Does this signal the death of the freelance copywriter?

Does this signal the death of the freelance copywriter?

Hey there Rainmaker, it’s been a busy day. My book, The Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid is officially “submitted” to, needs to be approved, and should be ready really, really soon…

It’s coming out at a really interesting time for me though.

Because, even as I’m writing a book about how to get paid as a copywriter…

I’m growing all the more convinced that the traditional model of “freelance copywriter” is on its way out. Maybe on its deathbed. Maybe just doomed to a life of perpetual life support.

And this has incredible relevance for you whether you ARE a copywriter, if you WANT TO BE a copywriter, or if you HIRE copywriters.

Which encompasses probably the majority of direct marketing and internet marketing businesses.

If your business relies on the “freelance copywriting” model to thrive, you’re going to be in for a wake up call…

The END of Freelance Copywriting, Point 1: What a multi-BILLION-dollar copywriter told me privately…

Most folks in the direct marketing world — especially the younger generation — don’t know David Galland.

David’s not been very public in the marketing world.

He plays in a different arena.


David, recently, has been involved with a number of financial publishers. Casey Research being one, where I worked with him.

He also ran and helped build the New Orleans Investment Conference, in its heyday.

He also helped launch Jim Blanchard’s mutual fund company (Jim started the New Orleans Investment Conference).

He was a founding partner in the HUGE online banking success story, EverBank.

And so on, and so forth, et cetera, et cetera…

Well, I’d been doing a lot of work with Casey Research. Then we reached a point where it was time for me to move on, to do some different stuff for a while.

David and I talked, and he told me this.

He said I shouldn’t play the freelance copywriting game.

That I should find just a few clients, even just one at a time. And that I should build a long-term relationship with them. Apply my copywriting skills and my even-more-valuable strategic marketing thinking to help them grow.

In exchange for my skills, I should demand a partnership in the business. Everybody brings resources. Some bring money. Others bring innovation and product expertise. Others bring the ability to sell. By bringing my resources to the table, David told me, I deserved a spot at the table.

AND, my copywriting and marketing abilities would have more of a chance to have an impact. Because instead of one-off project work, where everything I can do is limited, I’d have unlimited opportunity to create an impact on the business.

David said that he’d started as a freelance copywriter.

But well before he wrote copy that went on to generate multiple billions of dollars in sales, he figured something out.

Write for equity. Consult for equity. Provide marketing insight and skills for equity.

He went on to generate a small personal fortune with that model.

He told me that I should stop being a freelancer. Be a business-builder. And use my skills for equity, like he had.

The END of Freelance Copywriting, Point 2: The Employee Model…

I won’t say how many or who, but a lot of folks from inside the Agora empire read these emails.

Agora is probably the world’s largest direct response publisher. Well into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year in sales generated by copywriters. Dozens of affiliated companies, all running the same fundamental model.

Agora, more and more, isn’t very interested in hiring freelancers. It’s not a company-wide rule that they won’t hire you. For some of the affiliated companies (think, divisions that operate independently with pooled resources), they won’t. For some, they will.

But in general, the most profitable divisions of Agora are going to an in-house writer model.

I’m not saying this is good or bad, in general.

I think it’s bad for “work at home” freelancers. Because it’s almost impossible to get in the door, if you insist on working from home. (I don’t want to move to one of their cities — I’m happy here in good ol’ Lincoln, NE — so I haven’t had a lot of success working with them.)

But I also think it’s good for Agora, and the copywriters who work for them. They’ll take you from nothing, and turn you into a top 20% or top 10% or top 5% or top 1% direct response copywriter. They’ll work with you to really make your copy shine. They’ll work with you to make you a much better copywriter. It won’t be easy. It’ll be painful at times. But the end result is that the copywriters there make very solid six- and seven-figure incomes, and they are certainly one of the world’s largest direct response publishers for a reason.

More and more companies I know of in the upper-echelons of direct response prefer in-house writers. They want commitment. They want folks who will get to know their products inside and out. Folks who will spend a lot of time on projects. Not folks who have to get to the next project, and the next, and the next.

