Yearly Archives: 2023

Image of an ampersand for Caroline Gibson's copywriting blog about phrases joined by and

Where To Find Phrases With Words Joined By “And” (aka Irreversible Binomials)

Image of an ampersand for Caroline Gibson's copywriting blog about irreversible binomials

I recently came up with a campaign concept which involved using words joined by “and” in phrases.

I was after a quick resource for inspiration beyond the phrases I already knew. It was frustrating: I knew what I wanted to find, but not the correct term to search for the result. Because if you Google phrases joined by “and” (which seemed a pretty obvious place to start, frankly, a load of stuff pops up to do with conjunctions (i.e., “and”, “but”, and “or”). Which wasn’t what I was after.

Thankfully I got there in the end and found a fantastic guide called Fixed Phrases with “and” which helpfully lists phrases out by noun expressions (bread and butter, law and order, wear and tear; by verb expressions (come and go, huff and puff); by adverb expressions (far and wide, now and again), and by adjective expressions (black and blue, home and dry). So do check out Paul Fanning’s list.

And if you want to be really fancy or if the question ever pops up in a pub quiz, then let’s talk “irreversible binomials”. Who knew! Yes, irreversible binomials may sound like a fatal disease but it actually means a pair of words used together in a fixed order as an expression, usually joined by “and’ or ‘or”. And if you really want to show off your linguistics knowledge, other terms meaning the same are “frozen binomial” and a “non-reversible word pair”. (Horror of horrors: another term listed in the 1965 edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage – and thankfully since removed – was “Siamese twins”.)

Have a look on Wikipedia and you’ll find stacks more suggestions plus other lists, such as with alliteration (baubles and beads, to have and to hold, rock and roll) and with rhymes (near and dear, meet and greet).

I haven’t posted endless lists of irreversible binomials here because that’s yawningly dull in a blog (and rather insulting to those who’ve spent so long putting lists together) when you can easily link to these useful sources yourself from here, but I hope the above makes finding what you need nice and easy. Over and out.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter and grammar lover

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

There Are Copywriting Enquiries … And There Are Copywriting Enquiries

There Are Copywriting Enquiries … And There Are Copywriting Enquiries

Strange copywriting enquiries merit a 'What now?' question

I’ve had some rather interesting (ahem) copywriting enquiries over the years; the best being from someone whose new business idea involved inviting people to live in trees on a South Pacific island  and not use any money. He instructed me to be as creative as I wanted and to “invert your thought plate.” Reader, we didn’t go any further but that is my all-time favourite client line.

Here are a few more mailbox highlights (edited here for the sake of brevity, and for all our sakes really): the chancers, the cheapskates, the cheeky …

Below is my brand story and I would like you to understand the tone and voice of the brand. What I require is for a writer to continue this tone towards all email communication.

“In a machine, all cogs have the same color. To each its size, its shape, its purpose, but would you really remember any of them more than the other?

The land, where I was born, where I lived, and the one I’ve always loved, had risen from the ashes. We boarded the ship of ambition, having nothing except each other and an inspiring captain. We didn’t had the luxury of individuality. We had more important things to do. We couldn’t allow our selfish desires to distract us from the bigger goal: climbing out of the swamp, all the way to the top. We sacrificed our own dreams on the altar of one big dream that united us all.

It’s my strong belief that only with boldly expressed variance, true unity can be achieved. It’s my dream to introduce this conviction to the world. For this, I will be fearless. I will triumph. I will be the architect of our conversation

Each one of us should be unforgettable, should leave his or her own touch in this world, and should leave his or her own legacy. This is our brand. This is our legacy.”

◊ ◊ ◊

“Would it be unreasonable to still direct me to someone in your enclave of cuneiform wizards for such a paltry job as mine?”

◊ ◊ ◊

“I require an article on different types of animals to be written. I have attached a specification document of what I am looking for. As a guide, this work does not have word or page limit so a ball park figure of the total cost of the work will be much appreciated. Will you also let me know the following?

        • How many revisions will you undertake and what counts as revision?
        • How in-depth will you go with the task (my list and specifications are not exhaustive)?
        • Your flexibility in terms of any changes to the project requirements before it is completed.
        • Will you provide verifiable references for the job?
        • Will this be plagiarism free?
        • Any other information you feel will help ensure we know what to expect to avoid any confusions.”

◊ ◊ ◊

“I own a small firm that offers copywriting services. Recently, I was offered a bigger project,  with more than 30 content cases. One content case can contain 1 or 4 pages. Pages require between 300 to 800 words. 

Websites are from various industries: photography, air conditioning, concrete specialists, fitness gyms, loft conversions, etc. And someone from UK would really help, as many of them require location pages as well (Trafford, Manchester, etc).

