Copywriting Freelance: Profit and Prosper Without Pants | Intro

Concepting and Copywriting, Freelancing

This is the intro to an eBook I am writing about freelance copywriting. It’s a career I love. And it’s a career I want to help other writers consider and enjoy.

“Can I thrive, even survive, as a freelancer copywriter?,” you ask. Yes, you can.

You can make a difference with your writing powers.

You can move minds, heal hearts, invoke smiles, and sometimes unleash an unexpected laugh.

And you can make a real living at it. Not buy-a-small-country living, but buy a cool house living, and gosh darn it, aren’t all our homes our small countries?

Best of all, day and night, you can concentrate on the work, not the illusions and kabuki theatre of work, like, say, status meetings.

You know. “Huddles.”

You can stay home. And jam in your jammies.

It’s a little thing I like to call…

Copywriting freelance.

And I’m here to walk you through it.

Hello.

I’m Walt Jaschek, AKA Walt Now.

And I’ve had a long career as a freelance copywriter, profiting and prospering without pants.

But let’s talk about you.

Perhaps you are sitting in ad agency, working already as a copywriter. Sure, you love exposed brick as much as anybody. And that glow-in-the-dark pool table is a fun distraction. But you’d actually like to write.

You know Steve in traffic? You know how he shows up at 4 p.m. and asks for the status of your copy? And then asks your to list your favorite Zombie movies in alpha order? Steve is the obstacle to Deep Work.

Steves are always the obstacles of Deep Work.

Perhaps you are already a freelance copywriter by choice.

Or perhaps you are already a freelance copywriter by circumstance.

Congratulations to the former for seeing the light and making that jump. Leap and the net will appear, I say. Or somebody said, and I agree.

And if you’re a “circumstance” freelancer, relax. You’ve got this. I promise that, with the right mindset, you will get more done at home then you could ever accomplished in a cube.

And with that higher productivity comes the ability to (1) charge more for your hours, and (2) bill for more of them.

But we’ll get to that.

Perhaps you are a student in the realms of marketing, advertising, communications, creative writing or languages, starting to define yourself as a copywriter. You wonder if freelancing might extend the life of a student into the world of work.

Ha! It so will. My home office is half dorm. Step around that rebounder.

But to you, grads and undergrads, I say do not go directly into freelance writing as a career. You must first taste the Corp Rut. I mean, corporate. You must experience the office, as in, The Office, to make the kind of human connections you will need when you go rouge.

You will also develop a sense of agency-as-absurdity that will help you when writing like a caffeinated commander at your kitchen table.

So this book, students, is for you to read when you’re already in That First Job. Or Second. Scroll it on your phone as you savor Sauce on the Side.

To existing copywriters then, this book is dedicated. Congratulations on being a keyboard wizard, for using your powers to turn letters into words, words into sentences, heads into the stratosphere, and hearts into mush. (I see you, Ms. Senior Writer at Hallmark.)

If you are curious about the perspective of a copywriter who has managed to freelance almost exclusively for more than 30 years…

Who has put a couple of kids through college, funded multiple mortgages, bought tons of comic books yet managed to save for semi-retirement…

And who now wants to find the right mix of encouragement and practical advice for you on your freelance copywriting journey…

Here we go.

Can I really do this?, you ask. To repeat my central theme:

Yes, you can.

Next: All it takes is talent. And sandals.

Walt Jaschek is a champion of great copywriting. As creative collaborator, mentor, and freelance copywriter, he pushes to craft memorable stories with humor, pizazz and verve. For his award-winning, national ad campaigns for global brands, he was inducted by the St. Louis Media History Foundation into the city’s advertising and PR Hall of Fame. A life-long freelancer, he is declaring “I’m not history yet,” and is still open to juicy writing and consulting assignments, especially for friends and family.

Paperless post about paper: original, proven copywriting tool

Content Creation Tools, Content Writing, Reviews

The original content creation medium (if you don’t count paint on rock,) paper is the must-have form of pulp.

Julia Cameron , author of the creative journaling guide The Artist’s Way says: “When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection–to ourselves and our deepest thoughts– when we actually put pen to page.” 

What she’s talking about isntt pulp fiction. But it is pulp. Paper is still the very best place to start ideas for copy and content writing. It’s liberating – even productive – to step away from the screen and “scritch.”

