The $75,000 Writing Career
Freelancing for Corporate America - Get Your Share of a Growing Pie!
As I passed a cubicle in the office of my biggest client, a regional telecom giant, the
nameplate looked familiar. I stuck my head in. "Did you used to have an ad agency?"
"I did," was the reply, "but thanks to the huge recession in the creative industry back
then (a fact I was blissfully unaware of at the time), I had to shut my doors."
Ah now I remembered her. She was one of several people who told me, that with no industry
contacts, no agency background and no paid professional writing experience of any kind
(ponder that), I’d have a heckuva time making it as a freelance commercial writer. "Thanks
for sharing," I recall thinking. I hit financial self-sufficiency in four months that very year.
I think about that experience every time I get an e-mail from someone asking if - given
the tough economic times - now is still a good time to get into the business. My answer?
It’s a great time to be a freelancer. Want more freedom, flexibility and income in your
life? Have decent writing ability? Why not put it to work?
A Lucrative and Growing Opportunity
In the last decade and certainly in the past few years, prolific downsizing and outsourcing
in Corporate America has eliminated or scaled down many creative, marketing and communication
departments. And in many cases, they’re paying freelancers handsomely (hourly rates
average $60 - 80+) to pick up the slack. Why? No need to pay salary, benefits or vacation.
They pay only for what they need, when they need it. And they get a wide range of talent
and fresh "outsider" perspectives.
So, what’s "commercial writing"? Marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail
campaigns, video scripts, speeches, sales sheets, web sites and so much more. In short,
any written materials a corporation has to create for any reason: print, online,
business-to-consumer, business-to-business and internal communications the huge volume of
projects a company needs to develop "for their eyes only."
Who Will Hire You?
There are two main groups of prospects: End Users (EUs) and Middlemen (MM). EUs are the
corporations, large and small that will be the end-users of the writing. For starters,
approach "MarCom" (marketing communications), also known as Corporate Communications. No
"MarCom" (often the case in smaller firms)? Try marketing, sales, or finally, HR.
A manager with that same huge telecommunications firm above (Big EU) 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."
MM are companies hired by EUs to execute their projects: 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.
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.
One caveat: In a tighter economy like the one we’re in, your best bet is with the EUs.
Many MM are struggling themselves and as a result, are more likely to pull any work they
do get in-house. Not always the case, but if you’re planning on launching a phone
prospecting campaign, start with EUs, not MM prospects.
On the flip side, many EUs who may have, in rosier times, hired an agency may now be
finding that option too rich for their scaled-back budgets. But they still have plenty
of projects to be done and low-overhead budget-friendly freelancers offer a very attractive
alternative and often deliver equal or superior results at a fraction of an agency’s fees.