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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Offered a copywriting project I don’t feel experienced to do – help!”

by Rachel Smith
24 October 2018

What do you do when someone offers you work that you think you’re not really qualified for? I’ve been offered a copywriting project out of the blue and they asked for my portfolio or examples of my work and my rates. The problem is that I did that kind of work a few years ago while working in-house, and I didn’t think to keep examples. The examples that can be found online now seem dated from the point of view of SEO etc. I want to do this kind of work and have signed up for a copywriting course, but at this stage I feel somewhat out of my depth with it. On the other hand, I also feel I should just give it a go and see what happens. Should I reply:

a) Sorry, that’s not my area of expertise just yet, but I’m happy to suggest someone else.

b) To be honest, I can’t show you a portfolio in that specific field, but I’d love to do the work and see what you think, and here are lots of examples of my other writing.

c) I’d love to help you with your copywriting project. Here are my rates [having researched them before replying], but my portfolio isn’t up to date because I’ve been working in another field for the past couple of years. However, if my old boss has recommended me, please rest assured I can do the work.

I’m nervous of getting in over my head. Then again, in the past I’ve learnt a lot by plunging into something and learning by doing. Help! Adam

I understand your thought process, especially because our industry moves fast and it can feel like your old samples are so out of date they wouldn’t be of use to anyone. But the last thing you want to be doing as a freelancer is talking yourself out of new opportunities, especially ones you’ve been personally recommended for! That’s a green light that could mean an amazing new, long-term client.

We all suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome from time to time, but the most successful freelancers I see are constantly getting out of their comfort zones. Taking on stories that scare them or projects with skills they have to learn on the fly. It’s bloody nerve-wracking, but the benefits are huge: examples for your portfolio you didn’t have before, another string to your bow, more contacts and more work.

Upskilling with a copywriting course is great, too – we all need to do more of that and it will improve your confidence having recent study under your belt. But it shouldn’t be a reason to delay going for this copywriting project. You can obviously write well, you’ve done this kind of work before, and the bits you’re not sure of or the skills you don’t have can be easily learned and read up on.

I would definitely opt for c) and be as confident as possible in your reply, moving the focus away from what you CAN’T supply and instead highlighting what you can. I would detail your experience and why you’d be a good fit for the role, mention the similar work for Client A and Client B, and attach samples that show your range and are as similar as possible to what this potential new client is looking for. I’d also talk about any familiarity or passion you have for the subject matter and why you’d have no trouble writing for the client’s target audience.

You’ll be fine. Good luck and let us know how you go.

Listers, over to you – how often do you take on projects you don’t feel hugely confident about?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

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