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What I've learned about freelance copywriting: five rookie moves to avoid

Keyboard: check.

Brief: check.

Browser open: check

But where to start?

After several years building a career as a freelance copywriter, these are my five top (or bottom) pitfalls new copywriters would do well to avoid.

1) Diving straight in. How many times have you cracked straight on with a brief and then sat back and said “no, that’s not right”. The time it takes to rework something isn’t time saved. Read, think, absorb, then write. However tight your deadline, skimping on important prep is more likely to end up with you with your back against the wall and not performing at your best.

2) Leaving someone else to clear up your loose ends. Get your editing tight before you pass your work on – even if this is to a colleague. The more critical eyes that pass over a piece, the less likely something obvious (or even subtle) is going to drop through the net.

3) Allowing the client to compromise your professional integrity - it won't end well for either of you. Obviously, there needs to be some negotiation and a little wiggle room to allow for unforeseen circumstances and budget constraints but you wouldn’t hassle your hairdresser into going quicker or unduly haggle their charge: you want them to take care and finish the job properly.

4) Feeling overwhelmed. I’ve turned out a few substantial pieces of work in my time: everything from catalogue descriptions a few hundred in number to thought leadership articles involving hours of research and fact-checking. Break things down, think them through, plan your attack and just plough on.

5) Only sticking to reworking someone else’s idea. Even if your client has some strong thoughts about the direction a project should take, make sure there’s enough bright, new concepts on hand to surprise them: you never know, things could take a different turn and they’ll love you for it.

Can you add to this list? Please share your top tips below.

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