Freelancers — What Do You Need to Know About Business Writing?

Carol Tice

I remember distinctly the moment I figured out that I could possibly write for businesses.

At the time, I was a longtime journalist, and I honestly thought people who did PR-type writing were part of the Dark side of the Force.

I didn’t know article writers could write for business, too!

But one day, I asked another Seattle Times freelancer I was working on a project with who else she wrote for.

“Oh — Ford Motor,” she blithely replied.

That was my introduction to the idea that I could be a business writer, too.

The funny thing was, when I tried it, I discovered I loved it.

It’s challenging, satisfying work, helping a business tell their story in a compelling way.

And yes, you can do it without feeling sleazy.

Oh yeah — also, it paid so much more than articles for magazines that the first year I did it, I was able to take my family on an Alaska cruise with the extra money. True story.

What keeps writers out of business

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from freelance writers about getting into business writing — and questions from small-business copywriters on how to move up to bigger clients. What I’m hearing:

  • Writers feel they don’t know enough about business to get into this niche.
  • Or they’re unsure they’ve got the writing skills to do it.
  • Writers don’t know how to find good business clients — the kind that pay $75-$100 an hour.
  • Or they’re turned off because they think it’s all writing hard-sell direct mail packages.

Tell me your business-writing question – and win

So that’s the topic of the next Freelance Writers Den bootcamp: Break into Business Writing. It’s coming next month.

We’re still getting all the content ready for this 4-week training, and I’d love to find out what you’d like to learn about this.

What do you need to know about breaking into business writing?

To make it fun, I’ll be giving out a free ticket to the bootcamp for the most interesting question.

(P.S. If you’re a Den member, I’d love to see your questions here, but you won’t win — because the bootcamp is included in your membership.)

What do you want to know about becoming a business writer? Leave your question in the comments below. I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.



  1. Chris Lovie-Tyler

    My question is this:

    Is it possible to write for businesses without being a trained copywriter, or having to use copywriting techniques?

    I like the idea of writing for businesses, and I think a lot of them desperately need good writers (ones who can write in plain English and with a bit of personality.) But I really don’t like the thought of writing salesy copy, or using what seem to me to be manipulative copywriting techniques.

    Having done quite a bit of reading on marketing lately, the only approach that really sits well with me is content marketing. Maybe that would be your answer?

    • Carol Tice

      Chris, I’ve never written sales copy to date! There is a ton of opportunity in this niche in informational content and article and blog writing, white papers, etc. And needless to say, I am not a trained copywriter.

      In the first session of this class we will be going over ALL the different opportunities there are within business writing, and the skills you need to do these assignments.

      Thanks for kicking off the questions here! I love contests. 😉

      • Chris Lovie-Tyler

        Excellent! I’m certainly keen to write informational content, articles and blog posts. I know nothing about white papers, but I’m willing to learn. Thanks, Carol.

  2. Jennifer

    This sounds like a wonderful course. You mentioned picking the best “question” (singular), but I had quite a few. I listed them below just in case you could use other ideas on what to include, but if you’re only evaluating one for purposes of picking someone for the bootcamp, you can just use #1.

    1. How do you make that first connection/land that first gig with a business? What was your first gig with a business? Where would you recommend a writer begin?

    2. Is it possible to write for businesses when you have a full-time job during the day? How available do they expect you to be during the day?

    3. What are the most commonly needed services from businesses you write for? Does this differ from large businesses to small?

    4. What do businesses look for in a writer they’d like to hire?

    5. What would your “to-do” list include for a writer like myself who’s new at business writing and doesn’t even have a website yet (but I do have a LinkedIn account)?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jennifer — great questions!

      To #1, I stumbled onto my first client. I had just left a staff-writing job and called some of my good sources over the years just to say thanks for their help. One of them — a startup CEO of a call-center service company — asked me to ghost his blog. Honestly, at the time I didn’t even know what a blog was! But I ended up doing several thou of work for him. I think most people find their first business account in some similar way…maybe chatting up that yoga studio owner or health-food mom-and-pop store you frequent, and they realize they could use some web copy rewrites. Really simple as that and presto, you have a sample.

      It might not work for some businesses if you have a day job, but I’ve definitely worked for many that wouldn’t have cared when you do their stuff.

      And my second client I found off a lead on a writers’ listserv in my town…and it was a $1 billion global company. If you have some experience in their industry, businesses are often eager to try you out, and you don’t have to slog up the ladder for years paying your dues with tiny businesses.

      To #5 I’d say…get a website. You really can’t present yourself professionally and land great clients without one at this point.

      I’m intrigued by #3 – not sure I know the answer there. Going to look for some stats on how much of business writing is what type…I think Chris Marlow may have that in her study of writer rates: – you might ask her.

  3. Lilla Folsom

    I’m a little confused about the different forms this takes. There’s B2B, white papers, press releases, trade pubs and last week we learned about case studies. Do you consider these all business writing?

    What, besides a ton of direct experience in a business, would pique the interest of someone looking for a business writer?

    How do I find a better brand of business to engage. I see these ads for businesses and they pay $5 for the work.

    What’s the best method of approach? Who would I speak with to find if they use freelancers? BTW, really enjoyed the LOI talk with Linda and Carol.

    Thanks for a great topic. Can’t wait.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Lilla — glad you found that LOI event useful! I’m happy to have a basic training in that for the Den now.

      To find a better brand…stop looking at ads. Especially those mass boards.

      And yes, I do consider all of that business writing. There are a ton of niches within business writing, and we’ll be going through all that in the bootcamp.

      You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get clients once you learn the ropes on it. There’s so much pent-up demand in business to get more marketing done, it’s incredible.

  4. Laura

    I agree with the other posters about “business writing” being a pretty broad term. Technically I have written for a lot of businesses, usually in the form of writing profiles for one specific business. But I have never written white papers and wouldn’t know where to begin with those. I guess my main questions would be:

    1. Which of these types of writing typically pay the best?
    2. What industries are easiest/hardest to break into?
    3. How do you get some experience writing these types of things in order to have samples?
    4. If these are the types of articles that are typically not bylined, how can you be sure that a client knows you wrote them?

    Thanks, Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Laura –

      Man, more great questions! I’m so glad I asked this today.

      Your best place to break in will depend on what you know — your experience. I don’t believe there’s an easiest or hardest industry overall.

      We’ll go over in detail how to get experience in the class…or if you’re already a Den member you could check out our Step by Step course for a lot of relevant tips on that.

      Everybody who ghostwrites anything deals with the no-byline issue, and it’s really not a big one. Just get a testimonial from the client, so prospects can see you really did the work.

