The seven deadly sins of freelance copywriting

Seems heavenly, on the face of it, self-employment as a copywriter. You get to write all day, drink scotch all night, and maybe once in a meeting someone will refer to you as Don Draper.

But beware, fellow freelancers, because this heavenly life can soon descend into the very bowels of hell if you fall prey to one of the seven deadly sins.

Fortunately, you don’t need a bearded stone-tablet carrier to guide you through that desert. You’ve got this blog post. And more tortured bible metaphors than you can shake a DVD of The Passion of the Christ at.

So let’s begin.


Taken literally, the biggest effect lust will have on a freelance copywriter is all down to the fact that the internet is crammed full of all manner of filth.

But let’s not be literal. Let’s look at how a different sort of lust can harm your career.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Competition’s Clients

Whether you started yesterday or twenty years ago, you’ll still want what you can’t have.

Other writers’ clients.

Maybe it’s a blue chip. Maybe it’s a local business you’ve always dreamt of working for. There’s nothing wrong with muscling in and breaking up an existing client/copywriter partnership, right?

Right. Unless of course you want to alienate a source of potential support, all while showing a potential customer that you’re the sort of person who’s not interested in long-term partnerships.

Trust clients to make the right choice. If their current writer is wrong for them, they’ll look elsewhere. Let them come to you, instead of desperately humping their legs while they’re perfectly happy.


This isn’t about spending your afternoons in the home office wrist deep in a tub of ice cream.

You do you. I don’t judge.

This is about over-indulging at the client buffet.

Thou Shalt Not Bite Off More Than Thou Can Chew

So many delicious projects. You just want to take a nibble of all of them, piling your plate high.

Well good luck, because come 4am, you’ll be suffering from the sort of regret that only comes with looming deadlines you had no chance of meeting.

Rein in your appetite. Be sensible. Space out your work – clients will understand. After all, nobody wants sub-par copy written in the dead of night.


And lo, did the prophets of Pro Copywriters decree that you should put your prices up. And then didst Maslen decree that the guide prices aimed too low and even dog walkers make more than that so put your prices up AGAIN.

They were correct to.

But there’s one caveat they forgot to mention.

Thou Shalt Not Rip Off Thine Customers

When the pound signs pop into your eyes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking as much as you can from a client for the project.

But maybe rein it in. A fair price that leaves you both happy will lead to repeat business. And a larger sum over a longer period of time will be better for your business than a single lump payment and a client who feels like they’ve been taken for a mug.


The humble work-from-home freelance copywriter faces many trials and tribulations. Who amongst us hasn’t heard the siren call of a day spent lying on the couch in our underwear, catching up on TV, or spending hours pottering around aimlessly instead of getting down to business?

Thou Shalt Get Some Bloody Work Done

I’m not saying you should give up your dreams of the three day week (and please, when you find a fair price, remember the quality of your work can be good enough to make a week’s worth of cash in three days), but a freelancer definitely needs to find the motivation and commitment to stick to a schedule.

Maybe Trello will keep you focused. Maybe a notepad covered in swear words. Just find a way of avoiding the slothful lifestyle long enough to get the bills paid.


Late invoices. Nonsensical amendments. A casual disregard for the laws of time and space. There are many triggers to start the red mist descending, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to take to Twitter in a fury.

Thou Shalt Not Badmouth Thine Clients

Yes, they can be infuriating. Yes, they can be demanding. And yes, they can most certainly sometimes be a bit slack when it comes to popping cheques in the post, but you cannot function as a copywriter without clients.

So whatever you do, don’t piss them off in exchange for momentary catharsis and a brief flurry of Facebook likes.

And definitely don’t send furious emails either.


The green-eyed monster strikes us all from time-to-time. We spot an advert, or a line in a brochure, or an award winning piece of up-it’s-own-arse vapid nonsense… Sorry, got carried away there.

We spot a piece of copy that’s really good, or award-winning, and we get in a huff.

Thou Shalt Not View Great Copy As A Threat

Impostor syndrome is very real, and it can easily be set off by an attack of envy. But that’s an awful way to look at the world. A copywriter is continually working to improve her craft, and that means learning from those who currently do it a little better.

After all, even the very best of the very best have a secret swipe file they look at from time to time.


The final sin facing the freelance copywriter is my personal favourite. The wondrous sin of superbia. The pride that has us strutting around like the cock of the walk. After all, we’re literally being paid to do something that comes to us naturally.

Thou Shalt Not Wander Round Like Billy Big Bollocks

Yeah. There’s a slight issue with that. Overconfidence seems to be inextricably linked to underdelivery. Know your worth. Charge your worth. And tell the world how good you are. But only make promises that you can back up.

And of course, the sin of pride has one final little-known sting in its tail. If you proudly market yourself as “Manchester’s Number One Copywriter” on the back of a string of five-star impartial reviews, other writers will mock you.


Especially Martin and Lucy and about seventy other people at that DMA meetup.

Thou Shalt Wind Thine Neck In Nattan, Lest Thou Get a Slap

Maybe that one just applies to me.


31st August 2017

Anna Whitehouse

Love this, it made me laugh out loud but also hits the nail right on the head!

6th September 2017

Claire Davies

Great read and a good reminder that everyone suffers from imposter syndrome.

What do you think?

Your email will not be published. ProCopywriters members: log in before commenting so your comment links to your profile.

Become a member

Join ProCopywriters

Connect with peers, develop your skills and extend your reach on our blog.

Become a member
Learn online

Online workshops

Every month we get an expert, an author or a professional trainer to deliver a one-hour presentation on copywriting, marketing or digital media.

Browse events