Freelance life

Brand it Like Beckham: a Quick and Dirty Guide to Branding Yourself as a Copywriter

Man showing tatoo on his back made in studio

Try a little experiment with me.

Close your eyes and picture David Beckham for a few seconds, then open them again.

I bet you weren’t seeing DB in football strip.

He slipped the surly bonds of footie a long time ago and has metamorphosed fully into a brand.

The tattoos. The wife. The kids. The designer clothes. The endorsements. The product lines. The fashion shoots. The whole DB-ishness.

There are better footballers than David Beckham. But few are better at personal branding. Which is where you come in.

Are you a brand? Do your customers know what you stand for? Or are you a commodity?

I review freelance copywriters’ websites regularly, and nine times out of ten, what I see is a commodity.

The prevailing messages are:

I can write copy.

I love writing copy.

Here is why it’s a good idea to hire a freelance copywriter.

Here are some generic articles about basic copywriting techniques.

I like pictures of vintage typewriters.

I am inexpensive.

There is nothing to differentiate one from another. So, no branding.

But without a brand, you are vulnerable.

Vulnerable to any other copywriter who professes the same ideas you do.

Vulnerable to cut-price content mills who claim all you need is words.

Vulnerable to hard-headed clients who have ‘haggle’ running through them like Blackpool through a stick of rock.

Why is a personal brand important?

Why do you need a personal brand?

First, it protects you against these sorts of threats. It marks you out from the crowd and says, “if you want any old copywriter, there are zillions around. But if you want THIS copywriter, it’s going to cost”.

Second, people like to buy brands. They often buy the brand rather than the product. There is a rather special sports car called a Nissan GT-R. It is considerably faster than many Italian supercars. But it is a Nissan, and that puts people off.

When we buy a brand we see ourselves reflected in the brand. Perhaps as we are, or, more likely, as we would like to be.

This aspirational quality of brands is what enables firms such as Porsche and Prada to sell sunglasses. Maybe the dress or the car is beyond us, but the accessories, now those we can afford.

Third, brands are memorable in a way that products aren’t. Even if someone hasn’t owned a branded product for a while, they can still remember it.

What does all this have to do with freelance copywriters?

The more you invest in becoming a brand, the stronger you will be commercially. In bald terms, you will be able to charge more.

Now that investment doesn’t come cheap. For a start, you have to work at your craft until you can write copy of such quality that it ceases to be a concern – for you or your client. In other words, this is no longer about the product.

Second, you have to decide on the values you want to embody as a brand.

Are you going to be opinionated? Yes? Then your blog will have to be about more than how to write headlines.

How about ridiculously good value for money? That doesn’t mean cheap, but you might have to work furiously hard at over-delivering on your promises.

Or maybe you are going to be a maverick. So stop turning up to client meetings in a grey suit and wear a pink one instead.

Third, you have to believe in your own brand. It’s no good positioning yourself as  a swaggering iconoclast if you drop your trousers (or skirt) the very first time a client asks you for a discount.

Is it easy becoming a brand?


Is it worth it?

Ask David Beckham. STOP PRESS. Becks retired from footie three days after I wrote this, and is expected to net £300 million in retirement from his branding activities.

2 Comment(s)

  1. Martin Callaghan

    Um yeah, I pictured him in England strip actually.

    First rule of being a copywriter – don’t make assumptions about your audience…

    7th January 2014 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  2. Andy Maslen

    Good point Martin!

    7th January 2014 at 5:16 pm | Reply

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