution’ used to mean just about everything (but telling us nothing). This may be a deliberate play on words because, of course, coffee is literally a solution. But I doubt it.

This company has clearly invested in their branding, but I think they’ve missed an opportunity to communicate something tangible about their business. Sure, we know they do coffee, but what kind of coffee, for what kinds of business? Do they sell beans or machines? Do they sell to cafes or corporations? What’s important to them – and what do their customers love about them?

Exhibit B:

2015-09-08 09.38.23 (2)

This sign is simple and fairly crude. And it doesn’t even include a traditional slogan – just a bald statement of facts.

But it does a good job of conveying a clear message: they offer driving lessons for young people.

The sign makes a clear offer to a well-defined audience. If you’re in the market for driving lessons then you know this might be right for you. You can look at this sign and decide if it’s relevant within 3 seconds.

The author of this sign didn’t spend hours thinking up something witty or evocative. They just wanted to communicate a message.

The verdict

High-quality branding does not guarantee results, especially if nobody can work out what you do. Your evocative or conceptual tagline might give your CEO chills but does it mean anything to the public?

Maybe you don’t care whether your identity makes sense to the uninitiated, but I think you’re wrong.

There are occasions when it’s arguably okay to be more conceptual and evocative. If you’re creating a stand for a trade show, or putting ads in specialist publications, it’s reasonable to assume that your audience already knows something about your services.

But even then you should err on the side of communication, because not everyone is an expert. Remember the grads, the newbies and the passers-by – people who aren’t yet proficient in your industry jargon but who might be future advocates for your business. You can either sell to a broad audience or you can leave these people behind.

Put a price on their head: what’s the value of your next customer?

Project 366 #239: 260812 Stay On Target!

How much are your customers worth? How much does an average customer spend with your business? What’s the average lifetime sales of a customer?

Without knowing the answers to these questions (it’s basically the same question re-worded) you can’t evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing. You might also struggle to decide how much to spend on marketing.

However, if you know that the average lifetime value of a customer (CLV, LV or LTV) is £1,650, you can plainly see that it’s worth spending £500 on marketing each month in order to bring in new customers.

Much of the work I do is about bringing more customers to your door. So let’s put a price on their head. Let’s figure out what each customer is worth so we can decide if it’s worth devoting more – or less – time to content marketing.

In a future blog post I’ll look at ways to calculate the lifetime value of your customers.

Why defining the brief should be your first copywriting milestone

Solid Foundation

Where does a copywriting project start? What comes first? A test page? Tone of voice? Key messages? Brand guidelines? Keywords?

When a client comes to me, particularly if they’re a new client, I usually insist that we build the brief first.

My clients are often in a hurry. Many clients arrive after struggling to produce their own copy. They’re usually close to their deadline and eager to start NOW. And while my accommodating nature inclines me to acquiesce, I’ve been a copywriter for long enough to know that it pays to slow down and build the foundation. Instead of jumping in and writing stuff, I know it’s better to step back and think about the big picture.

By taking a little time to write a brief you can ensure that both client and copywriter have the same vision of the project. Writing a brief can prevent delays, snags and miscommunication. Writing a brief can ensure that the client gets what they want – which means the copywriter gets paid and everyone stays happy.

Briefs often evolve, or they may take the form of a flurry of emails from the client. It can be fruitful to adapt these rough notes and additions into a proper brief, especially if you begin to feel that some of the pointers or direction is conflicting.

So what should go into your copywriting brief? That’s a subject for another blog post. Adieu!

Meetup for Creative and Digital Professionals in Bournemouth and Poole

A funny thing happened on the way to our first DotDorset meetup back in May…

While waiting for people to arrive I overhead a woman asking the bar staff about a meetup group. Thinking she might be looking for DotDorset I introduced myself. Turns out it was Danielle Rose, and she was talking about her own meetup group. Curious! Two meetups in the same pub on the same night at the same time. Curious indeed. And what might the meetup be about? Creative and Digital Professionals? Now THAT is an amusing coincidence.


Turns out that Creative & Digital Professionals (Bournemouth & Poole) has pretty much the same plan that we did:

“The intention of this group is to provide informal social gatherings for local creatives to meet each other and hang out, whilst hopefully having a lot of fun in the process.”

So I recommend you check out the group and pop along to the next meetup. They meet monthly, usually in Bournemouth.

How freelance copywriters should (not) contact clients

As a freelancer copywriter, making contact with potential clients is easy to screw up. It’s also easy to get a little bit wrong. And it’s very easy to waste your time, and the time of the business you’re approaching.

I have experienced both sides of this equation: I’ve sent emails that get ignored and I also get query emails from fellow copywriters.

So here are a few tips to help you start positive relationships with potential clients and maybe even find work:

1. Address your emails to people individually

I frequently receive emails from copywriters addressed to ‘Sir’ – or they just say ‘Hi’. That’s fine. But it tells me you haven’t bothered to learn my name. If you don’t have the time (or the sense) to find out my name, I don’t have the time to reply.

