I love copywriting. I almost feel like an extension of my own personal brand, which is exactly why I put so much passion into each of my writing projects. If you’re reading this, I assume you feel the same way. That is why we are here, right? To enjoy ourselves while also offering valuable content to those who need it. To make the world a little bit better through our words, one article at a time.
There is certainly great satisfaction in crafting a solid piece of content, whether it’s an article, a pitch, or a marketing campaign, and knowing that you’re able to help your audience achieve their goals. However, all great things come with a price. That is especially true if you’re a freelance copywriter who bills by the article or pitch. There is a lot that you need to consider before you begin spinning content for profit. The most important of which is a clear communication plan and a solid set of brand guidelines. In this article, we will discuss how you can write a good freelancing copywriting spec which will allow you to generate plenty of leads and grow your business successfully.
The Anatomy Of A Freelance Copywriting Spec
A spec is short for a writing sample. When you are hired as a freelance copywriter, you will be asked to produce a number of these documents to demonstrate your capacity for writing. A spec will typically include a summary of the project, including the goal and the target audience; an explanation of the content; a brief analysis of why the content will be beneficial to the client; some general guidelines (e.g., word count, number of pages, etc.); and a rough draft of the completed piece (this is also known as the “merchandise”).
There are a few different kinds of specs that you will need to write, depending on the nature of the project:
- Short-format specs for social media content.
- Long-format specs for online dating sites and email marketing campaigns.
- Full-length magazine articles or brochure copy
- Ebook copy
- Product descriptions for online stores
- Annual reports
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- How-to guides and manuals
- Insurance claims forms
- Job applications
- Brochures and marketing materials for non-internet-based businesses
- Architectural plans
- Product reviews
- Event flyers
- Pricing lists
- Loan applications
- Bills of materials
- And much more…
The Purpose Of The Spec
The purpose of the spec is to provide the client with a clear idea of your expertise, the tone and quality of your work, the amount of time that it will take to fulfill the order, and the cost (in terms of both money and time).
If you’re asked to produce a spec for a new client, take your time to get to know them a little bit before you begin pitching. This will help you determine the kind of content that they are looking for and allow you to craft an appropriate spec for this particular project.
The Dos And Don’ts Of A Good Freelance Copywriting Spec
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, Rich. I get it. A good spec is important. But what do I need to do to make sure that my specs are perfect?”
While there is no such thing as a perfect spec, there are things that you can do to make your job easier and generate better results. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts that will help you write a winning spec that will get you lots of clients:
Do take your time. This is important. When you are paid by the article, you will be expected to produce high-quality work quickly. However, you should not rush the process. Take the time to do the necessary research, read the proposed content multiple times, and make sure that you fully understand what is required. This will help you avoid any unnecessary errors and produce a quality product that will satisfy the client.
Do not cut corners. This is also important. Your client will expect you to produce a high-quality product that is free from any mistakes or errors. Even if you are the best freelancer in the world, they will still find something to complain about. Cutting corners will only result in bad faith on their part and, eventually, you will be dropped as a client. Avoid doing anything that could possibly be construed as a ‘cheap shot’ – even if you mean well, it will come across as insincere and, in some situations, unethical. A good spec is never, ever, ever, cheap. (Also, spelling and grammar should always be impeccable.)
Do not copy paste. This is a big no-no. You would not write the same article for a friend of a family member, would you? Well, the same principle applies here. When you are writing a spec for a new client, you must be willing to take the time to understand what they want and, therefore, what you should write about. It is extremely likely that the client will have ideas as to what they want and will simply need help implementing them. However, if you choose to ignore their suggestions and, instead, write something that is completely unrelated, you will surely upset them. While they may eventually come around and realize that you were only doing your job, the initial impression that they will have is that you did not care enough to even try and understand their needs. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, copy paste a spec. (Some exceptions may be made for a brief section of an article that you are particularly proud of or a unique insight that you believe will be helpful to your audience. If you do this, make sure that you cite your sources appropriately.)
Do not re-use templates. This is a quick and easy way to lose a client. I’m sure that you have seen writers who will literally write the same article over and over again, changing just a few words here and there. The end product will be essentially the same as the one that was originally written. The client will perceive this as laziness on your part and, most likely, will drop you as a client. (This also goes for anything that is remotely similar to a pre-written article. If a client sees that you are consistently using the same key phrases and sentences, they will likely think that you are either unintelligent or that you are simply copying their work. This is why you should avoid using any type of a boiler-plate article or pitch that you find online. Even if you do not mean any offense, make sure that you change things up a bit.)
When To Use A Spec
Now that you have the basics down, when should you use a spec? That is a great question. You should use a spec whenever you are asked to write an article, pitch, or marketing material for a paying client. However, before you begin pitching, you should ask yourself, “Does this client have the money to pay for my time?” If not, then you should not write the spec. (You can, however, suggest that they consider paying you for your services.)
Another important factor to consider is, “Does this client have the need for this article?” Some clients may ask for certain articles when they are doing research for a particular project. Other clients may not need this article at all but may need something completely different. It is up to you to determine the answer to these questions and, therefore, determine whether or not you should write the spec. (If you do not know the answer to at least one of these questions, then it is probably best not to pitch this particular client. You can, however, suggest other, possibly more suited, clients.)
How To Write A Winning Pitch
Once you have the basic principles down, how can you write a winning pitch? This is actually quite easy if you follow a simple formula that is based on the four Ps of marketing.
The first is ‘Product’. What is the product that you are trying to promote? Is it a website? An ebook? An annual report? A service?