So, What Commercial Writing Projects Are You Working on These Days?

In my case, too many, if my long absence from the blog is any indication…. 😉 But that’s a good thing (the “being-busy”? thing, not the “not-blogging”? thing) . And I’ve taken my own advice (from the 7/22/08 post below) and started asking for more money, and no one’s balking. I’m telling you, when it comes to raising your rates – you’re the hardest “sell,”? not the client.

Anyway, I got a note from a new reader of TWFW recently, asking, “Curious. Are you mostly doing web copy in this day and age, or are you pretty much in the same industry as you started?” I guess the thinking was that the web has taken over the world and that, as such, that’s all we’d be doing. He IS new to the business. Obviously, there’s plenty of the traditional marketing communications pieces still being done out there.

But, it got me thinking about what people are working on these days. I figure, by sharing what’s on our plates these days, and how we landed it, it can showcase the wide variety of projects that make up the commercial writing sphere, while also giving us ideas about some new directions to go in, suggest to clients, hunt down, etc. And give any newbie lurkers? some confidence that this gig truly IS for real (in case they’re wondering…)

Me? I’m working on a brochure for an online high school catering to home-schoolers. It’ll be used at trade shows or in other “leave-behind”? scenarios. That’ll be followed by a catalog for the school. A graphic designer found me somehow, asked if I knew a writer in his area (an hour away), nothing panned out, he steered his client to my site, she loved it, called me up, and we were in business.

I’m also working on a case study for a building materials company (my sixth project for them), originally landed through a speechwriter friend of mine (whom I thank with free lunches every few months for the many thousands it’s put in my pocket).

Also working on some copy for a menu insert for a well-known restaurant chain – pretty high-level demographics, psychographics, etc. Amazing how much agonizing goes into what people are thinking when they read a menu (personally, I think they could care less, as long as their meal is good, but hey, they want to pay me well to agonize, I’ll agonize).

Plus, some book titling and back-cover copywriting for three self-publishing authors through my coaching program. Fun stuff.

So, what are you working on these days?

How did you land it?

Noticing any uptick or downturn in certain kinds of projects?

27 replies
  1. Jeff Van Leuvan
    Jeff Van Leuvan says:

    I just received the go-ahead to produce a tri-fold brochure for a bed and breakfast. He is my next-door neighbor and wants me to handle the whole thing including printing. I will be doing this one dirt cheap because I am in the portfolio-building stage. In fact, it’s my first-ever project so I guess I’m officially in business now!

  2. peter
    peter says:

    Excellent, Jeff! Congrats – may it be the beginning of an increasingly fun, creative and profitable career…;)


  3. Alan Stamm
    Alan Stamm says:

    To paraphrase from your post, Peter:
    . . . Hey, you want to let me talk about myself, I’ll talk about myself.

    Gladly. In addition to also generating trifolds and other leave-behinds for several professional service firms, I’m one of those seeing an uptick since last year in assignments for online use.

    Your query sent me swiveling to look at the white board: Four of eight projects under way or awaiting proposal acceptances involve web content.

    One reason, I believe, is that businesses with tiny or no MarCom staffing increasingly recognize the need to upgrade or replace sites launched 5 to 10 years ago. Some know a blog would be smart, but have no one to write it well or consistently. (One of my here’s-hoping proposals is for weekly posts for a national supply chain management consultant).

    Others want a flashier (or, literally, Flash-ier) look, which leads to content revisions in the same way that home improvements translate into new furniture, floor coverings and window treatments.

    I land most of those gigs through affiliations with two marketing/PR agencies — a win-win that gives them the cost-efficiency of an on-call writer whose fees are marked up to cover client-finding, project management, office overhead . . . and lets me do more of what I enjoy and less cold-calling. Plus, did I mention surefire checks in 30 days, even when end users are slow-pay?

    And here’s a Bowerman-style bit of symbiosis: One current site content upgrades is for a design studio whose creative director became familiar with my work through projects we collaborate on for an agency.

    The white board also lists two monthly newsletters that are standing projects — one agency-procured and the other a direct-to-client service for a business process outsourcing firm referred to me by an agency partner because they were too small to sign. That was four years ago. They’ve grown, and haven’t outgrown me.

    Thanks again for asking, PB. Enough about me . . . let’s see what’s keeping others well-fed.

  4. Susan Johnston
    Susan Johnston says:

    In addition to my regular ghostblogging gig, I just finished a donor appreciation email for a nonprofit and a press release for a nanny business. Next week I start a project writing product descriptions for an e-commerce site. The press release was from someone who found my website and contacted me. I answered an online ad for the nonprofit writing, and the product descriptions were courtesy of another writer I’ve known for several years. Despite the economy, there still seems to be a steady demand for copywriting of all types!

  5. peter
    peter says:

    Thanks Alan and Susan! Sounds like both of you are seeing a healthy robust demand for copywriting, which is what all of us want to hear. Keep up the good work!


  6. Debbi
    Debbi says:

    I’ve been doing some grant writing–got my latest clients through a Job list posting and word-of-mouth. I’d like to do more writing (grants, marketing or articles for their pubs) for nonprofits, and I’m trying to narrow my focus to two or three main areas.

    I also just picked up my first Web writing project–word-of-mouth again. Networking really can pay off.

    I’m doing a book review for a local monthly business paper. Got that through networking. I used to write articles for much less than what they’re going to pay for this review. And since I’m always reading and reviewing books for my blog at, I figured it was a no-lose proposition.

    I also write fiction, but haven’t made much off that yet. Perhaps someday . . .

  7. Joseph Ratliff
    Joseph Ratliff says:

    Hey PB! 🙂

    My plate is full of the autoresponder messages, and other email communication. It also contains offline small business website development, and the copy that goes on those sites, along with the related autoresponder series.

    I landed these projects by “hanging out” where my market does, and networking in my local business community (these guys will write checks pretty easily once you convey value). Now, I know that “educating your market” is sometimes a more challenging way to go…but if you have a background in business development like I do, it’s easy stuff. You carry on a conversation with a business owner, by acting like one yourself (which you are if you’re a FLCW).

    I notice a serious need for online copy for offline businesses…so the workflow will probably never stop for awhile.

    Joseph Ratliff

  8. Susan Weiner
    Susan Weiner says:


    I’m landing my new clients through networking of various sorts. One of my new clients became aware of me because I speak across the U.S. and Canada on “How to Write Investment Commentary that People Will Read.” In another case, a former co-worker’s husband heard about an opportunity that I learned about when I met my co-worker for coffee. Yet another came because after referring work to another writer, I asked him for a contact, got that contact’s permission to add him to my e-newsletter distribution, and that contact eventually introduced me to his colleague who edits a newsletter. My industry association article came from writing an LOI (letter of introduction) to the editorial director. I’m also getting repeat business from old clients.

    Recently I’ve been referring work to other writers because so many prospects have come my way. However, I know I need to keep marketing.

    In August I’m:
    * Ghostwriting an article for a pension consulting firm
    * Rewriting a thought leadership article for a business consulting firm
    * Writing a magazine article for an industry association
    * Writing articles for a 403(b) plan’s retiree newsletter and a financial industry trade publication
    * Wrapping up a quarterly newsletter
    * Nudging one of my ongoing clients to do the administrative work required to launch the new newsletter I’ve created for them

  9. Craig
    Craig says:

    Let’s see, what’s on the plate right now…

    Just finished tagline work for a probate liquidation company, and got the go ahead to start the copy for a tri-fold for them. This was a referral from a FLGD (freelance graphic designer) friend.

