This is a 4 minute read.
Recently, I’ve been super into helping newer copywriters.
There’s enough work out there for everyone and one of my favourite things to do is write needlessly long email responses to questions from people starting out.
Anything to pretend I’m working while actually just chatting in an email.
But, with an eye on what new copywriters are doing and how they’re marketing themselves, I’ve noticed a handful of cases where someone has ‘borrowed’ the messaging from this website. In some cases, ‘borrowed’ entire paragraphs intact.
In a lot of ways, it’s an ego boost. At least I’m surfacing in the search results. But it strikes me as a bad idea, no matter how much time you saved.
This isn’t a post about the ethical question. It’s not a long way of saying ‘If you’re going to be a copywriter, it might be good to practice writing your own copy.’
It’s a post about why repurposing any other copywriter’s story is setting yourself up for failure.
Going freelance is a hustle
For all the nuanced advice about starting a business or being a copywriter, I consistently come back to one thing: get some work and make some money, by any means necessary.
I see a lot of newer copywriters coming into the business with confusing advice from people who are more experienced than them. They can command higher rates. They have an easier time getting work. When someone makes an enquiry, they always have a relevant example to show.
So they give advice based on their position – which is barely relevant to someone brand new.
In my view, it’s all about finding your own way. That’s something based on your lifestyle, your ability, whether you can pay the rent this month. And, sure, if you just need to cobble a website together, you should absolutely take inspiration from people who have been there, done that.
Their messaging will likely be a good fit on some level. After all, there’s only so many ways you can say ‘I write stuff good’. As much as we’d all love to be unique little flowers, copywriters are copywriters. They’re either good, mediocre, or bad.
But when you take copy from existing copywriters, you’re positioning yourself in direct competition with them. And, to be frank, you’re screwing yourself before you start.
Compete on your own terms
As much as we all like to be part of a big online freelance copywriter community, that’s easy to do when you have plenty of work coming in.
I like a lot of copywriters. We’re the same kind of people.
But if shit hits the fan and I’m going broke, I want to take every single client you have.
We’re routinely pitched against each other. Clients hedge their bets. And if your website says you’re very similar to a more established, experienced copywriter, who is going to get the job?
Taking your own copy from an existing copywriter’s website is saying ‘I’m a crap version of this other writer’. A person who makes the same claims and promises, but can’t really back them up.
It’s hardly a top-tier position to be negotiating from.
Instead, think about the things you can do better than someone else.
All the ways you have the edge
To help, here’s a useful list of all the things I can’t offer.
Maybe these are the things that could help you stand out.
1. Loads of time
I can’t give a new client endless hours, month after month. I already have a pipeline of projects that’s happening. So there’s always a juggle to fit new things in, even if they’re particularly interesting or exciting.
2. A willingness to learn
I try my best, but I’m increasingly stuck in my ways. I don’t want to adapt what I do to fit the way a client expects it to be done — I want to give you the benefit of what I’ve already learned. That makes me a bad fit if I’m subbing under other copywriters.
3. Flexible (and cheap) pricing
My rates are my rates and they increase every so often. A lot of copywriters are sensitive about discussing fees, but it’s a powerful way for new copywriters to get ahead. And that doesn’t mean offering bargain basement prices and hating every moment of your job. It just means setting a rate that reflects a lack of experience – and could be just what a client is looking for.
4. Super urgent stuff
Where there’s a good relationship, I always do what I can to hit seemingly impossible timelines. But I don’t work out of hours, I don’t do weekends, and most things take a run-up before I can find availability. Newer copywriters might be more willing to spend an evening on work for the sake of getting projects under their belts.
5. Quantity work in content
I do a few ongoing content projects for people – blog posts, social media, etc. But it’s very dull work and, in a lot of cases, my rates make it unworkable. New copywriters have a huge edge in their ability to take on regular content, where the rates are maybe a little lower, but the quantity of work is there to make it worthwhile.
It’s not about me, it’s about you
The irony: one of the most common phrases or sentiments I see newer copywriters adopting is from my homepage: it’s not about me, it’s about you.
And isn’t that the point?
Your website shouldn’t be about some copywriter down in Kent. It should be as unique to you as humanly possible. That’s what clients fall in love with – a person that feels right for their personality, their project, and their brand.
If you want to use copy from this website as your own, you should probably publish my phone number, too. That’s the only way your client will get the person they expect when they pick up the phone.