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Which is better for your business?

It’s not too much of a stretch to see that working with copywriting clients is a bit like dating. In this post I’m going to take you through the different kinds of copywriting relationships you can form, and the positives and negatives of each one.

Let’s get started.


The pre client phase

When you’re fresh to the dating scene it can be hard to know where to start.

First you give sites like Upwork a go, the freelancer equivalent of Tinder.
You suffer the humiliation of getting paid 7 cents for 500 words and fear the swipe left of rejection.

Then you do work for friends, and friends of friends, not unlike being set up with a blind date.
Sometimes it’s awesome, often it’s awkward. You’re not a good fit and you both know it.

And of course there are the networking events, like shuffling round a nightclub, clutching a rum and coke, hoping to be noticed.

It’s all kinds of depressing.

You have to kiss a lot of copywriting frogs to win your first proper client and when you do, it doesn’t get any easier – sorry folks.


The first date

When you win your first client, it’s just an awesome feeling. You’re flirtatious on the phone and promise them the world. Anything is possible.

You show them the best bits of your portfolio like pulling your best outfits from the wardrobe.

And of course you make an extra effort to make sure everything is perfect.

Your copy legs are waxed, and your copy underwear is fresher than fresh.

Everything you provide to them is thoughtful, proof read to the max and polished perfectly.

But what next?


The copywriting one-night stand

For many of us the copy dating stops there. We are one-night stand copywriters.
The job comes in, we do the work and then we wave ‘bye bye’.

Sure it was fun, but we’re not about to ask the client to sleep over and breakfast is definitely not on the cards.

There are lots of pros to copywriting one-night stands:

  • Cash flow: Smaller jobs can be turned around quickly keeping your bank balance healthy.
  • Testimonials and portfolio: the more jobs you do, the faster you’ll fill up your sample case.
  • Efforts: Since it’s a one off you can work hard, but not stress too much, as you’re not hoping to lure the client back.
  • Appearance: With shorter copy relationships there’s not time for the client to see your flaws.
  • Variety: With fresh topics to write about each week, you’re unlikely to get bored or get stuck in a particular industry writing rut.

So, as you can see, one-night stand copy jobs can be a great way to keep your workflow chugging along and your creativity blooming.

Some negatives include:

  • Hustle: Without regular certain work, you’re continually having to market yourself and hustle for new jobs.
  • Admin: The more jobs you go for, the more proposals you have to write, the more briefs you have to take – which all takes your focus away from writing.

But of course you have to ask yourself: why are some copywriters only good for a one off job while others can persuade clients to bend the knee and pop the question?


The copywriting relationship

If that first job was a hit, you may find the client comes back for more and is keen to have a long-term writing relationship.

This can be a huge boost to the ego. It’s hugely flattering to have a client love your work so much they return for more.

The pros of a long-term relationship are:

  • Ease: Working with the client becomes easier, you know their quirks and they know your processes.
  • Confidence: The more you write for a particular client or industry, the more familiar you become with the tone and the subject matter.
  • Time: As you know the client you’ll spend less time researching, briefing and discussing and more time writing.
  • Admin: With long term clients there’s not really the need to spec out every job with a proposal, instead you can shoot them a simple invoice.
  • Cash flow: Often clients are keen to set up retainer agreements which means you have regular money coming in at the start of each month.

Some negatives include:

  • Tedium: Sometimes it can be hard to write about the same subject year in and year out.

For example, I spent 3 years writing email copy for a tech company, the information was essentially the same each week, but the client was keen for it to sound fresh. In the end I was simply shuffling words around with a heavy heart.

  • Warts and all: The longer you work with someone the more likely they are to see your flaws. You’ll probably have to cancel meetings and push back jobs due to life getting in the way. You’ll have off days, you’ll produce bad copy, and the client will get on your nerves.

Just like a real relationship, copywriting relationships take work to make them successful.

If you prefer the sound of copy relationships I have two notes of caution:

  1. Make sure you choose the client: Just because a client wants to metaphorically date you, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. The attraction must be mutual.
  2. Know when to let go: All good things come to an end and you need to be honest with yourself about your copywriting relationship. If things are feeling stale it’s better to let the client go, before they turn rotten.


The best of both worlds 

When it comes to copywriting relationships I’m a cheating, serial monogamist.

That sounds bad, right?
But let me explain.

A photo posted by Kate Toon (@katetoon) on

I find what works best for me is:

  1. Multiple partners: Work with two or three clients at once, so that while I’m waiting for feedback on one job, I can be working on another.
  2. Copy cheats: Mix one-night stand style jobs with longer relationships, so while I’m waiting for that second payment on the 60 day government job, I can feed myself with the little mini jobs that pop up along the way.
  3. Long distance relationships: I have a number of clients who’ve been working with me for 4-5 years, but they don’t have work every week. Rather it’s like a long distance thing where we don’t see each other in months but then just click back in to where we were.

Personally although I love the regular dosh, retainers don’t work for me. I don’t like the pressure to show up and be awesome every month.

So there you go, a dating metaphor spread (thinly) over an entire blog post.



Over to you

What type of copywriting relationships do you prefer? Please tell me in the comments below: