Telling stories

Learning to Speak Corporate

Posted by southwrite on November 11, 2009

 [picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=businessman+speaking&iid=5945693″ src=”d/0/7/f/FSA_Gives_New_0afc.jpg?adImageId=8258816&imageId=5945693″ width=”500″ height=”331″ Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images/]

Here are two basic actions that can help you break into or expand your corporate copywriting business.

The day I got my first assignment from a major corporate client and it seemed pretty straightforward. They wanted me to interview a customer and write a press release on a recent sales win. It looked easy, but I knew that I was treading in an industry that was unfamiliar territory.

My first task wasn’t getting ready to interview the customer. No, it was reading every press release I could find on the company web site that related to sales victories and this product in particular.  I soon realized there were particular words and phrases that described their products and the way they were used. For example, since this was a healthcare software provider they used phrases such as “across care settings” to describe a product that could be accessed and used by different departments in the hospital.

I adopted this language and they were pleased with the results and received many more assignments. Later my contact there told me that I had been competing with three other freelancers. We had all written press releases, but I “won” because I had perfectly captured the tone they were looking for.

What do corporations want from you? They want writers who can speak their language. Not industry jargon, but the phrases and tone that is the voice of a particular company. You can find acquire that tone through diligent research of company materials. Usually they can be found on their corporate website or through a search of industry publications.

While it may seem obvious, it’s always surprising how many freelancers approach a new customer – either pitching or doing an assignment without performing basic research. You don’t have to be a master of investigative reporting; you just need to be able to do some diligent reading.

Corporations, just like newspapers and magazines, want people who are problem solvers – people who make their lives easier. People who will take jobs and bring them back compete and on time. Does that sound familiar?

Most of all they value competence and professionalism. By knowing as much about the company as possible you can ensure that’s the image you project.

You can also project a professional image when you talk about fees. Unlike most magazines, corporations are willing to negotiate rates. They’re comfortable with an hourly rate, a per-job fee or a combination of the two. Whenever possible try to negotiate an hourly rate – usually with a minimum such as five or six hours.

It’s also important to know the going rates. Hourly fees vary from $75 to $150 an hour. With $100 an hour is a common figure. The fee is often less a function of economics and more of self worth and self esteem. Know what you’re worth and ask for a figure that is compatible with what the industry is paying.

If you have to negotiate a project fee carefully calculate how many hours you think it will take and set a fee that maintains your hourly rate. Ensure that if the scope of the job changes or there are excess revisions you’re compensated.

Writing corporate clients is an open and highly lucrative niche. It can supplement your other works such as books and magazine writing or it can be your specialty. The choice is yours.

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