Common Questions About Web Writing

Whether you are about to launch your web-writing business or you’ve been doing this for a while, there are always questions about how to make your business grow. From how to set up your business to how to land clients to setting fees to choosing a niche … we’ve gathered the most common questions about web writing and given you quick, clear answers to help keep you moving forward.

If you’ve got a question that you don’t see answered here, please send it to us. Just click here.

Setting Fees

It’s the question that always gets asked … And up until now, the only answer you’ve received has been “it depends.”

And for good reason. There are a LOT of variables to consider when pricing projects for prospective clients. Before submitting a proposal to a client, think about these six variables:

  • Your Self-Marketing Strategy
  • Your Experience
  • Project Value to Your Client
  • Client Size
  • Page Length
  • Time Spent

With multiple factors to take into consideration, it is no surprise that the fee spectrum can be quite large. Newer copywriters should anticipate starting out at the lower end while those with more experience will be at the higher end.

For a detailed breakdown of what rates to charge for all kinds of web-writing projects, check out the comprehensive report, How to Price and Land the Top 7 Web Copy Projects, by Rebecca Matter.

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There might come a day when you find yourself in a situation where a client is overdue on payment, doesn’t respond to your inquiries regarding payment or, even worse, refuses to pay you altogether.

Although you might not think it’s a big deal for payment to be a few days late, it’s important that you reach out to the client the FIRST day the invoice is overdue. You worked hard for that money, you earned it, and you should have it on time!

When (or if) you get a hold of the client, find out the EXACT date payment will be made. If your client is local, and you aren’t confident they will actually make payment on that day, set a time to stop by the office and collect your check in person. If the client is completely unresponsive, make an impromptu visit. It’s hard for them to ignore you when you’re sitting in the foyer!

If the office isn’t close to your home, send a letter requesting payment via registered mail.

If days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and still, your client won’t pay, then you might want to work with a collections agency or a small claims court. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get that far! 

Be Proactive Rather Than Reactive

In order to avoid late payment, there are some pre-project steps you can take. Here are some practices you may want to implement into your freelance business:

  1. Set clear expectations up front
  2. Get the name of the accounts payable contact
  3. Ask for part of the fee up front
  4. Offer a discount to clients who pay in full in advance
  5. Send invoices promptly
  6. Hold back creative rights

Steve Slaunwhite goes into detail in this article.

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As part of your proposal, you don’t just offer a bid, you also discuss payment terms.

It is important to be clear up front about the cost of the project and what form(s) of payment you accept. Make sure to include payment due dates and deadlines for the deposit, final payment, guarantees, royalties, etc. While many invoices state that payment is “due upon receipt of invoice” and/or “within 30 days of receipt,” you can put a specific date.

It is recommended that you also include a disclaimer that states the projected cost is based on information provided by the client and the final amount is subject to change if the client alters the project requirements.

For more information regarding proposals, check out this article.

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Business Basics

As long as you make time to check your email and voice messages during your lunch break or periodically throughout the day, I don’t think you need to let clients know you have a day job, or your specific work hours. Just meet your deadlines. You can let them know to expect response to emails and phone calls within four hours or six hours or one day, or whatever you’re comfortable with, but you don’t need to go into the explanation of why.

Even if you are the most organized person, have every minute of every day planned out, and have never missed a deadline in your life, it still might be a good idea to hold back the fact that you have day job as it might unnecessarily worry potential clients. Of course, if they ask you whether or not you do, be honest. You never want to lie.

If a prospective client knows about your day job and has concerns about how you will balance it with your freelance project, there are ways to ease their mind. Don’t just tell them, but SHOW them exactly what you will do to ensure you meet the deadline. Provide them a schedule of your action plan. What days will you dedicate to research? What day will you send the first draft? When will you send the revised copy?

And be realistic with turnaround times. If you can’t get them the web page copy by the end of the week, tell them. They will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you want to dedicate sufficient time to making sure you can produce the best copy possible.

At the end of the day, what clients really care about is the quality of copy you produce and if you got it to them on the date agreed upon. If you deliver well-written copy and meet deadlines, it shouldn’t matter to them whether or not you have a day job!

