There are a lot of variables and flexibility in copywriting, which is part of what makes it such an appealing career for people who love to write to write. But I can also tell you that over the course of my 20+ years in the industry, there are also certain inescapable truths. Here, for your learning pleasure, are eight of them.
Law of Copywriting #1: ABP
You’re probably familiar with the ABC scene in David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which he explains that ABC stands for “always be closing.” ABP is similar: It stands for “always be prospecting.” No matter how much work you have coming in, no matter how busy you are, you have to Always. Be. Prospecting.
No one is going to bring work to you—at least not in the beginning. The only way to avoid a work dry spell is to make sure you’re prospecting all year long. Luckily, it’s not quite as hard as most people think it is. Set up a system, and follow through. ABP.
Law of Copywriting #2: You Will Work Weekends
No, you won’t work every weekend. In fact, you might not work most of them. But at some point, you’re going to be up against a deadline, and the only way to hit it is to work over the weekend.
To be clear: You must always hit your deadlines. There’s no better way to make your work dry up and your career tank than by missing your deadlines.
You might not have to work many weekends, but if you need to, you will. Because you always hit your deadlines.
Law of Copywriting #3: You’re Only as Good as Your Reputation
No matter where you live, the copywriting community is small. And if you drop the ball on projects or you’re difficult to work with, it will follow you.
Luckily, this is an easy law to work with. Be friendly. Be flexible. Be collaborative. When people want to work with you, they also refer you.
Law of Copywriting #4: If you Don’t Invoice, You Don’t Get Paid
A shocking number of copywriters (and creatives, in general) are behind on their invoices. Not on paying invoices, mind you, but on sending them out for work completed.
A lot of copywriters push hard to get the project done and, once it’s finished, want to relax and celebrate. They put off sending out the invoice because it’s a piddling little task that they don’t feel like doing.
And so they way a few days, a week, a month, a few months before sending their invoice out. Know what’s happening in the meantime? They’re not getting paid. On top of that, when a client gets an invoice a month later, it usually takes them longer to pay it because they have to go back and look up a closed project.
Make invoicing your automatic next step once a project is approved.
Copywriting Law #5: You Will Owe the Government Money
If you’re doing any kind of freelance work, you’re invoicing and receiving the whole amount. Your client isn’t holding anything back for taxes, which means you will owe the government money. You must, must plan ahead for this.
Take 25-40% of every check and sock it away into an account you never touch, except in April when it’s time to pay your bills. (Or four times a year if you pay quarterly.)
You will owe the government money: plan for it so you don’t come up short.
Copywriting Law #6: Want to Work? Keep Your Portfolio Site Up to Date
I almost titled this one “If a Client Ask to See a Sample, it Will Be the One You Haven’t Uploaded.” Just as you’re only as good as your reputation, you’re also only as good as your portfolio.
It’s a very common bad habit among creatives to wait to upload new samples until they’re looking for a new job or a new client. And what that means is that when a great new opportunity falls in their laps, they’re completely unprepared to take advantage of it.
Keep your portfolio updated and upload new samples as soon as your client approves them.
Copywriting Law #7: Things That Seem Easy, Aren’t
From those job bidding sites to those copywriting trainings that promise you six figures if you write online sales letters, if something seems like an easy solution with a big payoff, you’re being taken for a ride.
The only way to create a successful business is by being willing to put in the time to learn copywriting, practice your skills, prospect for new clients, and build your portfolio. It’s effort, but it’s fun effort. (bidding sites, promise about six figures).
All those “easy,” too-good-to-be-true solutions do is waste your time and waste your money.
Copywriting Law #8: You Have to Market Yourself Like You Market Your Clients
A lot of copywriters put in plenty of effort and skill into writing copy for their clients. But when it comes to writing their portfolio site, or their LinkedIn profile, or their prospecting letters, they let things slip.
They forget to use the copywriting principles they’d use for their own clients. They flex their skills for their clients, but forget to do it for themselves.
Don’t get me wrong: it can be hard to write about yourself. So just forget you’re you, and write for yourself as if you’re your client. What is your benefit to consumer? What’s your USP? What do you bring to the table?
You need to take your own business just as seriously as those of your clients.
Your turn! Have you come across any laws of copywriting that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 1, 2022
Barbara A Walsh says
I’m curious. The article mentions taxes paid quarterly. I am a solo person offering Copywriting services. I do not have a business name or entity. Do similar copywriters pay taxes quarterly or just once a year as an individual? I was hoping to find out what others say or do about this.. I don’t want to get hit with penalties my first year out.
Nicki Krawczyk says
You should definitely consult a tax preparation professional about it since taxes really aren’t something you want to mess around with, but generally, sole proprietor business owners need to pay estimated quarterly taxes based on how much they think they’ll make that year. (It may depend on the state, but I know that you have to pay quarterly estimated federal and state taxes.) There are some articles on the web that seem to have pretty good information, but I’d strongly suggest you just reach out to a licensed tax preparation professional/accountant and get their take on it. I think it’s better to possibly have to pay for a little qualified advice than to get in trouble with the IRS. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!