Earthwise is affordable – check current price; – and is 100% recycled. The stock as a good “hand feel,” but not so much it seems precious. I’ve weened myself away from those high-end notebooks. I feel compelled to decorate them with greatness. The pressure!

With a deliberately un-fancy sensibility to your paper, you’ll flow with the go. You’ll feel no hesitation in grabbing a pad from the stack and making your mark(s) on the world.

Earthwise Ampad 100% Recycled Perforated Ruled 50-Sheet 8 1/2 x 11 ¾-Inch White Pads 12-Pack

And for that you also need:

Pens.

I love Sharpees. (Check current price.)

Call me a Sharpie collector. Or perhaps a Sharpie loser: I tend to lose more than I gain – I think I must leave a Sharpie everywhere I go (you’re welcome)  – and thus I replenish my supplies frequently. The black fine-points are my every day, all-day tools: I love the precision of the line, the depth of that black color, and even the sound of the “scritch-scritch” on the paper.

Oh, the sad feeling when I am out of Sharpies and must use a mundane ballpoint to ideate. Somehow, the logo designs, the name ideas, the lists, the character sketches, the flow charts just aren’t as… sharpie.

And then there is the highly saturated color set: so great for accents, adornments, fheading titles, and more robust sketches and doodles. Day or night, home or away, Sharpies are never dull. They are the Walt Now Creative Ideation pens of choice.

And choice they are.

Sharpie Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Black, 24-Count

Sharpie Color Burst Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Assorted Colors, 24 Count

13-inch MacBook Air Review: best laptop for copywriters

Content Creation Tools, Content Writing, Reviews
Here’s Walt talking about his 13-inch MacBook Airs – on a MacBook Air

The lightweight heavyweight of laptops, the MacBook Air is beloved – except by battery fans.

By Walt Jaschek

Bulletin: your creative content is only as good as your content creation tools. And your brain, but that’s another story. In this post, I highly recommend Apple’s MacBook Air laptop. Five stars for content creation, unless you need battery life, then, for serious, buy something else. Here’s my review, supported by affiliate links.

Apple’s MacBook Air is so colossally cool for content creation, I use two at once. Really. I was such a heavy user of my first one, an 11.6-inch model purchased in 2014 and still killing it, the “a” key now looks like a font from an alien dimension. When I was offered a used 13-inch, as inheritance from an elderly family member, I thought I was walking on MacBook Air.

Why do I love my twin MacBook Air laptops?

Check current price of MacBook Air on Amazon.

1.    They’re shiny. Like robots in a mirror wearing bling. I just like to look at them.

2.    They’re powerful. Mine have mega-memory (newer ones even more) and 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 processors. Gigantic iMovie files into convert into mp4s in a blink; your YouTube channel need not wait. Every task in Photoshop happens at the speed of thought: yes, you should have a tighter crop on your headshot. De-saturate it while you’re at it.

3.    They’re thin. “Have-you-been-working-out?” thin. Look how thin.

4.    They’re light. At about 3 pounds each, I can put both into my backpack and zip out the door without straining any upper body muscles.

5.    The beautiful retina display. It seers, well, the retina.

6.    They’re trouble free (but then, trouble is always free.) I’ve had both since 2014, and have had 0 virus or performance incidents. I think the Apple store misses me.

7.    They make your fingers feel good. Great keyboard response and large trackpad action to… to… excuse me, I have to kiss my fingers now.

8.    Flawless, no-dropout videos conferences while executing all of the above. It’s the laptop for multi-taskers. Or those who aspire to be.

Why do I have two of them?

“Check out” my two Macbook Airs at my local library, AKA content creation heaven.

Hey, why not?

I can have two screens open at once, which reduces the amount of tabs I have open on either one of them. It also suits my creative ADHD: when I look away from one screen to avoid thinking too hard (“brain hurts”,) my eyes and hands fall on the other keyboard, and keep working away on something else.

And, yes, I assign different types of projects to each MacBook Air, by category. The slightly bigger screen 13-inch is better for using InDesign, Photoshop and Comiclife. The slightly smaller 11-inch where I pound out copy in Word: scripts, screenplays, stories, posts and exasperated tweets. Correspondingly, it’s also the one with the most social tabs open.

