How to Invoice as a Freelancer

Many of the things I address on my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel have to do with the day-to-day running of your freelance copywriting business. And how to invoice as a freelancer is a biggie. It applies to most freelancers out there, not just writers.

Don’t feel like reading? Watch the video. Otherwise, jump ahead to the text.

How to invoice as a freelancer: When should you invoice?

You’ll typically invoice when . . .

  1. You complete a one-off project for a client. (Often a first-time client or a repeat client who you only work with every now and then.)
  2. At the end of every month for recurring/ongoing work with clients.

When you’re doing a one-off project for a client, make sure you include a statement in your scope of work that says something to the effect: “The balance is due within 30 days of your receipt of the first draft.”

The reason why you want to tie balances to first drafts and not final drafts is because sometimes a client will drag their feet. What if it takes them months to sign off on the content you created? You shouldn’t be penalized for their slowness. By marrying the final payment to the first draft, you ensure you’ll get paid in a timely fashion. Plus, you’ll motivate clients to get cracking.

Note: I also require any revision requests within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft. Again, for the same reasons: It motivates the client to complete the project. (And the last thing you want is a client knocking on your door three months from now with revision requests when you’re drowning in other work.) By keeping to clear, but firm deadlines, everyone can plan accordingly.

For ongoing work with clients, get in the habit of sending invoices at a regular time. I do mine once a month at the end of the month. But if you prefer doing your invoicing on the 15th or some other time, that works, too. Just be consistent.

A big reminder about first-time clients: You should get a down payment before any work starts. I typically require 1/3 of the overall project quote as a down payment before I lift a pen or finger to the keyboard. You’ll reflect this payment on your invoice. More on this below.

How to invoice as a freelancer: What should your invoice look like?

It’s SO easy to get caught up in how things look. And I get that you want your marketing materials, like your website and business cards, to reflect your brand. And sure, if that’s easy enough for you to do with your invoices, by all means, make ’em look pretty.

But it’s perfectly OK to have something super simple. You don’t need fancy fonts or colors. I use one of the invoice templates from Excel and call it a day. And I don’t feel doing so has adversely affected me or my business.

Honestly, the simpler and clearer you make your invoices, the easier you make it for the financial person on the other end who is processing them.

If you prefer using a product like Venmo, PayPal, or FreshBooks (to name just a few), that’s cool too. The most important thing is consistency. You need to work in “bookkeeping time” into your schedule so that you send them.

‘Cuz otherwise, you won’t get paid.

And that wouldn’t be good.

How to invoice as a freelancer: What should go on an invoice?

When it comes to how to invoice as a freelancer, here are the basics you should include:

  • Your name (and company name, if applicable)
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Invoice number
  • Date of the invoice (the date you send it)
  • An itemized list of the work you did
  • The associated costs for the work
  • A tally of all costs
  • Due date (I usually do 30 days from the date on the invoice)
  • Any other info a client specifically asks for, like a vendor ID #

I don’t include my social security number. My regular clients require me to fill out a W-9 for tax purposes. Then, they issue 1099s at the end of the year. Note: Not all clients issue 1099s. That’s on them. As long as YOU report all income, that’s what matters. (Again, I’m in the U.S. Follow the rules for your country. And BIG REMINDER: I’m not an accountant or lawyer, so nothing I write should be considered tax or financial advice. Consult a professional if you have questions.)

From there, I email the client the invoice (or to whatever email address they want invoices to go to). I copy myself as well.

Note: When you start working with a client, ask them their process for paying vendors. Companies often have specific steps you need to follow, like an accounting email address to send invoices to. Some might even have special invoice templates to fill out. Others might require you to create an account in the software product they use to process invoices. Just follow everything carefully and keep track of account names and logins. Usually getting everything set up is the hardest part (and it’s not that hard). Once set up, it should be turnkey.

Whenever possible, ask for ELECTRONIC PAYMENT. Meaning the client will deposit your payment directly in your business bank account. (And you should have a separate business bank account. Keep your business and personal lives separate.)

Getting electronic payment is quicker and greener (no paper, no envelopes, no need to visit a bank).

How to invoice as a freelancer: What happens if a client doesn’t pay you by the due date?

Follow up. I maybe allow a grace period of a few days. But this is a business. If you were late with your utility payment or car payment, you’d hear about it, right? So follow up. Most of the time, it will just be an oversight where the invoice got lost in the shuffle. I’ve been doing this since 2002, and I’ve only been stiffed once and that was very early on when I was a baby copywriter and there were a bunch of red flags that I ignored. (And luckily, the amount was small, relatively speaking.)

How to invoice as a freelancer: How ’bout I show you my freelance copywriter invoice template?

But first, a disclaimer: I’m not responsible for anything that happens when you open links to the files below. They should be OK, but as we all know, weird stuff can happen during the translation, and files can become corrupted. Take heed!

Here’s a link to the freelance copywriter invoice template that I use (which I got from the templates available within Excel). The link opens an Excel template. If you can’t open it on your machine, here’s a link to a PDF of the same thing.

Got more questions? Ask the Copy Bitch!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel as well. You can also email me on my contact page.

