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Is freelance copywriting becoming a commodity?

April 27th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC, an experienced copywriter, writes:

“The market has changed quite a bit over the past 4-5 years for
freelancers. With the growing popularity of sites like Upwork and, and the flood of freelancers entering the market,
freelancing is in danger of becoming a commodity over the next
5-10 years.”

DC wants to know whether I agree. Answer: Well, yes and no. Let
me explain…..

First, yes to the fact that the market today is different — the
main change being there are so many more freelance copywriters
working today.

Contrast that to when I started freelancing in 1982, when often,
when a prospect called me, I was the only freelance copywriter
they could find.

Their choice was (a) write it themselves, (b) hire a small ad
agency or PR firm, (c) or me.

For a time, I was, as far as I could see, the only freelance
copywriter serving my niche — which back then was industrial
marketing — which gave me a huge advantage, as did my being an

Today there are many copywriters out there with engineering
backgrounds. And just many more altogether.

That being said, copywriting is already a commodity in some
markets — and yet will probably never be a commodity in others.

Copywriting is a commodity in any market where copy is either (a)
not a critical factor determining marketing success or (b) the
copy does not generate measureable response and tangible results.

This would include much of the advertising for local small
businesses as well as bigger companies that focus on either
branding or image advertising.

The reason copywriting is a commodity in these markets is that,
well, everyone today writes or thinks they can.

And when you can’t quantitatively measure the sales produced by
copy, it is difficult to prove that your copy is better than
someone else’s — hence, it is seen as a commodity.

On the other hand, copywriting is unlikely to become a commodity
in areas where it (a) is a major factor in determining marketing
success, (b) generates a tangible response (e.g., inquiries,
orders) that can be precisely measured down to the penny, and (c)
produces a positive ROI, so it is seen as a profit center and not
a cost center.

This would include most of the world of direct marketing: direct
response TV and radio, magazine and newspaper advertising, direct
mail, online sales letters, video sales letters, and
autoresponder email series.

Within direct response, long-form freelance copywriters have
traditionally been paid more and earn more than short-form
copywriters, based on the fact that there are fewer people who
can do long-form well.

And by well, I don’t mean beautiful writing or creative. I mean
beat the client’s existing long-form control.


This entry was posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018 at 10:09 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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