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How do I leave the door open for future projects?

Sometimes, for whatever reason, projects fall through. Whether it is because of a change in your client’s plans or the project unintentionally got put on the backburner, it happens.

If the project got lost in the midst of your client’s chaos, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t resurface. Give your client some time to finish that big proposal or ad campaign they’ve been working on, and then follow up asking if they’re interested in picking up where you left off. If not, that’s ok. Don’t get too discouraged. You never know what copy needs may arise for them in the future.

The most important thing for you to do is keep in touch with the client. Send simple emails on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to say hello, check in and see how they’re doing. These emails will serve as a reminder of your freelance business and keep you front-of-mind when they are in need of a freelancer.

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We know that asking former or current clients for testimonials can be an intimidating thing to do. Although it may seem a bit blunt, it’s OK to simply say “may I please have a testimonial?” If you aren’t comfortable with being that straightforward, check out one of Mindy McHorse’s techniques for asking for testimonials in a roundabout way without using the word testimonial.

“Ask for feedback on your work. Chances are good you’ll get a complimentary response. If you don’t, use it as an opportunity to improve your services for next time.”

If you produced good copy for them, there is no reason for them to deny this request! Just remember – asking for testimonials is a part of the freelance business, and you aren’t the first one to do it!

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No matter how long you have been writing, whether you’re new to the industry or a veteran who has been doing this for years, writer’s block happens to everyone. Do not worry, though! There are ways to overcome the block and the overall feeling of being stuck.

The fix can be as simple as taking reflecting on your writing process, taking a 10-minute walk or listening to a couple of your favorite songs.

AWAI co-founder and board member, Don Mahoney, shares some great advice in his article 14 Tips for Banishing Writer’s Block on what to do if you’re feeling stuck.

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You can expand your web-writing business by offering additional services or even products.

Knowledge gained from your web copywriting training equips you with skills that, if utilized, can be profitable for your copywriting business. Below are some examples of additional services you can offer your clients:

  • Website planning
  • Site Audits
  • Editorial strategizing (Building an Editorial Calendar)
  • Blogging
  • Copy reviews
  • Drafting special reports
  • Training

Rebecca Matter provides more details about these opportunities — and what to charge for them — in this article.

Email copywriting guru Jay White also explains how affiliate product pitches and swipe emails can be an easy way for you to bring in extra cash.

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There are pros and cons that come with specializing in one type of web writing.

Specializing positions you as the expert in a particular field; this puts your work in higher demand, and you can start charging more for your services.

However, the expansive opportunity that comes with generalizing can quickly land you projects … meaning more money faster.

At the end of the day, each individual’s situation and experience will determine whether or not specializing is the right choice for them. John Torre breaks down each route in this article, and the information may help you decide which path is best for your freelance career.

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Getting Started

When you hear the word “portfolio,” you might picture a three-ring, leather binder with ivory-colored paper stuffed inside plastic page protectors … and get intimidated.

Sure, this is the traditional way to present writing samples to potential clients, but there are other mediums you can use to showcase your copywriting skills, even when you’re just starting out.

One great place to display your writing is your freelance website.

Just think about the opportunities to demonstrate your writing skills … There’s the Home page … the About page … the Products & Services page … the Contact page … a Blog … and any other content you want to include! All of these pages serve as samples of your writing style … all while promoting your freelance business!

Also remember there is portfolio GOLD inside the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Not only does this program thoroughly teach the fundamental techniques of direct-response copywriting, but it also contains sales letter-writing exercises you can submit for review by expert copywriters which can later be used as samples in your portfolio. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Want to learn more about why you don’t necessarily have to be an A-level copywriter to have a great portfolio? Check out this great article by Kristina Stiffler.

Then, here are two more informative articles about building a portfolio for new copywriters:

Four Ways to Create a Career-Building Portfolio by Linda Wilkinson

The Quickest Way to Build a Web Copywriting Portfolio by Sid Smith

At the end of the day, remember …

“Businesses that will hire relatively untested copywriters do not expect to see samples that have mailed. What they’re looking for is someone who’s willing to work hard. They want to work with someone willing to go beyond what other copywriters are willing to do.” —    Will Newman, Master Copywriter and Circle of Success Instructor

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If you ask experts Nick Usborne or Pam Foster, they would both agree that you definitely should choose a niche or a specialization for your freelance career.

