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Two types of freelance marcom writing: What’s the difference?

Establishing an effective working relationship with corporate clients and pricing our work right make much more sense when we recognize that we provide two types of writing. One type is straight-forward and rather easy; the second type is much more demanding.

If we can’t distinguish between these two types of marcom writing, we are likely to get indignant about certain clients who seem to be overly difficult and demanding. We may also fail to recognize which projects should pay better and price our work accordingly.

The first type of marcom writing is what we commonly think of as “content.” This includes most blog posts, podcasts, and such that compile general knowledge in such areas as management, leadership, change and marketing.

How to write general content

We all know that plagiarism is when you steal from one, research is when you steal from many. So let’s steal from many. (Perfectly legal.)

Print off lots of content found through Google, yellow highlight some good stuff, and mix it up till we meet word count. Fix grammar, spelling, punctuation. Then run it through Copyscape to assure originality.

These pieces average about 500 words. They may start with an overused quotation from Albert Einstein or Henry Ford. State the concept under discussion and define the term. Fluff it up a bit. Yada, yada, yada. Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Blah, blah, blah, Steve Jobs and Nordstrom’s. Call to action: Just do it.

I write this content too. It’s easy to write. Clients are happy and never suggest major changes. It doesn’t pay all that much, but then, why should it?

Then there’s the second type: copy that develops and supports the client’s corporate identity, branding, positioning, or whatever term they have chosen.

This category obviously includes taglines, website homepages, and annual reports. However, it pulls in so much more: white papers, extended case studies, social media, etc.

This stuff is challenging to write well, not simply because it requires knowledge and effort, but because it represents the client’s brand.

Why it’s hard to write identity content that pleases the client

Clients know their brand (or maybe not . . . or maybe there is a lack of consensus within their organization), but often they don’t know what they don’t like until they see it.

One draft is hardly ever enough. And if it is enough, it’s because the client communicates their branding to us so effectively from the start, not because we are so brilliant.

This means that identity content must meet a very high bar. The project timeline and pay schedule must support the back and forth this copy requires.

The price is high because getting the messaging right is such hard work. Yes, this can cause sticker shock on the part of the client, but more important to us, we ourselves can experience sticker shock if we really work out a price that is fair to us.

Originally posted 2-28-17

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