  5. Melissa Breau

    Hey Carol,

    I have to say that I both love and hate posts like this — Hate because I think too many writers get into the business side of things without doing their research. I’ve put in a lot of time learning and self teaching myself good copywriting skills, studying what works and what doesn’t and generally trying to understand the differences between that and article writing. And there are a LOT of differences — at least as many as the difference between writing an English 101 Essay for school and an article.

    That said, for writers willing to do the research and learn the skills it CAN be a very lucrative business and it’s a ton of fun. There’s nothing more thrilling than hearing back from a client that a mailer you wrote landed her a bunch of new prospects or got a better ROI than she’d expected.

    So I guess my “question” — as someone who does business writing — would be based on education: What’s the minimum amount of education you’d recommend for someone interested in business writing and where would you suggest they look?

    (PS I’d be happy to make some suggestions in terms of a good answer)

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Melissa —

      Hmmm…I’d probably suggest they take Break into Business Writing. 😉 The course is designed to get you ready to do some business writing. And bear in mind many writers may not be looking to go the sales-copy route. Some of the other niches in business bear more similarity to skills writers may already have, such as article writing. That’s been my scene.

      As a college dropout myself who has edited some ghastly writing of people with multiple degrees, guess I don’t think it’s about years of studying in an ivory tower somewhere. You can learn it all by working with clients, starting with small businesses. Also you can read sites like Copyblogger and learn a ton about writing persuasive copy as well, especially for the web.

      I’d rather see writers get a basic grounding in business writing and how to get business clients, and start getting experience and samples and learn on the job while getting paid! That’s how I did it.

      • Melissa Breau

        I agree that school isn’t the answer—but I think that there are techniques, even in content marketing like the types of “non-salesy” pieces you mention that make for more effective writing.

        Marketing IS different than article writing. I agree that copyblogger is a great resource; I think Derak Halpern (who I know you’re a fan of) is another great resource (one of the differences, I think, is what Derek says—it’s about psychology).

        I guess it all goes back to an (adapted) quote I read in a Bob Bly book (yet another GREAT resource): A copywriter is just a sales person behind a keyboard. Yes, telling a company’s story in an interesting way is a big part of that… but you should still understand that the reason the company is hiring you is because they want to sell more products. And there is a way to do that in writing and a way that won’t accomplish anything.

      • Melissa Breau

        I agree that school isn’t the answer—but I think that there are techniques, even in content marketing like the types of “non-salesy” pieces you mention that make for more effective writing.

        Marketing IS different than article writing. I agree that copyblogger is a great resource; I think Derak Halpern (who I know you’re a fan of) is another great resource (one of the differences, I think, is what Derek says—it’s about psychology).

        I guess it all goes back to an (adapted) quote I read in a Bob Bly book (yet another GREAT resource): A copywriter is just a sales person behind a keyboard. Yes, telling a company’s story in an interesting way is a big part of that… but you should still understand that the reason the company is hiring you is because they want to sell more products. And there is a way to do that in writing and a way that won’t accomplish anything.

  6. Jennifer

    My dilemma is this: how do I create an online presence that appeals to business clients without alienating newspaper or magazine editors, for example? I would like to write for companies in my niche (education) but also pick up some work that is more journalistic. I feel like these two types of writing have inherently conflicting purposes. If a newspaper editor sees me as someone who writes promotional copy, would s/he question my ability to deliver unbiased stories? So, how do I build a platform that appeals to both kinds of potential clients?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jennifer –

      Why don’t you take a look at for a view on how I do it? I haven’t found it a problem at all.

  7. Faith

    I am bit of a information junkie. I’ll buy or consume information and sit on it. Could you include some actionable steps in your course to help people get started? Or maybe do some kind of buddy accountability system in the Den for those who took the course.

    Hopefully this doesn’t seem like more work on your part Carol but I thought it may help those and myself who need a kick-start :).

    Thank You!

    • Carol Tice

      Faith, this class will be ALL about actionable steps… about understanding the market opportunity and getting right out there. My bootcamps have weekly homework assignments for writers to start putting it all directly into practice.

  8. Jeanne H

    Super essited! This is exactly the kind of writing/freelancing I want to learn about. Previous commenters have already mentioned the topics I am interested in as well. Awesome. 🙂

  9. Halina

    Hi Carol,

    Here’s my (hopefully winning) question:

    Should you create a new contract for every new writing project with the business or can you create a more general contract that simply covers your pay rate and the length of time you will be obligated to the business?

    Thank you again!

    • Carol Tice

      Really depends on the situation, Halina. Sometimes you’re on an ongoing retainer where it’s X a month. Other times the work’s more sporadic.

      Often, I’d say once I have a relationship with a client and have seen they pay promptly and we have a great relationship, if it’s not an ongoing deal, I might just be sending a quick confirmation email on the terms of a new project…it gets a bit more informal.

      Not sure that’s such a brilliant answer…but it’s the reality! Really, every business client’s situation and relationship with you will be different.

  10. Sophie Lizard

    Carol, I already do a lot of business writing, but I still have questions!

    I love to hear how other freelance writers are finding their best clients, and a particular interest of mine right now is analysing other writers’ queries and proposals to business writing clients. I’m looking for things they included that I never thought of, or approaches that I find off-putting and might want to avoid in my own proposals.

    So my top question would be, what do you include in a proposal to a big business client?

    • Carol Tice

      You know, I don’t know if I’ve done a proposal to a big business! All the Fortune 500-type clients I’ve had, they approached me.

  11. Anne Grant

    The testimonials about your classes tell me:
    1) There are numerous ways to “break into writing” that aren’t fruitful.
    2) My aspirations match much of what your instructors have accomplished, so I can learn from their successes… and maybe even more from their failures.
    3) You have proven methods that could break the barriers of “hoping and dreaming” to move forward in “doing and being”.

    What I would like to know about Business Writing is not only how to reach and get noticed by the right people to acquire quality clients, but the most productive and profitable approach to understanding the culture, the message and the target market of the most desirable copywriting assignments.
    All that being said, I imagine your class will clarify what I actually NEED to know, with more questions (and answers) for optimal results.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah…it’s easy to waste time out there in a world full of content mills and Craigslist ads. But I’ve been blown away at how fast that can change once you start learning and marketing your business proactively. Some of the Den stories have blown me away! I spoke to one woman who went from $0 -$6K a month recently, just using the Den info. Really BIG turnarounds are possible…and I love being the shortcut that gets writers there faster.

      • Anne Grant

        Well, how about that? Getting answers already…
        I will dig into your blog, as well as a few others that seem to keep rising to the top of everyone’s follow list such as The Renegade Writer and Copyblogger.
        I’m sure there are many other worthwhile blogs and websites, but I do appreciate the info you are providing through yours.

