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No one cares about freelance copywriters – get over it

The work we do for our clients is important.

In some cases, it can mean the difference between business success and failure. But at some point, you are going to find out that you, the writer, are about as significant as the proverbial mosquito on the elephant’s back.

In my blog post, 40 freelance copywriting survival skills, Point 34 says:

As a freelancer, you are unimportant to your clients, until they really need you. Don’t take it personally.’

That’s the thing, our work is important, but we aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my worth, and I have a really good relationship with 99% of my clients. Most of them are decent human beings. With a sense of humour, empathy and a distaste for blood sports.

However, they have a lot on their plates.

One of my clients (let’s call her Madame X, an Account Director at Design Agency, err… X Comms), works a 12-hour day, every day. She juggles multiple projects for lots of mahoosive international clients.

Madame X gets me in to work on brand positioning, brand language and complex copywriting projects. The sort of stuff that helps to launch brands worth £Squillions.

You can almost smell the pressure she’s under coming down the phone.

Every move she makes could have big, fat financial repercussions.

Her clients are multi-layered. Often there are 10 key stakeholders or more that she has to answer to.

The brands she helps launch could easily have a workforce of several thousand, who are totally dependent on project success.

Her agency project team alone might be a dozen strong – strategists, researchers, planners, account managers, graphic designers, UX designers and web developers.

And then there are her bosses. Breathing down her neck, making sure that the ever-shrinking budgets are being spent wisely.

Pile a private life and a pandemic on top, and you start to get a picture of what her to-do list might look like.

To be fair, considering the stress and strain she’s under, Madame X is a dream to work with.

But occasionally, things go a bit awry.

She’ll expect me to hit ridiculous deadlines.

She’ll promise to get feedback to me the next day, and I’ll still be chasing for it 72 hours later.

On reflection, Madame X is probably my best and worst client.

When she needs me, she’s my best mate. When she doesn’t, she’s a ghost.

It used to tick me right off.

Then I tried to put myself in my clients’ shoes.

Yes, I expect a fair dollop of mutual respect, but business is business.

My client has problems I can’t even begin to imagine. And I’m a very, very small cog in a massive, gas-guzzling machine. My little bit is hugely important – without it, the machine won’t go – but I’m basically invisible.

My ego might not be a huge fan, but with this client at least, it’s a fact.

I’m not the freshly waxed bodywork, the headlights or the badge on the grill. I’m a teeny-tiny coglet, covered in grease, deep in the belly of the beast.

It ain’t personal.

As long as they respect the work I do, understand its value and pay the going rate, I’ll put my dreams of seeing my name in lights on hold, for now.

Some might call it wallflower syndrome. I think it might actually be a bit of growing up.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a freelance copywriter, or if you’re already a way down the road, but struggling with why-don’t-they-return-my-calls-itis, here’s what you’re going to need to see you through:

1) Humility
2) Patience
3) Determination
4) Detachment
5) Thick skin and self-belief

By no means am I condoning bad manners, or asking you to aim low.

Aim as high as you possibly can. Break creative boundaries. Do the sort of creative work that you’re proud to put your name to.

Just don’t expect to end up on every client’s Christmas list.

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