Category: Advice

The Quick Turn: Writing to Meet Crazy Deadlines

I don’t prefer last-minute projects. But as a freelance writer, I understand that most of the time, sometimes it’s a necessity because that’s where clients need me the most and that the turnaround time may be out of their control. It can happen when a last-minute project (sometimes called a “quick turn” as shorthand for “quick turnaround”) lands in the client’s lap or the usual writer is unavailable.

Fortunately, writers are used to getting last-minute requests. While they’re not the sought after jobs, we do them for many reasons:

  • We have availability!
  • We excel at meeting deadlines.
  • Quick turn projects are an opportunity to connect with a potential long-term client.

So having worked on quite a few quick turn projects myself, success is more likely with these elements.

1. Meet in person. I like meeting clients face-to-face to kick off a project and get the download as quickly as possible. I can ask questions as they pop into my head, and I can see any visual examples immediately (on a shared laptop, for example). A meeting for even 30 minutes can avoid missed information later and establish a better level of trust and understanding.

2. Communicate often. Writers, be upfront that you will be in touch often, and ask for the best number to call or text. Ask questions for clarification. Provide updates. Send a rough draft or outline. Repeat.

3. Be candid about the results. If you have three days to turn around a 15-page proposal, as I recently did, tell the client that you cannot guarantee the quality of the final product. This acts as a disclaimer for the quality of work you provide and will give the client a graceful way to back out or kill the project. Get it in writing as part of the estimate you send to the client.

4. Agree on a final product you both can live with. If your client can live with a final, presentation-ready copy that may not be absolutely perfect, and you can live with some extra or late evening hours rewriting and responding to client requests, then go for it.

5. Call in another writer for final or concurrent review. This helps with quality control and will help make the final product even better. A second writer can proofread copy and catch any glaring errors and point out inconsistencies. He can write headlines and check for compliance with the project’s requirements. He can be moral support and be there at the end to say, “I can’t believe we did it.”

6. Price accordingly. Like the 1 a.m. call to the plumber when your basement is flooding, emergencies ain’t cheap. Make sure your quote includes an opportunity cost (because this job requires 100% of your time that will require you to turn down or defer other work) and reflects the unusual nature of the work and turnaround time (e.g., a stress surcharge).

I hope this overview helped you!  If you’ve worked on (or solicited) last-minute projects, what are your thoughts?

Finding Writers to Rebrand Your Business

A business “rebrand” is the most challenging and rewarding inbound query a freelance copywriter can receive. I’ve owned my freelance writing and editing consultancy for five years, and the Finding Writers To Rebrand Your Businesschanges to how businesses market themselves has been nothing short of extraordinary. In the past year, I’ve been approached by three large enterprises to help them update their messaging and assess the effectiveness of their customer-facing marketing materials.

Many larger businesses that never had an in-house writer before (or even used freelance writers) has seen the value of quality content (Moz’s Rand Fishkin calls it 10X content). This is the content that sparks curiosity and is shared multiple times.

The cobwebs from the 2008 financial crisis are shaking loose, and businesses are moving beyond saddling their existing employees with tasks like content creation. And they see the value in the results.

So why the shift?

A big reason, in my opinion, is the sea change in how companies view marketing (and branding) itself.

Former idea: We’ve always done business this way. It’s not broken, so it doesn’t need fixing.

Newer idea: Innovation requires strategic action (e.g. hiring writers and designers to communicate).

Many companies understand the importance of content marketing in all its forms (blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, videos, and quizzes). Sometimes they are just unsure how to find the best content creators, and sometimes they unsure how to measure results.

“Best” is a loaded word, and it’s going to mean different things depending on a company’s needs. Some business owners or marketing managers believe the “best writer” is someone who has worked in their particular service or industry before. Others think someone is the best if s/he learns quickly and works with minimal supervision.

The types of projects also vary. A company at the start of a rebrand may just want a writer to work on website content and some internal-facing pieces. Blog posts, e-mail marketing campaigns, and whitepapers may come later.