  12. Brad

    Hi Carol,

    thanks for all the good info you share in your blog & classes. I’ve been auditing the Blast Off class.

    My questions are;
    1- how much do I need to shift my personal development blog to appeal to business writing gigs? It seems too much like a journal on PD to appeal, but maybe I’m wrong?
    2- Do I need to get a self hosted, paid website, I’m using a free WordPress hosted site now?
    3- How to find my niche?
    4- How to break in that niche?

    3 & 4 are addressed in the class, and obviously I’m behind in studying them!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m surprised you’re asking #3 if you’re taking the Blast Off…use your worksheet to discover your best opportunities, Brad!

      Then you might check out the Step by Step guide bootcamp for tips on breaking in, if you’re already in the Den.

      I don’t know that you have to shift a PD blog — isn’t Zen Habits one, and it’s one of the most successful online businesses around? My view is your blog niche doesn’t matter, as long as you show you understand niche blogging, and businesses can see you getting engagement and that you write great headlines and all.

      I’m always in favor of getting a paid site…free sites really have some limitations and just broadcast “I’m a dabbler and don’t take this seriously” to prospects.

  13. Bobbie

    Is it possible to break into business writing (or any kind of profitable writing) if your only experience is with content mills?

    • Carol Tice

      Surely! People are doing this with the Den’s help all the time…check out some of the testimonials on the home page at

  14. Abby

    I’m thinking of trying to get into copywriting for non-profits. I have a bit of familiarity with writing fundraising letters, and I’m going to start volunteering to do some of that, some short case studies, and maybe some newsletter writing for a non-profit that’s made a big impact on me personally.

    I’m curious about two things:

    1) What’s different about pitching to non-profits? How do you break in? (I’m already working on breaking into small businesses with cold calls, but I wonder if this would be effective or not for non-profits?)

    2) What are earning expectations like for non-profits? To me, it would be worthwhile to take a bit of a paycut in order to work with organizations that are really making a difference, but I still need to be able to put food on the table while working part-time! Is this possible with non-profit writing?

    • Carol Tice

      NPs are really not that different from businesses in how you approach them.

      The key is to target bigger ones that have a real marketing budget, to earn real rates. Stay away from the ones that are hoping you’ll donate your services. 😉

  15. Stéphanie

    I know research is the key to breaking into any market. But I was wondering how much proof do they (the magazines ect) want to see that you’re an expert in the market? Or is it just a matter of writing a darn good piece?

    • Carol Tice

      Magazines aren’t what we’re discussing here…talking writing for businesses today, not publications.

      And you don’t have to be an expert — just know how to find them, and write well.

      But to your question, the answer is sort of none of the above. You need to write a well-researched query. Just sending in an article without an assignment isn’t usually a winning strategy.

  16. Ann Carranza

    Hi Carol!

    Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question.

    I’m an avid environmentalist and a company’s environmental stance is very important to me. I don’t abide by greenwashing. The upside to that is that I’ve very knowledgeable about the environment and what people look for when they are vetting companies.

    How can I find clients that are not creating a “buy, buy, buy” climate? The ones that are more likely to want to tout their environmental “chops?”


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Ann —

      These days, I feel like socially responsible companies are growing on trees. Everyone from Staples to Starbucks has a corporate responsibility report and discloses how much they recycle and how they reduce their carbon footprint, and look to improve their effort each year, and so on.

      You know the brands you use…and the smaller ones of those are great places to start to make sure you end up writing for companies that reflect your own values.

      • Ann Carranza

        Great idea, Carol! Talk about not thinking about the obvious–there are many, many local companies whose products I already tout as wonderful. There may be a real need by local entrepreneurs for business writing.

        Thanks for the great advice!

  17. Kate

    Can’t wait to be in the den but still in the waiting list 🙂 My question is –and maybe it’ll help those who want to break in business writing:

    when you’re still starting out as a business writer and you’re not choosy about your clients, how do you keep your brain from being fried (creative brain cells gasping for breath) when you don’t like the products you’re marketing?

    My friend had an experience ghost writing about a specific dog disease for a vet’s blog.

    • Carol Tice

      You know…I never took a gig writing for a business where I wasn’t at least passingly interested in what they were doing. If what the business does makes you feel uncomfortable or sleazy, you really need to pass. I’d rather see writers stock grocery shelves at night for extra cash and keep marketing than do things that make you feel bad.

      Because that affects your energy and outlook and ability to market and find more clients…important not to go there.

      • Chris Lovie-Tyler

        I really like this advice, Carol. It gives me more confidence about the direction I want to go (and not go), too.

      • Kate

        What if it’s not sleazy but something you’re not interested in? Let’s say, you really need the money to pay rent, food and whatnot and just needed that one thing that pays to get the ball rolling? You know you only want to do it short term to pay the bills. Because marketing can take a while to build up especially if one’s still starting out.

        • Carol Tice

          Well…this is what separates pro writers from dabblers, I think.

          I’m able to find the fascination in a really wide variety of topics…at least enough to be interested and report a good story on it.

          Tow truck drivers are ripping off car owners…really? Tell me more! New insurance guarantees pose challenges for pension fund managers…oh no, what will they do?

          Writing on topics that aren’t your passion is character-building and skill-building, I believe. See my post on Selling Out for more on this.

          Like weight-lifting will make you buff, but it’s boring while you’re doing it? You have to decide if you want those muscles. If you want to be able to pay all your bills from writing, sometimes you write stuff that’s a little less than your dream topic.

          If you really, seriously cannot get interested in the topic at all, I’m back to option one: You gotta pass. Because you’ll suck at this assignment, and it won’t help your career, or get you a testimonial, or do anything to move your career forward.

          Some writers are born to write in their journals, about whatever hits their fancy this morning. It’s a whole different mindset to need to book several thousand dollars of revenue each and every month — and sometimes you take some weird gigs to do it. You’ve gotta love the adventure of that more than you’d like to pump gas or stock grocery shelves to make it work, Kate.

          • Kate

            This clarifies a lot of things for me. I’m going to read your article right now. Thanks a lot Carol! Gotta hit the ‘writers’ gym now! 🙂

  18. Beverly Taylor

    The Den was closed the last time I looked, so I’d love to be entered in your contest. In just one week, I’m losing my career in journalism (after 39 years) and need to find other work. It would be exciting for me to find business writing in the food, drink and hospitality world, since I’ll be working on a blog and website next month dealing with such topics. My question:

    Are there examples of creative proposals that businesses found so irresistible that they felt they had to have that writer? Were there others that were too over-the-top, so that they turned down a writer?

