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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.