What does it take to succeed as a freelance copywriter?
Well, I suppose it should go without saying that the first requirement is the ability to write good copy. But just for safety's sake, I will say it anyway.
That detail out of the way, here are some qualities less common among copywriters that are of equal importance.
The ability to treat your service like a business. Too many copywriters are woefully ignorant of the realities of running a business (and a copywriting practice is a business, just like a law practice or any other professional service provider). If you are playing the role of the “temperamental artist as copywriter” it probably means you're a dreadful business person. Your clients (almost all of them skilled entrepreneurs) hold that sort of mentality in great disdain. Want more respect as a copywriter? Start acting like a businessperson.
The commitment to meet deadlines. Clients expect you to do what you say you were going to do, and they expect you to do it on the schedule you agreed to. There are no excuses. I have never missed a deadline. I have, on occasion renegotiated a deadline-but always ahead of time. Repeat after me: “Deadlines are sacred. I shall not break them.”
The skin of a rhinoceros. Look, I understand; writing is hard, and taking criticism is harder. But clients pay you to write, and they have an expectation that their input will be accepted by you. After all, they're paying for the end product. They are going to be critical of what you write. You're writing about their baby-their business. You've got to be able to smile when your clients are offering “constructive criticism”… even when they're wrong. You must be able to handle such situations with grace. A crucial skill for you: the ability to subtly persuade clients that your way is the correct way. Even more difficult, you've got to be able swallow your pride when your client has a good point… such as a point about some weakness in your copy (which is accurate more often than most copywriters would like to admit).
These skills are more difficult to develop than the skills of actually writing copy-at least for most copywriters.
Most copywriters tend to be more right-brained and creative instead of left-brained and logical; I was gifted with a weird 50-50 combination of “artist/businessman” genetics.
I understand that not everyone was so fortunate.
But trust me… being conscious of the need for the skills I've outlined in this article, and becoming diligent in the development of these skills, will make you a much happier (and much richer) copywriter.
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