    Like the girl with the golden locks, I’m looking for the porridge to be just right!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Beverly —

      In the Den we’ve got examples of letters of introduction where writers pitched their services to businesses and got the gig, so I’m sure you’d enjoy that. I don’t know about too over the top…nobody’s sharing those with me!

      But the thing is that somebody else pitching some other business doesn’t mean you can replicate that. You can learn LOI basics and to speak in that business’s voice in your pitch, and you can experiment until you see what works for you, and where you get results. I find every writer has to carve out their own marketing path and gets results their own way.

  19. Jessica Benavides Canepa

    Hi Carol,

    A very tempting offer you have set up here!

    As a full time travel and lifestyle writer who has dabbled in business writing related to my niches, my questions are more about time constraints and location.

    How many hours per day/week do I (realistically) need to spend on your training and subsequent actions in order to see some results?

    Since the work is usually remote, do you think it would matter to businesses that I am often traveling and thus in possibly conflicting time zones?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jessica —

      The sessions are one hour, and I’d say maybe there’s an hour or two of homework each week. It’s not a huge commitment.

      Some businesses want someone local or even onsite, Jessica, but many others are accustomed to using virtual workers. If you don’t make a point of the fact that you’re traveling and you continue to meet deadlines, for many other businesses it won’t be important.

  20. Rebecca Baisch

    The upcoming business writing webinar sounds interesting. I would like to know about the value for someone who already does business writing. I currently have a very niche-specific writing clientele, but I do struggle with attracting others types of business writing gigs. I have a blog, (Cloudlancer Writing Nonprofit Support) on Blogger, I’m on Linked In, and belong to a couple of writer’s groups. I absolutely subscribe to the idea that you can always learn from anyone but I am somewhat beyond the point of a true entry-level seminar. Your thoughts?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Rebecca —

      Good question! It’s got 4 parts to it and maybe session 1 where we introduce the business writing niche and all the types of writing, and how to write for business and find clients might be a bit review for you.

      Then there’s a marketing intensive where we’ll talk about what’s working now and how to up your marketing game, and sessions on how to kill at writing both informational copy and persuasive copy (excited to have Chris Marlow teaching that last one!). Don’t know if any of that represents new areas for you.

  21. Theda K. Rogers

    I hope I’m not repeating a question you’ve already answered. I’ve been business writing for a while now, but I can never seem to get my business really off the ground. I get a client or two in spurts. I’ve just moved to a big city, so I think there will be more opportunities here. My question has to do with how to decide where to start. I think I want to cold call or cold email attorneys, and after a few no’s I think I must be barking up the wrong tree. So I change directions and try another field. How can I get started and not worry that I’m on the wrong path? Is it really just a numbers game?

    • Carol Tice

      Theda, if you’re calling or emailing cold with no connection to the business (no personal referral, you haven’t studied their site and identified ways you could add value), you can expect to need to make hundreds of calls to get enough clients to be fully booked. Sounds like you’re giving up way too early.

      I know Chris Marlow has her students identify 250 prospects to contact as a start!

  22. jean

    What’s the best, quickest way for a blogger to go from blogging and guest blogging on reputable, popular blogging sites for free to being a paid blogger/writer?

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t think there’s one answer to that. If there was, I’d no doubt be a millionaire now selling a class to teach that!

      A few thoughts:

      Start pitching sites that pay instead of the ones that don’t. There are quite a few lists of paying markets out there, including a short one on my writers’ guidelines page:

      When you’re guesting on popular sites, work HARD on those posts and make sure they have irresistible, keyword-rich headlines. Jon Morrow from Copyblogger has reported he often spends 8 hours writing a guest post. Do you?

      Many bloggers I know get all their clients off those high-visibility guest posts — prospects just come out of the woodwork and call them. So if you do guest posting right, you may not have to do much else to begin earning.

  23. Paula Hill

    What credentials would a business prospect be seeking in a writer? After some time unable to work, I am beginning to rebuild again. What would you suggest from the beginning to building a reliable income writing for business?

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve never had a business prospect ask me for any “credentials,” Paula!

      I’ve kind of designed the whole Break into Business class to answer your question on how to build a stable of business clients…4 hours of materials! From how to identify prospects and market to how to do the writing.

      To get started, if you have no business-writing samples you’ll need to find a few places that will let you do a free small project. Once you have 3-4 samples, you’re ready to pitch and start getting paying gigs.

      Building a reliable income I’d say comes from 1) doing a lot of marketing so you always have new prospects coming online and 2) moving up to target medium-sized to bigger businesses that have more ongoing work.

      • Paula Hill

        Thank you Carol for your kind response. I have the ability to build the flow to form a reliable income. I have noticed that as with any business venture particularly in a creative industry, most clients prefer that you have a portfolio, references, etc. Thank you for your suggestions.

        • Carol Tice

          Well, sure they do — but there are always entry-level clients who might take a flier on you and let you get a sample. And then you’re on your way.

  24. Ashley

    Hi Carol,
    I’ve thought about freelance writing for businesses, but I quickly become overwhelmed by the thought of all the choices and information I would have to juggle as a freelancer. I feel like if I did some cold calling and actually got a job, I’d be paralyzed by the expectations of what I’m supposed to know – how to phrase things for PR, how to charge the right amount, how to create specialized business writing when I don’t have any experience with it. I’m an overwhelmed beginner! My question is: what is the best way to prepare for business freelancing?

    • Carol Tice

      Start small, Ashley. Do a brochure or a few web pages for a friend’s business, gratis. Get a few samples. Write a brochure or white paper about your own business, too.

      Do types of writing you feel you understand — maybe blogging if you have a blog. Everybody doesn’t have to write direct-mail packages (I don’t!).

      One of our Den presenters, Mitt Ray, said when he got into white papers he wrote several just for practice! That’s a skill-building technique that’s available to everybody.

      As far as negotiating and what to charge, we have great resources in the Den, and Chris Marlow has actual survey data on types of business writing, if you check out her site: Writer’s Market has some rate ranges as well. Best of all is asking your writer crowd for feedback on your bid proposal before you send it…folks are really winning doing that in the Den.

  25. Ronn Jerard

    !. What chances does a new writer have to break into the business writing field?

    2. Is there a learning curve during which a writer may get a lot of rejection notices, before breaking through?

    3. Does a writer need to have previous copywriting skills and experience prior to breaking through?

    • Carol Tice

      1) Peter Bowerman reports he had NO writing experience of any kind when he launched. Need I say more?
      2) No…we all get a lot of ‘no’s, throughout our careers.
      3) Usually, by the time you ‘break through’ to where you’re getting a ton of referrals and have all the work you can handle without having to do a ton of marketing, you’ve gotten some experience. 😉

      Just want to say thanks to everybody for all these questions! This is really helping me — already added one whole section to the first session based on a question here.

