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 >>

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.

Brilliant Freelancer hits 20 reviews on Amazon!

Brilliant Freelancer book cover

It’s been a couple of years since my first book, Brilliant Freelancer, was published. And in that time I’ve largely forgotten all about it and got on with being a freelance copywriter.

In spite of my neglect, Brilliant Freelancer has continued to be bought and enjoyed by new readers. And over time the reviews have built up, so now I’ve got 20 glowing reviews!

Thanks to everyone who has read Brilliant Freelancer, and a big thank-you to everyone who took the time to leave a review – they really help to encourage other people to give it a try. Thanks also to everyone who was involved in the researching and writing of the book.

Brilliant Freelancer on Amazon

And here’s a little video I made about How to deal with clients who want discounts:

You don’t need a copywriter…

Human Writes Performance Installation at UN Geneva

You might think that, as a freelance copywriter, I must spend some of my time convincing people to hire me. But I don’t. I’ll happily tell people about my experiences as a copywriter and the clients I’ve written for. I’ll even talk about my education and previous career. But I will not attempt to ‘sell’ myself to a potential client. And that’s purely because if you don’t think you need a copywriter – if you don’t think a copywriter offers real benefits – then you should not hire one.

Writing copy is a tough service to sell, partly because most humans can write. So paying someone else to write for you can feel unnatural – like asking someone to do your blinking.

If you don’t think you need a copywriter, don’t hire one. If you understand marketing, and how the web works, and how to write persuasively in a way that will bring people to your website and encourage them to sign up and buy, then you should definitely write your own copy.

If you want to know how a copywriter might help you, then maybe read:

The 5 benefits of using a copywriter

The skills you need to be a freelance copywriter

or download one of my PDF guides and write your own copy:

How to write for the web (PDF)

Essential SEO: How to build links


Finding work as a freelance copywriter

Guillotine Operator!?


Are you just getting started as a freelance copywriter? Or are you a freelance copywriter looking for more work?

This post explores a few options for finding freelance copywriting jobs, and might give you a few ideas that you haven’t considered. This blog post is partly in response to the regular emails I get from people looking for work. I can’t always respond to emails I receive (sorry!) but this is what I might have written…

Finding freelance copywriting jobs

For a freelance copywriter, there are two main types of client:

Businesses (and organisations) that hire you directly. This could be as small as Fran’s Fridges from Framfield High Street or as massive as Mazda. There are lots of businesses that might need a freelance copywriter (for everything from web copy to job ads, catalogue descriptions, proposals, employee communications and statements from the CEO), but of course you won’t know which of the millions of businesses need a copywriter right now. It’s fairly futile to go searching for this type of client; you have to let them come to you.

Agencies that hire you on behalf of their clients. There are web agencies, digital agencies, marketing agencies, content agencies, ad agencies, mobile agencies and design agencies. They are often expert at hiring freelancers (they do it all the time) and you can assume that they are likely to need your services (at some point). They may already have a roster of freelance copywriters, but some of those might be expensive, tired or lazy, and the agency might be curious to try fresh meat.

Copywriting for businesses

Businesses of all sizes can make great clients. You can have direct contact with business owners and learn a lot about their companies.

To get direct work writing for businesses, you need to make yourself visible and findable. You need to become known, so that when a need arises your name is likely to get mentioned. You need to be findable, so that when a business goes looking, it’s you they be finding.

You can become known by expanding your social circle. You can go to networking events and meetups (including WriteClub, WiredSussex meetups, The Farm and content strategy groups) to meet other freelancers, related professionals and business owners. You can use LinkedIn and Twitter to make acquaintances, build on budding friendships and share your wisdom. You can write blog posts that demonstrate your knowledge, while giving people a chance to learn what makes you tick (or tock).

You can create a website (we’ll come back to this subject later on) and make sure your website uses the words your clients will use when they search for you (i.e. freelance copywriter), has links to other websites and is updated regularly.

Copywriting for agencies

Working with agencies can be more straightforward, for several reasons:

1 Agencies may use freelance copywriters all the time. So not only will they be expecting your enquiry, they’ll know how to deal with you.

2 Agencies will expect to pay normal market rates. Agency clients may still haggle, but in my experience it tends to be small business owners who are most likely to balk at my rates (often because I’m the first copywriter they’ve hired).

3 You can leave your details with an agency, so they can contact you when you’re needed.

4 There are a manageable number of agencies out there – so you can feasibly contact most of the reputable agencies that are local and/or relevant to your skills.

Making contact with agencies and businesses

What’s the best way to contact a new business or agency? Well, it depends. It depends on who they are and what they want. If they ask for an email don’t send them a letter. And if they provide a contact form don’t send them an email (not yet, anyway). Adjust your methods to your audience.

