Chas Walton is a freelance copywriter and the words behind Text Wizard Copywriting. He describes himself as short, balding, and easily overlooked – apart from when he’s on his unicycle. It’s his small-man compensatory device – extreme but effective.
You’ve reached your 20th year as a copywriter. What’s kept you tapping for two decades?
I need the money. And I’m unemployable. When you’ve been your own boss for so long, you can never go back to the corporate hierarchy and the daily grind.
I’ve had 20 years of freedom and financial independence, and enjoyed the drama of office politics as an outsider. It doesn’t touch me.
Somewhere in the Sermon on the Mount there’s a line that says, ‘Blessed are the freelancers, for they shall not fear the blade of corporate back-stabbing’. Something like that.
Sounds like you might fit the writer stereotype – the introverted loner
Probably. I live in the middle of a field – just six cottages in my tiny hamlet – and I work in complete silence. The silence thing is practical: that’s how I immerse myself in the lives of client and customer.
When the writing’s going well, I’ll have drifted into their world. Or maybe not. My imagined version of it is probably way off-beam. But it does make the copy more colourful.
You charge more than most, and I’ve never understood how you get away with it. What’s your trick?
Confidence. Or brass neck. Depends where you’re coming from. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to be Mr Average by charging a middle-of-the-road going rate. It became a point of honour to be more expensive than competitors who, without ever thinking about it, were using price to badge themselves as average.
It got to the stage where I felt I’d let myself down if I wasn’t the most expensive writer in a competitive pitch. Means you have to work a lot harder to win the job. But it can be done. And clients always come back for more if they like what you do.
Does that mean you think you’re better than other copywriters?
Yes, there’s a lot of rubbish writing out there. I think I’m way better than that – and that you are too. I also know that there are writers who are far more talented than I am.
One thing I don’t do is tell clients that I’m better because it’s a guaranteed turn-off (I’ve already lost you half your blog audience) and completely unprovable.
I win people over through the work – by giving them copy and a support service that convinces them that I’m worth coming back to.
Any tips for other writers?
Charge more. Obviously. Make yourself indispensable by taking on tedious elements of your client’s work. A decent rate covers you for the extra work that’s not in the brief.
Never grumble, either. You can be the one person in your client’s business life who’s utterly dependable and smilingly immune to project delays caused by departmental rivalries and gratuitous stakeholder interference. Blessed are the freelancers etc, etc.
But it’s okay to grumble – off the record – to other copywriters. If those annoying clients didn’t exist, what else would we have to talk about?
And any tips for clients?
Ooh, now there’s a question. Pay more. Obviously. Do not attempt to amend copy yourself – you’ll just mess things up. Tell your writer what’s missing or not working – and why – and they’ll fix it much more efficiently than you can. In short, you get on with your job and let them get on with theirs.