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.

 

141 Comments

  1. 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

      Eeew…yuck.

      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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

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