How to Charge for Copywriting Services

Buckle up, bitches! This is going to be a long-ish post about how to charge for copywriting services. If you’d prefer to watch the video, it’s below, but note that it’s long, too. Honestly, this is SUCH an important topic that I suggest doing both: Watch the video below. Then, read the blog post. (Possibly more than once.)

Disclaimers: Remember, I’m in the US, in the Northeast, just outside of Boston. I can only speak to my experience here. What you ultimately charge for your copywriting services will be influenced by the marketplace in your location, BUT THE CONCEPTS I’m discussing below will apply, regardless. (Or they should, anyway.) Remember, I’m not an accountant, a financial advisor, or a lawyer. This info is meant to be educational only.

The biggest mistake new copywriters make when deciding how to charge for copywriting services . . .

They undersell themselves.

BIG time.

I get why, too. If something takes you a couple of hours to write, you might never dream of charging $400, $500, or even more, right? Because you’re thinking in terms of TIME instead of VALUE.

Understand (and embrace) the value you’re delivering to clients.

Remember, content drives sales. Content marketing is a 400 billion-dollar industry, and for good reason. Organizations use compelling content to lure in prospective customers—through emails, videos, podcasts, blog posts, landing pages, case studies, white papers, direct mailers, ads (both digital and print), and so forth.

Great content will help a company . . .

  • Build awareness about the brand
  • Boost engagement between prospects/customers and the brand
  • Convert prospects into customers
  • Keep existing customers engaged and interested so that they continue buying

At the end of the day, it’s all about sales, though.

And awesome content motivates people to buy, buy, buy.

But here’s the thing: When you develop a piece of content to help drive sales . . . it isn’t just driving ONE sale, right? The content continues to work. It doesn’t have an expiration date or shelf life—at least, not in the typical ways that we think. (It’s not like that lonely container of yogurt that got lost in the back of your fridge.)

Sure, a time-sensitive ad will have an expiration date, but you get the idea. Great content can have a long shelf life and it can continue to work on behalf of your client long after you bill them your one-time fee.

In other words: The content you create has immense VALUE. And you need to charge accordingly.

How to charge for copywriting services: Example time!

Let’s pretend one of your clients is an acupuncture clinic—and that one of the specialties of this clinic is fertility issues.

The clinic hires you to write a series of blog posts about infertility and how acupuncture can help and/or be a complement to traditional treatment.

You and the client discuss possible angles for posts, you do keyword research, and you come up with the following titles, all of which contain a good keyword phrase:

  • How Can Acupuncture Help with Infertility? The title itself is the keyword phrase. It receives 10 searches each month and has wicked low keyword difficulty (KD). However, a phrase WITHIN that phrase (“can acupuncture help with infertility”) has 50 monthly searches and a KD of 51. So this title will work doubly hard.
  • Fertility Acupuncture: What to Expect. The phrase “fertility acupuncture what to expect” gets 30 searches a month, but ranks 23 on the keyword difficulty scale, which is very good.
  • How Long Does Acupuncture Take for Fertility? Again, the title itself is the keyword phrase with 40 monthly searches and 25 KD.
  • Questions to Ask Acupuncturist for Fertility. Ditto as above with 90 monthly searches and 23 KD.

The clinic loves the topics and signs off on them.

From there, you talk to one of the acupuncturists. You spend a little over an hour on the phone with her, but she’s able to answer all the questions you have regarding each topic, so you know the drafting of each blog post should go quickly. (You remember to record the interview so that you can have it transcribed on Rev.com. See my blog post on must-have copywriting tools!)

Now comes the drafting. You do some additional research to get current stats on fertility, pregnancy rates, etc.

You draft the blog posts and share them with the client. Each one clocks in around 750 words.

The client has some revisions. You do those.

Then, they sign off.

You’ve been really good about tracking your time, and you figure, on average, each blog post took 3 hours to do (and that’s including the keyword research, call with the client, additional research, drafting, and revising).

Let’s say you’ve been thinking about an hourly rate of $60/hour because heck—that sounds really great to you! Maybe in your old job working for an employer, your hourly rate was $30/hour. So this is DOUBLE!

$60 x 3 hours = $180 per blog

You decide to round up to $200 per blog. A nice, neat number.

And at 4 blogs, that comes to $800, which is a nice, neat payday.

Or is it?

When figuring out how to charge for copywriting services, don’t undersell yourself!

The NEXT part is critical for anyone who’s thinking, “Wait, that sounds reasonable.”

Here’s what you need to keep in mind—and here’s where I encourage a shift in your thinking.

Think beyond the tangible thing you’re creating—the blog posts. And think about the inherent value in each blog post.

Let’s say the blogs are performing REALLY well. You’ve chosen great longtail keyword phrases with low competition, as described above. You’ve done a great job writing them. You wrote social media posts for the blogs to help promote them even more.

And the acupuncture clinic’s site has seen an increase in web traffic, thanks to those blogs. And, on average, it can attribute two new bookings per month because of those blogs.