Below are just a few of the reasons why you should consider specializing in a certain type of copy or industry.

By choosing a niche, you …

  • Increase your credibility
  • Are set apart from the “generalists”
  • Decrease competition
  • Earn more money
  • Simplify the marketing process
  • Easily manage industry updates
  • Will actually ENJOY what you’re writing about

To learn WHY choosing a niche can do all of the above, check out these excellent articles by Christina Gillick and Pam Foster. They also talk about some of the most popular industries freelancers specialize in and explain how to determine which niche is best for you.

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As Rebecca Matter says: Yes. Yes. 100% Yes.

There are so many reasons why you should create a website for your freelance business. Here are a few of my favorite …

First of all, you are a WEB writer! A prospective client might find it a bit strange if someone who WRITES for the Web doesn’t have a web page of their own!

Second, it’s a great way to showcase your writing style. Just think about it. There’s the Home page… the About page… the Products & Services page… the Contact page… a Blog… and any other content you want to include! All of these pages serve as samples of your writing style… all while promoting your freelance business!

Third, it’s a one-stop-shop for clients to learn about you, your services, your experience, your fees, etc.

It can act as a lead generator, too. For example, offering a free report or newsletter subscription is a way to collect email addresses and keep in touch with those who have visited your site.

Click here to learn how easy it could be for you to build your own freelance website in four days.

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It depends on how far along you are in your copywriting career.

If you are new to the copywriting industry and are in the process of creating a portfolio, yes, you should do spec assignments. Nick Usborne considers working on spec an initial marketing strategy, and a great way to build your portfolio.

But don’t work on spec forever. Nick explains …

“Say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do work on spec until I have four or five nice-looking jobs in my portfolio.’ And once they’re complete, you need to stop working on spec completely. With those four or five samples, you’ll have enough credibility and authority to start negotiating for good project fees.”

Once your portfolio has some solid samples, the only time you should consider writing on spec again is if you are trying to break in to a new niche.

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Once of the quickest ways to start making money (and a lot of it) as a web writer is through writing content. This type of copy is short and simple, and can be drafted pretty quickly. Content copy can be anything from articles to blogs to white papers to social media posts to insider reports.

Not only is it quick and easy to produce, but it’s also in high demand. Think about it… How often do your Facebook friends or fellow tweeters share an article, news item or post they found interesting? Quite frequently, right? This sharing era has changed the way consumers stumble upon products and services, and companies are jumping on the content bandwagon. The return of investment for businesses is very high, and that’s why they are willing to pay the big bucks for good content.

Click here to learn more why producing content copy is quick and lucrative for web writers.

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Although you may not realize it, you might be guilty of committing a business faux-pas. Below is a list of common mistakes made by copywriting rookies and vets alike.

  • Push services at prospective clients
  • Brag (too much) about qualifications
  • Insult client’s business practices
  • Oversimplify your services
  • Send sub-par samples or direct them to a poorly-constructed website
  • Provide an unpolished proposal

Pam Foster explains how to avoid making one of these easy-to-make mistakes here.

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Getting Clients

There are a bunch of websites for freelancers to search for job opportunities.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Monster, LinkedIn, Indeed, and SimplyHired, but there are also sites created specifically for freelancers like you! oDesk, Elance, Freelancer, and Flex Jobs are some of the popular sites used by freelancers (especially those starting out).

But if you specialize in a certain kind of web writing, the Wealthy Web Writer Job Board would be a great resource for you. It breaks down jobs by niche to help you narrow your search. Here you can browse SEO, e-commerce, PPC, social media, and web copy opportunities with ease.

And, of course, there is AWAI’s exclusive job board, Direct Response Jobs. Through DRJ, you have the ability to create niche-specific templates and search a wide variety of freelance, part-time, and full-time writing opportunities.