Sometimes a phone call is useful, partly because very few freelancers use the phone (it’s too scary) and partly because it can give you a chance to get noticed. Emails are everywhere, so they lose their impact. Phone calls are personal and direct, and you’re more likely to be remembered for a phone call than an email.

Whatever you do, be professional, be polite, be friendly, be accurate and get to the bloody point. It helps to have a point. So choose a goal, and make your way towards it in an orderly fashion.

I still get emails from aspiring copywriters that contain questionable grammar, misspelled words, broken links and other avoidable errors.

Get a website

Websites are so easy to get hold of (via services such as and that I don’t think there’s a good excuse for not having one. Freelancers without websites are a bit like teachers with criminal records. You just wouldn’t hire one.

Once you’ve created a website, make sure you write about the services you offer to clients. Include the words that clients use when they talk about what you do (AKA ‘keywords’) . Add your website to directories. Write blog posts. Write blog posts for your friends. Tweet about your blog posts. Share your tweets on your website. And so on.


Networking events are as varied as any gathering of people. Some networking groups are full of prehistoric business people, who will ‘work the room’ and force business cards into your palm. Other networking groups are modern, friendly, open and laid-back, where people go to meet others and make friends.

Networking has been immensely useful to me. There is no better way to get to know local businesspeople and find hidden work opportunities. Networking is often cheap, relatively quick and easy to do. Networking has helped me meet clients, partners and nice people.

You might feel apprehensive about networking, but you should push yourself to give it a try. Don’t just try one event, but try a handful of different meetups and networking events. It’s worth the effort.

Training and qualifications

Are you qualified to be a freelance copywriter? Probably, yes. The barriers for entry to copywriting are very low. All you need is ability, experience and a smattering of theory. You can pick up the theory from books on marketing, advertising and books about the web (Content Strategy for the Web, Call to Action and Don’t Make Me Think are all useful). So don’t think a lack of qualifications will hold you back.

If you feel you need a little training to shore-up your experience, look out for workshops and short courses by professional copywriters (such as this one from Relly Annett-Baker).


Do you have questions about working as a freelance copywriter? Just ask, and I’ll try to respond with something useful.

In praise of the Werks (a coworking space)

Coworking upstairs at The Werks

This is the first in a series of blogs of praise, in which I give overdue thanks to people and their creations.

#1: The Werks

I’d only been freelancing for a few months when I got my first lucky break. I had volunteered to write for Rosie Sherry’s (now defunct) Project Brighton blog, and Rosie invited me to try out the coworking space she was setting up with a few friends. The Werks was perfect – easy going, friendly and deeply supportive, and I’ve been here every since.

Thanks to the Werks I’ve found friends, work and great advice about being freelance.

Without the Werks my freelance career would have developed at a slower pace, without the support and companionship of talented people. Without the Werks I wouldn’t have had a dedicated workspace, a place to focus, and concentrate on the stuff that pays.

So thanks to Rosie Sherry, James McCarthy, Ian Elwick and all of the organisers and administrators who keep the Werks alive – and thanks to all of the people who make the Werks such a cool place to work.

If you’ve never tried coworking, you should! Here are a few places you might try:

Brighton coworking spaces

London coworking spaces

There are loads of other great coworking spaces around the world.

The skills you need to be a freelance copywriter

The young typist

Interested in becoming a copywriter? Here is my take on the skills required to make a living as a freelance copywriter. This is purely the result of my experience, and it’s worth remembering that other copywriters succeed by other means, and rely on skills that I don’t have.

Copywriting skills

Naturally! If you’re going to make a living by selling a skill, it should be one you’ve got. But don’t despair if you feel less-than-expert. As long as you’ve got an understanding of what you’re doing, a solid grasp of grammar, a degree of writing talent and a willingness to learn, you’ll go far. Besides, most copywriters only become great because they work past the stage where they’re not-so-great.


You can specialise, and only seek copywriting jobs in your preferred industry/format, but you’ll still need to be able to shift gears and adjust to new subjects or clients. And being versatile enough to adapt to new challenges is hugely beneficial when you get started, and may be grateful for whatever opportunities arise.

Marketing nous

Your work is all about helping your clients with their marketing. But you won’t have many clients if you can’t do your own marketing. Unless of course you’re famous, or do something revolutionary that clients clamour for. But the reality of the copywriting world is that there are plenty of good copywriters out there, and when you get started you’ll need to raise your profile in order to succeed. My book Brilliant Freelancer includes an informative chapter on marketing (you can get a free chapter if you follow that link).


