Copywriting Soup for Writing Purist's Soul

“Holler ‘copywriter’ in a New York restaurant, and someone will hand you a business card. Holler “novelist” and someone will come out of the kitchen and hand you another dinner roll.”

When I read those words on John Forde's Copywriter's Roundtable blog, it really cracked me up.

He's right, isn’t he? If you want to get paid to write, being a copywriter is where it's at. The market is hungry for copywriters. For novelists … not so much.

Maybe you're entertaining the notion of making a living as a copywriter, but you fancy yourself as more of a writing "purist". By that I mean, perhaps you have a penchant for storytelling, or an interest in journalism. But deep down you're worried that a career in copywriting means distancing yourself from the type of writing you really enjoy, in exchange for a life spent slinging sales copy.

If that's you, join me on a little journey of discovery … and indulgence. And I'll show you that you needn't abandon the style of writing that's closest to your heart – at least not completely. Not if you find that place where your writing passions intersect with the needs of a hungry market.

I've been living in that place for the past seven years. It's called business-to-business (B2B) copywriting.

Now, to set the right expectation, let me be clear. I'm not saying I spend my days compiling prose with quill and parchment in a thatched cottage in front of a crackling fire. No, the writing you do as a B2B copywriter is not exactly Gatsby. But it sure ain't Ginsu either.

It's somewhere in between. And, at least in my opinion, it's a pretty fulfilling place to be. And one hell of an enjoyable way to make a living.

Most of the marketing materials I write don’t directly sell anything. Instead, they play an important supporting role in the business-to-business sales process.

So let me pull back the curtain on this arena of writing by showing you three B2B writing projects where your storytelling or journalism skills are highly valued. I'll show you three common non-salesy B2B copywriting project types and exactly what you can expect to be paid for each of them.

I bet, no, I know, that at least two of these projects will warm the cockles of your heart. (What? So I went a little Dickensian on you there. I knew you'd appreciate that, and I'm just setting the right mood for the indulgence that's ahead … )

Writing Purist's Indulgence #1: Case Studies

Ahhh the glorious case study. Perhaps my favorite of all B2B writing assignments.

What is it? A case study is a one-to-four page “success story” that explains how Company "A" helped one of their customers, Company "B", achieve specific business results.

So if Company A sells their accounting software to Company B, and Company B loves it, this constitutes a success story. In this example, Company A would hire a copywriter to write the case study. That’s where you come in.

As the copywriter, you write the real-life story of Company A and Company B's relationship. How they met, how one helped the other through hardship, and how they're now living happily ever after.

You get most of the information you need by interviewing people from within each company. So you get to be a journalist, interviewing real people in the real world and telling their story with your writing.

And it gets better. Case studies are also one of the easiest writing assignments to master, because they all follow this basic structure:

  1. Background – a short introduction to set up the story
  2. Challenge – the problem the main character (the customer) faced
  3. Solution – how the main character overcame the problem (using your client's solution)
  4. Results – the happy ending

Formulaic? Yes. Simple? Yes. Enjoyable to write? You bet.

So how much money will you make as you indulge in a case study assignment? $800 – $2,000 for writing one-to-four pages. Not bad at all, but check out the hourly rate: after you get the hang of these, you can easily write a two-page case study in 8 – 12 hours. That puts your hourly earnings in the neighborhood of $200. Nice.

What's more, B2B companies tend to want to write a bunch of case studies, either all at once, or regularly throughout the year. Get good at writing them and your talent will always be in demand.

Writing Purist's Indulgence #2: Newsletters

You may already know that businesses regularly send out email newsletters to other businesses. But did you know that a good B2B newsletter is one that educates and informs through the use of well-written editorial articles – not pushy sales copy?

What that means for you as a writer is that you can revel in your love for writing articles and get well-paid in the process.

How well paid? Around $250 – $800 for articles 250 – 800 words long. Here again, it's the hourly rate that's most appealing. If you're reasonably efficient, writing newsletter articles can earn you $100 – $200 per hour. And just like with case studies, B2B clients produce newsletter articles frequently (at least once or twice per month) meaning just a handful of clients can provide you with a steady flow of work.

Writing Purist's Indulgence #3: White Papers

White papers are the "anti-sales" document of the business world. They're objective, educational, and based on data, facts, or well-developed theories.

Think of white papers as "essays" but without the strict essay formula you learned back in high school. A good white paper introduces one clear idea and supports that idea convincingly.

White papers are often five-to-ten pages in length. If you like working on larger projects that require multiple interviews, digging into research, and assimilating and structuring information, then white papers are for you. What's nice about these projects is that the fees reflect the hours involved. You can count on charging $3,000 – $5,000 for roughly 20 – 40 hours of work.

(Now before you ask, yes, you can spend your entire B2B copywriting career writing only these types of projects. Heck, I know writers who make a great living specializing in just one of them!)

So there you have it. If you're looking to indulge your passion for writing without having to write sales pitches, you've just found the market that pays people like you and I to do so.

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Published: November 23, 2009

2 Responses to “Copywriting Soup for Writing Purist's Soul”

  1. I recently purchased your B2B course. Please tell me how to gain access to the forum that is supposed to come with it. I would love to be able to interact with you and other up and coming B2B stars.

    So far, I think the course is wonderful.

    TeiaJanuary 21, 2010 at 12:46 am

  2. Hi Teia, The course IS wonderful, I am so glad you are enjoying it.
    I have sent you an invitation to join the B2B forum, please follow the links and you should be good to go!

    Barb Hume, AWAI

    Barbra Hume-AWAI January 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm


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