(Note: Blog posts are usually considered “top of the funnel” content, meaning they’re being used to educate people who are in the research stage, not quite the buying stage. This is usually true, but I’d argue that sometimes people are in both stages at once—they need education, but they also want—and are willing to—take action sooner rather than later. After some people read these series of blogs and poke around the clinic’s website, they reach out for an initial consultation and treatment.)

Now, let’s say the acupuncture clinic charges $125 for the first visit and $100 for each subsequent visit. And that the average fertility patient books ten visits (including the initial visit).

$125 + (9 x 100) = $1025

You could say the lifetime value of a fertility patient starts at $1025. I say “start,” because there’s a good possibility that a happy fertility patient might refer business to the clinic—or come back for treatments in other areas. So, in essence, each patient is worth even more than you might think.

You’re starting to see it, right? The disparity between what you’re thinking of charging for these blogs and what the acupuncture practice makes from having such awesome content—content that attracts people to the site and convinces them to make an appointment. (And you can apply this logic to all content marketing, not just blog posts.)

To recap the numbers . . .

  • You charged a one-time payment of $200/blog. For the series of four blogs on fertility issues, that’s a payday of $800.
  • The clinic makes, on average, $1025 per fertility patient. And over 12 months, it brings in 24 fertility patients, which are worth over $24,000.

Even if we just want to look at the initial visit per patient—24 patients per year multiplied by an initial visit fee of $125 is $3000.

See where I’m going? Your blogs have much more value to the customer than simply the “hours” you took to write them. Charge accordingly.

Now, I’m not suggesting your charge $24K or even $3K. But they are worth more than the time you put in.

When deciding how to charge for copywriting services, you also need to keep something else in mind . . .

When you’re freelancing, your rates need to also account for other business expenses since everything is on your shoulders:

  • Taxes, like self-employment tax
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement

Often when you worked as an employee, those things were drawn out of your paycheck automatically. Now, it’s up to you to pay for them. Along with other business expenses, like computers.

See where I’m going? The blog content you create is worth more than simply the “hours” you spent doing it.

Bottom line: Avoid an “hourly” mindset.

Don’t give hourly quotes. Give PROJECT quotes.

Hourly quotes are dangerous for a couple of reasons.

  • First of all, you shouldn’t get penalized for being fast—or getting faster over time. You’re still delivering the same value, right? If something takes you two hours or six hours, as long as the value is consistent, THAT’S what matters.
  • Second, hourly quotes are stressful. For you. For the client. Too often, with hourly quotes, we fall into psychological traps. “Well, I quoted four hours, so I’ll take four hours.” But what if you could get it done in half that time? Think of what you could do with those other two hours? Now multiply that thinking across all the quotes you give over a week, a month, a year. Not to mention that clients can easily fixate on hours and lose sight of value. You don’t want to nitpick over this.

Project quotes let everyone breathe easier because everyone knows where they stand.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, especially if you’re new to this: “Well, Copy Bitch, this is all well and good, but I still don’t know how to charge for copywriting services. As in, what the heck should my project quotes BE?”

I got you!

Internally, you will need to develop a sense of how long it takes you to produce different types of content, on average.

Some of the stuff you’ll encounter as a freelance copywriter:

  • Blog posts, of varying lengths. Usually, you want to aim for at least 750/1000 words. Google rewards longer content. But readers also want to get answers to their questions/pain points. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be value in an occasional 400-word piece—there can be, but based on my experience, longer is better.
  • White papers (guides). The term “white paper” used to have a very specific definition 20 years ago (much more clinical/technical). Now, it’s often used interchangeably with “guide.” And that’s what it is. These can vary in length from a few pages to upwards of 20 or so.
  • Social media posts. I often write “batches” of social media posts for clients that we schedule out.
  • Copy for ads—digital ads, print ads, radio spots.
  • Video scripts. Everything from explainer videos to product videos to everything in between.
  • Case studies. Typically, you’re talking to your client’s customers.
  • Email marketing. Think longer newsletters, but also those simpler emails (sometimes text-based). You do more than simply craft the email copy, though—you write subject lines, preview lines, and the body copy.
  • Messaging/branding/content strategy. You might do an overall strategy or specific messaging campaigns that include several different components.
  • Content calendars. Often for the blog, but it can (and should) run the gamut of all marketing—webinars, podcasts, social media, premium offers (like guides).
  • Website copy. Full websites to specific landing pages.
  • Print pieces, like direct mailers and brochures. Yes, there’s still a place for these items in today’s marketing landscape.

When you’re getting started, sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith, give a quote, AND LEARN FROM THE WORK.

And here’s the thing: I’m about to give some of my numbers below, but keep in mind I’ve been doing this since 2002. If you’re new, I get that you might not have the confidence to give pricier quotes. Heck, I also get that the example quote I used above ($800 for the four blog posts) sounds reasonable to you. Especially if you’re doing work like that across, say, four or five clients a month. That’s decent scratch when you’re just starting out (or if it’s side hustle).

My point: Just make sure you are always considering the VALUE you’re delivering. Don’t let someone convince you to write for pennies per word. What you’re doing is so, so much more valuable.

Another point: When you’re starting out, sometimes you need to simply start getting money in the door. So I’d absolutely support someone doing four blog posts for $800—you’ll get solid clips to put in your portfolio and hopefully a client testimonial for your site and LinkedIn.