This leave writers in a surprisingly strong position. If you’ve been eager to learn about a new industry, then this is the perfect time to make inquiries. (There are multiple posts on the Copywriter Conclave of Portland’s website to help teach you prospecting tactics.)

Even if a company is seeking an all-in-one solution (web design/content/graphic design), writers are vital. You can demonstrate past projects where you worked with a web or graphic designer. You can pitch yourself to the agency handling the design work. Or you can take a pass if that’s too many moving parts. There will always be companies seeking qualified writers to help them rebrand.


Did you find this article helpful? If you’re a new copywriter, I’m available for coaching. If you’re a business (especially at the start or the middle of a rebrand), please feel free to get in touch at the Enlighten Writing website.  I’m here to help!

Image credit.

Why You Should Work with Creative Staffing Agencies or Not

Throughout the life of this blog, I’ve sung the praises of working with creative staffing agencies (CSAs) as an awesome way for freelancers to get work. I’ve met hundreds of business people, freelance and full-time, who’ve worked with CSAs and shared their experiences with me. Some say good things, some bad, and some have a meh response.

Based on conversations I’ve had and my experience working with CSAs, I want to give you some information about why you should work with creative staffing agencies or not. Information below includes the process, some pros and cons of working with CSAs, and a list of the agencies available in Portland (many of which operate in multiple cities nationally and internationally).

Mathys and Potestio

How the Process Works

  1. Connect with the CSA through their online form. You’ll likely need to provide a resume, link to portfolio, and general background info on yourself.

  2. Auto-generated email tells you your application was received and someone will get back to you soon.

  3. A recruiter gets back to you soon to setup an interview.

  4. In the interview, the recruiter goes over your resume with you, gets to know you personally, asks what kind of position you’re looking for (e.g. freelance/contract/full-time copywriter) and with whom (medium-sized corporation in their marketing department).

  5. You leave the interview with a new team member and advocate, if not a friend. (I’m actually friends with a few of my CSA recruiters. Speaking of which, Blaire owes me a beer…)

  6. When a relevant position comes up, the recruiter who interviewed you (or another recruiter from their office) will email or call you to discuss your interest and availability. You say yay or nay, and they submit you for the position or not.

  7. If you’re submitted, they’ll be in touch about whether or not you get an interview. If you’re not submitted, they’ll contact you again with future opportunities.

  8. The recruiter sets up the interview. You go. You dazzle.

  9. Filter Digital Staffing

  10. The recruiter calls to tell you the result: you got the gig/full-time position or not.

  11. You begin work on the agreed-upon date.

  12. If you landed a freelance or contract position, then the process repeats from #6. If it’s a full-time position, the recruiter’s work for you is done…until you want to leave that position and need their help finding you another one!

Mathys+Potestio created this great video explaining how the process works and what they do as creative recruiters.

Pros of Working with Creative Staffing Agencies

Now for the benefits of working with CSAs:

  1. They’re on your business team. When you work with CSAs, what you’re inviting them to do is leverage their client network to find you the kind of work you want. In addition to your own efforts to find work, CSAs are working toward that same thing on your behalf.

  2. It’s free to work with them. You don’t pay them anything to help you find work or to accept an assignment once it’s been found.

  3. They can place you in freelance, contract (long-term or short), AND full-time positions depending on what you want them to look out for.

  4. They give you health coverage. Depending on how many hours per week you work, you could be eligible for health coverage from the CSA who is essentially your employer when you work for companies through them.

  5. Creative Circle Staffing

  6. Your portfolio will become awesome. There are some heavyweight companies and agencies in the Portland area, and I’m just going to assume you don’t have access to them. These companies usually have a dozen ways to prevent you from getting a foot in the door. You can totally do it though. Using LinkedIn, networking events, and years of patience, you can likely crack into any client. Asking the CSAs to get you in is a much…much faster way to go though.

  7. They advocate for you to the client. When a company/agency wants to hire for a position, they often reach out to CSAs to help with their recruiting. When they do that, the CSAs check their rolodex of talent and recommend people based on their relevant experience. The CSA goes to bat for you to get the position. They don’t just submit your resume and call it good, they have a conversation about you with the hiring personnel. (At least that’s the ideal.)

