Archive for August, 2015

Application Tips for Freelance Copywriters

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

pick meWorking as a freelance copywriter can be highly rewarding, allowing you to nurture your creativity while exploring a wide range of interesting subjects. One day you might be tasked with blogging for a musician, and the next day might have you crafting a case study for a cosmetics company. But the application process for these positions can be very competitive and rigorous. How can you ensure that your resume makes it to the top of the pile? Let’s dive into a few tips for ensuring that your freelance writing application stands out and doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Read the Instructions 

Before you write, you’ve gotta read. Thoroughly peruse the job posting or application instructions. For many gigs, the posting will specify what specific subject line you should use, which person you should contact, or whether you should include salary requirements. Sometimes the company will request a writing sample or a link to your portfolio. If you only skim the body of the ad, you could miss important instructions and come across as unobservant to your prospective employer.

Make It Reader-friendly

Keep in mind that the hiring manager may get inundated with dozens of applications for the position. While your resume and cover letter should be attractive and well-designed, they should also be organized with the reader in mind. Break your cover letter into smaller, digestible paragraphs, and use bullets or lists in your resume. Incorporate headings and bold text to highlight particularly important points.

Be Genuine

Copying and pasting a cover letter template will put your resume on the fast-track to the trash bin. Let your real personality shine through, whether that’s by using a fresh, genuine writing style or including personal (but not too personal) details about yourself. Mention what you like about the company, and how you think you can help them achieve their goals. Be honest about your qualifications; don’t over- or under-sell yourself. There’s a fine line between impressing the hiring manager and turning him off with a smarmy sales pitch.

Choose the Right Samples

At some point, you’re going to have to supply writing samples. Choose samples that are relevant to the work the company does. If they’re in the education industry, for example, you might send an instructional piece or a news article about education reform. Beyond their core content, you should also pay attention to the tone and voice of their work. Do they like tongue-in-cheek, or are they a more professional, polished firm? Tailor your clips accordingly. If you’re applying directly to an advertising company, you may find it worthwhile to send a variety of pieces to showcase your range.

No-one ever said it was easy to break into the freelance writing industry — but these four tips will help you stand out among the sea of applicants searching for the perfect copywriting client.

Are You Guilty of Using Weasel Words?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

3650766823_1d2ba42be3In the realm of bad writing habits, “weasel words” are pretty high up there. These tricky terms are used as a crutch for writers to weasel their way out of making a definitive point. Instead of taking a clear stance on a subject, the writer undermines her statement by qualifying it with one of many culprits, including “might,” “could,” “very,” “surely,” “however,” “although,” or “as much as.”

So, why would a smart and creative writer choose to settle for one of these weasel words?

Reason #1: To Purposely Skew the Facts

This is likely the most common reason freelance writers use weasel words. If there’s a particular study or data set that could support their argument, they might be inclined to frame it in an ambiguous way to strengthen their case. For instance, you may write that “studies show that our software could increase workplace efficiency by up to 20%.” If only one company reports an efficiency increase of 20%, however, this number could be highly misleading.

You don’t have to chuck your statistics – simply find a way to frame them that doesn’t involve weasel words. For instance, you could write that “one company reported an increase in workplace efficiency of 20%.” This is factual, honest, and to the point.

Reason #2: Plausible Deniability 

In some cases, freelance writers might want to hedge their language as a means of protecting themselves from false claims. If a writer definitively claims that something will happen and then the exact opposite occurs, they could lose a significant chunk of credibility. Weasel words are a tempting way to get off the hook. After all, saying something “may” happen is different than saying that it WILL.

This is actually a reasonable use for weasel words, but it does come with one caveat: don’t overdo it. If your article or press release is peppered with these sneaky sayings, your readers may get the impression that you have an ulterior motive or that you’re misrepresenting yourself. Only use weasel words if you feel it’s necessary to protect yourself, but don’t abuse them.

Reason #3: Lack of Evidence

And then there’s the instances when writers simply don’t have the factual evidence to back up their claims. This is perhaps the most pernicious use of weasel words, and over time it can wreak havoc on a freelance writer’s career. Simply put: if you don’t have the facts to back up your argument, make a different argument or write it as an opinion piece. But whatever you do, don’t use this language technique to create false impressions or mislead your readers. More often than not, they’ll find out and peg you as dishonest.

Although weasel words are best avoided, there are some instances when it may be necessary to slip a few into your writing. As with any technique, use them sparingly and with good intentions, and you won’t come out looking like a shyster.