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5 reasons why you’ll never make it as a freelance copywriter

1) You can’t take criticism

You’ve got a 1st in English Language. You read 50 books a year. You know words with eight syllables. How dare people criticise your grammar or pull your painstakingly crafted prose apart!

If you’re going to forge a career as a freelance copywriter, you’d better get used to criticism – from brand managers 20 years your junior and clumsy Klutz’s with two left hemispheres. You’re going to have to grow a thicker skin than school rice pudding.

Stop and listen to your clients. You may just learn something.

2) You’re rubbish with money

Freelancing is a business, not a hobby you get paid for. Unless you’re loaded, like most of us hired scribblers you’ll have money worries. They’re your worries. Clients have their own, and the majority of them aren’t too concerned about yours.

You agree a fee.

You take the brief.

You get the first draft done bang on time and you’re pretty chuffed with the way it’s all hanging together.

It goes quiet.

You chase.

They’re busy and will get back to you.

Your client eventually responds, pulling your copywriting apart, asking you to remove all the wit and charm with a wire brush and bleach.

You kick back, politely explaining the reasons behind your creative choices.

It goes quiet again.

They agree to one of your points to shut you up, but insist on throttling the life out of it; adding a shovelful of steaming industry jargon.

With heavy shoulders, you do the re-write.

Client loves it, but has to run it by their boss for sign-off.

It goes quiet again.

Three months after the initial briefing, you put your invoice in. Two chasing emails and three uncomfortable phone calls later, you get a remittance advice – ‘your payment will be in your account within the next 5 working days’.

You bled your heart onto the page. It was stamped on and ridiculed and it took four and a half months to get paid.

Fact is, if you don’t like talking money, contracts, deposits and late payment fines, you don’t stand a chicken in KFC’s chance of surviving at the freelance game.

3) You fancy an easier life

The 9-5 is killing you. There has to be more to life than working. You have a look on the ProCopywriters pricing guide and realise that you can charge hundreds of pounds a day as a freelancer.

You get your calculator out. “Wowzers trousers, I could do nine days a month and all the bills will be covered!”

Tempting.

Then you find out you’ll also be doing ten days a month wrestling the new business beast, five days working on your own marketing and two days on admin.

If you’re lucky enough to get nine days freelance at full whack, that still adds up to a 26-day month. Bugger!

4) You want to choose who you work with

No more ethically dubious accounts. No more clients with unreasonable demands. Your ego and your conscience have got together and written a manifesto: ‘From now on, I will only write for causes I believe in and clients I like’.

This, of course, is highly commendable. We need to aim high. What was it Oscar Wilde said, “Aim for Bora Bora and you may reach Margate”?

But, the phones have gone dead. The only emails you get are selling knock-off Viagra. What do you do? Only you (and your conscience) have the answer.

5) It’s somebody else’s job to write number five

You know that fulltime agency copywriting job that’s doing your head in?

The one where you have an Art Director to bounce ideas off?

Where a Creative Director sifts through your pile of scribbles to find the hidden gems for you?

Where the new biz team goes out hunting on your behalf?

The one with the free tea bags?

Where someone comes in and empties your bin?

Yeah, that one.

Guess who’ll be doing all of that when you go freelance.

Accounts, new business, brand guardianship, social media, IT, staff morale, replenishing the biscuit tin… as a freelancer, you’re basically a one-person agency.

And you don’t get holiday pay.

If this hasn’t scared you off a life adrift on the freelance ocean, these posts should come in handy:

40 freelance copywriting survival tips
How to conquer writer’s block

Good luck.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk