Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tips for the Beginning Freelance Copywriter

A request for help was recently posted on the IWW's WRITING list noting "I would like to see a good c.v./résumé ... to attract a staffing agency to represent me for short contract writing jobs. I would also like advice on what pieces or types of pieces to put in a portfolio.

Bob Sanchez, a retired senior technical writer who produced countless manuals and bulletins, replied. Bob knows the game, although he is now writing novels, including When Pigs Fly, part crime caper and part love story, and totally entertaining.

Here's Bob's advice ...

Do try Monster.Com, though, and the employment pages of some of the major dailies. If you live in New England, for example, check out Boston.Com.

I can send you my old resume if you like (I'm determined never to use it again), since the formatting - and content - served me well. A general suggestion is to highlight the experience most like the type of work you're looking for and either summarize or don't mention the rest. Don't worry about fancy resume paper - nobody will care. Use a standard font.

If you go through an agency, chances are you'll be interviewed twice: first by them and then by their client. Find out if the agency wants to see your portfolio; chances are, all they want is to know you have one. That's what their client wants to see.

For your portfolio, select only your best, most relevant work. Under no circumstances should you bring a fistful of loose papers to an interview and call it your portfolio. Check out Staples for professional-looking binders - I used Velo Binders, which were very satisfactory. You do the binding yourself, but there's nothing to it. Remember that while your prospective client looks mainly for content, your professional presentation can mean the difference between you getting a contract and not.

Two nice touches to set you apart: Set up a professional web site. Do not send them to your current page, where your titles include references to "Sex Magick." I've made that mistake of showing interviewers my personal website, which probably didn't do lots of harm but certainly did me no good. The point is to tell people just what they need to know about you to offer you the contract, and no more. It's okay if you tell them about your creative writing - briefly - but don't highlight it and don't offer to show it. So you'd find it well worthwhile to maintain a separate web page.

The other nice touch is to create a CD with plenty of relevant material and bring it to the interview. Tell the interviewer you made a copy just for them to keep. At my Intel interview, they ran off to get a laptop and looked at the CD then and there.

So anyway, I'm going to quit writing now, because it'll give me nightmares about going back to work.

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