My budget at the moment is $2/100 words and i can pay via paypal each time an invoice is issued.

Do you think you can help, Caroline?” 

◊ ◊ ◊

“I am looking for copyrighting work. Is there any opportunity for me?”

◊ ◊ ◊

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter with an interesting mailbox

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

Why Freelance Copywriters Should Request A Down Payment — And How Much To Ask For

Why Freelance Copywriters Should Request A Down Payment — And How Much To Ask For

A freelance copywriter recently told me that he’d provided some copy for a new client who then ghosted him. ‘But did you ask your client to sign your terms?” I asked. “Did you get a down payment from them?” I continued.

Sadly, his answer was “No” and “No”.  And this misfortune had happened to him not once but twice in the last few weeks.

Next time you’re asked to provide a quote for a brilliant project then pull together a sizzling proposal — which includes an estimate that you’re happy with and think the client will be too — add in that all-important request for a down payment. And get your terms signed before you start.Photo of down payment of £10 notes

Here’s why getting a down payment is so important for a freelance copywriter

Just like the five lights signalling the start of a Grand Prix, having a down payment means the work can officially commence.

It’s professional.

It demonstrates commitment from the client and shows their trust in your abilities and work.

Hopefully, it also shows that the client is financially secure — although there are no guarantees, of course.

It creates revenue flow: unless a client needs something right away due to an urgent deadline, such as because media space or air time has been booked or they’ve an upcoming trade exhibition, it’s very rare that everything will be signed off by the time they said they wanted the job done. I’ve had requests for work needed in a matter of weeks — yet months have gone by before the client was in a position to sign off the copy. Such delays can also make project planning hard. (See How To Deal With Freelance Copywriting Project Delays)

Even if you’ve already worked with a client and they’ve been prompt in paying, I would still request a deposit upfront on anything more than £500. You can read why in The Secret To Getting Clients To Pay On Time

How much of a down payment should you ask for?

There’s no hard and fast rule. Some copywriters request 50% upfront and 50% at the end, but I’m not keen on that option.

For a start, I like to provide a small copy sample without obligation. It’s as much for the client to see what I’m like to work with, as it is for me to see what they’re like to deal with.

If your estimate is, say, £1,000 or less, ask for payment in three stages. For instance, an immediate down payment of 50% before starting, 40% after sending the first draft, and 10% at the end. These figures aren’t sent in stone — you need to decide what you’ll be happy with and think sensibly about what the client will be happy to agree to. I prefer to ask for a third, small payment once everything is signed off because, as mentioned above, it can take months for that to happen. Yes, months.

What about arranging a retainer? If the work looks to be a regular gig, then it’s a good idea. However, if working with a new client, I would advise a trial period of three months before committing so that you both have a better understanding of how much time and effort will really be involved. Plus, you can then see if that promise of constant work was only a promise and nothing concrete.

Three important points to consider when requesting a copywriting down payment

If the project is worth considerably more than £1,000, then think about the best way to stage payments to keep the cash flowing in. With a large website, I might request a payment after sending the first half of the first draft. Or, you could keep an eye on hours spent and arrange to invoice twice-monthly or at the end of the month. If you find it hard to organise yourself, consider an online invoicing tool such as FreeAgentQuickBooks or Invoicely.

If I’m writing a sizeable website or brochure, I prefer to request a decent chunk after sending first draft copy. Otherwise, you’re not only waiting for the client to give feedback but may also then be waiting for the designer to do their bit which will, in turn, be dependant on waiting for client feedback. That has the potential for a delay of even more months! To cover yourself, consider include wording like this in your terms:

If copy is uploaded to see how it looks before I have invoiced for the final copy stage, I reserve the right to invoice in full for the agreed amount outstanding.

If a potential client says a deadline is urgent, then check why. (Is it because they’re going on holiday and want to cross off the task on their To Do list???) If the work really and truly is needed like there’s no tomorrow, or involves work over the weekend, then request a late-project fee and increase your costs by 50% at least.

 

Which ever way you decide to structure your copywriter payment terms, don’t forget to get your terms signed off. And make sure the project deposit is in your account before you put pen to paper.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter with a few essential legal and accounting skills thrown in

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

Thumbnail image showing price comparison

Why You Should Never Ask A Freelance Copywriter “What’s Your Day Rate?”

If a client enquiry is mainly concerned with asking “What’s your day rate?”, there’s a skyscrapingly-high chance that I’ll politely say I’m booked up and unavailable to help. 

So, apologies, but that’s not the sort of client I want to work with. Here’s why …

Cartoon of person asking about price differences on identical computers illustrating blog about not asking a copywriter What's your day rate?

