Eileen Coale: Making It Big in Freelance Copywriting

| February 24, 2006 | 0 Comments

The Web has created a wide avenue for self-employment opportunities. In fact, one of the hottest careers right now on the Web is freelance copywriting.

Every Web site needs content. An e-commerce site needs product descriptions; online publications need articles; company information site needs write-ups; and sales oriented-sites need sales copy. Content is the one constant requirement of every Web site, whatever its purpose may be. Some site owners write their content on their own, but many require the help of professional copywriters.

Eileen Coale has found her niche doing business on the Web as a freelance copywriter. She started her writing career as a translator, and then went on to become a freelance journalist writing for newspapers and magazines. Since founding her company Coale Communications http://www.eileencoale.com , Eileen now focuses on copywriting projects on Internet marketing.

We interviewed Eileen Coale to learn more about the business of copywriting marketing materials such as direct mail, brochures and flyers, as well as writing Web content and online articles.

Starting the Copywriting Business

How did you start in the business of writing?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was a child. In any job I ever had, I gravitated to the writing-related tasks. My first career was as a translator, which is just another form of writing. During the ten-year period when I was at home raising children, I began writing a regular newspaper column and freelance articles for magazines. In 2000, I read Peter Bowerman’s “The Well-Fed Writer.” That was when I first realized that writing for businesses could be a viable enterprise for me. It took me another two years, though, before I got brave enough to try it.

What qualifications do one need to be able to enter this type of business?

Obviously, you must be able to write well, and you must be willing to keep learning. You should have a basic understanding of marketing concepts and techniques; I’m self-taught in this area. You also need to be willing to market yourself. This is where a lot of good writers fail; they don’t enjoy marketing themselves, they don’t do enough of it, and therefore their business does not do well. You also need to be able to listen to your clients, and write what they need, not what you want.

Can you please describe your early days in the business?

I was afraid I would fall flat on my face. I was afraid I would fail. But fortunately, I two outstanding mentors – entrepreneurial women who had started their own businesses while they also had young families. More than anything else, they built up my confidence and urged me to spread my wings.

I had to learn about targeting the right kinds of clients – that is, ones with budgets to pay me. This was much more of a confidence issue than anything else. I had to learn, too, how little or how far of a stretch I could make in trying out new types of writing. It was both a scary and exhilarating period for me.

What made you shift from freelance writing to doing business communications writing?

I was good at freelance writing articles, and got some good magazine credits to my name. But I did not enjoy the process of querying editors, or the way the whole freelancing system works. It’s very difficult to make good money. Magazine writing is seriously undervalued. Top markets in the 1960’s paid $1 a word. Most top markets today still pay only $1 a word, which of course is worth far less than it was a generation ago. In two years, working just part time, I make what most full-time magazine freelance writers take five or more years to build up to.

What was the market’s reaction to your service? Did clients immediately come knocking to your door?

The need for freelance copywriters is definitely out there, but success does not happen overnight. Until I learned exactly who my best prospects were, and started connecting regularly with the business community by networking, things were slow. It wasn’t until I was in business for over a year that I stopped worrying about whether or not I’d get enough business each month. It took a year and a half until I started getting regular referrals.

What kinds of writing services does Coale Communications currently offer? What types of services enjoy the greatest demand from clients?

I write traditional print marketing materials such as brochures, direct mail, advertorials, and press releases. I’m equally comfortable writing editorial, so I also ghostwrite articles for my clients’ bylines and write newsletter articles. But increasingly, my business is for internet marketing – this week, out of five active projects on my desk, four are for the web. Web writing encompasses web copy (sales oriented), web content (information oriented), e-zines and e-newsletters, and email marketing.


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