  26. Holly Case

    I recently got an assignment through a local publisher to write some medical copy, such as patient brochures and health system newsletters. I have discovered that I absolutely love this type of writing and it’s quite a bit more lucrative than the type of writing I normally do. How can I get more assignments like this, since this one just fell into my lap? I don’t know who to contact to try to solicit more work of this variety.

    • Carol Tice

      Start by asking that great first client for referrals, I say. And congrats!

      I had the exact same reaction when I got into business writing. Hey…this is sorta fun! And pays great…show me more.

  27. Jenny

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks for the opportunity to win a free ticket.

    Here is my question: How do you go about rewrites? Are there policies or best practices? Is there a limit to the number of rewrites you should do?

    Fingers crossed!

    • Carol Tice

      Rewrites are something you can negotiate in your contract, Jenny. Many copywriters include two rounds of edits and then more costs additional.

      I’ve differentiated with my “I write until you’re ecstatic” policy, which I’m able to offer because it’s so rare for me that anyone wants more than one edit! And it sounds better, doesn’t it?

      • Jenny

        Really? You have never had a pain in the arse client that you simply cannot satisfy?

        • Carol Tice

          Maybe once…the thing is, I’ve been telling business stories for a long time. So at this point I don’t have a lot of problems. I know how to do it. I also ask a LOT of questions on the front end, which avoids train wrecks — see this piece on how to figure out a company’s tone, for instance:

          And it’s a great selling point for me, that I’m not gonna pop up and go “Oh, I want $300 more now because you want another rewrite.”

          • Jenny

            Ok – so help me understand. You tell them that it’s going to cost an additional amount to redo the post. I also ask tons of questions up front and even have samples approved before I move forward…but still manage to find the clients that like samples but then have problems with posts later on. It becomes cost prohibitive to work with them. I am not asking the right questions, apparently! Can you tell I need the free ticket?

          • Carol Tice

            No, I DON’T tell them it’ll be more to rewrite it. I feel if I didn’t comprehend the assignment and hit it out of the park, it’s my bad…so I don’t charge more. The good news is functionally, I very rarely find myself regretting my stance.

            As a new writer, though, it might be better to stick with the two-revisions thing.

            And ask more questions…if you’re having frequent misses where you need a lot of rewrite work, look at why that happened, so you ask more and different questions next time.

            The common problem I see is writers are worried they seem amateurish or bothersome if they call back to ask more questions as they’re writing…but that’s what allows you to deliver.

  28. Lynette

    Hi Carol:

    1. What, if any, tools do you use when you interview the client to collect information for your writing? How do you learn what you need to know to complete the assignment?

    2. In business writing, how much opportunity is there to write with personality? I often write directly to a certain type of person and sprinkle in a little humor here and there. Is this against the ‘rules’?

    • Carol Tice

      Business writing isn’t about your personality, Lynette, but about the business’s. Your job is to portray their culture and the tone with which they want to communicate with their customer.

  29. Tony Johnston

    Due to some life events I found myself unemployed. I decided to volunteer at a local animal rescue group while I looked for a job. It winds up since I love to read and have dabbled at writing blog-posts I wound up doing copywriting for them. Fliers, brochures and information landing pages for their website. I now work with 3 non-profits and am attempting to self teach. I love this type work so much I have decided to pursue it as a freelance business instead of returning to previous career. That being said I have not made any money at copy-writing yet since I have been doing it as volunteer. I know education is important; but I can not afford to pay lots of money to learn. So my question is what is best way to learn copywriting without having to spend boatloads of money??

    • Carol Tice

      Hmmm…well, I think we think our Den Break into Business Writing class is quite reasonably priced, for a whole month of instruction and support. 😉

  30. bee jay

    What can you do when an editor invites you to send in a headline and a lede on a particular topic, and you do, (after putting in scads of work and time on it, it is on topic and in keeping with their voice and content), and then it gets dismissed in a 2-sentence, non-explanatory manner and you are then ignored through all attempts to follow up?

    • Carol Tice

      This seems like an editorial question, Bee Jay – we’re talking business copywriting here on this thread.

  31. Jennifer

    I have worked as a writer in one capacity or another for nearly twenty years. However, nearly all of my experience is in staff positions, not freelance. My first question is how do you know where to set your fees? I certainly don’t want to start out underpaid but I also have no desire to overprice myself. I have written technical manuals, promotional brochures, web content, development plans, and procedural guides. However, I feel like a newbie when it comes to freelance writing. My second question is what type of writing do you think provides the best introduction to freelance writing and is most likely to lead to future opportunities?

    • Carol Tice

      The best type of writing depends on you — your past experiences and what you enjoy writing, and the industries you know.

      We’re going to be providing a whole list of resources for setting fees in the course, Jennifer! Quick tip: Ask your writer friends for feedback before you submit your bid…I’ve made thousands more after doing that and avoided being too low.

  32. colleen Valles

    Hi Carol!
    I’m a former reporter and editor who can write a news article, but really has no idea about all that business writing entails. This sounds like a great class, and I have so many questions, it’s hard to choose one! So I won’t. Here’s what I would want to see answered in a class like this:

    1. There are so many companies I can think of that I’d love to write for that it’s a little overwhelming. How do you pick the ones that may seem best for you and narrow down the list so that you’re not sending out query letters and introduction letters all day, every day?

    2. What level of collaboration or back-and-forth do most companies want? And do they accept story ideas or is the work mostly assigned?

    3. How can students take the information from the class and implement it in real life?

    Thanks again!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Colleen —

      To take these in reverse order, all our bootcamps come with weekly homework! We are going to have people identifying prospects, beginning their marketing, and doing different writing assignments to start learning and practicing the types of writing business want.

      There is no “most companies,” so can’t really answer there. I’ve had clients who take my first draft and send a check, and others might want many revisions. There isn’t a lot of pitching story ideas in business…even the companies with magazines, most topics will be assigned.

      Your #1 we hear a lot. You’ve got to narrow it down and decide on your top-priority niche and type of writing and type of candidates, and then start marketing, based on the portfolio you have and industries you know, whether you’re targeting smaller or mid-sized companies or where. Make a major marketing effort in that direction, then if it’s not panning out it’s time to regroup and go to your next priority.

  33. Jasmine

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been following your blog and Linda Formichelli’s for about a year now. I’ve read The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman and several other books (including at least one by Robert Bly). I’ve tried to educate myself on how to write for businesses as much as possible. And I can’t get over one thing.

