Being a commerical writer

So, you want to become a commercial writer?

That means you’ll need to be prepared to write about just about anything and everything that comes along. If your attitude’s ‘I write romance’ or ‘I write Sci-Fi’, you’re going to be facing a life along the same lines as a certain ‘Old Mother Hubbard’. On the other hand if it’s “I’m sure I can do it – what is it you want?”, then you’ve got chances.

That doesn’t mean that it’s OK to write rubbish as long as you get to the relevant word count. Absolutely not. Apart from it degrading yourself, you will also incur the wrath of your client who was expecting a quality guide/blog post/brochure/sales letter/article etc. A client’s wrath means bad reviews and no pay.

You see, unlike creative writing, you have but one client for one piece of work and, if he or she ain’t pleased, they will tell you so in no uncertain terms. There’s no hiding behind one lousy review and ten good ones with commercial writing.

Pocket watch

Deadlines must be met in the world of the commercial writer

Writer’s Block is another thing that you may have to overcome. You have 10,000 words to produce this week – produce them. If not, you will surely be for the high jump. You’ll need to learn to think on your feet and to adapt to the demands of your clients and the work that you are doing for them. If you can manage that, you’ll have chances.

I’ve been doing commercial writing for years and I’ve really enjoyed it. My specialism has been to take on the most difficult jobs and the most demanding clients. Not only are these easier to win for someone with a track record of proving themselves competent when it comes to delivering such work, the jobs¬†also pay better. That said, notice the use of the phrase ‘track record’ – that’s something that comes with time. If you’re just setting out down this road, start with less lucrative but more straightforward projects.

Never think ‘Is this me?’, think ‘How can I do this one?’.

Commercial writing

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Getting it right first time is the only option

Commercial writing is a world apart from creative writing. While authors will often wait nervously¬†for reviews to start appearing, a commercial writer will know his or her fate pretty much immediately. Submit a substandard piece of work and, not only will you be barracked for it, you’ll also end up not getting paid.

It’s not for everyone – writing to order. A client wants their articles, blog posts, press release, leaflet text by a given date and that’s what they must have. Claiming writer’s block and a need to lie down in a dark place will not cut it and the job you sweated blood to get will simply be passed on to a keener and more amenable freelancer. All writing takes discipline, of course, but commercial writers need it in spades.

Another key difference is that, in most cases, the freelance commercial writer will be told what to write. While, in many ways, this makes it easier – you’ve not got to fret about plot-holes, character development etc – in other ways, it’s more difficult. The client has a fixed idea of what you should be delivering and they may not have communicated it to you in the clearest of manners. The fact that they were a bit muddle-headed in their briefing is still going to end up being your problem – you should have clarified it.

Language is also different. Elisions, abbreviations, slang, colloquialisms etc are not welcome in formal writing and there is a convention to be learnt when writing commercial pieces.

We’ll look at bid preparation, syntax and freelancing sites in future blogs.