And don’t forget about the power of word-of-mouth! Tell your family, friends, accountant, doctor, local restaurant owner, your go-to dry cleaning company … Tell everyone! You never know who needs help revamping their website or needs someone to manage their social media platforms.

Check out this interesting article by Christina Gillick. It explains how you can find hidden web-writing jobs that aren’t advertised.

A final note: If you’re interested in pursuing paid writing work via sites like Elance, or need a proven self-marketing system to help you get started, check out Winton Churchill’s How to Land Clients in 21 Days program. It could give you a great jump-start.

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Establishing yourself as the go-to web writer in a particular industry is a proven technique for getting clients, finding writing opportunities, and increasing your fees.

Expert content copywriter and strategist Pam Foster has identified some of the hottest markets. Some of them might surprise you!

Here are 10 of the hottest markets:

  1. Medical and Pharmaceutical
  2. Information Technology
  3. Education
  4. Outdoor Recreation
  5. Ice Cream
  6. Craft Brewery
  7. Weddings and Honeymoons
  8. Athletics
  9. Green Building
  10. Video Gaming

It’s important you place yourself in a niche in which you have a knowledge base, experience, or interest.

Pam reminds us … “Even if a niche is smoking hot, if your heart isn’t in it, don’t try to go after it. You’ll be miserable, and it’ll show in your writing.”

Pam goes into detail about how lucrative these industries really are in a recent webinar. Check out the complete Roving Report of the event by Susanna Perkins here.

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First things first — determine your niche. Choosing a niche (an industry or specialty) narrows down the list of potential clients and gives you more credibility as a writer.

The best place to start when it comes to finding clients is with people you know. Tell your family, friends, accountant, doctor, local restaurant owner, go-to dry cleaning company … Tell EVERYONE! You never know who needs help revamping their website, drafting their weekly blogs, advice regarding their SEO strategy, or someone to manage their social media platforms.

When reaching out to these people and informing them of your web-writing services, remember to emphasize how your copy, guidance, and support will benefit them and their company.

As Joshua Boswell reminds us …

“Nobody will hire you just because they know you. They will hire you because they believe you can solve a problem for them.”

To learn what to do after you’ve contacted prospective clients, check out Joshua’s recent webinar about finding and landing clients. You can find the Roving Report recap by Susanna Perkins here.

A final note: If you’re interested in pursuing paid writing work via sites like Elance, or need a proven self-marketing system to help you get started, check out Winton Churchill’s How to Land Clients in 21 Days program. It could give you a great jump-start.

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A good portion of a freelancer’s projects come from referrals, and we must not forget how powerful of a technique word of mouth is.  But how do we ask? And when is the right time?

Let clients know up-front that your freelance business is referral-based and you will be asking for a referral upon completion of the project if they are pleased. This way they will be expecting it, and it won’t come as a surprise when you do.

Make it as easy as possible for them. Copywriter Sid Smith physically drafts the referral email for them, just leaving a few blanks for the referrer to fill in.

Conduct a post-project interview. Not only is this a great way to get feedback that will improve your freelance business, it is also an opportunity for a candid discussion that can lead into a casual referral conversation.

While there isn’t an industry-set time for talking to clients about referrals, there are some times that may be more opportune than others. Sid suggests you take advantage of the below opportunities:

  • After you submit your first draft (assuming they provide positive feedback)
  • Whenever they comment about how much they like you or your work
  • At the completion of the project
  • When you follow-up to see how they’re doing

To read more about how and when to request a referral, check out Sid’s article here.

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Personal branding is the process of developing a web presence to market yourself.  A personal brand is the combination of the information presented across all web mediums including your website, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

You’re a WEB writer, so you definitely need to develop an online presence. After all, clients will be hiring you to develop/improve their web presence, so it only makes sense for you to have established one yourself.

And, with an online personal brand across many mediums, marketing your services is pretty much done for you.

To learn more about how to discover and develop your personal brand, read this article by Mindy McHorse.

“Like it or not … we’re building a brand for ourselves with every word we write, and every action we take in business. So, if we’re going to be branded anyway, why wouldn’t we try to make it the best it can be?” — John Torre

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