Who pays for copy? Data from 11 years of copywriting clients.

December 12, 2013 •
Copywriter-clients-by-indus

A lot of aspiring freelance copywriters ask me who they should target with their marketing. Who’s most likely to pay for copy? I’ve always told them to start with real estate agents, because that’s where I got my start.

But I’ve never spent any time actually looking at my records. Never analysed where most of my work comes from. So I decided to do it.

Over the last two days, I’ve trawled through my records since mid-2002. 395 client folders and 1034 job folders. I did some categorising and tabulating, then created some useful graphs. Enjoy!

What industries deliver the most clients? (Click to zoom)

Copywriting clients by industry

Two notes on this graph:

  1. I’m not an expert at industry classifications. I’ve done my best, but I’m sure it could have been better.
  2. There’s often a difference between industry and subject matter. Especially in the IT & Telecommunications industry. E.g. I’ve worked for quite a few software developers, and when I did, I was writing content that was specific to THEIR clients. While it was generally fairly technical, it wasn’t about IT, per se.

 

What industries deliver the most jobs? (Click to zoom)

Copywriting jobs by industry

I retained the industry order from the previous graph, so you could easily see the industries that stand out.

 

What size/type of organisation is most likely to pay for copy?

Clients by organisation type size

NOTE: A lot of bigger companies go direct to big agencies with in-house copywriters for their marketing materials. I’m sure quite a few of the bigger companies have in-house copywriters themselves, too. So that could account for the poor showing here.

 

How many clients come through agencies?

Copywriting clients by type of engagement

 

How many jobs come through agencies?

Copywriting jobs by type of engagement

 

Types of clients in the top industries (Click to zoom)

IT & Telecommunications industry

Copywriting clients in IT industry

Sales & Marketing industry

Copywriting clients in sales and marketing industry

Finance & Insurance industry

Copywriting clients in finance industry

Real Estate industry

Copywriting clients in the real estate industry

Arts, Media & Communications industry

Copywriting clients in arts media and communications industry

Health & Beauty industry

Copywriting clients in health and beauty industry

Automotive industry

Copywriting clients in the automotive industry

Education industry

Copywriting clients in the education industry

Conclusion

Obviously things will vary, depending on how you market yourself, and what your background is. (I worked as a technical writer in the software industry for 9 years before starting Divine Write. I’m only an Arts graduate, though.). And who you know also makes a huge difference. But in my experience, your best bet is to target clients directly in the IT, Sales & Marketing, Finance, Real Estate, Communications, and Health & Beauty industries.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Sam Stone wrote on December 12th, 2013

Hi Glenn, this is great data! Thanks so much for sharing it.

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Camilla Peffer wrote on December 13th, 2013

Glenn, you really need to do a post on how creative, wordy types like us can leverage excel. I'm a real dingus when it comes to reporting and analytics, and I'm sure a lot of other writers could really use a bit of your advice. It would sure come in handy for reporting results! Getting back to your post, it's basically a reflection of my career - I'm an in-house copywriter for a domain registrar, and my last client was in sales and marketing (for real estate agents). Spookily spot-on you are Glenn.

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Glenn Murray wrote on December 15th, 2013

Thanks Camilla. I didn't really do anything fancy in this spreadsheet. Just SUMs and charts. It was all the classification that was difficult, and that was manual. Of course, I'm happy to run through that if you like, but I'm sure there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that cover it far better than I could. Or is there something specific you'd like me to cover?

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Rhonda wrote on January 23rd, 2014

This is fantastic information for me. Thanks a lot for sharing. My clients come through an agency but I hope I can find at least one other on my own to start with, and your data is going to be very useful.

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Glenn Murray wrote on January 23rd, 2014

That's wonderful to hear, Rhonda. Thanks for your kind words. I hope it helps. :-)

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Peter Wise wrote on November 6th, 2014

Fascinating, thanks Glenn. Same experience for me in several areas - size of business and sectors in particular. With agency work, IT, finance tend to be the biggies in the UK too.

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Glenn Murray wrote on November 6th, 2014

Interesting. Is your background similar to mine?

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Peter Wise wrote on November 7th, 2014

I'm a history graduate, and started out in mainstream ad agencies and have freelanced for the last 20 years. I can write most stuff...with technical writing a notable exception.

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Glenn Murray wrote on November 9th, 2014

Haha! Completely the opposite, then. :-) Very interesting that you're clients are similar, then.

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Peter Wise wrote on November 10th, 2014

Yes, and here's a strange thing. I used to have a very short page on my website - literally one paragraph. It was under the heading "Technical writing". It essentially said that was the one thing I did not do, so sorry, but you'll need to look elsewhere. Guess what page was number one on UK Google for about a year for the phrase "technical writer"? Yup - I never knew Google spiders could have a sense of humour.

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Glenn Murray wrote on November 11th, 2014

Brilliant! I hope you wrote a case study about it? Or at least took some side-by-side screenshots!

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33 software tools for freelance copywriters wrote on April 10th, 2015

[…] create spreadsheets for everything. From buying a new video card to mining 11 years of data to identify who pays for copy. But the thing I use them for most often, on a day-to-day basis, is quoting on […]

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10 tips for making yourself look bigger with your copywriting wrote on June 12th, 2015

[…] lot of my clients are startups and SOHOs. But they operate businesses that need to appear bigger and more established than […]

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Mark wrote on July 11th, 2015

Hi Glenn What type of jobs did you do for real estate agents? Copy for regular listings, larger featured listings, brochures? TIA

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Glenn Murray wrote on July 13th, 2015

G'day Mark. Yeah, all of the above. I started with residential property descriptions, but that quickly turned into commercial property descriptions, then corporate brochure copy (for agencies and developers) and all sorts of other stuff. These days, I don't write many property descriptions of any sort, because agents don't seem to value them enough to pay properly.

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