Cons of Working with Creative Staffing Agencies

Not to be outdone, here are some potential drawbacks of working with CSAs:

  1. The pay is low. CSAs are middle(wo)men. They connect job seeker with job giver and are paid for that work. That payment comes out of your hourly rate. Here’s a sample equation: Company pays CSA $97/hour for You, CSA pays You $50/hour. If you’re placed in a full-time position: Company pays a percentage (10-15% I’ve heard) of your salary to CSA as a “finder’s fee,” Company pays You your full salary with no deduction for the finder’s fee.

  2. The work offered is lame. Sometimes the work recruiters present to you is lame and not at all what you want to do. When that happens, say no. And while you’re at it, tell the recruiter you’re not interested in hearing about positions like that.

  3. Recruiters get in the way. There was one time I got a gig at adidas through a CSA. The client said he wanted me to meet him onsite, but then the recruiter said I could meet via phone. I called him at the agreed-upon time and learned very quickly that he had expected me to be onsite. That gig went away fast. Yes, inexperienced recruiters can definitely get in the way of work.

  4. Recruiter communication is low-quality. Some people I’ve referred to my CSA recruiter connections have had really bad experiences. They’ve said things like: the recruiter never got back to them, shat all over their resume/relevant experience, treated them like a dime a dozen (i.e. not important or worthy of individual attention). I’ve experienced this as well, especially when I was starting out and I didn’t have a lot of experience. I’ve found that the smaller the CSA, the higher quality of experience you can expect.
  5. 52 Limited

Creative Staffing Agencies in Portland

And now for that list of creative staffing agencies in Portland. I’ve worked with a lot of them, and I’ve had good, bad, and meh experiences. I won’t rate them that way, but I will say, in general, my best experiences have been with the smaller CSAs. The time they’ve taken to get to know me, the quality of the recruiters, and the quality of the work (freelance, full-time, and biz dev!) they’ve referred has made me an advocate for CSAs. For me, because of the quality of my experiences with these smaller CSAs, the pros outweigh the cons. Here’s the list:

  • Mathys+Potestio
  • Filter Digital
  • Creative Circle
  • 24Seven
  • 52 Limited
  • Vitamin T
  • Aquent
  • Pact (Never worked with them.)
  • Boly:Welch (Never worked with them.)

  • So, IMHO, that’s why you should work with creative staffing agencies or not. What’d I miss? Why do you or don’t you work with CSAs? Anything you’d like to add? What have your CSA experiences been like?

How to Register a Business in Oregon

The first thing you need to know about how to register a business in Oregon is that I’m not a lawyer. Nor do I work for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. In other words, you’ll get the most definitive, up-to-date information on how to register your business from them. What I’m going to walk you through is how I set-up my business with the guiding hand of my CPA.

4 Steps to Registering Your Business

  1. Go here and click on ‘Register a Business’.

    Take the steps it gives you. It’ll cost you $100 to register your business and $100 to renew it every year on your anniversary. And yes, this is where you register your business name.

    I really can’t tell you what kind of entity you should register as (LLC, S Corporation, Sole Proprietor, etc.), but the majority of freelancers I know are registered as either an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or S Corporation. Do a little research and see which option is best for you. They each come with legal and financial requirements. You can change your entity organization later on if you decide something else will work better for you. Your CPA/attorney can help you with that or you can do it yourself. It requires some more money and more paperwork.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration has a lot of useful information about incorporation (i.e. business entity options).

  2. You’ll need to get an IRS employer identification number (EIN), which is a social security number for your business. Go here to fill out the application.

  3. Once you’ve done steps 1 and 2, go to the bank of your choice and set-up a business checking account.

    A lot of banks require a minimum monthly account balance (of $1,000 usually) or else they charge you a fee of $10 or so per month. My business checking account is with Rivermark Community Credit Union and they don’t have that minimum charge for the basic checking account (which is really all you need). Pretty sweet. I recommend shopping around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for not having a lot of money in your account. Talk about hurting the little guy.