    It seems like most freelancers I know had somewhere to start from. If they had a career in law or retail or sales, they used those contacts and that knowledge to pick up assignments. I graduated from college a little over a year ago and freelance writing is my first “real” job. I don’t have very many professional contacts and it’s been hard to get companies to trust a young face with their business. I get a couple low paying clients, but I want to make a living doing this. How would you suggest someone like me (recent college grad with little work experience) get those higher paying clients?

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t have a degree at all…so you’ve at least got that going for you!

      Ah, the myth of “contacts.” They’re not really essential. And everyone has some, anyway.

      You patronize local businesses…and like what they do. You also have the advantage of being young – the target market for many companies. There are some great companies that would love to work with you. Yes, the pay may not be great to start, but once you have a few clients, it’s time to take your portfolio and target bigger companies and start moving up. We’ll be identifying a lot of resources for finding good prospects in the class.

  34. Becky

    Hi Carol,

    It’s funny you should post today about business writing. I work at a financial firm where I edit and format reports in the publications department. I’d really like to start writing business copy for the company but have no background in it, though I see the copy every day and am familiar with the basics.

    In order to get my foot in the door, taking a boot camp such as yours would be a fantastic jump start. My company pays for education as long as it qualifies as relevant to my job. My boss tells me she would consider approving classes in business writing if I can find a description that would convince HER boss that it’s relevant.

    My question is: how do I word my proposal so that it will come across as necessary for a publications specialist to learn the skills of business writing? (Even better, you could choose me for the free ticket and I could bypass all of this worry!)

    Thanks for the help! Becky

  35. Stef Gonzaga

    For creative writers such as myself (I’m a poet) who would like to break into and learn the ropes of business writing, my question (and concern) would be, “How can a creative writer learn, practice, and earn from business writing without diminishing his or her literary creativity?”

    Some copywriting experts call this “wordsmithing” and more often than not have advised against writing fancy when dealing with website copy, product copy, etc. I understand the point they are making—business writing primarily aims to sell—but I wouldn’t want to lose my grasp of my literary self in the long run. How then does one find the balance between the two?

    • Carol Tice

      I’m not sure…but ask Salman Rushdie. I gather when he wrote copy at Ogilvy & Mather, everybody on the staff had a novel-in-progress in their desk drawer.

      Learning to write in different voices and styles for businesses doesn’t have to crush your creativity or kill your soul. It can be quite the opposite.

  36. Michael Haberman

    I have a business and a reputation as a human resources consultant. I write in that subject area but would like to expand beyond that into other areas of writing. How do you go beyond a perceived area of expertise to convince others you can write their material as well?


    • Carol Tice

      That’s a tricky one, Michael — everybody wants experts to write for free…but I’ve worked with writers on it before.

      ALL: Just want to say I’m going to be out now until probably Thursday morning…but keep leaving questions! I’m judging this contest Thursday night, so there’s still to enter your questions here.

  37. Neil Heater

    I have completed some business writing through elance before, but the thought of finding the ones I want to write for seems much more fulfilling. I agree with Carol from earlier that one can find something interesting in almost anything to write about if they open their eyes and minds a bit. That being said, I guess that leads me to my question (yes Carol I am finally going to hit one of your bootcamp trainings…tired of the boards)

    If you were to find the businesses locally (although I am sure the better paying ones will be online with a huge presence) how do you market yourself? Do you do the door knocking or hit the chamber of commerce type of meeting?

    Looking forward to the training. And how did you get your picture up in the comments section…not that I am vain mind you;)

    • Carol Tice

      Visit, Neil — all your photo probs will be solved!

  38. Richard Myers

    Hi Carol,
    My writing experience is as a reporter/columnist for a small newspaper in Mendocino County, CA and later as a freelancer and investigative writer for a now-defunct law firm here in Fayetteville, AR. Although I have written multiple weekly columns and freelance articles on a wide variety of subjects, I have not a word written towards the business-end of things. My question is as follows: When attempting to enter the field of business writing, how does one who has never performed said writing, know when he/she is ready to do so? Obviously one does not want to waste an editor’s time with irrelevancy and drivel.
    Thank you for your time and consideration with this query.

    • Carol Tice

      As soon as you stop referring to yourself as “one,” you’re ready, Richard.

      The language of business is conversational and casual these days.

  39. Karen Lange

    My biggest challenge is feeling intimidated about writing a letter and approaching a business. So my question would be, how do I confidently overcome that hurdle and take the plunge?

    Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question!

    • Carol Tice

      Pick a small business where it isn’t life or death if you get the gig, to practice on.

      • Karen Lange

        Thank you Carol!

  40. Anne Marie

    I’ve just stumbled onto my first copywriting job, when I really had no intention of looking for one. A friend recommended my writing to someone who is starting up a new business, and they loved my samples, so it looks like I have a contract. Now that I have one client, I’d like to consider the steps towards building a business and adding additional clients in the future–creating a web site and making things official. Here are a couple of questions I’ve had so far:

    1. With freelancing and contract work, assuming I make a reasonable amount of money at some point, I’ll need to think about taxes. What’s the best way to track income and expenses for this purpose? And how do I come up with write-offs when I already own most of the business supplies I’ll need?
    2. How do I pick a topic that’s not overdone around which to build a blog? I can write about writing, but that sounds kind of dull. And writing about my experience won’t be a great way to start since I’m getting into this with very little experience.
    3. I’ll need to learn how to do all the back-end website building stuff, for myself as well as clients. How and where do I learn all that HTML code that makes your blog look so pretty? It scares me.

    • Carol Tice

      I think #1 is a great idea for an upcoming post…sort of lots to say on the tax things. I use Freshbooks for tracking BTW — you can read about my experience with it on my Products I Love page.

      No law says you have to learn anything about building a blog, or that you have to blog at all, Anne Marie. Plenty of business writers don’t.

  41. Jaimie L

    With magazine writing, you study the publications to grasp its style of writing. What’s the best way to gauge the style and the tone used by a business you’re interested in writing for?

    • Carol Tice

      Have you guessed? Read their existing materials! As Ed Gandia said in my recent Writer’s Market article, your swipe file is right online. 😉

  42. Penny

    Is self publishing a good idea? or is finding a publisher more important? I have a 9-5 to support us, but I need extra income and hope to be able to support us on my writing so I can stay home.

    How do I approach a publisher to sell my book?

  43. Donna L Martin

    I am a Fourth Degree Black Belt with twelve years of experience with the martial arts industry. I also write short stories, picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels. Here is my question:

    Is there a way to break into a special niche industry such as martial arts or writing from a business writer’s aspect?