They’re usually welling to pay very good salaries for what they see as strong potential talent, and are usually just as generous (if not more so) with royalties, too.

This can be a way to make a lot of money as a copywriter. But it’s decidedly NOT a freelance model.

The END of Freelance Copywriting, Point 3: “Clients Suck.”

Gary Halbert, one of the greatest copywriters ever to put pen to paper, the self-styled “Prince of Print,” and an absolute legend in the direct response world had a favorite saying…

“Clients suck.”

So legend goes, he held a seminar down in Key West, Florida. Quite a difficult location to get to.

He filled the room with potential clients, at a few thousand bucks a pop.

He showed up to his own seminar 15 minutes late.

Wearing Bermuda Shorts…

A mesh football jersey, chest hair bursting through the mesh…

And a hat that said, “Clients suck.”

And, 15 minutes late for his own seminar, he proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes lecturing this room full of ideal clients with all the ways that his copywriting clients suck.

How they screw up his copy, any time they think they can edit it.

How they miss details in his purposefully-detailed strategy recommendations, and botch campaigns.

How no matter what he does, he can’t get clients to do one thing right.

And how, because of this, he’s made far less money from his ads for clients than he would have if he’d been able to run all the ads himself.

He then went on to say how much he hated clients, how if he had his druthers he’d never work with another client again, and how you couldn’t pay him enough money to take on your project, even if you handed him a blank check.

Now, the punchline is that he couldn’t get people off of him all weekend, basically handing him blank checks to write copy for them.

But that’s not our lesson here.

The more copywriters I talk to — especially struggling ones, who are trying to make this thing work — the more I hear that clients are unbearable.

This leads to one of three outcomes…

— They quit. They go back to whatever they were doing before copywriting.

— They struggle. They try and try to make the freelance copywriting thing work, but they can’t help muttering “clients suck” under their breath at least once a day. Or…

— They do their own thing.

More and more, the best copywriters and marketers I know are taking advantage of how easy the internet makes it to start their own businesses.

They’re starting publishing businesses. They’re starting physical product businesses. They’re starting coaching businesses. They’re starting every kind of business under the sun.

And instead of making, 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% of the sales in royalties…

They’re getting 100% of the revenue their copy generates.

Now, there’s some issues here. Not the least of which is that they’re suddenly thrust into a whole different level of responsibility than they had when doing freelance copywriting.

There’s certainly more risk to this path.

But the rewards of success are many, many times as great.

After all, freelance copywriting isn’t scalable. Yeah, the royalties increase with success. But when your promotions tire, your royalties dry up. But when you build a business, you can build an asset that you can sell, or setup to run without you. And in the mean time, you have the potential to make much, much more.

There are more points, but I think you get the point…

The opportunities for copywriters to get paid go far beyond freelancing.

And, in fact, as more and more of the GOOD freelancers take off and do their own things — become partners, get “insider” gigs at top direct marketing companies, or start their own thing — the “freelance copywriter” model will continue to stagnate.

The opportunity will come to those who adapt.

In my soon-to-be-released book, The Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid, I have a chapter called, “How Some Copywriters Earn 100X What Others Do” that covers some of this.

In fact, there are complimentary lessons sprinkled throughout the book.

Here’s my walkaway advice…

If you’re a freelance copywriter right now — or an aspiring one — it’s time to think about adapting. One of the models above would be a great place to start.

On the other hand, if you hire freelancers and you’ve found a good one, you should consider how you can bring them into your business. Make them a bigger part of your success, and be willing to give them a bigger piece of the pie. The really good ones are hard enough to find already, a problem that I believe will only be amplified in the future.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where my “writing a book while you watch” has gone, don’t fret! It’ll be back next week. I’m doing something to shake it up — I’ll tell you then — but I had a couple days to fill and a couple important topics to get off my chest!

Have a great weekend — I’ll be back Monday.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets