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25 Secrets of Freelance Copywriting Success

by Bob Bly

1—Work with clients whom you genuinely like or at least have good personal chemistry with.

2—Your freelance copywriting business exists to serve your clients. Without them, you'd starve.

3—If you want to have the final say on your copy without being told what to say and how to write it, market your own line of products, and make yourself your primary copywriting client.

4—Do not promise your copy will generate a specific result. It is unethical and not true: no one can guarantee a particular response rate.

5—Proofread every piece of copy before you send it to the client. I recommending hiring a freelance proofreader; it is difficult to proof your own copy well.

6—When can you raise your fees? When you have so much business that you can afford to lose clients who are not willing to pay the higher fees.

7—Use a standard PC with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and other standard software packages. Don't write on oddball word processors, use antiquated software, or send non-standard file formats that your clients can't open and read.

8—Number each page in your copy manuscript, so that if the pages get separated, you can easily put them in order. Also, in a discussion, it lets you and the client reference sections on specific pages.

9—The easiest way to prevent yourself from getting ripped off by deadbeats is to demand half your fee in advance before you even start the job.

10—Never work without a written contract that the client has signed off on. Verbal go-aheads are not enough.

11—Trust your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about a client or a project, turn it down. Your gut feelings are right 95% of the time.

12—Be humble, not arrogant. If you are a nice person and your copy doesn't work, the client will give you another chance. But if you are a jerk and your copy flops, you're out.

13—Find a peer or someone else whose judgment you trust. Give the headline and lead of every promotion you write (the first page or two will usually suffice) to that outside reader for a second opinion. Never send out copy that at least one person other than you, even your spouse, has read and commented on.

14—Use more charts and graphs in your copy to support your key claims. Even when the reader doesn't really understand a chart or graph, the fact that there IS a chart or graph helps convince them that what you say must be true.

15—Keep up-to-date in your field – both in marketing as well as the topics (e.g., health, investments) you write about.

16—The only way to become a better writer is to read and to write. Read and write every day. Read magazines, newspapers, and books during your leisure time.

17—Get up early and dive into your toughest copywriting assignment first thing in the morning, without delay. Work until you tire. In the afternoons, you can tackle less demanding tasks like reading background material or answering e-mails.

18—Create a workspace that is comfortable, isolated, and quiet. Barking dogs, ringing door bells, TV in the background, and screaming kids all harm your productivity.

19—Give yourself small rewards throughout the day for accomplishing various work-related tasks, e.g. going out to a coffee shop for lunch instead of eating at your desk.

20—While negotiating the work agreement with your client, ask for at least a week more than you need. As a corollary, never accept jobs that must be started and finished overnight.

21—Don't take it personally when a client calls and says, "I don't like the copy." Instead reply, "I want to make it as strong as we can. Tell me your thoughts and suggestions."

22—Should you argue with changes your client suggests if you think they are wrong? Only if you think they will depress response. If the client does not change his mind, acquiesce pleasantly and make the changes. But send a polite e-mail noting your objection and keep a copy in the file.

23—Get adequate rest. If you are not rested after a night's sleep, start going to bed an hour earlier. You need to be mentally sharp to write copy, and you won't be if you're tired.

24—Read your copy aloud at a normal speaking pace. Doing so will reveal awkward constructions that you would otherwise gloss over when reading copy silently.

25—Write in a conversational manner, using words that your prospects would use to help create rapport with the people you're selling to.

McGraw-Hill Publication calls him "America's top copywriter". Bob Bly has written copy for more than 100 companies including Healthcare Compare, Boardroom, Phillips, IBM, Medical Economics and Lucent Technologies. He is the author of more than 60 books and a columnist for DM News and Early To Rise. Discover how you can design the "Killer Copy" that doubles and even triples your response rates in "The World's Best-Kept Copywriting Secrets".


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