5 Secrets No One Tells You About How to Write for the Fortune 500

Carol Tice

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a freelance writer for a big, brand-name company?

You’d leave behind the feast-and-famine world of writing for small businesses with their meager marketing budgets, or regional publications that pay a pittance and send checks out on the schedule I often describe as “half-past when the messiah comes.”

No more tiny, one-off projects.

Instead — steady, ongoing work from blue-chip clients that pay you half up front, before you even write a line.

Or who put you on a retainer and pay you a fat hourly rate for your time, even if they don’t end up using you that month.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Bigger clients are better

Well, I’ve been there. The clients I’ve written for include American Express, Dun & Bradstreet, Alaska Airlines, Costco, and a few others, too.

And I can tell you, it’s not a fantasy.

Freelancing for big companies is great.

But most writers never even try to do it.

Why writers don’t pitch big companies

Why do many writers never even consider pitching these great, blue whales of the client world?

I believe there are three main reasons why:

  • Writers feel intimidated
  • Writers don’t think big companies use freelancers
  • Writers don’t know who to contact

To help you get over these doubts and concerns, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about writing for big corporate clients. I think this is stuff a lot of successful writers don’t want new writers to find out:

1. Companies with marketing departments also use freelancers

Many writers have told me, “I would never pitch X Corporation — they have a big marketing department already.” Sure they do. But that doesn’t mean that marketing staff hasn’t been cut lately, leaving some work to be outsourced. Or that the marketing staff has expertise in every type of writing.

For instance, I was hired by Costco to write articles for their business newsletter, because they wanted an outsider’s point of view on the company’s business services, and someone with more of a journalistic approach rather than copywriting. By the same token, many big companies hire freelance bloggers because their marketing team doesn’t have blogging experience.

2. There is no big difference between writing for small companies and big ones

You might think you must slowly work your way up the writing-career ladder from small business, writing next for a business with a few employees, then a medium-sized business, and so on. Not true.My first copywriting client was a small startup — and the second one was a $1 billion global consulting firm.The fact is, if you know how to tell business stories or how to write compelling sales copy, you’re ready to write for big companies. There is no secret extra knowledge you need, and you don’t have to put in years of dues-paying before you “qualify.”

3. It’s easier and more enjoyable

The myth is that writing for bigger companies will be light-years more difficult or complicated than writing for small business. My experience is just the opposite is true.

Big businesses are usually successful businesses, which means they’ve got clarity on who they are, what they do, and what they want you to write. Their executives are usually sharp people who are pleasant to work with. Often, small businesses are clueless about their goals, and their owners are more difficult to work for.

4. Big companies have more work for you

Here’s the real beauty: Big businesses have ongoing projects. You can do less marketing and spend more time writing when you have big clients, as the assignments tend to keep on flowing. I wrote for one big client for nearly three years, billing them more than $2,000 nearly every month.

In sum, big clients are a ticket to ride.

5. Big companies pay better

This probably isn’t a surprise, but big companies are used to paying professionals at real rates. I’ve never had trouble getting in the neighborhood of $100 an hour.

I actually had one big company turn down my bid of $1 a word for articles — because they felt $2 a word was more appropriate, and they wanted to pay that rate instead. I am not making this up.

6. Big companies use Google and LinkedIn to find writers

If you think you can’t connect with big companies, know that most of the major corporations I have written for found me doing searches on LinkedIn or Google for the type of writing they wanted. So brush up your writer website, fill out that LinkedIn profile, and get found.

7. Big-company editors network

At one in-person networking event I attended, I once met the editor of a major software firm’s website, which is one of the biggest sites in the world. Also met the editor of one of the largest-circulation publications in the country, which is put out by a retail chain.

Editors and marketing managers at these companies do leave their office towers and look to expand their rolodex of freelancers they know. Get out and circulate — you never know who you might meet.

Have you worked for the big boys? Tell us what it was like in the comments.


  1. Ron - SEO Copy-e-Writing Blog

    LinkedIn is “the” thing these days. I have got a couple of contacts from there. Although my blog did support me in finalizing them, no doubt.

  2. Marisa

    Hi Carol, another great email. Everything you say is so true. I started writing for a website (nonpaid) then moved into eHow and then moved into Elance. Now I’m so tired of dealing with these small gigs, and clients who don’t know what they want and aren’t reliable. I’ve been saying for weeks that Elance is the land of amateurs. My favorite is when someone posts a job with the budget of “Not Sure” that pretty much says it all. A job I bid for recently went to someone in Canada for $5.48/hr!!!!! I couldn’t believe it.

    I recently got an email (via my profile on Media Bistro) from a well funded web start up paying between $100 and $250 for articles of 400 to 600 words. It’s the first decent paying offer I’ve had and made me realize that it is possible to make a good living as a writer, you just have to get on a track to be in contact with the right kind of clients. Not surprisingly, they want me to pitch them article ideas, given my lack of journalism background this makes me nervous. Everything you said on that score is true as well. I’m realizing that I have to bite the bullet and start pitching to start making good money. I’m in the process of making a portfolio website and your email below is very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing! Your blog is a godsend.

    • Carol Tice

      Um, yep. Marketing. It’s what’s for dinner. Or what allows you to provide dinner to your family, more to the point.

      But just wanna say $100 for an article is still an entry-level wage. I don’t write anything under about $400 myself. There’s so much opportunity out there to earn a good wage once you connect with quality clients. Ed’s class teaches a great method for that, and he spoon-feeds you chapter and verse on how to identify prospects and find contact emails, which are the biggest questions I get.

  3. claudio alegre

    Heck 7 is better than 5 Carol, don’t sweat it!

    I liked this post for a couple of reasons, the first is because it brings down the air of grandeur that exists in our minds regarding writing gigs for big clients.

    It is a big deal and I don’t want to minimize that, but is not unreachable or outside of the realm of
    those who believe they can do it, and that hone their craft at the crack of dawn… 🙂

    The second reason I did more than just scan this post is because I noticed how you emphasized the importance of networking as well.

    That’s something that many people tend to dissociate with blogging and digital marketing, but nothing could be more detrimental to one’s success than to stop creating relationships and putting yourself in the way of someone’s need!

    Take care!

    • Carol Tice

      Just wish I could count is all 😉 But thanks Claudio!

      I think for most of us, cracking a big company involves making some kind of connection.

      My first big one was a $1 billion global insurance consultancy. I sold them on the idea that I grew up around insurance — my dad sold it — and between that and my general business writing background, I would be the perfect person.

      Another big company I wrote for I had previously covered as a reporter and knew well.

      But the fun is, once you’ve written for one company at this level, you’re sort of in the door, and that first big name helps you attract more.

  4. MeganWrites Media

    Thanks for writing this post! Ed talked about warm email prospecting recently and I’ve been making my ideal client profiles. I was hesitant to put large companies for the exact reasons you listed, but I think now that I’ve seen you’ve had success with them I’ll include them. Thanks again for this helpful information!

    • Carol Tice

      The first time I ran into someone from a major corporation at an in-person networking thing, I about fell over. I just had NO IDEA you could casually meet big-time editors and marketing managers…but you can. You can also work your social-media networks for introductions.

      And you can definitely cold-call or — better yet — warm email — them as well. I’m sure we’ll hear more details on that on the call today.

  5. Carol Tice

    Sorry for the technical problems getting this post out to everybody !

    I see along the way it really turned into 7 secrets. Oh, what the heck. Guess you get 2 bonus ones.

    Hope to see everybody on the call at noon with Ed Gandia — can’t wait!

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