Is there a “con” to the MacBook Air?

Yes, and it’s a big one:

Battery life.

It’s plain terrible. Awful. Neither of my MacBook Airs can hold a charge.. If I dare try to use without power cord, I’ve got about 15 minutes to live, sometimes less. In my particular creative venues, from home office to library to coffee shop to Whole Foods, I am never far from a wall outlet, so concern over battery life has, like Elvis, left the building. BUT BUT BUT…

If you are, say, a frequent flier, and need a laptop that works reliably on airplanes, forget the MacBook Air. Wipe it from your memory, like Men in Black. In fact, in my experience, battery fans, forget Apple laptops altogether. Go another route. Laptop Mag says the best three laptops for battery life are the Dell Latitude 7400, the HP Spectre x360, and the Dell Latitude 7400. I believe them. On the charged issue of charge, I’m envious.

On the whole, though, if battery life isn’t in your top 5 content creation criteria – as it is not in mine – you will love the Macbook Air. Business Insider agrees: this article is headlined, “After one year with Apple’s latest MacBook Air, I remain convinced it’s worth the high price tag.”

Price tag? Though I’m a freelancer on a budget, and live frugally, I can’t imagine life without these babies. Sometimes day-in, day-out value is worth that first investment.

Your creative content deserves it.

As do your fingers.

Read more reviews of the 13-inch MacBook Air on Amazon.

Walt Jaschek is a content creator and a fan of cool content. He creates a lot of it. This is his “a” key..

Walt wore out the “a” key on his first MacBook Air

P.S. What did I use to take the photos you see in this post? A phone with an incredible camera: The iPhone 7.

But that’s a review for another day.

Radio Copywriting: “Albert Einsten” in “Marketing Genius”

Humor Writing, Radio Commercials

Dr. Albert Einstein has a new theory. He’s just not sure how to “market” it. In fact, he’s “pulling his hair” over it. And if this genius can’t figure it out, who can? In this dialogue-driven radio commercial, the good doctor is pointed to CreativeWorks, a “one-stop shop for all his marketing materials.” Listen to great Hollywood voice talent having fun in this spot, written and produced by Walt Jaschek for client CreativeWorks of St. Louis, and recorded at World Wide Wadio in Hollywood. The script is below.

SCRIPT
“Marketing Genius”
60-second radio commercial for CreativeWorks

MUSIC INTRO

SOUND FX: LABORATORY SOUNDS, UNDER

HOST: Welcome back to “Creative Thinkers.” Today we’re talking with Dr. Albert Einstein.

EINSTEIN (in German accent): Hello there.

HOST: Hey, Doc, how are you?

EINSTEIN: Oh, fine, fine. (Makes a deliberate joke) At least… relatively.

HOST:  “Rela…”?

(BOTH LAUGH)

HOST: You’re a genius.

EINSTEIN: Danke.

HOST: Hair’s kind of wild, though.

EINSTEIN: Yeah, I’ve been pulling it.

HOST: Pulling it?

EINSTEIN: See, I’ve developed a brand-new theory…

HOST: Really?

EINSTEIN: Und I’ve been putting together a big marketing push for it. But I can’t find one place to handle all my creative materials.

HOST: Have you considered CreativeWorks?

EINSTEIN: CreativeWorks?

HOST: CreativeWorks is the one-stop expert at creating complete advertising and marketing solutions.

EINSTEIN: Even for a genius?

HOST: Especially for a genius.

EINSTEIN: I’m there!

HOST: Good! By the way, Doc, what is your brand new theory?

EINSTEIN: Well, get this. As it turns out, “e” only equals “mc squared” some of the time.

(Beat as they take this news in)

HOST: Uh-oh.

EINSTEIN: Crazy, huh?

HOST: That’ll have an impact.

EINSTEIN: No kidding.

ANNOUNCER: CreativeWorks. Bright ideas…

SOUND FX: LIGHT BULB CHAIN PULLED, HARP GLISTEN, UNDER

ANNOUNCER: …one stop.

SOUND FX: LAST “Tink” OF HARP GLISTEN

FADE OUT

We have an entire playlist of funny radio commercials: 15 and counting!

Want content like this? Brainstorm with Walt.

