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Copy Confidential: 3 Red Flags a Copywriter and Client Aren’t a Fit

May 5, 2023
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Evelyn Creekmore has been writing since, well, she could write. Her poet grandmother taught her how to count beats with her little fingers as a grade schooler and typed up her poems to submit to contests. An early win was third place for “Plants.” Fast forward a decade or two, and we find Evelyn copywriting away at a New York ad agency. She went on to serve in content director roles for Home Shopping Network, WebMD, and FootSmart. For the last seven years, Evelyn has provided freelance content strategy and copywriting services to major global brands in just about every industry. Specialties include health, tech, finance, retail, and CPG.

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Many copywriters I know are people pleasers like me. We want to be the right fit for every new client and project. It’s a letdown if we’re not.

As Paula said to Zack in An Officer and a Gentleman, “…I dare you not to fall in love with me…how can you resist me? I’m like candy.”  

Candy is great, obviously, but everyone doesn’t like every kind. Take licorice for example. To me, it’s revolting, but it has plenty of die-hard fans. Candy corn, that’s another contentious one.

Instead of trying to be all things to all clients, I’ve learned to look for signs that I’m a fit—and signs that I’m not. I’ve discovered some red flags worth seeing to save everyone time in the end.

The Rate Isn’t Right

For many freelancer copywriters I know, it’s hard not to panic when work gets slow. My last slow patch happened after more than two years of working double time. I was out of practice in letting it ride.

I applied for freelance projects at a much lower rate than I was qualified for. Worse yet, I didn’t get them. Because I was overqualified.

The time I spent researching, applying, and interviewing was totally wasted—for the potential clients and me. Now, I try to resist the temptation to go after any work, any work at all, and instead focus on pursuing good fits and using my downtime for training, updating my portfolio, and writing stuff for me.

The Hours Are Low 

The hours that clients give copywriters on projects each week tend to drive their priority to us within our book of work.

If a client needs me 40 hours a week, for instance, they’re my top priority.

If a client only needs me five hours a week, it’s harder for me to give them instantaneous attention all the time. That doesn’t always stop the five-hours-a-weekers from expecting it.

I’m a much better fit with low-hour clients who understand the priority trade-off and offer longer deadlines for me to work them in.

The Tude Is Rude 

I know. How is it possible this still needs to be said? I’ve had some pretty shocking experiences out there, and I’ve learned they are in no way worth it. Nastygrams. Yelling. One F-bomb after another whistling past my ears.

This happens in full-time roles, too, but the beauty of freelance is it’s so much easier to dip out of work that isn’t working for you.

The urge to tough it out—for whatever reason—can be hard to resist.

Maybe try it sometime?

For me, I’ve regretted staying in bad situations way more than moving on to better ones.

Read more in Evelyn Creekmore's Copy Confidential Series:

Hard-Won Wisdom for Freelance Copywriters

What I Wish Clients Knew About Copywriting Tests

What I Wish Clients Knew–Why Copywriters Can’t Quit You

When to Be–and Not be–a Brutal Editor

What I Wish Clients Knew–Some Copywriters Are Really Sensitive

ChatGPT Project Win


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Many copywriters I know are people pleasers like me. We want to be the right fit for every new client and project. It’s a letdown if we’re not.

As Paula said to Zack in An Officer and a Gentleman, “…I dare you not to fall in love with me…how can you resist me? I’m like candy.”  

Candy is great, obviously, but everyone doesn’t like every kind. Take licorice for example. To me, it’s revolting, but it has plenty of die-hard fans. Candy corn, that’s another contentious one.

Instead of trying to be all things to all clients, I’ve learned to look for signs that I’m a fit—and signs that I’m not. I’ve discovered some red flags worth seeing to save everyone time in the end.

The Rate Isn’t Right

For many freelancer copywriters I know, it’s hard not to panic when work gets slow. My last slow patch happened after more than two years of working double time. I was out of practice in letting it ride.

I applied for freelance projects at a much lower rate than I was qualified for. Worse yet, I didn’t get them. Because I was overqualified.

The time I spent researching, applying, and interviewing was totally wasted—for the potential clients and me. Now, I try to resist the temptation to go after any work, any work at all, and instead focus on pursuing good fits and using my downtime for training, updating my portfolio, and writing stuff for me.

The Hours Are Low 

The hours that clients give copywriters on projects each week tend to drive their priority to us within our book of work.

If a client needs me 40 hours a week, for instance, they’re my top priority.

If a client only needs me five hours a week, it’s harder for me to give them instantaneous attention all the time. That doesn’t always stop the five-hours-a-weekers from expecting it.

I’m a much better fit with low-hour clients who understand the priority trade-off and offer longer deadlines for me to work them in.

The Tude Is Rude 

I know. How is it possible this still needs to be said? I’ve had some pretty shocking experiences out there, and I’ve learned they are in no way worth it. Nastygrams. Yelling. One F-bomb after another whistling past my ears.

This happens in full-time roles, too, but the beauty of freelance is it’s so much easier to dip out of work that isn’t working for you.

The urge to tough it out—for whatever reason—can be hard to resist.

Maybe try it sometime?

For me, I’ve regretted staying in bad situations way more than moving on to better ones.

Read more in Evelyn Creekmore's Copy Confidential Series:

Hard-Won Wisdom for Freelance Copywriters

What I Wish Clients Knew About Copywriting Tests

What I Wish Clients Knew–Why Copywriters Can’t Quit You

When to Be–and Not be–a Brutal Editor

What I Wish Clients Knew–Some Copywriters Are Really Sensitive

ChatGPT Project Win


Author: Evelyn Creekmore
Evelyn C. has been writing since, well, she could write. Her poet grandmother taught her how to count beats with her little fingers as a grade-schooler and typed up her poems to submit to contests. An early win was third place for “Plants.” Fast forward a decade or two, and we find Evelyn copywriting away at a New York ad agency. She went on to serve in content director roles for Home Shopping Network, WebMD, and FootSmart. For the last seven years, Evelyn has provided freelance content strategy and copywriting services to major global brands in just about every industry. Specialties include health, tech, finance, retail, and CPG.
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