Content writers who freelance often think of themselves as entrepreneurs, rather than as a formal business.
I think this is a mistake because it allows a mind shift that says “I don’t have to follow the rules.”
Well, content writers and copywriters may not have to follow the rules anymore now that they’re freelance, but they still need to generate an income. And that turns them into a “business,” no matter how small it may be.
Fortunately a small business is easier to run than a larger one, especially a service business. In working with a client, all you really need are three documents:
- A Creative Brief (Project Brief) that tells you what you need to know about the project before you start writing (unless the project is very simple).
- A Fee Agreement, which is signed by the client before a word is written.
- An Invoice.
This is the basis upon which most content writers and copywriters run their businesses.
Simple! And simple is good. But it’s not kick ass.
You can build a stronger business if you follow my 9-step formula for processing each writing job. Let’s go through each step:
- Creative Brief. Most clients want results from the copy you write, and unless the job is very simple, like writing a biography, you’ll need a Creative Brief. Ideally you give the Creative Brief to your client before you price the work, because very often it will reveal work to be done that wasn’t mentioned earlier, saving you from underpricing.
- Fee Agreement. After you receive the Creative Brief, you can study it and create accurate pricing. Like the Creative Brief, the Fee Agreement needs to come back signed and dated.
- Payment #1. Most content and copywriting jobs are paid 50 percent up front and 50 percent upon final approval. There are variations (such as 33 percent/33 percent/34 percent for big jobs that take a lot of time), but a simple Invoice for the first payment is standard.
- Payment #2. When the copy is done and the client has accepted the final revision, that’s when you send your second and final Invoice. When that payment comes in, is when most writers close the job and turn their attentions elsewhere. But look at what that writer is leaving on the table:
- Project Results. Before you put your file away for the project, keep it open long enough to be able to go back to the client and ask, “What were the results of the (post/mailer/landing page, etc.)?” If the results were good, you can ask for a…
- Testimonial. If you do good work consistently, you can build up a list of impressive testimonials in a relatively short time, building impressive credibility. You can also create a…
- Case Study. Case Studies are among your most powerful marketing materials. By keeping a job open until I got the results, I could see whether I had the material for a strong Case Study. This tactic alone helped me create a document so full of Case Studies that clients tip over immediately just from reading the headlines. The trick is that you cannot put the file away until the Case Study is written. (Or it might not get written.)
- More Business. Many content writers are intimidated about asking for more business. Get over it! Don’t file this job away until you can put a checkmark into that box!
- Say Thank You. Send an email. Send an e-card. Send a real, mailed handwritten “thank you” note. If they’ve been a good client and paid you well, send a New Year’s gift. There’s lots of ways to say “thank you,” and it will set you apart from the legions who are too self-absorbed to think about it.
Attaching this Checklist to a file folder (as shown in the photo), and retiring a job only after I’ve gone through each step, helped me accelerate the growth and success of my freelance copywriting business. I got to “kick ass” status within six months of ground zero. I was even hiring copywriters and designers to help!
I’ve created a simple Copywriting Project Checklist that you can use in your content writing business too. You can download it HERE.
Do you have a business process you use? Is there anything you can add to this checklist? Did you download the Copywriting Project Checklist? Let me know in the comments below…
© 2016 Chris Marlow, All Rights Reserved