    Web copy and a newsletter for a newly formed Drag Racing association here in the Southeast. This one came from just telling an acquaintance what I was doing now.
    “So is your association going to do a newsletter?”
    “Yeah, we talked about that at the last meeting. Why, can you do those?”
    “I can write it, and I have partners that can take care of the layout and printing. By the way, does the association have a web site?”
    “We’re working on that right now.”
    “Really? …”

    Editing brochure copy for a company who provides inventory-tracking hardware/software for small to medium sized businesses. I picked this one up by surfing my FLGD friend’s coattails.

    So I’ve got a little bit of online, and printed marketing projects going right now. I do plan to specialize down the road, but being new to the biz, I’m taking whatever I can get my hands on. Building the portfolio, gaining experience with different mediums, and learning the ropes of self-employment – all while getting paid to do it.

    Not a bad deal at all.

  10. peter
    peter says:

    Thanks Debbie, Joseph, Susan and Craig,

    Love the variety represented here! So many diverse businesses, needs, backgrounds, skill sets, motivations. Very cool. Keep it up and keep ’em coming!


  11. Michael Kelberer
    Michael Kelberer says:

    Hi Peter,
    How I get the business: I’ve been networking and making “warm calls” – and the latter is something I swore I wouldn’t do in spite of your books. Guess what – almost all my revenue has come from calling, although this month I picked up two projects through BNI connections and one through LinkedIn.
    On my plate this month:
    1. Identity/rebranding materials for a high-end painting company (verbal branding, web site, brochure for sure)
    2. Business plan for dot-com company
    3. Web site/sell sheet/LinkedIn profile copy for a business consultant (this is a trade for “enthusiastic referrals” into her business circle
    4. Web site/sell sheet/LinkedIn profile copy for a graphics/marketing person (1/2 cash, 1/2 same trade as above)
    5. Before (4) got off the ground, she hired me to do copy for a full page ad and microsite for an event she was working on for a client.
    6. Web site copy for a photographer
    7. Web site copy for the commercial side of a flooring/carpeting company

    I’m not going to make the self-sufficient in six months target, but doing well considering the economy and the fact that it’s been summer. Okay, and a certain lack of self-discipline on the marketing front 🙂

  12. Beth Carter
    Beth Carter says:

    I do a lot of work with local small- and medium-sized businesses, and I agree with one of the earlier posters, that many of these companies put up their website three or four years ago, and now they find that they’re ready to update and rewrite what they have. So yes, I’ve been doing a lot of web copy.

    The challenge of that, though, is one that Nick Usborne recently touched on in his newsletter (if there’s any readers of his out there). Because I work for mostly my local market, as I’m redoing all of these websites I have to make sure that each one sounds original. I don’t want a bunch of carbon copies out there — won’t be good for my clients, which won’t be good for me either.

    It’s funny, a lot of this work came from one small project. A graphic designer friend needed an updated bio to post on our Chamber of Commerce’s website. I helped him out, and immediately got a referral from three other companies to do theirs, also. One of them liked the new bio enough that they added it to their website, which helped them realize that the rest of the website could stand to be updated as well (of course I might have nudged them a little also!). And then they liked the website enough that word got around, and pretty soon I’m doing a bunch of websites for a bunch of local companies. Hey, whatever works, right? 🙂

  13. Sean Romanoff
    Sean Romanoff says:

    Hi Peter – I’ve been writing and teaching composition part-time for five years, but last Fall I needed to make this a full-time business and I started moving in that direction in January of this year.

    Right now I have four regular clients – a dentist, a dance studio, a nonprofit, and – the feather in my cap – a law school. I’ll begin working this month with another client, an after-school enrichment program, later this month. That should be an ongoing relationship, too. And I still teach composition at a local university (I highly recommend that for the contact with young people…not so much for the pay. lol)

    As far as the work I do for them…it really varies. The law school is specific, so I do web copy for them as part of a major site overhaul. But I do web copy, brochures, case studies, special reports, and more for my other clients.

    One thing I’ve found is that small businesses need, and want, marketing consulting. Nothing fancy, just writing a plan, tracking what works, or streamlining their USP. As long as I’m sensitive to their financial constraints, they’ve always found room for me in that budget – so far, for more money than I originally suggest. And I haven’t had any payment problems yet.

