Should you be a specialist or a generalist freelance copywriter?

You’ve taken the plunge and decided to pursue your freelance ambitions. Congratulations and welcome!  You are working on your pitch and feel that you need to define exactly the kind of copywriter you are hoping to become. Which way should you go? Is there a middle option? Do you need such a distinction to be successful, anyway? Read on to find out my take on the subject…

It  is all a question of scope. What does it mean to be a specialist freelance copywriter and what does it actually mean to be a generalist one? In my view, you could specialise in just one or perhaps all three of the following: your copy-form, your copy-type and your market sector. By specialising your offer to market from the start of your freelance career, it may help both you and your potential clients realise your professional niche faster and so you could potentially be more successful (at least in terms of conveying the right message) earlier.

Your copy-form is crucial. Are you more comfortable writing short, snappy copy for image captions and brand straplines or do you enjoy writing a much longer thought leadership/opinion piece? Copywriting is both the creative art of advertising to persuade and an analytical science in the rules of optimising for search, yes, but if you also know how best you work in terms of concentration and flair this insight will naturally lend itself to either short-form or long-form copywriting. When you are aware of the way you work, over time and through experience, it becomes one credible way in which you can specialise your own offer to market. You may demonstrate true wordy genius during short bursts of writing activity to create high volume product copy listings for retail or you may find your genuine calling lies in the commitment to extended periods of time to produce enough written content for a series of articles or even to populate a whole new website for a professional services client, for example.

Your copy-type is the next strand of potential specialism you may like to add to the mix. Are you a blogger? Are you a social media messaging guru? Are you an article writer for a variety of publication platforms? If you choose to specialise in just one specific type of copy you will concentrate your skill set in this one area and so have the perfect professional opportunity to become an expert in your craft. I would advise just a little caution when specialising in only one copy-form and in one copy-type – you may find that you are so successful that this is all you may end up writing from now on and so you will need to consider if you will be happy to do just that, day in and day out, week in and week out… just a thought! 

Finally, have you thought about how you may wish to specialise in serving clients within a specific market sector? You may feel most at home when writing copy for B2B Professional Services or B2C Retail, for example – the choice is yours. Always consider any potential conflicts of interests if you choose to specialise in just one sector though. By specialising in all of these three ways or even in just one you will naturally become proficient in more of the terminology and nuances of language which each of these sectors uses within their own end customer community. As a result, your copy can become more polished, more compelling and most importantly – more likely to convert interest and engagement to sales.

Yet, let’s hear it for the call of the generalist freelance copywriter. The one who advocates their broader range of professional copy-form, copy-type and market sector experience within our profession. A generalist freelance copywriter prides themselves on their ability to flex their skillset with admirable versatility which is a reward in itself in terms of the sheer variety of copy assignments which surely come their way. I think it’s a tougher gig to be a generalist freelance copywriter as you need to keep up to date across the full spectrum of what it is that we do – and that is a BIG ask. I also think we all start out as generalist freelance copywriters and that over time we naturally gravitate to our own specialisms as we win (and hopefully retain!) new clients. So, if you are a client looking to hire a freelance copywriter to work on all aspects of your content marketing then a generalist freelance copywriter may just fit the bill. If you are looking to hire one to just transform your blog, then perhaps a specialist freelance copywriter could be your perfect match instead.

So, is there a middle option? For me, I would concentrate firstly on becoming a certified copywriter and then I would write, write and write some more. Get to know your own writing style and your natural tone of voice before you apply any more parameters to it. Know, believe in and confidently express your own unique, key strengths and perfect them so that you fill a gap in the market which is exactly ‘you’-shaped. Politely establish yourself in the marketplace, upskill constantly and sell with enthusiasm, passion and just a little bit of grit to maximise the potential of the niche you have organically identified for yourself. Whatever you do, do it authentically well. Be brave enough to ask for feedback from your clients (and your peers! Scary stuff, right?) as to how they would describe you and/or define your offer – this is always very enlightening and can change too, over time.

I guess there is just one question you are left wondering, huh? Am I a specialist or a generalist freelance copywriter? Well, as you know from my website, I work on a client confidential basis so I can’t tell you that!

All I can say is that if you like the way I write, contact me today to find out just how I could apply my own unique composition and style to your corporate copy, purposed to persuade more people to purchase from your company. Let’s get the sales in!

Alternatively, if you are an aspiring copywriter looking for some tips to get started – check out more of my blog!

Either way, I would be delighted to hear from you.

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