But over time, you should revisit the quotes. It’s perfectly OK and natural—and expected—to occasionally raise your rates.

You can also work on getting faster. Maybe you’re able to get into a good rhythm with a client and you can write awesome content for a blog post in a little over an hour. (It’s possible, depending on the client.) So aiming to get faster while still delivering the value is a great way to essentially give yourself a raise without even raising your quote for the client.

Give prospective clients a scope of work.

This will include the overall project quote. But it will also outline all the work that goes into the content you’re producing, like interviews, keyword research, drafting, and revisions. It will also state the timeline and financial terms.

Note: With first-time clients, always get a down payment. I ask for 1/3 of the project quote. (Don’t do any work until you get the down payment.)

The balance should be due within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft. Note the word “first” in italics. The reason you don’t want to require payment within 30 days of the client signing off on the final copy is because you could end up waiting a long time for payment. Like, what if the client drags their feet signing off on the copy? You shouldn’t get penalized. Asking for payment within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft also motivates the client to get you feedback about revisions, which brings me to my next point . . .

In your project quote/scope of work, tell clients they must request revisions within 30 days of receiving the first draft. Again, this motivates the client to stay on track—and helps move the project along. (Project management 101, people!)

Plus, it helps YOU plan. If you’re juggling multiple projects in various stages, you can plan your time accordingly.

Here’s a rough idea of how I charge for copywriting services. Note: These are 2022 numbers.

Blog posts. I typically charge $450/blog—give or take. They usually weigh in between 1000 and 1500 words. Anything more than that (and that’s something I’d know in advance), I’d charge more. I wouldn’t charge much less, even if they’re slightly shorter, because again, the value is still there.

Some blogs take me a couple of hours to write. Some might take me four. Not usually longer than that. You can do the math. $100/hour is a healthy rate for me and my needs—and for the marketplace I work in.

Remember, you’re delivering value. Blog posts especially have LONG shelf lives.

Email marketing. I’m anywhere from $75 to $100 per email. It’s worth noting that I give multiple subject line options and preview line options. And I typically provide an option A and B for the body copy. (Not all writers do this.) So if I’m writing a series of 6 emails, yeah—that could be $600. But again, the VALUE I deliver is there.

(We could start a drinking game with this . . . every time I write the word “value,” drink!)

Websites. I have a per-page range: $150 – $250/page. This includes everything: discovery call with the client, keyword phrase research, content/design strategy (usually a collaboration with the designer), basic messaging, and drafting each optimized page using SEO best practices. (Once you see all the work laid out like that you might be thinking, “Heck. Even $250/page isn’t enough.” You’re not necessarily wrong.)

The reason I do a per-page rate is because website projects almost always go off the rails. Clients will come saying, “It’s only going to be an x-page site.” But once you dig in and provide strategy, that will likely change (and be more). But if you quoted on what they presumed the number of pages to be, you’ll be screwed. So I always give them a per page rate. I will say something like, “Based on the current site we’re talking about, which looks to be this many pages, I expect the final quote to be around X. But this number can change if we add more pages.” (And, of course, during the drafting process, I would alert the client if it’s looking like there will be a significant increase in pages.)

Case studies. Effective case studies are usually short—think 1 to 2 pages, max. But they take A LOT of work because they usually involve talking to one of your client’s clients. I often start at $500 per case study (and I suspect I’m on the lower side).

Video scripts. Again, developing a script for a short video—like 30 to 60 seconds—might not sound like a lot of work, but it is. Especially since you usually need to think in terms of copy and video and provide directions for both. I’m anywhere from $450 to $750 per script (and I suspect I might be on the lower side, to be honest).

Don’t let short copy deceive you. Sometimes it takes more effort to write a compelling short piece—like a subject line, PPC ad, or case study—than it does to write something longer.

White papers. These can be tricky. I just wrote a 12-page white paper for a nonprofit. Roughly 4500 words. I’m charging $2000 (because it’s a nonprofit). But honestly, that’s probably more like a $4500 job, which would be roughly $1/word. Which feels right.

Content editorial calendars. I usually develop these calendars every quarter for clients. For a client that posts four blogs a month, I might charge anywhere from $350 to $500 for the quarterly calendar, which includes keyword phrase research, optimized title, and a brief synopsis of the angle.

Messaging/branding/content strategy. This all depends on how deep of a dive the client wants. Are you talking to their customers and building out buyer personas first? Are you doing an audit of current messaging (on the website, for example)? Are you providing a fancy presentation or a down-and-dirty document with messaging recommendations? Even the latter requires many hours of work, so don’t undersell yourself.

The challenge with messaging projects is that some (not all) clients have a hard time wrapping their heads around pricey quotes since the “deliverable” will only be used internally. It’s an internal document rather than a customer-facing piece of content, like a blog post or website page.

Something else to think about: Are you part of a team—like a marketing department—and your job is more focused on language rather than an overall strategy? That could affect your quote. No matter how you slice it, quotes for messaging projects can get big, fast. You need to know what the client expects to be delivered. A down-and-dirty messaging doc for a small business might be in the $1000 range (or even less). A more comprehensive branding/messaging audit where you’re part of a team for a big company? You might charge $3000, even $5000, or more.

Print pieces, like direct mailers and brochures. Again, this can vary widely, depending on the size. A direct mailer that’s an oversized postcard might be $500. But if it’s a long direct mail sales letter, it can be much more than that. (That sort of direct-mail copywriting is a true specialty. It’s not something I do.) Brochures and catalogs—this also depends on the size. A simple tri-fold brochure might be $750 to $1000. The more pages you add, the more work that’s involved, so the bigger your quote.

Closing thoughts on how to charge for copywriting services . . .

The most important thing you should take away from this article is this: Quote on the VALUE you’re delivering, not the hours it takes you to do a project.

Challenge yourself to get faster, while still delivering value. If you get faster with your writing—without losing quality—you’re going to give yourself an automatic “raise” without even having to get your clients to pay more.

Revisit your rates every year or so. Over time, you need to increase rates. For example, if you’ve been consistently charging $100 per website page, maybe you up it to $125 per page.

Be flexible and forgiving. When you’re starting out, you might opt to quote a little low until you build your confidence and to just get some money in the door. There’s a big difference between quoting a little low and letting someone take advantage of you. Avoid the latter. And forgive yourself when you get a quote wrong. Learn from it.

Wishing you much luck in your journey!

Want more great copywriting tips? Check out my YouTube channel.

If you haven’t already, mosey on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe. I share lots of copywriting tips—not just the hard skills, but also all the “soft” skills you need to run a successful biz as a freelancer.

How to Conduct an Interview for an Article

Wondering how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, guide, or some other piece of marketing content you’ve been tasked to write as a freelance copywriter?

Well, step right up. You can watch the video below . . . or keep reading for my tips and tricks.

How interviews in Copywriting Land differ from journalistic interviews

You have much more space to breathe as a freelance copywriter conducting an interview with a subject matter expert, or SME as we say in the biz (because we marketing writers love our acronyms and jargon).

As a journalist, you’re often tasked with interviewing people who have no desire to talk to you. That can lead to lots of stress and tension.

Luckily, when you’re a freelance copywriter, the folks you interview will be invested in what you’re doing. You’ll likely be talking to someone on the client side who’s an expert in what they do. Maybe it’s a doctor for a urology practice. Or maybe it’s a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of DOT compliance. They want to see you succeed since it’s beneficial for them and their business. So they’re usually happy to help. You don’t need to worry about it being an antagonistic interview like you might have experienced as a journalist.

That said,  you might still be nervous conducting interviews in this new setting as a marketing copywriter. This is normal, even for folks like me who’ve been at it a good long while. If you’re an introvert and you hate talking to people, conducting interviews via phone, Zoom, or in person can be challenging. Especially in person since that requires pants.

OK, so let’s get to some tips about how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, or other pieces of marketing content.

Develop your questions in advance and send them to your interview subject ahead of time. You’re going to want to do some preliminary research based on the angle of your article, blog post, or white paper. Develop questions from there and send them to the subject matter expert (SME). Keep it reasonable, though. I wouldn’t send more than 15 questions via email. If you feel you’re going to need to ask a lot more questions than that, double-check to make sure the focus of your article is focused enough.

Set clear expectations. How will you be conducting the interview? Over the phone? Zoom? Skype? Should they have their cameras on or is audio-only OK? When scheduling, let people know how long you’ll need them. Plan for more time than you need. It will be a treat for them if you complete the interview early. Suddenly, they might have 10 or 15 extra minutes in their day.

Always send a calendar invite and make sure they accept it. I always follow up a calendar invite with an email alerting them that I just sent it. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) And I paste the info in the email, just in case. I might be going overboard. But it works for me. You do you.

Send a reminder the day before or the morning of. Provide the details, like a Zoom link or phone number and the list of questions again. If you don’t send the reminder, then don’t be surprised when someone flakes out.

Show up early to the interview. You’ll likely be conducting most interviews via phone or Zoom. Show up five minutes early. You’ll be able to troubleshoot any glitches. And if your interview subject is early, they won’t have to wait.

RECORD THE INTERVIEW. Be redundant and use a backup device. I use Zoom and the memo function on my phone. I always alert people that I’m recording and explain why (because I can never read my own handwriting). I tell them that I promise I won’t use anything they sat against them in a court of law. This almost always elicits chuckles and puts people at ease.

And while all of the above is true, the real reason you want to record is this: You will listen better and more deeply if you’re not worried about taking notes. I think you should still take some notes, as needed. But put your focus on your interview subject. Follow their directives. Yeah, you don’t want the interview to go off the rails, but allow yourself to follow tangents that seem relevant or interesting.

Ask follow-up questions or clarification, as needed. Your interview subjects will likely say something that surprises you or that you want to know a little more about. ALLOW for this. Ask those questions.

Resist the temptation to bring yourself into the interview. I’ve seen this mistake one too many times. It’s not about you. Shine the light on your subject. (Unless in rare instances your experience is highly relevant or directly related.)

PAUSE AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH. And when doing so, simply say, “Great, I’m just double-checking my questions here. Bear with me.” This allows for a little breather and for you to catch any questions you missed.

