Quantity instead of quality: The truth about the life of a copywriter

The last months and years I have worked repeatedly as a freelance copywriter and editor. Actually, a good endeavour one think.

Because freelance work offers people so many options. One can do what one really loves and wants. And one earn money with this. One is independent from the criticism of just one boss. What sounds unbelievable relaxing at first glance is sometimes a true hell ride in practice. Because lousy clients, constant discontent and a permanent time pressure have stolen me much time, sleep and energy. And all this effort for just a small pocket money.

An excellent copywriter needs to acquire renown. And that requires much time and perseverance. Or one can find right away someone who appreciates the diligence and the quality of one’s work. But in the mass of self-proclaimed writers that’s not so easy. Because let’s be honest: Nowadays many companies opt for the price and not for the quality if they want to hire a copywriter. So it happens that someone from Thailand who has learned German as a second language, perhaps as a third one, writes a German advertising text for less than half of the price a resident would charge. This new type of outsourcing for cost savings is poison for all dedicated copywriter, just like me. I wouldn’t say that this Thai scribbler is less talented, but in my experience it is impossible to write a text of 1,200 words for just 11 Euros. Just consider that the price includes the research, too. But that’s something what happens often to me and other German writers. The competitors beat the prices and get the nod. An easy market-based calculation. But what results is partly a catastrophe.

An example from my experience: I wrote three and a half hours a new article for a German organization. In advance we agreed 60 Euros to pay. The requirements were clarified and the content was determined before. What sounds very promising, turned out to be a total flop. Because shortly after I had sent the text, the organization ended promptly our cooperation. The reasoning was extremely devastating for me as a writer. Finally, the communication manager pulled me to pieces. For example she wrote as a justification: “Unfortunately, the article didn’t meet our requirements at all.” And although I had complied with the prescribed guidelines. This sentence was followed by other flimsy and sometimes very meaningless justifications. Lately she finished the message by saying: “I think it’s the best if we stop the cooperation here.” All my work was counted for nothing. And to be honest I absolutely couldn’t understand what the problem was. So I did some research and found out that already several freelancers had applied to that job. And none of them was hired, except for one writer from Eastern Europe who works for a fifth of the price that I had charged. That was the true reason: I was too expensive. If the organization had a real interest in my work and also in my person, they would have criticized me and would have let me adapt the article for no extra cost.

And the whole issue kept moving: I had a look on the organization’s website. And to my glee I could realize that many commas and even words are missing in the articles. Any good copywriter edits his texts before sending them. Of course, one or two errors can sneak in. But how can it be that there are five errors in a small paragraph? And that although the organization places much importance on quality. At least that was the self-assessment and also a reason for my career there.

Through this experience, I learned that from now I just work with people if there is sympathy at first glance. People with whom I skyped and not just wrote previously. And I know my own value. I’d rather have a few jobs which are paid well than to work for just one Cent per word. Let’s count once: If I work for a Cent a word and I want to earn a monthly wage of 1,000 Euros, I have to write 100,000 words every month. These are about 25,000 words a week and 5,000 words daily. Of course, that’s possible. But where is the money for research and subsequent modifications? And 1 cent per word is still highly charged compared to many job opportunities. Some companies are looking for copywriters who create texts of 1,000 words for 5 Euros and even less. This is true wage dumping. And gets worse by second language speakers from Eastern Europe and overseas.

It seems as if quality becomes a commodity in these days that’s no longer important in the light of a faster rotating internet society. The main point is that the content is keyword optimized, so that the company reaches the first rank on Google search. This generates more clicks and attracts more visitors per day. The fact that the produced content is meaningless sometimes and just a sequence of keywords, that’s a irrelevant fact. To be honest, as a potential client I would stand back from such websites which just publish low-quality texts. Because if the company already doesn’t put emphasis on its marketing – and content is finally a part of it -, how shall be the customer orientation?

Many communications agencies struggle with the increasing wage dumping. They usually offer word rates of not less than 15 Cents. In a text of 1,000 words, one need to pay 150 Euros. Understandable, because the employees must be able to live from their work. And so good agencies and excellent copywriters are becoming increasingly rare. They are replaced by speed and ephemerality. Probably exactly those t

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