It’s smart to stay nimble in the freelance writing business. When one revenue stream dries up, it helps to have another (and another!) to replace it. That’s one reason I began writing corporate Web page copy. With strong demand, good pay and rapid turn-around, branching out into writing Web copy makes plenty of sense.
It may seem like every company already has a Web page established, but you would be surprised at the number of long-standing firms that don’t or ones that need to freshen their sites with new copy. Even in the recession, new companies are forming and creating a Web presence.
Just as you need to prove your ability to an editor, you need to demonstrate that you can tackle a Web copy project. If you have ever done any corporate copy writing, penned marketing materials or written PR copy, you can parlay those experiences into writing Web copy. I also mentioned my bylines in business writing to gain credibility.
But if you have none of the above experience, your familiarity with the company’s niche can be your toehold. For example, writing about pets for 10 years would give you an excellent background for writing a pet product site. Journalism experience can also lend credibility to your proposal because Web copy is succinct like news writing.
To gain more Web copy experience, volunteer to write Web copy for a few charitable causes you like. This will help you hone your skill, too. If you have no links to sites which you’ve written, it helps to have links to articles, either on your own site or a newspaper or magazine’s site, since someone hiring you to write Web copy will prefer this to a printout.
Of course, you should peruse Writer’s Weekly and the other sites you would ordinarily peruse to find leads on where to sell your Web copy services; however, you can also generate business by contacting companies that provide graphic arts, Web development and marketing services. These have all become so integral to one another that they overlap in many ways; however, many companies offering these services either don’t have or are weak in the area of copy. That’s where you come in.
Assume that they have a writer on board and sell yourself as a freelancer who can help them in a pinch. That way, you won’t offend them if they do have a writer and if they don’t, they won’t think you want a staff position. One of the few bright spots in the current recession is corporate America’s willingness to hire contractual workers since their “as-needed” basis helps companies control costs.
Pitching for a specific project? Carefully consider your fee. Ask about how many pages the Web site will entail and how many words per page the project manager expects. Overbid by about 15 percent to allow for administrative tasks: the time it takes to query, create an estimate, and send an invoice. You may also need to revise work.
Establish ahead of time how much, when and how you will be paid. By knowing the word count and how complex the project will be, you can estimate how long it will take and thus what fee you will require. Unlike magazine article projects, you can reasonably expect payment within 30 days of completion. Many companies operating online like PayPal or direct deposit instead of paper checks. State your preferences in advance.
It may not become your bread-and-butter, but writing Web copy can develop into another source of income in your freelance business if you plan ahead.
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes Web copy, magazine articles, and newspaper pieces from her home in Wolcott, N.Y. Her website is http://www.skilledquill.net.