Lean into the silences and let your interview subjects fill them in. They will, too, because it’s human nature.

At the end of the interview, set clear expectations about what happens next. For example, let them know when they can expect to see the first draft. Remember, in Copywriting Land, your interview subject will review, edit, and approve the final copy. This is one of the biggest differences between journalism and copywriting. In Journalism Land, people don’t get to approve or change their quotes. What’s on the record is on the record. But in Copywriting Land, it’s a little different. So explain what happens next: “I’ll be sending you a draft in a week. You can make suggested edits in the margins or if we need to discuss more complex edits, we can schedule a call.” Let people know they are welcome to reach out to you via email if they forgot something or whatever.

Be classy and say thank you. Send a quick email thanking them for their time and reiterating the next steps.

How to conduct an interview for an article – best practices for asking questions

Ask open-ended questions. Remember, the goal is to get people talking.

If you need clarification, ask for it. Say something like, “Can you elaborate?” Or: “Can you provide an example?”

Don’t be afraid to ask someone to dumb something down. You can even ask them to do exactly that: “Hmm. I’m not quite sure I understand. Let’s pretend I’m ten. How would you explain this concept to me?”

A great question to end all interviews (or some variation):

  • Is there anything you were expecting me to ask that I didn’t?
  • If there’s one thing you’d want a reader to take away from this article, what would it be?
  • Is there anything else you want to make sure I convey?

Remember, don’t fill in the silences. IT’S SO TEMPTING, I KNOW. But bite your tongue, especially when asking these closing questions. Let the interview subject fill in the blanks.

Final tips on how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, or another piece of marketing content

Use a service like Rev.com or Temi.com to transcribe the interview. Either with a human or with their automated transcription, which is pretty good. It’ll make your life so much easier, trust me. Instead of spending valuable time transcribing the interview, you can focus on highlighting important messages, identifying great quotes, conducting additional research, and—oh yeah—writing awesome content. Plus, you’ll get to the writing part SO MUCH FASTER, which is good for the client and you.

Wondering how it’s good for you? Well, let’s say you charge $500 per blog post, and that includes initial research (keywords and topic), scheduling the interview with the subject matter expert, conducting a 30-minute interview, reviewing the transcript, writing the blog post, getting feedback from the client, and providing one round of revisions. If you don’t record and simply go by notes, I guarantee you’ll have overlooked something/forgotten something. And if you choose to transcribe the interview yourself, think of how much time that will take. I don’t care if you’re a good transcriber—it will take you at least 30 minutes (if you’re truly super fast) and more like an hour or more easily. What if you got that hour back for writing—or what if you get that hour back in your pocket?

Look at it this way: Let’s say it takes you five hours from start to finish to produce the final blog when you use a transcription service, but it takes you six to seven hours if you transcribe the interview yourself. You can do the math! Consider how much an hour of your time is worth.

Be kind to yourself, especially if you’re just starting out. And know that even if you end up doing this for years, some days will be better than others. Even now, I still have moments where I’m like, “Hmm. That wasn’t my best work.” It happens. The good news is that all that messy stuff happens in the background. In other words, the interview itself is not the final product—the piece of writing is. So even if it’s a little messy getting there, you can still make sure the final prose shines in the end.

Got other questions about how to conduct an interview for an article?

Get in touch and ask away. Always happy to help!

Is Copywriting Hard? NOPE (Provided You Like to Write)

A question folks ask me: Is copywriting hard to do or hard to learn?

Well, if you hate writing, then copywriting will likely be hard to learn and to do. It will probably be painful as well.

I often tell folks that working as a copywriter means always having another term paper due. That’s what it feels like. And for some folks, that would be the WORST. THING. EVER. It would conjure bad memories of high school and writing term papers on mind-numbing subjects at 2 AM while hopped up on Red Bull.

But for someone like me?

BLISS.

Bottom line: If you enjoy writing, you’re decent at it, and you’re willing to learn, then no—copywriting isn’t “hard” to do. And it’s an absolutely learnable skill.

I’m living proof!

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a fiction writer. I took a detour out of college and worked in radio where I learned about copywriting. I wrote promotional copy, liners, radio ads, etc.

In 2002, I started my freelance copywriting biz. The freelance aspect is perfect for me since it gives me plenty of flexibility to write fiction as well.

As for the copywriting part, I’m mostly self-taught. And I’m still learning because things change, like SEO best practices and email marketing best practices (just to name a few).

Are you thinking about getting into copywriting (also known as content marketing)? Do you need some resources?

To get started, I highly recommend the following:

Or check out some of my other blog posts about copywriting:

To recap: Is copywriting hard? NOPE. Check out my video below for more insights.

Why Creative Product Descriptions Matter

Product descriptions absolutely should tell prospective customers the info they need to know. Things like material, quality, size, etc. All those features that will influence a person’s buying decision.

But consider all the product descriptions we encounter when we’re shopping for something. What will make yours stand out compared to all the rest?

Personality. Creativity. Something unexpected, like fun sentences and turns of phrases instead of the same ol’, same ol’. Some products are famous for their descriptions (like The J. Peterman Company). But I’d be willing to bet most products are famous for having boring descriptions.

