Back in 2012, when I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life, I studied freelance feature writing with the Australian Writers’ Centre. I loved the course. Loved learning about how to structure an article, how to use quotes and statistics, how to use different tones of voice for your audience. Everything.
I then ventured out into the freelance world determined, fresh-faced and full of confidence, and in hindsight, naively.
My first ever articles were published on Coping With Jane and iVillage, and then my first ever paid article was published on Essential Kids and I was on cloud nine!
Although, I have had many articles published, I must admit, apart from seeing my byline, I didn’t enjoy the process as a whole.
At the end of 2014, I turned my attention to copywriting, completing a couple of courses and then in February last year, I stepped out with my business Making Words Count. And I haven’t looked back.
So, why is copywriting so much more my thing compared to feature writing? I’ll tell you.
Freelance writing is a tough gig, I’m not afraid of putting in the effort, but I wasn’t keen on the fact that so much of the process was out of my control.
Although you may think you have a great story idea with a unique hook, you are still at the editors mercy. Will they like it? Will they see merit in your story? Has it been done before? Do they want to commission it or write it in house? Will they want you to write it ‘on spec’ and then decide not to commission? Will they even take a ‘risk’ with a new writer? Do they have any budget left to commission another story? So many factors. Of course, the more you write and are involved in the process, the more likely you are to be commissioned, but for this little control freak, the lack of control frustrated me endlessly.
As a copywriter, I have so much more control over the work I choose to take on. I love that, guided by my clients, I have a tremendous amount of creative freedom. I’m not confined by a publications strict guidelines or an editors opinion, taste or budget. Although I still have to meet brief and deliver what my client wants to see, I still feel very much in control of the process.
2. The dynamics are different
As a freelance writer, you need patience, something I’m not overly good at. Waiting to hear back from editors whether it’s to your pitch or feedback on your article is akin to pulling your nails out with pliers, very slowly.
With copywriting on the other hand, I’ve found clients are more responsive and timely. There are still the occasional ones who mess you around, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful clients who just want me to get the job done.
And then there’s the rejections with freelancing. If you can’t handle being told your piece isn’t up to scratch, your idea is off target or your writing is less than brilliant, then writing feature articles isn’t for you. This wasn’t really something that overly bothered me. I’m okay with rejection. No, it’s not nice but I fully understand it is part of the game, and that you’ll receive way more nos, than yeses. But having said that, I am also someone who responds better to positive feedback (isn’t everyone?).
I’ve had nothing but amazing feedback from my copywriting clients. Full of praise, grateful and appreciative. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t want that?
3. More work, more money
Freelancing is a very competitive world. You are up against journalists and writers who have been around forever. Whose bylines are sought after and they can deliver a polished piece seemingly effortlessly. And then, there are those who have been in it for a few years building their profiles and reputations. They have their foot in the door and know how to play the game. And finally, the new recruits all vying for their break and to see their name in print.
So many writers, so many ideas, so many angles, so much competition. Of course as they say, the cream always rises to the top. If you’re good enough you will get published. But the road is long, challenging and frustrating. It can take years to build a profile (of course there are some amazing success stories, I can think of two just who started around the same time as I did), but they are rare. To make good money takes an amazing amount of persistence, dedication, talent and a big chunk of luck. And to stay there on top of your game, even more.
Copywriting, doesn’t seem to be as competitive, or at least I haven’t found it to be yet. If you are confident in what you can do and put yourself out there, there is plenty of work. Once you’ve nailed your first client and completed a great job that they are happy to write you a testimonial for, you have currency in which to trade. Proof of what you can do, and how happy they were with your work. Of course, self promotion and again dedication and hard work come into it, but it is much easier to get the ball rolling. And although money isn’t always the be-all-and-end-all, I’ve certainly found that there’s more to be made in the copywriting gig. So I’m not going to argue with that!
4. The variety
Freelance feature writers generally end up writing in niche areas. You can become a well known parenting writer, business writer, travel writer, food writer and so on. Which is great if that floats your boat. For me, sticking to a niche was always hard. I wanted to write for numerous different publications, but always knew that I needed to prove myself in each area before I’d get in the door, so it’s tough.
With copywriting I’ve found you can take on a wider variety of projects. Sure, you can of course specialise in niche areas, but generally the work can be as varied as you choose. One day I might be working on copy for a personal trainer, the next for a builder. I love it.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what suits me, and what I enjoy the most. I know plenty of writers who are excelling in feature writing and who absolutely love it. And there are copywriters, who really don’t enjoy many aspects of the job.
It depends on personality type, and the plain and simple fact that maybe I’m just a better copywriter than feature writer. The satisfaction of seeing my byline in national publications was a huge thing for me at one stage, but now, I’m much more content with just being the wordsmith behind the scenes. And I’m fortunate to have been fearless enough to take a chance and change direction. I’m so glad I did.
Have you changed career paths lately?