Do I Need a Freelance Copywriter?

If you've arrived here via Google, there's a good chance that you need a freelance copywriter - otherwise you wouldn't be looking, right?

However, there are still a few questions to answer to be absolutely sure, and it helps everyone if you know what you're looking for.

So, let's be logical about this, and answer the easiest part first...

Do I Need a Copywriter?

This part is easier to answer. Let's break it down:

  • you need some web or print copy
  • you have no in-house copywriting team
  • you're not great at writing yourself

If all of the above are true, you need a copywriter.

The only question now is, do you need a freelancer?

Do I Need a Freelancer?

This is a bit more difficult, so let's try to break it down logically.

Types of Freelancer

For a start, there are a couple of different types of freelancer. Some will be able to work solely for you, for a period of time. Some will work on-site. If you're looking for one of these, though, make sure you advertise the role clearly.

In my case, I'm home-based, and I have several clients. That means I am my own sales team, my own customer service department, my own aftercare and, of course, I am singularly the entire editorial output of my 'company'.

The benefits for you are multiple - you can hire me when you need copy, without having to pay me when you don't. You don't pay for my holidays or any periods of sickness. And you get the experience of a career copywriter, without having to hire one full-time (or train one from scratch!).

But it's still frustrating - and it wastes time for everyone - to see an ad for a freelance copywriter, when that's not what the role demands.

So, here's a few other terms you might want to use in your internet searches and job ads, to help clarify what's on offer:

Contractor

A contractor is my idea of that 'other' kind of freelancer I described above. Not a permanent employee - and potentially not full-time, either - but able to work in-house or on-site (whichever term you prefer) for a specified period, to carry out a pre-agreed amount of work.

Intern

On a personal note, I don't think 'interns' should have to work for free, particularly if their internship is at a profit-making company. Regardless of that, freelancers are not usually interns - unless the project in question constitutes an internship - and if you treat them as such, you're missing the point.

Freelancers shouldn't need any training (although we will need to know a few things such as what you need, tone of voice etc) and, equally, the quality of the finished work should be higher than you'd expect from an intern.

Interim

An interim, like a contractor, typically works on-site. As the name suggests, they plug a gap - maternity, sickness, or the time it takes to find a suitable permanent candidate. They usually cost quite a lot, and take on a role that simply couldn't be carried out by anybody less qualified.

Among copywriters, the waters are a little muddied. You don't tend to hire a copywriter as an interim, but that's not to say you will never need a highly skilled and experienced individual. I suppose the difference is, whatever your reason for needing us, you can usually hire someone with excellent grasp of grammar, spelling, and so on, without paying through the nose for needing them in the first place.

Full-Time/Part-Time

This is basic stuff, but I see so many ads for freelance copywriters that, when I enquire about the role, are for full-time positions. The caveat is that they are often positions that will only exist for a few weeks.

A short-term but full-time position will attract a certain kind of freelancer, but many more of us have ongoing clients who we need to be able to work for. Be clear from the outset if you're looking for someone who can put in a 40-hour week for you, and you alone.

Equally, the term 'part-time' is a little odd in the world of freelancers. We tend to measure the work we do by the hour anyway - there's no need to put an exact figure on it if it's just a few hours here or there.

Permanent/Temporary

Again, these are words that apply more to 'normal' jobs. A permanent freelance role is a contradiction in terms, but you can look to enlist a copywriter on a 'retainer'. That simply means that you agree a roughly consistent amount of work month after month - or a minimum quantity, if that makes more sense - and set up a standing order to pay for it.

A retainer is a good way to keep a freelancer working for you for the long term - it shows willing to provide them with a steady stream of work, and you'll often find them more willing to write something for you at short notice, or against a tight deadline, without raising the price. I try to provide the same level of service for my new clients as for my existing and ongoing ones, but there's a natural speed and finesse that comes from really knowing - thanks to experience - exactly what an existing client needs, without having to ask the usual questions.

If in Doubt, Just Ask...

The truth is, it's all a bit of a minefield. If you've read through all of the above, and you're still not sure which terms apply to the role or project you've got available, just email me or ask me on Twitter.

I'll get back to you as soon as I can, and let you know if it's something I can do for you - and if it's not, there's a decent chance I'll know someone on Twitter who can give you what you need.

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