Don’t be boring or predictable. Taking the time to craft thoughtful, funny, whimsical, engaging descriptions will resonate with customers, even if only on a subconscious level. At best, they will buy from you because of the descriptions (and they might share your product pages because of them as well…which could garner you more sales). And, of course, you’ll be able to solidify that all-important “brand voice” in your descriptions.

My nephew recently ventured into the world of ecommerce, and he asked me to help him with some of his products’ descriptions. Here’s a before and after. See what you think.

BEFORE THE COPY BITCH’S HANDIWORK.

AFTER THE COPY BITCH’S MAGIC EDITS…

Need help writing product descriptions…or maybe some other sort of copy? Check out my portfolio and service pages and let’s chat.

Just Say No to Marketing Jargon

A fellow copywriter messaged me the other day. He said, “Good morning. I need another less cliched word for ‘industry-leading.’ Whatcha got?

Now, you might wonder what the problem is with “industry-leading.” After all, if your company is the leader in its industry, why not say it?

Well, let’s break that down. Why should industry-leading matter to your prospect and customers anyway? Does it matter to your prospects? The answer might very well be yes, but not because you’ve simply stated your company is an industry leader.

So what could industry-leading mean? Perhaps it means the company is constantly putting stuff out in the marketplace that no one else is. Perhaps it means the company has an active and imaginative R&D department that’s constantly trying to improve products/services. Maybe it means the company has been at it a long time, and this longevity matters because in an industry where there are many fly-by-night companies (I’m riffing here), you can count on this company always being there.

You get the idea. It’s like the “show, don’t tell” advice fiction writers get all the time. Show your readers what you’re trying to convey rather than just saying it with marketing jargon.

Wondering if you’re guilty of using marketing jargon? We all do it from time to time, and the list is constantly evolving. Here’s a good list from HubSpot of 70 buzzwords and jargon to avoid.

Why Proofreading Matters

This was tucked in my door the other day. How many mistakes can you spot?

Listen, I can appreciate that English is a hard language (it’s challenging for me at times!), but that’s even more reason to invest in a proofreader, especially for print materials. One “typo”? Meh — I might be willing to overlook it (but I know many others who wouldn’t). But when I count 5 mistakes on one flyer? That makes me wonder A) how serious you are about your business and B) what sort of mistakes you’re going to make with your service. (And mistakes with food make me twitchy.)

A quick proofread or copy edit of a flyer would be quick and affordable…and save you embarrassment and having people dismiss your service out of hand.

Repeat after me: proofreading matters!

How to Use Customer Testimonials: 13 Ideas

Wondering how to use customer testimonials? Here are 13 ideas.

1. On your website. Here are some ideas:

  • Home page
  • As scrolling text (scrolling testimonials) on the header graphic of your website
  • On specific service or industry pages
  • In a “Testimonials” or “Happy Customers” section

2. On the back of your business card. Don’t waste this valuable space — use it!

3. On press/speaking materials.

4. On a “Testimonials” or “Review” section on Facebook.

5. As the inspiration for a blog post or newsletter topic. Pick an idea or theme from one of your testimonials and write a blog post around it. For example, in the testimonial Lise gave me above, she mentions my ability to turn “geek speak” into approachable copy. Well, “5 Tips for De-Geeking Copy” would make a fun blog post or newsletter article.

6. On email signatures. Call it “Happy Customer Quote” or “Fan Mail” and put it after your signature and use a new one every month. Opt for short, punchy, even funny ones, or testimonials that are super, super specific and talk about the type of business you want to get more of. Different people in your company can use different testimonials specific to their jobs and talents.

7. On LinkedIn. This involves an extra step of asking your client, provided you’re connected to him or her, to write the testimonial on LinkedIn. But most people are happy to do so.

8. On invoices.

9. In newsletters (electronic or print). They make great sidebar items.

10. In brochures.They work well as call-outs in the body copy, especially if they’re reinforcing a particular message.

11. On packaging.

12. On auto responder emails. For example, think of the welcome letter people receive when they subscribe to your newsletter through Constant Contact (or some other email vendor like Mail Chimp).

13. In advertising. Again, used as a call out, it can help reinforce the message.

What other ways do you use testimonials? I’d love to hear about them. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how to solicit customer testimonials, follow this strategy:

  • Ask (be clear how you’re going to use it and ask if you can use the person’s relevant info, like name and company).
  • Receive (always in writing — keep these permissions on file).
  • Show gratitude. A heartfelt thank you is always appreciated. And pay it forward by offering to write a testimonial for someone else who does a great job for you.

Company Tagline Construction: What to Keep in Mind

I’ve been working with many clients lately who are rethinking their taglines or coming up with one for the first time. So I thought I’d write a post on some tagline “basics.”

What is a tagline?

In my mind, a tagline is a fun (yes, fun — we should all be having more fun, shouldn’t we?) way of branding what you do (or what your product does) in the minds of customers. The best taglines have staying power, and, over time, they can stand alone, meaning you could read or hear only the tagline, and you’d still know what it represents.