Copywriting projects vary wildly, and where one client wants you at arm’s length, others will value collaboration and want you in their office. You’ll need to be easy to work with, and good at fitting in with new people in new environments.  Your clients may want to meet you before you start work, so you’ll need to be friendly, cooperative and able to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing.

A thick skin

The copy you write for clients is not poetry or art; it’s a business tool, and it’s a tool that your clients will consider carefully before putting to work. So your clients will doubt, question and clarify anything they don’t like. And after you’ve obsessed over every word, a client’s questions or deletions can be hard to stomach. But you’ll soon learn to distance yourself from your copy, to view it objectively and consider its strengths and weaknesses, and to debate them without prejudice.

Web smarts

If you’re writing for the web, you need to ‘get’ the web. Watch what web designers and developers are talking about, because their discoveries and breakthrough build the web you write for.


What you don’t need to be a freelance copywriter…

You don’t need to pay for a copywriting course. You can learn it all from books that cost a fraction of training fees. Or why not do a few voluntary copywriting projects?  Or attend a workshop if a copywriter gives one, but don’t focus on formal education. Learn by doing.

The joys and sorrows of writing a book


I’ve been busy. Really busy. Busier than a bee on crack. In between a packed schedule of web copywriting jobs I’ve been writing a book on freelancing. Here’s what I’ve learnt about writing books:

1. Books take longer to write than you think. I thought it would take a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t factored in the time required for research and interviews.

2. Books are fairly easy to write if you have a cast-iron deadline. I’m staring down the barrel of my publisher’s deadline. I dare not disappoint them.

3. Books require planning. The spreadsheet has been my friend. With everything planned from the very beginning, I’ve been able to pace the production. The spreadsheet doesn’t write the book, but it does give you a blueprint.

4. Books demand a long, steady effort. You can’t just vomit up a book. They take time. And a persistent effort. It’s not always easy to keep a book chugging along, especially when you hit the sections that don’t ignite your passions.

5. The last long lap is the hardest. Nearly there!

So there aren’t really any sorrows – not with this book at least. Not yet.

Clients: reveal your budget!

Hide & Seek

Clients should stop being coy with their budgets and put their cash on the table.

Here’s why:

Compare like with like

If you ask two or three different service providers to quote for a piece of work, they will all provide a quote that involves different levels of service, different features and different elements. The three quotes may vary wildly in cost, mainly because the three quotes include different amounts of value. The lowest quote probably offers the least features, while the highest quote includes more stuff – more benefits, more features.

If you want comparable quotes, be honest about your budget.

Get a quote that you can accept

Hiding your budget is not a clever tactic and provides no benefit. Reveal your budget and receive quotes you can work with. Why hide your budget if it means you receive unrealistic and unworkable proposals?

Procuring services is not like playing poker, so show them what you got.

This post was inspired by Alex Cowell’s piece on budgets at the Cubeworks blog.

Free guide to freelancing

If you’re thinking about going freelance, or if you’ve been freelancing for a while but want some new ideas or advice, then check out the newly expanded Go Freelance guide.

It’s free – you just have to subscribe to Freelance Advisor.

Go Freelance contains everything I’ve learnt in my time as a freelancer. If you know a freelancer, please share it with them and if you like it, let us know!

14 questions copywriters must ask their clients

Election Interrogation

Being a freelance copywriter isn’t just about writing. Words are the tool that copywriters use to achieve results, but every smart copywriter understands that their real function is to quickly and accurately deliver a business proposition.

Before you can write about a business, you have to get the business. You have to understand what a business does and what’s important to their customers. You have to get down to the details, and prepare to write on behalf of a business.

Here are 14 key questions that copywriters should ask their clients, in order to get the information required to write great copy:

  • Why do your customers choose you?
  • What aspects of your business are you most proud of?
  • Why did you start this business?
  • What questions do new customers frequently ask?
  • What features do your customers look for in your products?
  • What benefits do your customers get from your products?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What are your customers primarily interested in?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is the typical process you go through with a customer?
  • Can I talk to your customers?
  • Can I have a tour of your factory or a chat with an operative? (to get a bird’s eye view of the business)
  • What tone is appropriate for your copy?
  • Why did you pick me? (this one is a useful insight into your own marketing)

    Now this seems obvious to me, but I’ve rescued a few clients from the clutches of copywriters who have asked no questions at all, and then produced irrelevant and totally inappropriate copy.

    So it’s important to ask questions, but also to ask insightful questions that provoke useful answers.

    Commit yourself: make changes and build momentum

    Motor Bikes Racing At Snetterton Scanned (16)

    I wrote a blog post recently for Freelance Advisor, which was all about motivation, and what I do when fear or inertia slows me down.

