Welcome to the first in a new (semi-regular) series on the Business of Writing. While writing is one of those careers that sounds romantic – pyjamas, working from home, creative thoughts, etc – it has to be mired in common sense. You can’t eat words, no matter how many of them you create. And so money must be made.
This series is intended as an introduction to some of the different ways to make a living from writing*, as well as some of the requirements of running a writing business. And so I thought I’d begin with corporate work – the more prosaic end of writing for a living. In an age where communication is key, there is a lot of work available in this area, writing for company newsletters, websites and other publications. It’s not as touchy-feely as editorial work. It’s not perceived as highly creative (though it definitely can be). And you don’t get your name on the story. But if you want to make a living as a writer, it can be a very useful part of the toolkit.
I asked Lisa Lintern, from Lintern Communications, a professional writer and communications specialist, for her thoughts on writing for corporations. Specifically, how to find corporate work and how to keep it.
What sort of writing comes under ‘corporate work’?
Lisa Lintern: “Typically people tend to think traditional ‘marketing’ when it comes to corporate writing work; things like websites, brochures, direct mail copy. But there is a great pool of writing done in areas like internal communications that people tend to overlook. Intranet sites in particular are evolving into more of a news approach to employee engagement as more companies realise they need to compete with external sources of information for their employee’s attention. Another way to hook into corporate writing is through project work – supporting a major project to produce communications collateral like white papers, press releases, major internal announcements and speeches.”
How do I find corporate work?
What sort of skills will I need?
LL: “An ability to understand potentially (and usually unnecessarily) complex information and translate this into plain-speak. Organisations are crying out for people with fresh minds to decode their messages into well-written materials. Often full-time employees get caught up with jargon – a product of hearing it and reading it all day – and easily lose the art of good writing, which is why they choose to outsource it. A healthy dose of patience, as well as thick skin, to ride out internal sign-off processes (trust me – every woman and their dog will want to have their say in the construction of your sentences) is also helpful.”
What can I expect to be paid?
LL: Like all freelance writing, this is the million dollar question but I can confidently say you will be paid much more than you would as a freelance writer submitting to mainstream publications. It really depends on the type of materials you are creating. Websites and marketing material would probably be on the lower end of the pay spectrum, while more strategic pieces like communications to support large projects or things like CEO speeches are on the upper end. Corporate work usually tends to pay hourly rate – you could receive anywhere between $75 – $200 per hour, again, it really depends on the nature of the work.”
Do I need a marketing/communications background?
LL: “Again, this depends on the type of work. Marketing or consumer focused writing you definitely don’t. But if you want to get into the bigger projects (where the bigger dollars are) some kind of exposure or understanding of strategic communications is necessary.”
Three tips to keep in mind if I’d like to do this work.
1. Don’t underestimate how much you might enjoy corporate work! Corporate writing is often seen as ‘constrained’ and conservative – if you ask me nothing could be further from the truth. Corporates are seeking vibrant writers to turn the mundane into the interesting, so don’t be afraid to bring your personality to the table.
2. Word-of-mouth is really important. Once you’ve cracked into the corporate scene, this will be your major source of ongoing work. As a result, you will only be as good as your last gig, which brings me to my next point…
3. Politics – while as a freelancer or contractor you won’t be directly impacted by the inner workings of a corporate culture, your internal client will be. So as changes are made to your work during internal sign-off process, it’s best not to be precious.
*If you’d like to know more about how to make a living as a freelance writer, you should buy my ebook – 20 years’ experience distilled into 68 easy-to-read pages.