For example, I bet you can easily match the tags below to a company or product:

  1. Good to the last drop.
  2. We bring good things to life.
  3. When you care enough to send the very best.

But also keep this in mind: a tagline in today’s world is more than just a “line.” It’s a line that can create a whole new world of engagement for your customers and prospects…if it’s done right (more on this in a minute).

What are the Rules for Tagline/Slogan Creation?

I hate rules. Sounds so restrictive, and for every rule I give about taglines or slogans, I’m sure someone could easily give me a good example of someone breaking the rule well. So let’s call them guidelines.

  • Figure out what you want your tagline to accomplish. Should it incite passion? Should it educate? Should it be risky? Should it be clever? Why? Think about your prospective audience and consider what they would appreciate.
  • Brainstorm words you want associated with your business. Think specific and concrete, but don’t rule out thematic words like “enlightening” or “inspired.” A great place to look for words and phrases? Customer testimonials. Or ask your Facebook fans to shout out 2 or 3 words that describe your business, your service, your “essence.”
  • Brainstorm words you don’t want associated with your business. You know, like “poopy” or “swamp ass.” Unless, of course, those phrases apply in a positive way.
  • Now start brainstorming actual tags. Don’t edit yourself. And involve other people from your company. You never know where a brilliant idea is going to come from and you don’t need to be a writer or have a marketing degree to come up with something brilliant. However, when in doubt, hire a copywriter (like me! shameless plug!) to craft a tagline for you.
  • Keep length in mind. Typically, taglines should be short, punchy, and memorable. What’s the definition of short? That depends. The best taglines typically (but not always) fall in the five- to eight-word (or so) category.
  • Test, test, test. Test on current customers. Test it out with your Facebook fans (you could even turn it into a contest — have them vote for the best tag). Test it on people who know your business (e.g., your networking group, like BNI). Don’t allow people to simply say “I like this one.” Make sure they can explain why.

Blogging – A Reality Check

If you own a business, you’ve probably heard that a blog is a great way to add regular content to your site and that it will help get you found by potential customers who want whatever it is you’re selling. Both points are true.

But you want to know what else is true? Your blog won’t “make it big” overnight. Your blog might never make it big, depending on your definition of “big.” And if your blog does make it big, I can guarantee you one thing: it will require a lot of hard work, even after you make it.

Want proof? Here it is:

I recently stumbled on Young House Love, a husband-and-wife blogging team that has turned what started out as a simple blog to keep friends and family updated on the couple’s home improvement projects into a marketable, enviable brand. These are two beautiful people who are in love and doing beautiful work, so I was quite pleased when I read this honest assessment from Sherry on her blogging adventure, and I quote:

We’re not gonna lie – it’s the hardest job we’ve ever had. The biggest misconception is that our blog is a part time thing that we spend a few hours a day on. When friends and relatives picture me out on the patio with a magazine and a cocktail I snort with laughter. It’s hard to put into words how we manage to spend every waking moment working on the blog, but we’re essentially writing over 45 posts a month AND taking and uploading photos AND running an online shop AND offering design services AND coordinating giveaways AND answering up to 100 email and comment questions a day AND making & editing videos. Not to mention actually doing the projects on our home that we then photograph and write about. It’s pretty much a never ending to do list! In all honesty, I’m a million times busier than I ever was in my old New York City 60+ hour a week job. We work nights, weekends and on vacation (after all, the internet is 24/7!) so sometimes it can all be very exhausting. And I don’t make as much as I used to. I actually took a pretty hefty pay cut to see this full-time blogging thing through.

Sherry also makes another important point: she didn’t set out to write a blog that would fill a niche. She and her husband simply wrote about what they were passionate about, and the followers, slowly but surely, began to flock.

This point is worth repeating in Copy Bitch clarity:  passion-filled blog posts will attract more followers than writing around keyword phrases and creating optimized titles. Ideally, you should do both. But start with your passion. Unleash it. Let it lead you.

So you wanna blog for your business and have the sort of success YHL has experienced? Well, be prepared to:

  • work your ass off
  • write about things you really, really care about
  • do it regularly – yes, even when you don’t want to; yes, sometimes on weekends; yes, maybe even some holidays; yes, possibly on vacation
  • make mistakes
  • learn from your mistakes
  • ignore critics (well, most of them)
  • write, write, write
  • oh, and write some more

I realize not everyone is looking for their blogs to go ga-ga like YHL. But you know what? Even if you’re not looking to make it big like them, the bullet points above still apply, even for your modest 3-times-a-week business blog.

Update: It’s July 2017 and YHL took a major blogging hiatus a few years ago. They’re now doing a podcast and the occasional blog post.

My point: your blogging life will evolve. I’ve seen people hot-and-heavy with their blogs for years, and then they hit a wall. Others, continue on slow and steady.

So does your business need a blog? HubSpot and other marketing gurus say all businesses MUST blog. I hate “must” directives. You shouldn’t do something just because someone tells you to. Understand how your business *could* benefit, understand the drawbacks, and be realistic about what you can and can’t commit to. Blogging is a big part of my business, meaning I do lots of blogging for clients who are too busy to do it themselves. This a great compromise. Learn more about my blogging services here.