A chat about freelancing

Darren Azopardi, a website manager from Hull, East Yorkshire, interviewed me recently to find out why and how I do what I do. Here’s how it went:

Laura, what was the turning point that made you realise professional copy writing was your calling? 

I was applying for jobs in the creative industry when I graduated from university and I found the effects of the economy were limiting my opportunities. I decided to take on an offer of a short term project while I was looking for work and my freelance business took off from there. At first it was a temporary measure until something permanent came along, but I enjoy the work too much to stop when other projects come up.

I’m always telling my clients they should put more effort into their online copy. How do you sell copy writing to a potential client?

A while ago I was working on a website for a client which involved a lot of copy for third parties. I got in touch with them to let them know what I was doing and how it could be transferred to benefit their own websites. They liked what I was doing, even though the work wasn’t directly connected to them, and so I took this opportunity to introduce myself further afield. Being able to show potential clients what you can do for them is a great way of developing business. Many clients don’t realise they need their websites updating or improving until someone shows them how they could look – it’s about providing clients with a picture of the end result to gain their interest at the beginning.

What motivates you, especially when you may have to write about something you know little of? 

My first ever freelance project was putting together various articles for a PR magazine on different clients, many of whom I knew nothing about. I took it as an opportunity to expand my knowledge generally and taught myself about things from the motorcycle trade to how wine is made.

I took copy writing seriously when I read ‘Write to Sell by Andy Maslen’. Who or what motivates you to get better?

A lot of people think writing well comes from practising your writing, but reading is vital too. Someone once told me we should always be reading something, and that we should vary our reading material as much as possible. I always have a book with me, and I’ll switch genres and between fiction and non-fiction regularly, as well as keeping an eye on the news and opinion pieces online. Sticking to one genre of reading material is fine for leisure reading, but a good mix of books and resources ensure our minds keep working to be able to create different styles of writing, which is important when you don’t know who your next client will be, or what type of work they will ask for.

So what tips would you give someone who wanted to hire a copy writer?

I’d say they should fully understand their own project before hiring someone. A good understanding of what you want to achieve will ensure better communication with the writer you hire and a better result overall. If you’re not fully sure of what you’re asking for, say that too, don’t guess or neither client or writer will be happy with the result. Many writers are happy to go through ideas and help you to settle on what is right for the project you have.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on a large assignment focussing on the online content for an academic website. I am creating brand new copy for a new section of the site to be added, and other areas to be expanded in time for the new academic year in September. I’m speaking to people every day from various academic departments and it’s proving a really good way of expanding my knowledge about universities and the amount of work that goes into attracting target audiences.

And lastly, what’s the name of the book you’re reading?

It’s called The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. The book is a collection of short stories, some inspired by the full length novels he has written. I really enjoyed The Wind Up Bird Chronicle last year so decided to try snippets of his other work, but I’m not usually one for short stories, I like books you can really get absorbed in.

Laura is a freelance writer with experience in marketing, PR, social media and events. Take a look at her blog at www.lauramichellesmith.com and contact her at lauramsmith11@gmail.com or 07805098263.

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