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Radio Copywriting: “Mr. Rippemoff” for NewsCenter 7

Humor Writing, Radio Commercials, scriptwriting

Funny dialogue and theatre of the mind are at play in this radio spot for Miami’s NewsCenter 7 and their fraud-exposing team of reporters known as the Wastebusters. In it, a Miami businessman – Mr. Rippemoff – is not happy to hear from his assistant Dorothy that the Wastebusters are in his outer office. This is the kind of spot you don’t hear much anymore: a well acted and produced scene that’s more akin to what one of associates calls “adver-tainment.” It also helps to have clients who want it and appreciate it! (Bless ’em!) Turn up your speakers for…

:60 RADIO SCRIPT
“MISTER RIPPEMOFF”
For: NewsCenter 7 Wastebusters
Writer: Walt Jaschek
Producer: Paul Fey

SOUND FX: OFFICE INTERCOM BUZZES

DOROTHY THE ASSISTANT (voice over intercom): Mister Rippemoff?

MR. RIPPEMOFF: Yes, Dorothy?

DOROTHY: A reporter and crew from NewsCenter 7 Wastebusters is here to see you, sir.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: NewsCenter 7?

DOROTHY: Wastebusters. They expose mind-boggling wastes of taxpayers money right here in the Miami Valley.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: What do they want with me?

DOROTHY: They said you sold the government a ballpoint pen, sir.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: So?

DOROTHY: For a thousand dollars.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: Well, it came with refills.

DOROTHY: And a jar of paperclips for two thousand dollars.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: They were multi-colored paperclips.

DOROTHY: Uh-huh.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: Red ones, blue ones…

DOROTHY: What should I tell the Wastebusters, sir?

MR. RIPPEMOFF: Do they have lights and cameras?

DOROTHY: And the ballpoint pen, sir.

MR. RIPPEMOFF: Tell them I went out my window, down my fire escape, then booked down the street, screaming like a madman.

(beat)

DOROTHY: I don’t think they’ll believe that sir.

SOUND FX: FOOTSTEPS AND WINDOW OPENING

DOROTHY: Mister Rippemoff?

MR. RIPPEMOFF:  (SCREAMING)

DOROTHY: Uh-oh.

MUSIC, UNDER

ANNOUNCER: NewsCenter 7 Wastebusters expose government waste right here in the Miami Valley. And see the Wastebusters in action.

SOUND FX: OUTSIDE TRAFFIC

MR. RIPPEMOFF:  (STILL SCREAMING)

DOROTHY (yelling): You can’t escape them, sir! They’re the Wastebusters!

MR. RIPPEMOFF (running away): I know!

ANNOUNCER: NewsCenter 7 Wastebusters. Weeknights at 6. Coverage you can count on.

DOROTHY (to herself): They’ll find him.

MUSIC OUT

© Paul & Walt Worldwide

Whey, yes, we do have an entire playlist of funny radio commercials. It’s called 15 Funny Radio Commercials to Inspire More of the Same.

Lessons in Long-Form: How to Craft Readable Feature Articles

articles, Content Writing

Like finding $20 in your pocket, getting a bonus bag of Cheetos® from a vending machine, or learning Marvel Studios will be making Ant-Man 3, getting published and paid for it is still a thrill.

For example, I’m grateful and happy to have been published a few times this past year in #STLMADE, the online magazine celebrating lesser-known St. Louis achievers.

On assignment, I’ve written about a high-tech family firm making advanced timepieces for NASA; a unique roommate pairing service matching Millenials with seniors; and most recently, a profile of our region’s very own Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame. (Who knew, right?)

The stories, also archived here, were a creative stretch for me. Yeah, I’ve written content articles in the past – who can forget my piece on the magic powers of ginseng? But I’m known mostly for funny commercials, the scripts for which can be created on the back of a bar napkin. And often are.

These feature stories are work, dammit, and make me appreciate more the people who craft them all the time.

I’ve made a few unauthorized notes about my recent experiences trying to be competent in this unfamiliar form. If you’re a writer heading into these waters, you might find a tip-bit. (That’s a tidbit that’s also a tip.)

1. Know what to leave out.

Michelangelo is often credited with saying, in response to questions about his sculpting process, “You take a piece of marble and chip away everything that doesn’t look like David.” Oh. Okay. Got it. Well, that’s the article, folks! Thanks for reading.

