A decade of freelancing

After 10 years freelance writing and marketing, what’s changed?

My 10th anniversary as a freelancer crept up on me almost unawares, I started receiving congratulations messages via LinkedIn even though I had been saying I had been self-employed for almost 10 years for ages. It dawned on me that whilst I was essentially doing the same thing, everything has changed. To a point.

img_1263When I first started out it was as a freelance marketer mainly working for automotive retail groups, I was mostly writing their copy for websites, microsites promoting new launches, quarterly website offers and email campaigns with a few bits of print thrown in for good measure.

Websites, whilst established, were still finding their way into the hearts and minds of potential customers. Dealer groups were pushing the boundaries with manufacturers who were then desperate to maintain control and keen to deter dealers from staking their own claim in cyber space. Inevitably, it proved too big a mountain to climb and now we see dealers both appearing as a sub-domain on manufacturer sites and dealer groups, large and small, providing some of the most impressive digital experiences for consumers online.

Back then, dealers focusing on their own websites were somewhat mavericks and someone who could continually provide copy on latest models, news stories and copy for offers was in demand.

Now, many dealer groups have in-house digital teams, which often include writers or editors, and a blog is very much an essential part of the marketing toolkit. Some blogs are very good, some are awful.

The blogging revolution has meant over the past five years I have moved closer to my journalistic roots providing content in the form of the written word. I have also naturally expanded my clientele, mainly in the B2B sphere albeit with a leaning towards automotive and automotive suppliers although other sectors include energy, commercial property and IT. I also keep my toe dipped in the automotive retail water providing both blog and marketing copy for dealers.

But digital has become a very sophisticated environment and time-poor consumers have developed an insatiable appetite for video. Does that mean my days are numbered? Will the written word gradually be eroded to be replaced entirely by the visual?

Images and video have dramatically impacted the way in which consumers glean their information on the products and services they are considering purchasing. However, it is difficult to imagine a world without words. Yes, I know, I would say that, I earn my living through the written word and would like to think I have at least another 10 years of bashing away at a keyboard to earn my crust.

Consumers want to access as much information as possible in a multitude of formats and that also means reading about that which they are considering buying. And I don’t mean marketing, flowery, brochure-like speak. They have moved way beyond that kind of copy. They want facts and insights to help them make a decision as well as being able to see the company’s ‘personality’ shine through and assess its credibility.

That’s great news for people like me, but companies are also seeing the value of third party content, particularly in the form of independent consumer reviews. You wouldn’t consider eating out or taking a holiday let alone buying a car without finding out what your fellow consumers have to say about the restaurant, resort, holiday company, type of car or your local dealer.

So that’s bad news for people like me, right? Just like photographers and video makers, our professional content is now easily replaced by that from the consumers themselves.

The truth is (as I see it), companies, whether they are selling cars, carpets or candles, need a healthy dose of everything. Yes, it’s harder to convince new clients they should invest in a decent writer, especially when results don’t come overnight and is often a combination of several different factors (written content, video, an integrated social strategy and an excellent SEO campaign), but you need good, fresh and compelling content which mixes video, images and writing to gain traction and cut-through.

It may not quite be a new dawn, a new day or a new era for writers, but in a world increasingly dominated by the visual, words still matter. And, yes, inevitably some of those words will be spoken, but someone still needs to write the script.

Will the likes of me still be bashing away at our keyboards in 10 years’ time? Well, I certainly think so.

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