Become a freelance god in 7 (sort of) simple steps

May 26, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance copywriting godThe world is filled with dreaming writers who have heard golden stories of the great beyond (working full time as a well-paid freelance copywriter), but who have yet to make the mysterious transformation from mere mortal to freelance god.

Many of my fellow immortals would keep you in the dark, struggling to find the secret.

But I, in my infinite mercy, shall now reveal to you the 7 steps for breaking the bonds of earth and ascending in glory to the pantheon of six-figure writers who …

Okay, even I can’t continue with that silly metaphor.

The fact is, there is very little difference between you and those “godlike” writers you admire and envy. Going from struggling writer to successful freelancer isn’t effortless, but it’s not as complicated or mysterious as you might think.

Really, it’s about 7 pretty simple ideas:

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12 boring copywriting tips (that lead to exciting results)

May 12, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

boring copywriting tipsIn marketing, people are always looking for the next new thing. New technology, new lists, new creative formats, and all sorts of new whiz-bang stuff.

But when it comes to copy, the old ideas are generally the best ideas. Why? Because selling is about communicating with people, and people are pretty much the same today as they ever were.

Oh, is that boring? Would you rather that I reveal some spectacular new copywriting discovery?

Well, too bad. Because for the most part, the stuff that worked a hundred years ago still works today. And a hundred years from now, it will be working just as well.

Buzzwords come and go, of course. The style of marketing copy is generally shorter and more to-the-point now.

But if you pick up an old magazine or catalog or look at a direct mail package from decades ago, you’ll see the same principles at work as you would in any of today’s efforts.

Here are a dozen of the most important:

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How to handle those pesky ASAP copywriting requests

May 5, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 7 Comments
Filed under: Business Smarts 

rush copywriting projectsRush work. We all hate it, but it’s a fact of life for freelancers. Trouble is, some clients abuse our good nature with repeated requests for quick copy.

Sara Lancaster takes on this problem and provides a few suggestions for dealing with it.


On Monday, a client sends you an e-mail requesting brochure copy. The company’s sales team is going to a conference next week. NEXT WEEK!

On Tuesday, a potential client calls to ask if he can have 50 articles about cell phone repair ASAP.

On Wednesday, an old co-worker IMs and asks you to be a professional reference. She’d love it if you could review her résumé that afternoon.

On Thursday … oh, never mind. You get the point.

What is with all these rush copy projects?

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The freelance guide to working with clients that SUCK

April 21, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 6 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance clients that suckThis post originally appeared at Men With Pens.

Ah, the freelance copywriting life. You get to sit at home, work when you feel like it, and tackle only choice projects from smart, easy, free-spending clients who love and adore you.

Well, not quite.

All those e-books and courses that promise freelance nirvana may be bending the truth just a little bit. Yes, you can work from home. But you’ll probably put in long hours, especially for the first few years. And you won’t get all plumb projects.

Some of your clients will be wonderful. Most will be average. But some are going to suck. That’s the way it is. Some can suck so bad, you’ll be temped to get out of freelancing altogether if you’re not prepared to deal with them.

So let’s look at the various ways clients can suck and how you should handle it.

Here are some of the basic sucky client categories:

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Fascinations: The art of writing compelling teaser copy

April 7, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Mel Martin Fascinations LetterInsurance policies everybody buys but nobody needs.

How to spot an honest auto mechanic.

Eight things to leave out of a job resume.

Where to find the best buys in a supermarket … positioned where you’re least likely to look!

Outwitting hotel thieves: The best places to hide valuables in your room.

You’ve probably seen teaser copy like this and thought to yourself, “That’s damn good copy. I wonder who wrote that?”

But if you ask someone, they’ll just shrug their shoulders. Even most copywriters have no idea.

His name was Mel Martin. And he’s been called the best copywriter nobody’s ever heard of. And for good reason.

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Take the Duluth catalog copywriting challenge

March 24, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 13 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Duluth Trading catalog copywritingDid you ever get a catalog in the mail and want to read it cover-to-cover?