But seriously, to help know what to leave out:

2. Become one with your transcripts.

 “Transcripts” are in the news lately. They’re a thing, all right. The pubs for which I write are quick to provide transcribed text of recorded interviews. One such document recently came back at 16 single-spaced pages of 10-point type: about 12,000 words. The final story was to be 600 words, and of those, just half quotes. This means whittling the text down to 5% of itself. It’s like turning 50 Shades of Grey into one-half shade of grey. But:

3. Hang in there.

Some quotes shine on first scan. Just as often, something at the top of page 3 will connect with something at the bottom of page 15. So you have to decipher every word, no matter how inaccurately transcribed. (“Did he say ‘non-profit or ‘for profit?’ It says here, ‘Jimmy Buffet.’”) It’s a slog, but it’s necessary, so you’ll like it, saying, “Thank you, master, may I have another?”

4. Compress “The Origin Story.”

It’s human nature: everybody wants to tell their launch journey, i.e. “How We Got Here Through the Years.” But it’s good to cut these stories down to a critical mass, and certainly don’t lead with them. Though readers might like a little backstory, they really wanna know, “What’s in it for me now?” It’s like asking a friend if Macy’s still sells carpets, and the person answers by explaining in great detail how it used to be called Famous-Barr.

5. Learn to interrupt.

Seriously. Recently I was the off-camera interviewer in a big video shoot. Seldom have I had conversations with subjects as multiple cameras recorded and onlookers… looked on. In this case, I tossed the subject an opening softball. The person’s breathless answer lasted, according to a producer who timed it, almost 20 minutes. In a post-production meeting, I said, “I need to learn to interrupt.” My collaborators laughed, but it’s true: I need to learn to interrupt.

6. Have a back-up audio source.

Wonky but important tech tip: when you don’t have A/V support, you are your own production company. So have at least two devices on which to record. Before my most recent interview, I scored the Olympus VN-541PC Digital Voice Recorder. (Recommended.) Glad I did, because, as usual, the Voice Memos app on iPhone stopped recording mid-interview due to incoming calls. You’d think I’d go to Settings and fix this. Not sure I know how. Hence: two sources. Heck, make it three.

7. Check your politics at the door.

Hard but necessary, not just for interviews, but any kind of business interaction, as I’m sure all can relate. (How any person who works in a real office handles this these days is beyond me.) I bite my tongue continually, because I know no minds will be changed, or even budged, in casual conversation. But it creeps in. When a subject for a story missed his interview appointment, his assistant scrambled to contact him. “Not an emergency,” I said. “It’s not like this’ll be in tomorrow’s New York Times.

“Good,” the assistant said with a wry smile. “Because then we couldn’t talk to you.”

It was a joke. I think. I smiled back. But I also think, “You want exposure for your endeavor, but wouldn’t talk to the freakin’ New York Times?

We live in amazing times.

8. Choose your assignments wisely.

Easier said than done: you gotta make a living. For decades, in gratitude for opportunities, I clung to the axiom, “There are no boring subjects, only boring writers.” I’ve reconsidered. There are boring subjects. For example: I recently scrolled past a post linking to a published article, and for a half-second, thought, “I’d never read that.” Then I realized I wrote it.

I vow to be more careful, and to admit to editors, “I’m not right for this topic; it holds no interest for me.” I think they would appreciate that. Editors can’t read minds. They want a good fit. It’s another way you can:

9. Love your editors.

Bless them for their behind-the-scenes, often uncredited prep and leadership. I obey direction and appreciate sharp edits; the stories are always better for it. (This article could have used one!) But I also believe you should:

10. Love your readers.

So much of what I’m trying to do is simply keeping eyes moving down the page. Sometimes in my work I’m accused of being “funny” or “jokey” (or – ugh – “cute”,) but honest to God, I’m just trying to be interesting. That’s it. Interesting is the bar, and it will continue to be my mantra plodding forward. And in that regard:

If I got your eyes down this far down the page, I’m grateful.

Wait! Whaddaya mean, “I scrolled to get here?”

[Sigh.]

You can’t blame a guy for typing.

Walt Jaschek is available to write for your publication. Maybe. Let’s talk.