Celebrating 10 Years as a Freelance Copywriter

| April 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

Wow, that went fast. I’ve just realised, after a quick finger-count, that I’ve been a freelance copywriter for ten years. It was the best career move I ever made. But things have changed dramatically since 2006. Here’s a retrospective, plus a toast to the next ten. I don’t have any grand ambitions. As long as I continue to adore writing and I get to provide top class content for my clients, that’s fine by me.

Ten years down the freelance writer line…

What did the content creation landscape look like ten years ago? Like the Wild West. Things were pretty crazy. SEO-savvy clients would give me lists of keywords to crowbar into online content, demand a high percentage keyword density and off I’d go, sometimes even writing to a strict SEO-focused template.

The bad old days of copywriting – Keywords first, quality second

The idea was to capitalise on the fact that simply stuffing a piece of copy with keywords meant Google and co automatically zoomed it to the top of page one in the SERPs. It was simple. It worked. But from my perspective it was a crap way to work. It meant I trollied out sub-standard copy that I was often ashamed of.

I always did the best possible job under the circumstances. But being forced to use the same set of keywords tens of times within a piece of content meant it rarely sounded natural and it didn’t deliver much value to readers. Putting search engines first and users second wasn’t sustainable. Thankfully for people like me, Google eventually cracked down.

Google Panda sorts the men from the boys

It did so in the shape of Google Panda, a game-changing search algorithm change first released in February 2011. Panda quickly suppressed the rankings of low-quality ‘thin’ content in favour of higher quality stuff. The move destroyed some businesses completely but benefited Google users no end. And it meant I could finally get out from under the onerous keyword burden, lighten up and begin to write proper content that people actually appreciated, enjoyed reading, valued and shared.

The social media revolution and Penguin woes

Shared? That’s a relatively new one. Social media were in their infancy back in 2006, too. When they finally went mainstream they triggered yet another online marketing sea-change of epic proportions. As did Google’s Penguin update, released in spring 2012, which suppressed websites that manipulated dodgy links to win natural search visibility. For someone like me, who has a lot of marketing industry experience, it was beginning to look like digital marketing was finally growing up.

Remember the pre-blogging olden days?

When I look back at the first posts I wrote in my own blog, it’s clear that blogging was in its infancy back then, too. Very few businesses ran a blog. Many of the early adopters hosted their blogs on separate URLs from their main business, a nutty thing to do. Vast numbers of businesses started blogs, fired with enthusiasm for cutting edge innovations, then abandoned them, which looked a lot worse than not having one in the first place.

These days, of course, blogging is the keystone of every content marketing plan. And today more than half of my copywriting projects involve blogging on behalf of time-poor business owners, large and small, local, national and international.

What does the copywriting future hold?

What does the future hold for freelance writers like me? If I’d asked myself the same question when I started my direct marketing career in 1990, way before the internet existed in its current form, the answer would have been ‘more of the same’. The internet changed all that. These days I don’t know what the future will hold for content creators and content marketers. It’s far too unpredictable. Only a few core fundamentals are clear:

  • The user experience will remain a search engine priority, and Google will continue to do its best to prevent unfair manipulation of its search algorithm
  • Human beings will always enjoy reading and sharing good quality content more than the rubbishy stuff
  • Unless the way computers work changes beyond our wildest imaginings, words will remain the single most influential thing search engines use to decode, classify, rate and rank information on the internet
  • While the web is here to stay, the way we access and consume it will keep changing

All of which hints at exciting times ahead and, if we’re lucky, a satisfyingly rocky ride. I do enjoy a challenge!

Happy 10th anniversary to me

Thank you to all my lovely customers, past and present. I’m genuinely looking forward to another ten years sitting at my desk, tapping away on my own, writing online content and copy for printed collateral of every kind. I’ll do it until I drop, exhausted yet satisfied. Bring it on.

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Category: Diary

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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