2. Email one potential client at a time

I’ve had emails from aspiring copywriters that are copied to other agencies. This is a very quick way to besmirch your good name.

3. Tell the client how you can help them

Copywriters sometimes write telling me they want to “expand their client base” or “develop their client portfolio”, and that sounds just wonderful for them, but why would I give two shits about their business goals? Your potential clients are only interested if you can help them achieve their goals. So keep yourself out of it.

4. Send a link to your portfolio

Your potential clients don’t really want an inbox full of your files. Send them a link to your website/portfolio so they can browse your work in their own time. And if you don’t have a portfolio or a website you should really get one.

5. Be friendly and don’t make demands

Emailing people is fine and dandy, but remember that it doesn’t entitle you to a response. Your email is probably unsolicited anyway, so be patient and remember that the recipient doesn’t owe you anything. It’s good to be friendly and conversational in your email, but mind that you don’t become over-familiar, cocky or demanding.

6. Networking is about more than one-off emails

Instead of just sending an email to a potential client, why not follow them on Twitter? Or read their blog posts? If you can make your name pop up in front of them, you have a better chance of being recalled when you’re needed.

7. Remember that direct marketing is okay but it’s even better if they come to you

In my limited experience, contacting potential clients can be effective, but it’s a fairly painful way to make a living. Far better to make yourself discoverable so that the best clients can come looking for you.

You may also like: Finding work as a freelance copywriter (Kendall Copywriting, September 2012)

DotDorset – the new monthly meetup

DotDorset is a new meetup group that’s open to everyone.

The focus is on digital media, technology and arts, but the group’s main purpose is to hang out in pubs, so we’re pretty flexible.

What can you expect from DotDorset?

  • A place to meet other web workers and tech professionals
  • An informal, friendly, welcoming group
  • A group that can offer support, ideas and partners.



Wednesday 20 May 2015 from 19:30

The Goat & Tricycle, Bournemouth

How should a freelance copywriter submit work to their clients?


The short answer is: probably in Word format.

The longer answer: however they want it. And that’s something you should check, just in case they’re expecting you to submit HTML, Pages files or post-it notes.

This question falls within the realm of ‘assumptions’. There are certain things that you might assume about an agreement with a client, such as:

  • file formats
  • delivery dates
  • review process
  • sign-off process.

Instead of assuming that your 100th client will be like the other 99, define the specifics of your project so there are no unexpressed assumptions and no nasty surprises.

WriteClub is 5!

WriteClub, the informal networking group for all kinds of writers, turns 5 today!

If you would like to meet other writers and talk about all kinds of stuff, such as:

  • writing fiction
  • freelancing
  • poetry
  • books
  • publishing
  • copy writing
  • journalism

– and much more, then you should head along to a WriteClub. Absolutely everyone is welcome at WriteClub. We’re all people who either write stuff or think about writing stuff, but there’s no limit on who comes along. For a long while two of our most dedicated members were artists!

WriteClub meets in London and Brighton. Find all the details on



Kendall Copywriting is 6!

I’m another year older and a tiny bit wiser. Kendall Copywriting has now been trading for six years.

It’s been another good year packed full of copywriting. I’ve written web pages, brochures, tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, presentations, posters and white papers for:

  • PowerVote
  • Acas
  • WWF
  • Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres
  • GS1
  • Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
  • MBA & Company
  • Allianz
  • Mercedes Benz
  • smart (cars)

– and many more!


It’s official: hype is a turn off

I’ve always encouraged my clients to use copy that is positive without being hyperbolic and promotional without being desperate.

To me, it seems intuitive that audiences are turned off by companies that over-sell themselves or litter their copy with bombastic language. Hype and superlatives might sound great to you, but to many of your potential customers those words sound like empty promises. Instead of inviting a reader into your world, those empty words create a barrier that your business can hide behind, leaving readers to wonder what else you’re hiding.

A recent study of branded content found that a significant majority of people trusted branded content, but their trust evaporates in the face of blatant self-promotion.

Factors which are guaranteed to turn off your readers include:

* Not being honest about the brand behind the content.

* Talking down to readers.

* Ignoring other arguments or viewpoints.

Thanks to Contently for writing the original article which inspired this post.

So you’ve got a website. Now the work starts.

Building (or buying) a website is really just the first step. The work doesn’t end there.

Assuming that you want to be found online, you have a lot of work to do.

So, what should you be doing to ensure that your website is found by your potential customers?

1: Update your content. Look at your website regularly. Is it up-to-date and accurate?

2: Blog. If you have a blog, make sure you have a plan for updating it. Who is in charge of creating your blog content?

3: Be sociable. Share your blog posts online and join discussions with your professional community.

4: Plan for future content. What kind of information do you want to share online? How does this content support your brand or your business objectives?

5: Review and remix. Websites are easy to change, so if you discover that you need a portfolio, or case studies, or staff bios, don’t hesitate to add them. Your website can do an amazing job of reassuring your potential customers, but only if you add the right content in the right places.

Let’s chat about your projectContact us