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Freelance Copywriters Sound Off About Silence

In the popular imagination, a freelance copywriter is the coffee shop customer wearing earpods and click-clacking away on their laptop. Even ad agency writers working in cool offices might be envious of the flexibility their freelance peers enjoy.

But reality does not correspond with perception, at least according to what The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City (FX of KC) found in an email questionnaire sent to its copywriter members. Our respondents overwhelmingly said they prefer the quiet of their home office.

Typical of the responses was this one from FX of KC founder, and freelance rockstar, Julie Cortes: “I can’t concentrate in a coffee shop,” she wrote. “Too many (Shiny things!) distractions. I usually have to have it be super quiet, too. No music, no podcasts, no nothin’.”

Solitary home offices can be, well, awfully solitary, so public libraries and patio tables got a nod from Mallory Herrmann to “keep myself out of a rut.” You might also see her at a coffee shop!

Another interesting similarity among our freelance copywriter respondents was the way they approach writer’s block. A couple typical strategies included taking a walk or just simply getting something down on paper, knowing that there is always room for editing and rearranging.

Christine Knauer talked about “working around the margins of the project” to get started, such as doing research, editing transcribed interviews, and even formatting the page. “It allows me to keep moving forward with the project without having to be creative just yet,” she wrote.

By now, most of us have heard about the Great Resignation — where the COVID-19 pandemic spurred droves of workers to quit their jobs after taking stock of their lives during the months of lockdown. Many of these workers decided to hang out their own shingle — and freelance copywriters were surely among that group.

There are now nearly 60 million freelancers in the United States, according to Don’t Do It Yourself (DDIY), which provides advice and reviews for businesses seeking freelance workers. DDIY says 41% of the American workforce freelanced in the year 2020, up 13% since 2013. 

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh noted that many of these new solopreneurs do strictly online freelancing, through platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour

The researchers wrote about the familiar benefits of flexibility and the potential to earn more money, but they also highlighted downsides like commoditization of work and the “unpredictability of a contingent labor market, especially in the absence of labor regulations and rights.” 

But FX of KC freelance copywriter Mike Sherry did not see much of a downside to his decision to go out on his own. He said, “After 30 years in journalism, I wanted to apply my skills in a different way and to be my own boss. The pluses are that I make my own decisions without any second-guessing from colleagues or vetoes from bosses. The minus, of course, is the difficulty of chasing and landing new business — but that is a challenge, too, which could sort of go in the plus category.”

Regardless of the ups and downs of freelancing, many choose this path every year. Joyce Allard said, “I was a copywriter at a full-service advertising agency earlier in my career. After 20+ years in public relations and communications, I decided it was the right time to start my own business as a freelance copywriter. Working with clients and having their projects come to life is rewarding in many ways.”

The FX of KC is for Freelancers, Contractors, Consultants and whatever else you call yourself. There’s a place for you here! Want to learn more about FX of KC