    My goal is to expand the number of small businesses I work with and then to add some B2B clients to diversify my business. I’m not totally where I need to be financially, but I’m much closer than I ever would have imagined on 01/01/08…and you’re books, epub, and blog have been a big help.

    Thanks – Sean Romanoff

  14. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    My current projects include:
    – a quarterly online newsletter for a department at a local university
    – ongoing work, including project management and editing a book for the same folks
    – a series of direct mail letters for another university
    – coming up (hopefully): a tri-fold brochure, marketing plan and web site design and content for an organic farm
    – ongoing web site work (I do web design also) for a new-age store, including setting up a blog

    I got the local university job through contacts that I had from working there previously. The new-age store owner is a friend. The direct mail company found me through my personal blog! And the tri-fold brochure/website/marketing plan I got from some direct mail marketing postcards (I send them out to prospects every 3-4 months and usually get 1-2 jobs as a result).

    I need to do more marketing — and get in with some local PR/advertising agencies. I work part-time so I don’t need a huge heaping plate full of work, but it is nice when it’s overflowing a bit and steady. With 2 little kids, getting out and networking is really hard.

    On a different note, I took my own advice when quoting my most recent job and increased my rate a bit and they went for it. *sigh of relief*

  15. tom
    tom says:

    Hi Peter,

    These days find me doing a few more commissioned articles than I anticipated. However, I also have have just finished writing two 30 second radio spots for a nationally syndicated radio station (39 markets), a print ad for a local not-for-profit radio station, and have targeted two local small businesses to create direct sales letters for.

    On top of that I continue to write and sell my own information products (eBooks).

    Oh, and I still have a full-time job. . . .


  16. Chris Wood
    Chris Wood says:

    What am I working on? My book, which is overdue and should be out soon – “The Ingredients of a Good Thriller.” When it comes out please buy a copy, it will change your life. Probably.

  17. Craig
    Craig says:

    I’ll buy a copy just because of the last 6 words of your post.

    “it will change your life. Probably.” – Too Funny!!

  18. peter
    peter says:

    Thanks Michael, Beth, Sean, Joanna and Tom,

    Appreciate the contributions. Good stuff, all!

    And Chris, good luck on your probably life-changing book… 🙂 And Craig, I’d buy a copy, too. Wouldn’t it be worth the price of the book for even a decent chance of having your changed… 😉


  19. Christopher Richards
    Christopher Richards says:

    I am ghostwriting a management book. They hired me because they want it to be funny. I actually get work from my anti-work website ( I’ve just finished a corporate values statement for a start up, and I’m now working with a senator on a long article that could be described as a manifesto.

  20. Kristie Lorette
    Kristie Lorette says:

    I am working on three client projects at the moment:

    1. Sales sheet for an online real estate company
    2. Web content for a real estate content management company (5-12 articles per day)
    3. Banner ads and webpage updates for an online bank (regular client but the type of work varies)

    For my “own” work, I am submitting my fiction book to agents to try and get it published, a fiction short story, and a true short story.

  21. Matt Johnson
    Matt Johnson says:

    Feeling Googley. I’m writing copy for Google AdWords. The ad groups
    are attracting clients to a branding agency’s website.

    I am also starting work on some blogs of my own which will generate recurring revenue.

  22. Damaria Senne
    Damaria Senne says:

    I’ve been lurking for a while and I’ve finally decided to share. My projects include:
    – 12 case studies, 5 thought leadership pieces and two corporate profiles for an annual publication – I used to work for the publisher and they were happy to retain my services when I went freelance.
    – 3 articles for a monthly electronic newsletter – I used to write about them back when I was a journalist, and now they use my services directly
    – copy for municipal newsletter – brother of a friend landed the design/publishing end of the business and suggested I do the copy.

