Here’s a not-so-secret secret: Nobody’s perfect. But the ways that copywriters aren’t can be very instructional for other new or would-be copywriters. So, let’s unearth some deep, dark truths from real-life copywriters and learn away.
In the words of Mary Poppins, I am perfectly perfect in every way.* But I happen to know a lot of copywriters, and I also happen to know that they are not quite as perfectly perfect.
The names have been withheld, but the situations are real. Here are the biggest dirty secrets from copywriters I’ve been able to unearth.
- “I always wait forever to invoice clients. Sometimes I forget to invoice them completely.”
Why this is bad: It’s simple. If you don’t invoice your clients, you don’t get paid. Make invoicing a habit as soon as you get final approval from your client.
2. “I didn’t save any of my freelance money for taxes last year. I’m still paying it off.”
Why this is bad: The government isn’t exactly flexible. They’re going to want that money, whether you’ve got it on you or not. Be sure to set aside a portion of every freelance check you get to put toward your taxes. (And be sure to consult an accountant if you don’t know what you’re doing at all.)
3. “I regularly forget about deadlines. Like, regularly. I keep having to pull all-nighters like a f@$#ing college kid.”
Why this is bad: It’s going to catch up with you real fast. Sure, you might do great work under pressure, but forgetting about deadlines is a recipe for huge trouble. You can pull an all-nighter…as long as you remember the deadline in time. Keep track of your deadlines and the work you need to do. Otherwise, frankly, you’re veering toward unprofessional territory.
Pretty bad, right? Well, here are some really bad ones.
4. “I’m not proud of this, but when I was first starting out, I didn’t mark things as spec in my portfolio so that it looked like I’d worked for those companies.”
Why this is so bad: Well, basically, it’s fraud. Your portfolio is like your resume, and you’re misrepresenting something in your portfolio. If the work is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s spec or not. Mark all of your spec work as such.
5. “I had a client that I started doing work with. We were maybe a halfway through the project when I got an offer from someone I wanted to work with more. I lied to the first client and told him my mother had died, and I would be unable to complete the project. I also invoiced for the work I’d already done.”
Why this is so bad: The creative community in any city is small and your reputation is your bread and butter. If you screw over a client, I guarantee it will come back to bite you in the rear. Keep the promises you make, even if it means working uncomfortable overtime hours for a while.
6. “I have some of my clients write me personal checks and then I don’t report that as income.”
Why this is so bad: Freelancers are already on the IRS’s radar. (Mostly because people pull stuff like this.) If you try to put something past them, you’re going to get yourself audited. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but very likely someday. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.
So, yeah…pretty terrible, right? But let these dirty secrets be a lesson to you. After all, the person you’re going to hurt most by doing these things is yourself. Be a good, upstanding, professional copywriter and you’ll be much happier in the long run.
(Read about how you can break your copywriting contract early here.)
Have you heard of (or do you have) any dirty secrets to share about your copywriting career? Let us know in the comments below!
(*Not even remotely accurate.)
Last Updated on November 13, 2023