    Donna L Martin

    • Carol Tice

      Sure, Donna! Your life experience makes you a great choice for marketing for dojos and makers of gear, since you understand their industry so well. You can sell that with your writer site and a good letter of introduction…we have a 1-hour training in the Den on how to write one, plus complimentary LOI reviews.

  44. Clara Mae Watrous

    Hi Carol,

    My question would be: How does business to business writing compare with publicist writing?

    Clara Mae Watrous

    • Carol Tice

      I think they’re more or less the same thing, Clara Mae…unless you mean like you were a movie star’s publicist or something!

      But all business writing exists to publicize the business.

  45. Patience Grace

    Where’s the money?
    The business side always wants to answer this question for itself first, so should I be preparing myself by asking them that too?
    How do I approach “the deal” – steps to building a relationship which gets a Yes and handshake…coffee…lunch…room with a view!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Patience — there isn’t usually a room with a view in freelancing…but the Break into Business bootcamp will have a whole section on how to negotiate and determine what an appropriate rate is.

  46. Jenifer Aguilar

    Hi Carol,

    Been following you and Freelance Writer’s Den for a while. I have been blogging and writing as a freelancer for almost two years. I want to do business writing but I am not a native English speaker and I don’t have any educational background to back me up.

    Will I be qualified?

    • Carol Tice

      Jenifer, what about targeting U.S. businesses that sell into your country? You could position yourself as a bilingual writer.

  47. Matt E.

    I guess I’m what you’d call a business writer since I accidentally got a paid blogging/copywriting gig, but it basically fell in my lap. Now that I’m actively trying to build a business writing for businesses, I’m having trouble with promotion. I’m not really having passive promotion issues (e.g., website, Linkedin), rather I’m struggling with active promotion issues. I’m not sure the best way to contact businesses without wasting a bunch of my time or theirs and how to identify the best person to contact in these businesses. I guess this boils down to, is emailing or calling the most effective strategy? or is there something better to which I should be devoting my time (e.g., chamber of commerce, local meetups)? I just want to be sure that I’m not wasting my time shouting to an empty room. If calling/emailing are the best strategies, once I narrow down businesses to target, who specifically should I be targeting? Is there some kind of best practice to consider when deciding who to contact (VP marketing vs CEO vs The girl at the checkout counter)?

    • Carol Tice

      As I think I’ve said above, there isn’t one answer to how to market.

      And as far as doing it without “wasting a lot of time,” I guess I never think of marketing time as a waste. You’re always learning from it — what’s working and not, what language gets you that phone call, etc.

  48. Laura B

    I am not a business writer by preference, but want to write content geared toward social change. Is there a way I can market my preference for humanistic writing effectively, picking up gigs that will allow me to write what I love? I’m tired of writing how-to articles or bland corporate pieces and not sure how to break into the market of writing human interest stories that will sell. How can I do this or is this an area writers should stay away from?

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like doing case studies for big charities is what you’re after…so identify and pitch those markets, Laura.

  49. Carol J. Alexander

    I’m hung up on the “art” of business writing. How do you take the concept of a business, the service of it, the care that goes into the product, what the owner/executive “feels” about his niche, and put it into words that the potential client “gets.” I guess that is my question. I wouldn’t want to write boring, “Joe’s Auto Repair gets your car back on the road in a flash,” but “Joe understands the safety of your family is important to you” in a creative way.

    • Carol Tice

      This is the topic of tomorrow’s blog post, Carol, so stay tuned! How to Write Brilliantly About a Boring Business.

  50. Karin

    Hi Carol,
    I sorta accidentally got into writing for an SEO company and write blog posts and articles for their small biz clients. They expect me to pitch headlines when they are requesting a set of new articles. My question is, how do I consistently come up with new blog ideas for something like an accounting (CPA) company? Or a limo service, or an insurance company, or other small businesses like this? Thats pretty much my biggest problem, is the idea generation.


    • Carol Tice

      Oooh, I’m doing an upcoming one on story ideas, too! I’ve been there – at one point I needed 4 ideas a month about surety bonds. Sexy, eh?

      Hint: Read widely…

  51. Valerie Federoff

    I am making progress as a writer and slowly getting into the magazine field. I am narrowing down my niche to four or five subjects; my problem with picking a niche is I see everything as related. In trying to break into commercial writing to make enough to write on a more regular basis, I read books about the business of writing. The tools provided with those books were mostly related to breaking into the business. Now I still need the tools to help me write the different types of commercial writing such as newsletters and white papers. Where can I find inexpensive how to produce these products and even templates?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Valerie — we have a lot of those resources in the Den, including training on how to write case studies and white papers. And we have a 1-hour on how to write a letter of introduction that gets results.

      And in the Break into Business bootcamp we’ll be covering writing persuasive copy and informational copy.

  52. Faith Gallatin

    Hi, Carol!
    I don’t have a blog or other “consistent” form of writing publication, but I have been published in two tangible books. Is having a blog or other online presence critical for marketing to businesses?

    So thankful to have found your site – great information and I love your style!

    • Carol Tice

      Not necessarily…depends on what sort of business writing you’d like to do, Faith.

  53. Carly

    Hi Carol,
    pricing my services is one of the biggest challenges I face. Do you have a separate strategy for bigger corporate clients vs. smaller mom and pop clients. I often see a wide difference in what people expect and want to pay.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t — I want to make what I need to earn. Only you can decide if you want to write for less for smaller clients.

  54. LyndawithaY

    What’s the best way to reach out to clients when my own website is in need of TLC? Do I need to get my own house in order before I do the big sales pitch? If not, what’s the best way of saying, “my site is under construction” without looking unprofessional.

    P.S. I really want to win your prize. *waves merrilly* pick me! pick me!

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t think there is one — if your site is under construction, you look unprofessional.

      On the other hand, if you can get even a bare-bones site ready, I say go for it and start pitching. We all are constantly improving our sites..they’re really all still under construction.

  55. Pam

    Hi, Carol,

    Here’s my “prize-winning” (wink) question for your upcoming bootcamp:

    What is the most appropriate way to respond to a prospective client who wants to negotiate a lower fee? I reiterated my journalism education and decades of professional writing experience, including working for one of the country’s largest financial institutions and a former U.S. president. However, my prospect would not budge.

    • Carol Tice

      Don’t know about most appropriate way…but my way is “I’m sorry that your rate is below my floor. If your budget situation ever changes, I’d be happy to hear from you.”

      Your deep experience doesn’t affect their budget. Sometimes, they can’t pay your rate. If they can’t, they can’t, so it’s time to move on politely and leave the door open to the future — you never know where marketing managers will end up.

