One of the joys of freelancing is the fast-and-loose nature of it. You can set up shop over night, work from home (or on a beach in Thailand) and carve out the kind of lifestyle you want – all with minimal investment.
Copywriting is a highly democratic kind of business. You don’t need a degree, fancy equipment or friends in high places to ride this career train.
There’s always a but.
The wretched but.
If you want to attract the best clients with the healthiest budgets and do the most interesting, challenging or rewarding work, you may need to invest in things to make you look more professional, more established and more committed.
Why invest in branding?
Having a logo and a website that looks professional counts for a lot.
These details reassure potential clients that you are:
- Committed to freelancing (you’re not just dipping your toes in the water)
- Investing in your business
- Aware of the importance of design and branding
By spending a small amount on professional design you can help your business stand out against your competitors.
It’s a simple way to distinguish yourself in a crowded field. And branding is one of the aspects of your identity that is completely under your control. You might not be able to choose your clients, your education, or your work experience, but you can choose how you present yourself.
Branding can also help persuade larger clients that you’re a safe bet. Imagine that you’re a marketing manager for a multinational company, and you’re on the lookout for a copywriter: you will feel more confident engaging a copywriter who looks professional, organised and established – and less likely to incur the wrath of your boss if it all goes wrong.
Branding has become a kind of shorthand for quality. Good quality websites with professional logos suggest that the business is reputable and the service is effective.
Branding is more than a logo
Getting a logo is a good start, but you need to go further if you want to convince big brands to work with you. A properly branded business looks (and sounds) right from every angle.
Emails – should be from your website domain. Your signature should include your contact details.
Blog posts – try to blog on your main website. And remember that, although the blog can be more relaxed than your main site, it can be jarring for readers if the formality slips too far. Broadly speaking, your website and communications should be consistent.
Social media – again, it’s normal to be more relaxed on social media, but if your Twitter account is linked to your website, try to post things that make sense to potential visitors. Ultimately you’re trying to build a picture of a dedicated, experienced professional who can be relied upon to deliver important projects.
Tone of voice – how you communicate permeates everything, and it should make sense for you and your brand.
How to look more professional without spending a fortune
Great design can be expensive (rather like great copy), but there are also ways to muddle your way to great results on a small budget. Here are a few tips to help you achieve the result you want with the budget you have.
As a copywriter, you have a valuable skill that you can swap for all sorts of things. Keep your eyes peeled for any designer who needs help with copy. I managed to get my first website set up in exchange for a curry, thanks to an incredibly generous friend. The second version was designed in exchange for copy.
DIY design tends to go badly, unless you’re skilled and in possession of all the relevant software.
However, there are ways to build cheap websites.
WordPress. Yes, yes, there are infinite ways to make a horrible mess with WordPress. But it is possible to build a good-looking website for about £10 – providing you have patience and the ability to make sense of tutorials on YouTube. The trick to creating a good website with WordPress is to use a good-looking theme. And don’t be tempted to modify the theme in any weird ways. Good looking themes become bad-looking themes when amateurs get involved (I can say this because I’ve done it).
Squarespace. You have to pay a monthly fee, but Squarespace seems to go a good job of creating elegant websites.
You can ignore this advice and still succeed
There are plenty of amazing copywriters who do brilliant work with wonderful clients and have very fulfilling careers, all without anything more than a mobile number and a Hotmail account. And that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But, if you want to work with larger companies, or have greater flexibility to choose your clients, or charge rates that reflect the value you offer, then you may find that branding gives you a head start and makes it easier to achieve those goals.
What do you think? Is branding a key part of your copywriting business? Or is it a waste of money?