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Career Story: Freelance Copywriter

Freelance Copywriter

Job Title: Copywriter

Type of Company: The company I work for publishes academic journals and books on subjects ranging from politics and religion to engineering and science.

Education: BA, English Literature, SUNY-Buffalo •• MA, Comparative Literature, University College, London

Previous Experience: I started out as a marketing assistant, then got promoted to copywriter, then finally worked my way up to associate director of marketing at a large publishing company in New York City. After I left the company, I started working as a freelance copywriter.

Job Tasks: I write promotional copy for academic journals and books. Promotional copy is the descriptive text, used in ads, book jackets, catalogs and press releases, that encourages consumers to buy the products. In this case, the products are books and journal subscriptions.

For books, I am sent a manuscript of the book before it is published. I have to read the manuscript and write 300 words describing what the book is about and why it is relevant and groundbreaking. This copy is then used in catalogs that go to libraries and bookstores, for the book jacket, or in ads that are placed in trade magazines and newspapers. The goal is make the people who read the copy want to read and buy the book.

For journals, I am sent a manuscript of a current article before it gets published. Again I have to read through the article and write a couple of (legal-size) pages of copy in a newsy style that highlights the relevance of the article and touts the importance of the journal that's publishing it. These puff pieces are known as press releases and they are written to appeal to experts in a specific field. For example, if the Journal of Science had an article coming out on NASA's new space shuttle, the press release I wrote would be sent to Scientific American and The New York Times in the hope it would stimulate them to publish their own articles about it, promoting the Journal of Science in the process. The goal of press releases is to drum up excitement about new journal articles and encourage and attract new subscribers.

I have also written Reader's Guides for book groups to use. A Reader's Guide is a pamphlet that is available in bookstores that has a list of topic questions, a biography of the author, and an interview with the author. Those are fun but very time-consuming, so I now stick to the faster jobs described above.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I get to learn so much about a variety of topics every time I write copy. I also can work from my home computer which allows me great flexibility while running a household and taking care of kids.

The worst part is the isolation at home and structuring my own work week.

Job Tips:
1. Get experience as an assistant in the company first before trying to write about it's products.

2. Get experience as an in-house copywriter before trying to work as a freelancer. That way people get to know you and to know your work.

3. Make sure you are easy to reach, and organized with deadlines and billing. These are important factors in being a freelancer.

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