    One of things I wrote about was the tendency for momentum to build as soon as you take action, how the first push is the hardest, and how life takes over once you put your back into it. I was just browsing through one of my partner’s psychology books (Motivational Interviewing) when I found a quote that resonates with what I wrote:

    Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream events issues from the decision.

    – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Fauxlancing – Regular Employment Meets Freelancing

    So, I had this idea… I call it  fauxlancing

    What is fauxlancing?

    It’s a blend of two very different ways of working. It’s regular, full-time employment with a few freelance freedoms. It’s faux-freelancing.

    Why fauxlancing?

    Because regular employment has a problem: it sucks.

    The Multifarious, Pernicious and Persistent Problems with Regular Employment*

    Employees get a salary, a job description, a desk, a role, a place in the hierarchy, a routine, limitations, supervision, a patronising dullard to manage them, a thick blanket of bureaucracy and a few other dead weights to hang around their necks as they shuffle from cubicle to cubicle, desperately searching for something meaningful.

    The fact that regular employment is often so soul-destroying is not just a problem for employees; employers should dread the sight of dead-eyed worker droids because those are the people that will lazily, inefficiently and accidentally drain the life from their organisation.

    Fauxlancing is a word I made up to describe the practice of taking the good stuff from the freelance world and applying it to the world of regular employment.

    The Good Bits of Freelancing

    You might be wondering exactly I mean by the ‘good stuff from the freelance world’ that I just mentioned. Well, I often work with other freelancers, and the people I meet are generally confident, relaxed people who are in control of their own destiny. Freelancers take ownership of their working life. They grab their working life by the balls and get things done in the ways that make sense to them.

    Freelancers are relaxed in their work because they know what’s happening. Freelancers are better connected to their work because they don’t merely complete tasks; they pitch for work, liaise with clients, manage projects, raise invoices and deal with all the admin along the way.

    Because of this, freelancers can derive greater meaning from their work. They aren’t a hamster in a wheel, turning the gears of a giant thingamajig, dumb to managerial machinations, blind to the bigger picture.

    How the hell does someone become a fauxlancer?

    I don’t know. I haven’t really thought this through. If it’s your job to get the most out of permanent employees and you would like to chat about fauxlancing, give me a call.

    *Clearly, not all employers fit this description, and many employees have terrifically fulfilling jobs with employers who nurture them.

    Making the Most of Being Freelance

    I’m a big fan of freelancing. Being your own boss offers a billion wonderful benefits, which I won’t go into here. But it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the daily blend of work, projects and tasks, without really appreciating the freedoms that freelancing provides.

    I’ve decided to work harder at working enjoyably. Enjoying work is the best way to make it sustainable and as stressless as possible. Step 1 in my crusade to lap up the freelance lifestyle is:

    Lunch by the beach

    Working at The Werks means I’m only a ten minute bike ride away from the beach:

    Sea view

    And that bike ride isn’t particularly arduous… the entire world tilts slightly downward and my bike literally rolls me through the sweeping grandeur of Palmeira Square:

    Palmeira Square, Hove 2

    Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think it’s important for our sanity and internal health to enjoy life. Whether or not you’re freelance or live by the sea, you can probably create spaces in your days that give you a chance to look around and take in the view.

    A former colleague had a good approach to beautifying his life: he would always drive to work along the coast road. His colleagues headed inland, where the traffic was less dense. But not him. He tolerated the traffic and just allowed more time for his journey. Less time in bed, but an infinitely richer experience on his drive to work.

    A Guide to Starting Freelancing

    I’m really pleased to announce that a guide I produced for Freelance Advisor, Go Freelance: The Complete Guide to Starting Freelancing has been published on the Freelance Advisor website.

    I often get emails from people who are interested in becoming copywriters, and considering taking the freelance route. While I always respond to these enquiries, I rarely have time to offer as much advice as I would like. Freelancing has many aspects – it’s just like running a small business – and I never have enough time to carefully and thoroughly explain the things I have learnt about freelancing.

    Now I can point any curious persons in the direction of Freelance Advisor, and this guide.

    Go Freelance tackles many issues affecting freelancers:

    • Marketing
    • Clients
    • Book-keeping
    • Company structure
    • VAT

    And much more. It’s intended as a resource for people who are considering going freelance. But if you’ve already gone freelance, or been doing it for years, you might still find it useful.

    All feedback is very useful and greatly appreciated. Let us know what you think of this guide as your feedback will help shape future editions and other guides on different subjects. And please share it with anyone who might find it helpful.

    Let’s chat about your projectContact us