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What is a freelance copywriter? (No, seriously. People aren’t getting it)

You’re probably wondering why I’d post a blog about something you can just look up on Google…Well, my friend, if you want a dictionary description, this is not for you.

As a freelancer myself, I’ve had my fair share of offers to write for agencies. Yay, right?

Not exactly.

Thing is, it’s difficult to be a freelancer because many agencies don’t understand what they’re asking versus offering.

So, let’s discuss what freelance copywriters actually do and where the line blurs between freelancer and copywriting employee.

This blog is for you if:

  • You’re an agency struggling to find “affordable” freelance copywriters

  • You’re a “freelance powerhouse” or “content mill” agency

  • You’re a business that needs someone to write, post, and monitor content

  • You’re an underpaid freelancer that accepts shitty work because, well, money

Right, let’s get into it…

What is a copywriter?

A copywriter has a knack for writing, usually prefers permanent roles, and earns a monthly salary.

What is a freelance copywriter?

A freelance copywriter has the same knack for writing, BUT…

This person is a business owner. He/she/they/it is free (freelancer) to choose projects, charge hourly/daily/per-word rates, and offer services on an ad hoc or retainer basis.

Many freelance copywriters had worked in permanent roles before, realised they don’t need micro-managing, and chose to have their own time and flexibility.

What’s the difference?

Copywriters: Available for employment

Freelance copywriters: Work for themselves, serve multiple clients, and charge their own rates

We typically write for specific industries or niches, making us a bit pricier than the average copywriter. These rates also depend on industry weight.

Lightweight freelancers are new to the game, midweight freelancers have experience playing it but haven’t mastered it yet, and heavyweight freelancers have mastered the game and often mentor light- and midweight copywriters.

In practical terms, these weights are determined by years of experience, skills, turnover times, etc.

If you’ve watched Star Wars, here’s an analogy:

  • Lightweight: Padawan learner

  • Midweight: Jedi Knight

  • Heavyweight: Jedi Master

However, in my opinion, this is a bit of a grey area. I’ve found that some copywriters have a ton of experience but deliver mediocre, unoriginal work.

Freelance copywriters are not

Street vendors

We don’t sell aftermarket products, and therefore our rates are not negotiable unless you are a regular client or commission a bunch of work that warrants a discount. But that is at the freelancer’s discretion, not yours.

Think about it this way: Do you negotiate with tellers on the price of your groceries? Nope. Do you negotiate with a restaurant owner on your bill? Hard no.

Quality freelance copywriters offer a creative service that requires research, knowledge, initiative, and skill. Don’t expect them to work for peanuts and deliver a gourmet milkshake.

Digital marketers or assistants

Unless there’s an existing agreement, we don’t post your content and follow up on responses. We specialise in writing content, so if you want the content to be published, managed, and monitored, consider hiring a digital marketing agency or an in-house marketing manager.

We aren’t assistants, either. Don’t expect us to do favours for free, because we need the money just as much as you need the favour.

Rent-a-freelancer or on-demand employees

We aren’t rental cars or homes. You can’t avoid employing or paying someone properly because you need mass content produced. If you want high-quality, high-volume content production, you must be willing to pay fairly for it.

“Freelance copywriters needed! Work from anywhere on your own time, and join a team of a zillion freelancers working with diverse, global companies.”

Do you know what this message means? The agency is looking for a copywriter to spend 8+ hours a day working on monotonous projects. This is NOT a freelance opportunity; it’s a full-time gig disguised in “work from anywhere” messaging.

Even worse, agencies offering these gigs RARELY have the budget for freelancer rates. It’s a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing scenario that doesn’t consider how experienced or good you are. Instead, content mills want to extract your creative juices, make you think you’re working for yourself, and pay you less than half of what they earn from your work.

Consider yourself warned.

The carnival Fortune Teller

If you haven’t watched The Wizard of Oz, the carnival Fortune Teller is a conman with a dodgy carriage giving a reading to a 16-year-old runaway. A scarecrow, tinman, and lion eventually join the runaway on a trippy adventure.

Anyway, contrary to popular belief, we aren’t mystical mind-readers or fortune tellers, and we can’t create content based on your vision if you don’t share it. If you want good content, please attempt to give a brief.

Academic ghostwriters

I don’t mean blogs, web copy, or social posts for academic institutions (we can do that). However, we don’t edit 5,000-word research papers for pocket money and certainly shouldn’t write them from scratch.

(If you’re a freelancer writing students’ university essays, stop. You and your client are defeating the object and can get into heaps of trouble.)

Rather allocate your pocket money to a fellow student or grammatically-sound friend with time to edit your paper. Freelance copywriters write content for companies and usually charge accordingly.

Sidebar: Kudos if you find a freelancer willing to do you this editing solid.

Freelance copywriters are:

  • Business owners offering a service

  • Humans who can’t deliver quality content if they’re expected to be robots

  • Providers, just like you, who are trying to make ends meet

  • Serious about delivering quality as opposed to quantity

  • Their own boss. If they deliver on promises, leave them to work their magic

  • Creatives who are passionate about what they do

  • Intellectually flexible in how they approach industry-specific projects

  • Skilled researchers, thinkers, and content creators

  • Reasonable (mostly), and don’t mind discussing your budget if it’s practical

I sincerely hope this post activated a lightbulb moment today. If you’re offended or have an opposing view, feel free to share your thoughts!

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