The Single Most Important Key to Your Success as a Freelance Copywriter

I’m Bob Bly, and all this week we’ve been talking about what it takes to make it as a freelance copywriter.

Today I want to tell you the one thing you should never ignore if you want to be successful in this industry.

The key element of success in the long run isn’t promotion … or choosing a niche … or generating leads … or closing leads … or customer service …

As important as all those things are, the one thing that should always be front and center when it comes to your success is quality … writing the best copy you can on every single job.

There are two reasons for this.

First, if you write subpar copy, your results will be subpar, and your reputation will plummet.

Second, in this digital age, results to almost everything you write can be precisely and instantly measured.

So, copywriters must work harder than ever to make every promotion they write the best it can be.

Some copywriters take on jobs for low pay out of desperation … and then, because they’re being underpaid, do the job quickly and without much care.

This is a huge error. You must do your best on every copywriting job you accept – regardless of whether you’re being paid a fortune or a pittance.

Because clients are in charge and often tell copywriters to rewrite what they’ve written, some copywriters resent clients and develop an adversarial attitude toward them.

This is also a big error. I see clients as colleagues and even friends, not adversaries.

Also, I have an attitude of gratitude toward every client. Remember, the client does not have to hire you. And without clients, you would have zero income and be out of business.

Yes, clients can profit handsomely by commissioning copy from you. But they’re taking a financial risk doing so, and, therefore, you should be thankful and appreciative.

One of my key strategies for copywriting success is to push for as much time to complete the project as I can get, so I can write the best copy I can.

Years ago, my friend JH, a well-known copywriter, routinely refused to do rush jobs even for her existing clients.

She gave this reason: “If I do it in a rush, you’re only getting my first thoughts” – the logic being that when copy is written in a hurry, there’s no time to contemplate different approaches.

As a result, the client gets the first thing you come up with, which very often is not the best thing you could come up with, given a bit more time.

If a client wants the copy in an unreasonable time frame, I ask them, “What would happen if you had it a week later?”

Nine times out of 10, the answer is: nothing. And the client grants the extra week. Exceptions? Of course.

If the deadline is Thursday or Friday, I ask for an extension until Monday. I explain to the client that this gives me an extra weekend to work on their copy. I am virtually never denied this extension to Monday.

Another tip I’ve learned in my 33+ years in the freelance business … when you set a deadline date with a client, specify in your agreement not only the due date, but the time of day the copy is due; I like 3pm ET.

The reason: If you don’t specify the time, then on the due date, first thing in the morning, you’ll invariably get a panicked phone call or email asking where the copy is.

How do you ensure you’re always delivering your best quality work? Please share in the comments.

And then tune in tomorrow for the final installment of my series for this week’s The Writer’s Life. I’m going to reveal how to create a pipeline with twice as many paid writing opportunities as your schedule allows you to handle.

About the Author:

Bob Bly has been a copywriter for 36 years, is the author of 85 published books, has a BS in chemical engineering, and writes both B2B and consumer direct response. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s Top Copywriter.”

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Published: August 27, 2015

10 Responses to “The Single Most Important Key to Your Success as a Freelance Copywriter”

  1. I believe in doing it right the first time. I am practicing the most common forms of copy in my blog. When I get clients I should at least be adequate at copy and maybe more than this.

    Guest (Amy)August 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

  2. annie l ilove this and thanks for all the help i need this i know i can do this i am willing to work at it so dont let me give up on me

    Guest (annie l douglas)August 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm

  3. Typically, for me, I find that autonomy generates the best quality and time efficiency. Therefore, I offer a discount if ideas can be pursued autonomously and quickly. That way, if a client isn't pleased, a more expensive plan 'B' is still -- at least -- referent to the "quality" already incurred at neither any great cost or consumption of time. In turn, you're either an instant hero, or -- at worst -- highly respected in whatever recourse is required.

    Then, if they don't pay their bill, you can say: "Gee! Had I known you weren't gonna pay, I'd've charged much more."

    Guest (Chris Morris)August 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  4. I promise I will check and triple check my work. I am not at the point of getting clients yet. I'm in part 3 of my lessons, and I still have so much to do.
    I just wanted to say thank you for all of the valuable input.

    Becky SchnellAugust 27, 2015 at 6:09 pm

  5. I think this is great advice. I simply must have time to step away from any creative project, and come back to it with clear eyes. I need time for the glimmer that surrounds the creative act to fade into the clear light of reasoned editing. Why would anybody want to do less than their best. That's just not nice.

    JanetnVAAugust 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm

  6. Hi,

    I just completed Exercise #16 and am just about to start Exercise #17 of AWAI's Accelerated Six-Figure Program.

    Your e-mails are loaded with so much great information, and I am hoping to retain all of it in my quest to become a much-sought-after copywriter.

    I want to make sure that I take one step at a time and satisfactorily complete all of the assignments...which so far have been a lot of fun.

    I even had a dream last night that I asked one of your staff, "What did you put in these books; I can't stop reading them (in my dream I was reading several books...not online)."

    My husband and son think that I am hooked!

    Thanks so much for your stimulating insight. Despite my initial apprehensions, I believe I'm on the right track.

    Guest (Joan Jones)August 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

  7. Thanks Bob, I concur with all my heart!

    Any client worth having will recognize quality copy when they see it.

    And someone who's easy and fun to work with will always have an edge over someone who's a prima donna and a grump.

    Want repeat business? Want referrals and testimonials? Do a fantastic job, every time.

    Gordon GrahamAugust 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

  8. To answer your question; By getting to know my client as well as he knows himself. Then, help him crystallize in HD(high definition) what his goals and our game plan will be. Follow thru on what I would expect if I were in his shoes, then finding a way of going one step better. When the plan is implemented, I want him to be happy to call the person who referred me to him and proud to say he my friend, because I expect him to refer me to my next new client.

    Ikan C ClearlyAugust 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm

  9. Thanks so much for all your tips and encouragement! My 'writing room' is almost ready for creativity and productivity. I will resume working through the AWAI Accelerated Copy Writing Program as soon as I settle into my new home. I strive to do my best at most things in life and greatly appreciate your wealth of experience and your ongoing guidance.

    Guest (Caroline OR)August 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm

  10. I work it in my head first, then I sit down and write all the things that I want to present. I find that I can start weeding and pruning. I put the work away.In a day or so I return to the project and rewrite. I put it away again and do something that needs doing, then I return to do the final copy. Usually that final writing is bringing it to a solid "wrap-up".

    Guest (Marilyn Martin)September 10, 2015 at 9:43 pm


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