In a perfect world, every company would have the budget and bandwidth to handle all its creative needs in-house. Since this isn’t a reality for many businesses, they rely on the services of freelance professionals to fill in the gaps or support internal staff when the heat is on. In terms of copy, it can be a real bottom-line benefit to hire a seasoned freelance copywriter or engage a small creative studio like AMJ. Why? Aside from offering a diverse set of skills, loads of experience, and fresh insight, they deliver work without the need of a permanent, long-term commitment. In other words, they’re there when you need them, not when you don’t.
As with any kind of freelancer, there are pros and cons to working with a writing consultant, but the positives far outweigh any perceived negatives. Here are a few things to consider:
- You’ll probably spend less money. Hiring a senior-level freelance copywriter can be less expensive than hiring a permanent writer with less experience when you add together salary, health insurance, paid time off, holidays, and other benefits. Plus, when the project wraps, so do the payments.
- We bring a fresh set of eyes and ideas. Whether we’re working solo or collaborating with an in-house creative staff, freelance copywriters offer an “outsider” perspective, new approaches to language, and a respectful nudging of boundaries when it comes to voice. If your brand wants to play it safe, we’re pretty good at sticking to established style rules, too.
- Freelance writers speak many languages. I’m not talking about French, Spanish, and Japanese. In addition to collaborating with marketers and designers, many of us also work with technical teams throughout an organization, from product engineering and manufacturing to quality assurance and legal. We take complicated concepts and language then translate them into easy-to-get, fun-to-read copy that adheres to strict language compliance guidelines.
- Freelance copywriters (usually) work offsite. Sure, it’s great to have someone working right alongside your team, feeding off the creative energy at kickoffs and thinkstorms, tossing ideas (and a few Nerf balls) over cube walls, then heading to the break room for a cupcake. But if you hire a freelancer, chances are they’re toiling away in their office or at home…no Nerf balls, no cupcakes. Sometimes they’re even in a different time zone. Many of AMJ’s clients are located on the opposite coast, but there’s never been an issue with hopping on calls or meeting deadlines. And if a client is local, we do our best to make it to their office for key in-person meetings. We make it work and so do most freelancers.
- Getting up to speed can take a little while. That’s true for even seasoned writers when working with a new client. But that can happen with new permanent employees as well. The good news is that the real pros usually have a diversity of clients and can easily adapt to each brand’s verbal identity, so it takes them less time to ramp up.
- Need copy EOD? Unless you put a writer on retainer, you’ll likely need to wait for them to deliver copy. You can sometimes pay a rush fee for an immediate turnaround–anything from 24 hours to two days is considered a rush. Freelance writers charge rush fees because it means shifting schedules, delaying projects currently in queue, and sometimes burning the midnight oil to meet your deadline. Rush fees aren’t standard for all writers and can sometimes be negotiated.
But my marketing team handles all the copywriting…”
Say what?! Actually, marketers can be really talented writers. That said, copy written by marketers can sound…marketing-y. Yes, it hits on the UVP, delivers on strategy, etc., but it can read stiff and miss out on the fun factor that should ideally exist in consumer-facing copy. And unlike copywriters, most marketers aren’t familiar with AP and Chicago styles or the latest grammar and punctuation rules as they relate to marketing and advertising copy (hint: what you learned about commas in high school English doesn’t necessarily apply on banner ads). Plus, copywriters love writing. That’s why we’re writers, not marketers. That passion for crafting messaging and finding the perfect word can only benefit our clients and often complements the work of marketers.
What does a professional freelance copywriter cost?
There are many factors that influence what a freelance copywriter will charge. Obviously, the less experienced the writer, the cheaper the rate, but then the longer it can take them to execute a project. Conversely, a seasoned professional copywriter will charge more for a project fee or hourly rate, but they are usually faster, bring more experience and insights, and have more tools in their toolbox. Ultimately you’re either paying for talent or paying for time.
5 things to keep in mind when hiring a freelance copywriter:
- Know what you need before picking up the phone. A brief is always a good idea, but if you’re just testing the waters, at a minimum you should have a general idea of the size of the project, the key deliverables, and a rough timeline. If you don’t, it will be challenging for a copywriter to know if they can accommodate your project in their schedule and how much to charge.
- Have a basic understanding of your budget. A reputable freelance copywriter will let you know if they can work within your budget parameter or should at least be able to tell you what parts of the project they can reasonably take on. I’ve even had to guide potential clients in developing realistic project budgets; because they aren’t in the creative trenches nor are they aware of the time and various aspects (research, ideation, writing, revisions, proofreading) involved with delivering copy for a project.
- What is the approval process? Knowing how many stakeholders will eyeball the copy will reflect how many potential revisions there could be. Revisions equal time and time equals money. If a writer is working on a project fee, they usually include one or two rounds of revisions in that fee. Anything beyond that generally costs extra.
- Look at portfolios…lots of portfolios. Most freelance copywriters will have their portfolio online, so it’s easy to check out many different writers with different levels of experience and varying areas of expertise. This will help you find the writer who will best meet the needs of your business. But keep in mind, portfolios are a sampling of work and don’t necessarily show every project a writer has ever worked on. So if you like a particular writer’s work, but they don’t seem to have samples for your industry, reach out to them anyway.
- Get your approvals and paperwork in order. If you don’t yet have approval to engage and pay a freelancer, be up front about it so an eager writer doesn’t get a jump on things only to find out the project is delayed or 86ed. It’s also a good idea to present freelancers with a Statement of Work (SOW), which outlines in detail all aspects of the project and associated deadlines for which the freelancer is responsible. This helps freelancers calculate their fee and sets expectations. Most freelancers will present their own terms of business to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to payment and ownership of work.
For those businesses considering working with a freelance copywriter, that relationship can be whatever you want it to be: long-term and ongoing, long-term with sporadic projects, or one-offs with a short-term commitment. And while collaborating with someone new can be an adjustment, you can–and should–expect the same level of service, professionalism, commitment, and discretion from a freelancer as you would from a permanent employee. Good luck!