  23. Shayla
    Shayla says:

    I am a sophomore commercial writing major with a minor in advertising and I really need your help. Writing is my passion, but I have a dilemma. What jobs are there for me? I want to be an author, but I know I can’t just wake up one morning with five published books. Will I really be able to put bread on the table? Not just bread, but steak, too. I do not want to be rich, but I want to be secure and know that I did not waste my college career on something I won’t be able to use. Can you please tell me what career opportunities there are for me, along with pay? I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  24. Joseph Ratliff
    Joseph Ratliff says:

    Hi Shayla!

    In my opinion, “pay” will be what you make of it.

    As a freelance writer, which I assume you are speaking of becoming, your ability to market your writing business and “sell” your services to others will determine your “pay”.

    A good question to ask yourself is… How bad do you want “steak” instead of “bread”?

    I can guarantee you didn’t waste your college on something you can’t use…what you have to do now is analyze what tools that gave you to present to potential clients. But you can’t just do a “surface” analysis here…you really have to look deep within yourself and list out your strengths and weaknesses…

    Then focus your promotional efforts around your strengths.

    You can develop your weaknesses as time goes on, if you want to. I found in my own writing / consulting business that my weaknesses are still my weaknesses…and that I only really used about 5 – 10% of my strengths to be successful thus far.

    Your strengths will also translate into your career opportunities.

    For example, if you are a strong salesperson…direct response copywriting might be for you (as PB’s path)…

    If you’re a strong content writer, writing articles and blog content, along with other opportunities like inter-office newsletters and corporate memos might be for you.

    It’s really up to you. Don’t limit yourself.

    Now…for a look in the mirror…

    In my opinion, your statement:

    “I do not want to be rich, but I want to be secure and know that I did not waste my college career on something I won’t be able to use.”

    Is a self-limiting statement…and could translate into a self-limiting mindset for you. In my opinion, there is no such thing as “security” in any business…but you can create that “security” by continuing to promote yourself…and focusing on your client’s needs (this is a DEEP subject, so I cannot get into complete detail here).

    Also, “I do not want to be rich”…stop and think about that for a second Shayla…what is rich to you? 🙂

    I would challenge that you DO in fact want to be rich, but that you might feel “security” is part of the path to get there…and I would further challenge that “security” ISN’T the path to get there.

    Removing all self-limiting mindsets and road blocks is a good start to getting rich.

    Just my opinion, take it for what it’s worth.

    Best of luck to you Shayla.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Internet Business Growth Specialist
    Direct Response Copywriter
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  25. Lauri
    Lauri says:

    I am…BUSY!

    As for writing, I am currently working on a 30,000 word overview of stem cell research for middle school readers; the same publisher has contracted me to do 3 more books in the same series over the next year. For a different educational publisher I am contracted to do over the next year 12 anthologies that will be sold to school and public libraries. A third educational publisher has contracted me to do 3 titles for younger readers, the first of which I will begin researching next week. Finally, I just finished ghostwriting a book on pregnancy for expectant fathers for a trade publisher I do semi-regular work for, and am negotiating my next project for them, which will be ghostwriting a dieting guide.

    As for editing, I am currently editing content for an encyclopedia on American literature. I am also occasionally contacted by clients I normally write for to help with editing when their in-house staff is overwhelmed.

    As for “other” I have a weekly gig submitting abstracts of public policy articles to a well-known database.

    I have been a full-time freelancer for about 2 years. Many of my assignments have resulted from contacts leftover from my career as an in-house editor with a young adult non-fiction publishing house. Other clients have contacted me via referrals from other writers and editors I’ve worked with at some point in time. Finally, I’ve gotten about 30 percent of my business off of Craigslist-type ads.

    It is so interesting to see what everyone is up to and how they got there. Every now and then I worry that my whole professional life is an anomaly, a freak accident that could be taken away from me at any moment. But with each passing year, my increased earnings and growing client list help me gain the confidence to believe that my freelancing life is for real and for keeps.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image