    You’ll need to bring the State business registration and EIN paperwork with you when you set-up the account.

  4. Work with an attorney or use services like Docracy or Legal Zoom to get a contractor agreement drawn up.

    This is what you’ll have your clients sign before you work with them. Sometimes you’ll sign theirs instead. As long as all your interests are covered, that’s not a problem. To learn more about attorneys and CPAs, read my previous blog post about your legal and financial team.

And that’s how you register a business in Oregon. Steps 1 and 2 are really the only legal ones you have to take to do business in Oregon, but steps 3 and 4 are HIGHLY recommended by legal and financial professionals, and experienced business professionals. Having a business bank account shows the IRS very clearly what are business expenses/income and what’s personal. The contractor agreement will help you set expectations with clients, and protect you against scope creep and any legal situations that might come up. Katie Lane, Conclave friend and freelancer attorney, writes about these and other legal topics that affect freelancers.

If you don’t live in Oregon, I’m going to ASSUME the same steps need to be followed in your state as well. I mentioned that I’m not an attorney right? I’m not an attorney.

Answers to Some Business Questions From a Copywriter, Part 2

Continuing to answer the questions of an inquisitive freelance-copywriter-to-be, this post is the second of two. Here’s the first one in case you missed it.

  1. I am currently working on building a portfolio and don’t intend to officially go into business until September. Are there any reputable charities in the Willamette Valley that need pro-bono copywriting and are willing to work with newcomers to the business?
  2. I’m sure there are a million charities/non-profits in the Willamette Valley that need copywriting assistance. If you offer them your services pro bono, they will very likely say yes. There’s a good business case for doing pro bono work at the beginning of your career. It can get you some decent samples fast. Know when to stop though. Working for free gets expensive if that’s the majority of your workload.

  3. Assuming that I’m earning enough to afford it, I am willing to travel to meet with clients on occasions – I love visiting Portland – but doing so is time consuming and costly enough that it will not be possible for clients who need me to work short jobs. Do the people who hire copywriters in Portland generally feel comfortable not meeting their freelancers in person?
  4. Meeting in-person is the most effective way to make long-lasting relationships. You definitely don’t have to though. I’ve worked with clients that I’ve never met except via phone and email. I will say that the majority of my work has come from people I’ve met face-to-face, and with whom I have a personal relationship. Since those relationships have been established, we’ve not needed to meet in-person to do business together. All it takes is an email to assess availability, a phone call to get brought up to speed, maybe an in-person meeting, and then I complete the project from home.

    In general, people hire people they know, like, and trust. Your best bet is to set up meetings with prospective clients for times you’ll be in that city, and start building your professional relationship with them based on a foundation that includes a handshake, eye contact, and your physical presence. Go remote from there.

  5. Is your group [Copywriter Conclave of Portland] willing to accept a copywriter who is physically located outside of the Portland area, but working for firms doing business inside it?
  6. Not at this time. As I mentioned in the answer above, there’s no substitute for your physical presence, or in this case, being in the physical presence of your peers. One of the main purposes of the group is to build strong local connections with people we know, like, and trust. We’ve all spent quite a bit of time together since 2011, and the relationships we’ve built and nurtured are critical to our success. We meet for happy hour on the fourth Wednesday of the month. If you’re ever in town then, let us know!

  7. If I determine that I would like to join your group, what sort of goals should I set to become qualified?
  8. 1) Live in the Portland Metro area
    2) Be a full- or part-time freelance copywriter
    3) Do high-quality work
    4) Come with experience and knowledge that will benefit the membership

    (NOTE: If you’re just getting your feet wet as a writer, this isn’t the right group for you. Join us for happy hour and we can swap advice and tips and such, but the level of knowledge amongst members is high, and we want to keep it that way. We’ll be rolling out a MENTORSHIP PROGRAM in the next few months, so if you need to fill in the gaps between your desire to be a freelance copywriter and your experience as a freelance copywriter, stay tuned.)