June 27, 2011Copywriting rates revisited: How much should I charge?

This is a tutorial post for other freelance copywriters.
If you’re a client looking for details of my day rate, click here.


I seem to get asked for advice by freelance copywriters who are just starting out an awful lot these days. Much more than I used to, anyway. I guess this means that, after a few years in this game, suddenly I’m the voice of wisdom and experience. Funny, because it doesn’t feel like all that long ago I was just starting out myself.

Of course I’ve been writing for ages. But I only turned freelance in …

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June 13, 2011Into fashion? You — and your brand — need to get into Tumblr.

When I joined Tumblr in 2009, I thought I was pretty late to the party. But the microblogging platform has only gone from strength to strength to strength. But although I hang out there all the time, and have even made a few friends there (although not as many as my livejournal days) I don’t use it for business.

Tumblr started out a little like a cooler version of Twitter. I’ve often said that Twitter feels like a water cooler for us bored, lonely freelancers who don’t get to enjoy the simple pleasures of office gossip — well, Tumblr …

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May 19, 2011Don’t mess with success: why staying on top is about staying true to your core business plan

Like many others, I visit Guido Fawkes, the UK’s most widely read political blog, for my daily fix of news. Guido is in top of his game. His short, simple editorial style (which has a lot in common with my favourite red-top, The Sun) and knack for sniffing out a story (or turning a small story into a much bigger one) has made him the UK’s foremost political blogger. He’s mass-market, and proud of it.

But when you’re at the top of your game, how do you stay there? How do you keep people coming back? On the …

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May 3, 2011Can tabloid journalists teach copywriters how to write?

Yesterday, some friends and I had a go at guessing what today’s headline in The Sun, the UK’s leading red-top tabloid newspaper would be. Bin Laden’s death was a historic moment — how would the paper that’s read by over 1/10th of the population every day cover it?

Of course, The Sun is known for its outlandish headlines, often involving a pun, joke, or  outright shocker (“Freddie Starr ate my Hamster” being the oft-quoted classic.) So I didn’t think my guess of “Osama nails Obama in Islamabad Drama” was far off. But it was too long. The one thing

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April 19, 2011What is content strategy? And is a copywriter the best person to define it?

How do you define content strategy? If you’re a digital copywriter like me, you’ll probably define content strategy very differently to a web designer or a user experience architect. For example, a copywriter will focus primarily on how his words appear, in context. While a designer might be more interested in the context — how his design fits around the words.

Fellow copywriter Leif Kendall recently wrote a blog post attempting to define content strategy. He said:

Content strategy is a process used by organisations to define and plan how words, pictures, audio and video (content) are used to

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April 13, 2011Are you projecting your true personality online?

What kind of person do you portray yourself as online? Are you businesslike or fun? Loud and noisy, or quiet and thoughtful? Does your personality change when you’re talking to friends on Facebook or Twitter? And are your online friends completely surprised by what you’re like when they meet you in real life?

It was an article about the ‘golden years’ of Livejournal that got me thinking. If you don’t remember Livejournal, it was more or less the first social blogging platform. Before Facebook, before Twitter, before Tumblr, before Blogspot and WordPress, it was a place where people met people …

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March 24, 2011Are political tweets damaging your online reputation?

I used to avoid Twitter because I can’t stand mobs of any kind. I’m no more keen on flash mobs than I am on lynch mobs, and at times, Twitter has seemed like both — a place for people to club together in self-righteousness and club down other people whose opinions they disagree with. As one commentator said, “Most Twitter users like to think of themselves as better than Daily Mail readers. [Their moblike] behaviour doesn’t chime well with that.”

And so to politics. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable to tweet regularly about politics, even when it has …

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March 19, 2011Less, but better: How to improve your portfolio by spending longer on your work

This week I got together with Spencer Lavery, the genius behind the design of this site, to update my portfolio. After almost three years, it was time to take another look at how I was presenting my work. And I noticed something. I actually preferred some of the work I was doing a couple of years ago to the work I’m doing now.

How long does good work take?

When I first started freelancing, I’d frequently have time to spend two or even three days on a project I’d quoted a day’s work on. After all, I needed …

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March 13, 2011Branding your digital agency: How to stand out from the crowd

A client came to me recently and asked me how they could make their digital agency stand out from the crowd. I looked over their elevator pitch. It contained the following sentences:

  • “We help people connect to the brands they love.”
  • “We look at the world differently.”
  • “We’re driven to help people genuinely connect.”

Sound familiar? That’s probably because you’ve seen these phrases everywhere already. So how do you stand out?

The answer’s simple: if your message is the same as everyone else’s, be different. If your message is too generic, be more specific.

It’s unlikely two people ever see …

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March 2, 2011Essential skills every digital copywriter needs

In my previous post, I talked about why I felt digital was the way forward — and how an emphasis on sites that work, that inform, and that sell the product directly to the customer are replacing “big idea” campaigns. I said that, in order to be a competent digital copywriter, a copywriter should have a broad understanding of digital skills beyond idea generation and actual copywriting. The skills I suggested were:

  • Conversion rate optimization
  • User experience (UX) testing
  • Metrics (stats like bounce rates, etc)
  • Web design and development
  • Content marketing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media integration

In this

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