Imagine This: The editor of a magazine you’ve written several pieces for says yes to a recent query. You outline the parameters of the piece and the conversation turns to money. He says, “Let’s try something a little different this time. Figure out how many hours you think it’ll take to do the piece. Factor in time for research, background reading, travel to and from appointments, brainstorming, interviewing, writing, and editing. Then multiply the hours by $75 and give me a figure.” You return with a number, he says “fine” and you get to work.
Has he lost his mind? Is this a freelancer’s wistful fantasy? In some writing arenas, maybe. But in freelance commercial (corporate) writing, the above-described scenario is pretty much right on the money. And speaking of money, instead of flat fees with potentially vast and open-ended investments of time, here’s a field where fees are based on hourly rates of $50-125 or more, and all time counts.
A Lucrative and Growing Opportunity
In the few decades, prolific downsizing in Corporate America has resulted in the outsourcing of an enormous amount of writing projects to well-paid freelancers. How can you get your share? Who do you contact? Well, for starters, there are two main groups of prospects: End Users (EU) and Middlemen (MM).
End Users (EUs)
EUs are the corporations, large and small (as well as non-profits, universities, and more), that will be the end-users of the writing. With large companies, approach Corporate Communications, also known as “MarCom” (marketing communications). With smaller ones, try marketing, sales, or finally, HR.
A manager with a huge telecommunications firm in Atlanta noted, “Most people would assume that a company of our size would do the bulk of our writing in-house, and they’d be wrong. It’s amazing how much writing we outsource. My writing needs these days are pretty steady, and I pay anywhere from $65-85/hour, depending on the writer’s experience.”
MMs – companies often hired by EUs to execute these projects – include advertising agencies, graphic design firms, marketing companies, PR firms, and event production companies – to name the key ones. Few of these entities staff writing talent, preferring instead to hire the right talent for a specific job, and only when needed.
- Ad Agencies/PR Firms: These entities, which can be huge, do staff copywriters for high-profile ad campaigns but will often bring in freelancers to handle “collateral” (marketing brochures, newsletters, sales sheets, etc.). Small agencies offer better opportunities for freelancers.
- Graphic Design Firms: This group tends toward the smaller end and rarely have on-staff writers. They include many “lone rangers” (one-person shops), several of whom have put many thousands of dollars in my pocket over time. Cultivate relationships with the most talented designers at the larger firms. The good ones all eventually go freelance and if they like you and your work, you’ll be on their “A-list.”
- Event Production Companies: These firms handle all aspects of huge corporate conventions, conferences, product launches, etc. That may include show literature, videos, speeches, web content, signage, and more. Contact major convention facilities to get the names of the big players.
Who to Contact?
For all the above MM clients, contact CDs (Creative Directors: often hard to reach), ACDs (Assistant CDs: easier), AEs (Account Executives), PMs (Project Managers). Find them through the actual category listing in the Yellow Pages or through an annual business listing publication.
Beyond the Yellow Pages…
Where else can you find your prospects? Most good-sized metropolitan areas have a weekly business publication ending in “… Business Journal (i.e. Los Angeles Business Journal, Philadelphia Business Journal, etc.)
Whatever your goals or circumstances, the commercial writing field offers a lucrative and growing opportunity for those with good writing skills. Isn’t it time for a raise?
About the author: Peter Bowerman, a freelance copywriter, speaker and business coach, is the author of the award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles – how-to “standards” on lucrative freelancing for businesses (www.wellfedwriter.com). In 2007, leveraging the successful self-publishing of his first two books (52,000 copies in print, and a full-time living for five-plus years), he released The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living.