  56. Kathy Woodard

    I am brand new to your site and am looking forward to absorbing as much as possible. I have a few questions, as follows:

    1. How do you make initial contact with a company?
    2. How can I best demonstrate my skill set when so much of the business writing I have done is proprietary to the client company?
    3. What path proves most advantageous – writing blogs, technical writing, or process documentation? I have done all three, and can write on a very technical, detailed level or a very emotional, inspirational level. Is it better for me to specialize or to be versatile?


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Kathy — welcome to the blog!

      Wish there were standard answers for 1 and 3 as it would sure make my life easier, but the form of marketing and the writing niche to choose are very individual to each writer. We’ll be going over some of what Linda Formichelli and I feel is working best right now in marketing, but ultimately you have to choose a method and try it, and stick with it, and see if it works for you.

      To #2, I don’t really known anyone who earns six figures just from blogging – it tends to be on the lower end of pay compared with your other two niches.

  57. Kathy Doherty

    Hi, here is MY question for the free boot camp class!

    I am currently completing my Bachelor’s degree. I am allowed an awesome dscount on software at the bookstore here while I am STILL a student (graduate in May 2013). Should I consider purchasing the Adobe Suite for Illustrator to help get my business going even if I’m just starting out and have NO experience on this software?


    Kathy D

    • Carol Tice

      Hm? Why would you need illustrator?

      You don’t need any design/layout capabilities to write for business. Not sure how Illustrator “helps get your business going.”

  58. Anne Grant

    After reading all of these responses, I realize that I know even less about business writing than I thought.
    I have been writing copy for my own small business for over 15 years. Would any of those materials be suitable for samples to submit to prospects?
    Is copywriting the type of business that involves a lot of schmoozing, taking people out to lunch and sending birthday cards to the client’s dog? Is it more of a local market, pressing the flesh at the Chamber of Commerce and cold calling with a well prepared presentation and dressing for success? Not that I’m opposed to any of that… just wondering.
    I would love to understand more about the LOI and/or a resume as well.
    Thanks for all who participated in the conversation. It is filling in some of the blanks for me.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Anne — there are many ways to market to find business clients. I’ve earned a great deal of money writing for businesses and have never sent any birthday cards 😉

      There’s also a lot of business writing that you might not think of as “copywriting” — a distinction we’ll get into in great detail in our first bootcamp session.

      — and sure, your samples from your own business could start off your portfolio. I often tell people to create some for their writing business if they need more samples.

  59. LuAnn

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years, and in that time, I’ve written newspaper articles about businesses. Would these clips be a good start to share with potential clients? Or, do I need to produce some samples of copy – maybe a local business – to share with a prospective employer?


    • Carol Tice

      You know, that’s exactly how I got in — I talked to some small companies I had previously covered, and one of them asked me to ghost their blog and write some advertorial articles. So if you market it a bit to companies where managers already know you, it might just get you in the door if they’ve liked your reporting on business in the past. Could be just that simple.

  60. Margaret


    Here’s my question about business writing:

    Looking back on your first year or two of business writing, what two practices do you wish you had started doing from the start and what two do you wish you had never wasted time doing?


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Margaret — I don’t know that I have any regrets! My business writing developed sort of organically — my first client was a company I’d reported on in the past…and the next one was a $1 billion global consultancy I did like $60K of work for over 2 1/2 years. I found them on a listserv.

      I think the secret was that I wasn’t pushing it, and I had article clients I was already doing, and I just added it to my mix, and the higher rates and faster pay really changed my income picture.

      ALL: FYI, this contest is now over! You can read the winning contest entry and my response here: The Secret to Writing Brilliantly About a Boring Business.

  61. Jackson

    When it comes to advertorials, will clients expect me to supply the words only (which I am capable of) or am I responsible for layout, images, graphics (which I don’t know how to do)?

    • Carol Tice

      Usually just the words, Jackson. I have no layout skills either!

  62. Mrs. Hill

    Wow Carol, what a discussion and great participants. This conversation is just booming with great questions.

    One of my clients and very good friends took a copywriting assignment recently for a website after writing a great article about a local business in the newspaper. She began work and found out the hardway about web copy. The guy they hired to develop the site had no direction so he wasn’t really doing anything. The guy who hired her wouldn’t give her any direction either. So she did some research, reviewed what she had published in the paper and she got stuck thinking what she needed was a structure to work within. I have had a great deal of web development and content writing for those sites including hers she asked for my advice. I presented her with a full site structure that she in turn presented to him. He scrapped the whole thing. She then just made her own structure to work within and included her photography. The guy that was hired to develop the website took all of her work and made it his. She is so very frustrated.

    Have you seen this happen before? What would your advice be regarding this situation?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Mrs. Hill aka Paula Hill

      I apologize, Carol. Most of the time I post a comment to anyone’s site, I usually post as Mrs. Hill. Just didn’t want to mislead anyone since I posed before as Paula Hill. Thanks

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know if I have any, Paula. If you don’t have a clear contract and understand what parts of the project are your responsibility, you often see messes like this.

      I know copywriters who won’t start on a web project without the wireframe or site map of what the company wants…probably good policy to avoid these kind of train wrecks. Like Chris Marlow says, get the creative brief from the company.

      Tons of companies want to throw writers and designers at a project with only a vague idea of what they want. You want to stay away from these…as you’ve so beautifully explained above.

  63. Scott Reaver

    My question.
    You land a gig with a client but are immediately handed over to someone, possibly an administrative assistant, who has been stuck with the task of being your singe Point of Contact. This was not part of the deal but here it is. One or more people in the office do not wish to be at all bothered — despite hiring you. The nature of the project involves intereraction (such as interviews) with one or more individuals within the company. Your new POC resents both the new task and you. Unconsciously or not, his or her actions are not consistent with someone who wants you to succeed. Messages not returned. Requested appointments not set, etc.
    What to do …. especially if you did not guard against this in prior written communications or contract with client?

    • Carol Tice


      One of my first questions is, “Who will I be reporting to?” followed by, “Who are the people I will need to interview?” Consider putting the answer into your contract, so that if they try to foist you off on a secretary later and won’t give you access to the people you need, you can point to the contract and hopefully get the access, or bow out.

      When a company’s experts aren’t responding to me, I usually email my contact with, “I know you wanted this case study done by the end of this week, so I wanted to let you know that Mr. X isn’t returning my calls. Could you maybe poke him on your end, or would you like to extend this deadline?” I give them choices and just make it clear that if they’re dropping the thing on its head, I won’t be writing anything.

      Sometimes priorities change and gigs fall apart, and then the key thing is to not spend time and spin wheels, but to be clear right away that you’re out…until such time as they give you the needed access…and then you’ll see if you’re available. Since they’ve blown their deadline.

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