Most catalogs are pretty boring. And since I’m not the shopping type, most catalogs go right in the trash.

That is, unless my wife intercepts them. (I have to start sorting the mail in the garage before I come into the house.)

Anyway, I received a Duluth Trading Co. catalog the other day and I was hooked. I’ve seen the catalog before, but never took the time to browse.

The copywriting is superb.

I talked about Duluth Trading’s catalog copy on my business blog, but I’m so pumped about it, I wanted to turn my enthusiasm into a challenge.

Can you write engaging catalog copy like this?

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Are you losing thousands in freelance fees to PayPal?

March 11, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 14 Comments
Filed under: Business Smarts 

paypal freelance feesBack in the Jurassic period of my career, there was no World Wide Web. So there were no nifty online payment services for billing freelance fees.

I’d invoice clients the same way I sent them copy: in the mail. Yes, I’d print an invoice, address an envelope, and drop it in a mailbox. The client would get the invoice a few days later.

Today, we have PayPal.

Billing clients with PayPal is about as easy as it gets. You can send an email invoice or use PayPal’s “request for money” feature. When the client pays, it comes to your PayPal account and you get a notice upon arrival.

Some clients like PayPal because they can use a credit card to pay you, and they don’t have to fumble with checks or bother with sticking bits of paper in the mail.

But this convenience comes at a cost, namely PayPal’s transaction fees.

In the U.S., you’re charged 2.9% of your invoice plus $0.30 for each payment. So to receive payment on a $1,000 invoice, you lose $29.30. If it’s an international payment, it’s an extra 1.0%, so you lose $39.30.

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The freelancer’s quick job hunting guide – Part 2

March 3, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Freelancing 

job hunting for freelancersIn part 1 of this short job hunting series, I said that it’s possible for some freelancers to get tired of chasing clients, fretting over cash flow, and feeling burned out.

While it’s a great way of life for me and many others, freelancing full-time forever just isn’t for everyone.

So you might wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to look for a real job.

No shame in that. As long as you’re not giving up on freelancing too soon, which is the biggest mistake newbies make, my advice is to do what’s best for you.

We’ve already talked about some of the challenges freelancers face when hunting for a job and a few things you can do to lay the groundwork for a job hunt.

Now, as promised, let’s look at a few commonsense tips for how to leverage your freelance expertise, set yourself apart from other job hunters, and land the job you really want.

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The freelancer’s quick job hunting guide – Part 1

February 24, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 3 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

job hunting for freelancersI’ve been a freelance copywriter for so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a “real” job.

Early on, when freelancing was new and mysterious, I continued to entertain the possibility of full-time work. I even went on interviews now and then.

I haven’t thought about looking for a job for years, but I’ve recently learned that some of the freelancers I know have thrown in the towel and re-entered the rat race. Why?

Maybe they got tired of chasing clients. Or perhaps they needed regular cash flow, paid benefits, or a more social work environment. Maybe they just got burned out, since freelancing, while a wonderful way of life, isn’t for everyone.

I listed some of the pros and cons of full-time vs. freelance copywriting last April.

Whatever the reason, this news got me thinking that while I generally talk about how to get into freelancing, it might be a good idea to talk about an exit plan.

So how do you get back into the workforce when you’ve been freelancing for a while?

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What exactly does a copywriter do anyway?

February 17, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 14 Comments
Filed under: Ask Dean 

ask Dean Rieck about copywritersWhat does a copywriter do?

Funny that I never talked about this before. But I’m learning that a fair number of people really don’t know what a copywriter does for a living.

Even copywriters don’t always know how to answer that question, because they may do just one specific type of writing and have no experience with what others do.

So I think a clear definition is in order, though that’s harder than it sounds.

I’d hate to just say something lame such as, “Copywriters write stuff for businesses” or “Copywriters help businesses sell products and services with the written word.”

These definitions are simply too limited. And they really don’t give you a clear picture of the day-to-day work of a copywriter.

Perhaps the best way to define a copywriter is to just give examples of the various things a copywriter does. A copywriter will …

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