By Erin Dalpini
“Have you ever dreamed of becoming a writer but never took it too seriously, because after all, the words ‘starving’ and ‘writer’ are pretty much joined at the hip?” asks freelance copywriter and author Peter Bowerman in his updated edition of The Well-Fed Writer.
Well, have you?
Bowerman’s query brings up the quintessential conflict that faces all freelancers and wanna-bes at one point or another in their careers—how to write away the workday, without having to pinch pennies.
Maybe you’ve already made it past that point.
Great. This book is still worth your while.
Or maybe when you read the opening question, you thought, “Yeah, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.” That’s even more reason to check out Bowerman’s aptly-named The Well-Fed Writer, in which he shares a slew of industry secrets that will assist you in successfully marketing yourself and your writing.
Compartmentalized into useful chapters such as “Money Matters: How Much to Charge and How to Get Paid,” “Learning to Love S&M (Sales and Marketing),” “Where’s the Business?” and “The Well-Networked Writer,” this book touches on all the fundamentals of freelance copywriting while maintaining the spunk and attitude often lacking in the average guidebook.
I have to admit I was quite skeptical about “commercial” freelancing when I first started reading The Well-Fed Writer. However, Bowerman’s no-nonsense, practical advice convinced me to reconsider its benefits. Although he admits that copywriting is not always as creatively fulfilling as writing, say, a feature piece, the truth is, oftentimes other forms of writing can’t pay the bills well as copywriting can. Says Bowerman: “Here’s the trade-off in our field: You write what others want, not what you want. . . . I’ve had plenty of fun interesting and creative projects over the years. That also happened to pay very well.”
While we’re on the subject of money—one of the things I liked most about this book was Bowerman’s straight talk on how much to charge and getting paid:
“Sure, many clients think $50 an hour is too much to pay even a pro, but there are also plenty who won’t flinch at $125 an hour. And I’m working for a bunch of them. . . . When starting out, maybe you work for those only willing to pay less, in order to make a few bucks, learn the ropes, and build your book. Fine. But, at some point, you need to move on and make room for those willing to pay more. And they’re out there.”
Bowerman wants very much for writers to be paid what they’re worth in a marketplace that doesn’t always offer that (though it absolutely should!). His instructions for negotiating, pricing and proposal writing are lucid and empowering. Better yet, near the end of the book, he lays out the top skills that can increase your paycheck.
But how does one find and develop relationships with businesses that’ll pay well and keep returning to you for writing projects? The Well-Fed Writer offers a plethora of unique ideas of places to sell your writing—and tried and true marketing tactics for getting potential clients to notice you. Whether it’s a step-by-step guide to direct mail or notes on networking, this book provides the tools for an aggressive business plan that will heed results.
In The Well-Fed Writer, Bowerman identifies key traits editors and clients look for, making you stand out from the crowd. And, believe it or not, writing talents, albeit important, aren’t the only trait that keeps clients coming back.
What’s the top trait businesses look for in freelance copywriters?
Accountability. You can read more about how to put your best foot forward in professional situations in chapters 2, 7 and 13 of The Well-Fed Writer.
Another great feature of this book are the many testimonials the author interjects amongst his text. These real-life stories reinforce the information they accompany, adding other voices to the conversation on freelance copywriting. If you’re interested in learning more about real-life successes, you’re in luck—there’s an entire index dedicated to them, and one of these stories (or more!) may provide the spark of encouragement you need to turn your weak cash flow into gold.
Additional gems inside The Well-Fed Writer include a terrific cold-calling script for those for whom this sort of outreach is mildly terrifying and an entire chapter dedicated to creating the resume/business card of today—your own website.
For those of you still rockin’ the cube from 9-5, check out Bowerman’s chapter “Full-Time Dream, Part-Time Reality.” There’s a great story in there about a man who built his business during his off-hours. No more excuses, eh?
Whether you’re old or new to the freelance scene, Bowerman’s book is worth a read, better yet, while you’re at it, visit his website and see for yourself. This resource may be just what you need to jumpstart your writing career from mediocre to amazing.