Five Things Your Freelance Writing Clients Wish You Knew

The Writing Life

I spent almost a decade working as a freelance writer: first as a journalist, then as a copywriter. I’ve had plenty of great clients, and a few not-so-great clients. But I’ve never managed my own team of freelance writers until this past year.

Nothing has taught me more about freelance writing than sitting on the other side of the client-freelancer relationship. It’s completely transformed my perspective. And while I no longer have the time to freelance, I’ll be keeping these five tips in mind should I ever return.

1. Follow directions.

This will set you above two-thirds of your competition. Two-thirds! Just for following directions! It sounds silly, but it’s true. If a prospective client asks you to email you a PDF copy of your resume, don’t send it to her via Facebook attachment. Don’t send it in a Word doc. Email a PDF. Getting these little details right reveals that you can follow more important directions when the actual assignment arrives.

2. Be responsive.

Dirty secret: As a freelance writer, I used to wait a day or two before replying to prospective clients. Why? I thought it would make me seem busy, and therefore important. Then I became a client, and I realized how invaluable it is to have a writer who responds within hours, not days. It shows that she’s prompt, engaged in the project, and may even have availability for last-minute assignments. Which ultimately translates to more work, and more money in her pocket.

3. Follow up.

As a freelance writer, I assumed clients clients would call me if they wanted to work with me again. I rarely followed up, because I worried it would bother them. Then I became a client, and found myself handing out more assignments to the writers who’d called to check in.

This strategy can backfire if you follow up too often. But a quick phone call to check the status of a project, or an email reaffirming your availability, may net you more work. Continue reading

A Fun Look at Gender and Marketing

This video from ABC1′s “The Checkout” pokes fun at gendered marketing. I love how it manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and educational at the same time. (It even includes sources!) Thanks to Susannah Conway for turning me onto this web series.

Also – if you’re into food photography, I posted a food photography workshop recap on my personal blog,, with some fun photo comparisons and other helpful resources.

Going Inside Shark Tank

You can’t mention “Shark Tank” in my office without half a dozen people proclaiming their love for the TV show.

So when the show’s marketing team offered to send me a box of products featured on air, I jumped at the chance.

Shark Tank Box

I cancelled my cable subscription a few months ago, so I rarely watch TV. But after hearing my coworkers singing its praises, I started streaming episodes of “Shark Tank.” And that’s how I discovered what all the fuss is about.

Shark Tank is a reality show that puts aspiring entrepreneurs in front of potential investors for the pitch of their lives. It’s a fun reminder of the innovation and passion behind so many small businesses – and the pitches themselves are a powerful demonstration of marketing at work.

The box, too, was a powerful demonstration of marketing: the lid, which attaches via an internal magnet, had shark teeth cut out of the side.

Inside the Shark Tank Box

What’s Inside the Box

Continue reading

And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next: When Headlines Go Bad

My kid is 14 months old now and I’ve finally achieved the appropriate level of sleep necessary to have coherent thoughts about marketing again. So here I am. If you’re reading this in your RSS feed reader, you deserve a bear hug for sticking around. I’m bear-hugging you in my mind right now. Ooh. Fuzzy.

Kelly Kautz - Photo by Chelsie Markel

Photo by Chelsie Markel

What’s the Deal with Headlines?

“AND YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:” Apparently that’s how to turn a shitty cat video into the internet’s next big thing.

I believe some of these headlines are written with good intentions. Everybody wants internet traffic, because internet traffic drives ad spend and ad spend pays for writers. And analytics show that phrases like “And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next” drive traffic to sites.

But these headlines don’t always deliver on their promises. And sometimes they distort the facts. Take the Business Insider article by Aaron Taube: “We Got a Look Inside the 45-Day Planning Process That Goes Into Creating a Single Corporate Tweet.”

Article summary: Cheese company hires digital ad agency Huge to manage its Twitter feed. Huge takes 45 days to write a tweet that generates zero retweets and 2 favorites.

Two months for a tweet! Advertising people are crazy, amiright? Sitting in cushy offices, “dicking around on the internet all day,” spending 45 days to write a tweet about cheese.

Cheese Tweet

Except I work at an ad agency, and I can say with confidence: that’s not how it works.

What Really Happened in Those 45 Days

Here’s what probably happened. Huge, a digital advertising agency, worked on a marketing campaign for President Cheese that included social content for a variety of channels. It took a month to plot out the overall marketing strategy, research the market and competitive landscape, gather client feedback, make changes and get approvals. Then Huge staff began creating the content that would deliver on its strategy.

While the example tweet might seem like fluff, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s likely supported by (or is supportive of) website content, advertising, email newsletters, PR, and other social media posts.

And its poor performance doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on Huge’s work. Maybe the campaign was kicked off after a long lull in marketing. Maybe the digital advertising spend wasn’t large enough. (As much as people like to complain about advertising on their social feeds, it can be a quick and effective way to build brand following.)

To reduce this process into an equation, 1 tweet = 45 days, is misleading. It preys on people’s negative stereotypes about advertising.

And the purpose of content creation isn’t just to get clicks. It’s also about building your readers’ trust, so they view you as a credible resource and seek out your content of their own accord.

Huge had the right idea. Business Insider, not so much.

UPDATE: The “recent comments” on Aaron Taube’s Business Insider profile reveal accuracy is not his strong suit:

Aaron Taube of Business Insider