No two briefs are the same
Every brief is different. Every client is unique. An email for one client may take not very much time at all yet ages for another.

It’s important first to discuss the exact scope of the project and take a number of factors into account in order to give an estimate. Can the client provide a brief (if so, how thorough is it – defining a USP isn’t always easy, even for seasoned marketers)? How many rounds of revisions might there be (also worth knowing how many people on the client team need to voice an opinion)? Is the potential client knowledgeable about their brand and marketing it or do they need a lot of hand-holding? And how urgent is the requirement (I charge 50% extra for last-minute briefs that involve working at weekends)?

You can’t compare apples with apples
It’s not just the variables that affect what a freelance copywriter may charge: it also depends on their experience and expertise. How can a client really see the true value of a copywriter’s worth based on a day rate alone? A hugely experienced freelance copywriter may charge twice the price of someone junior yet take a quarter of the time to deliver the goods. Unless a client has taken the time to look at the copywriter’s website and checked out their list of clients and work, or had an initial call to see what they’re like professionally, then how can that client make a considered decision as to who to choose?

Do clients really want to give a copywriter carte blanche?
A client who chooses a copywriter based purely on day rate may as well ask a black cab driver to take them around London until they decide where to get out.

If they’re unhappy with the first draft, the writer may say they need more time for research or crafting: you, client, may as well hand them a blank cheque.

Being asked how much is charged by the word is another no-no. Only journos and editorial writers work that way. A copywriter’s task is often to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. After all, a strapline with just a couple of words may take as long to come up with as a 500-word landing page.

I always ask clients what they’ve put aside for a copywriter on the project within their marketing spend – it’s rare to get an answer and yet surprisingly common to be told after quoting that the estimate is beyond budget …

How I prefer to charge
My ideal approach is to arrange a call for an initial understanding of exactly what’s required and what’s involved. I may then give an idea of, for example, what the cost of writing a six-page website might start from. If the client is happy to continue knowing more, I’ll put together a proposal with an estimate. And if they’re happy to go ahead,  I then need to gain a thorough understanding of their brand, target audience, challenges, etc., so will ask them to fill in my creative briefing template.

The green light to start can only happen after I’ve undertaken a copy style exercise with a sample paragraph. This gives the client a chance to see what I’m like to work with: it’s a no-obligation exercise and only chargeable if they wish to continue. Not all copywriters will offer this, but I feel it’s a fair and sensible way to begin a good working relationship.

I charge by the project, which includes one or two sets of light revisions, consultancy advice and time in discussion by phone and email. I find it a better way to reflect the time and effort required, my experience, and the value I offer. It also gives my client a strong idea of the final cost for budgeting.

The most important thing is to do a great job and deliver on brief and on time – whether that takes an hour or a day. Clients should never pay for a freelance copywriter’s time but for their expertise  – and if that sounds expensive, then head over to Does An Experienced Freelance Copywriter Mean An Expensive Freelance Copywriter?

 

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter who’s happy to work with businesses of all sizes provided they have a business-like budget.

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

Photo of retro transistor radio to illustrate Caroline Gibson's copywriter blog with tips on how to create a great radio ad

15 Top Tips On How To Create A Good Radio Ad

Wondering how to create a good radio ad? It isn’t just about writing a great script – it’s also about the thinking that goes into everything before and during the studio session. I asked two award-winning ad industry experts to share their top tips on making an ear-catching radio commercial.

Photo of an old radio

Expert advice from an audio producer: Pam Myers

  1. Give your script context – I’ll often see a script with a SFX that says ‘Door opens’. But … a door hasn’t just opened: there’s somebody coming through the door, or going out the door. You have a scene where maybe a person is talking and the door is open, because their dog or mother or whatever has come in to talk to them. Radio has to be a performance so think of the script like a drama script – look at some for really good examples of how things are written. A script can quickly explain the setting by including a line at the top that says, for instance, ‘We’re sitting in an empty room’. Even if your script just uses a single voice, it still needs some context.
  2. Listen to radio – whether it’s ads, plays or podcasts. Head straight to Radiocentre where you will find a fabulous archive of ads and can search by category, sector or any number of things.
  3. Listen out for voiceover talent – you don’t have to use a known voiceover artist. The best artists can come from any background – from theatre, film, TV, radio, or may never have had any training. In fact, stand up comedians and musicians tend to have very good mic technique and good timing, and confidence as well.
  4. Actors work in different ways – never forget that the artist you’re working with is a human being; you can only push them so far. If your script is far too long, they simply can’t deliver it in the appointed number of seconds.
  5. Never underestimate the post-production side – what takes place after the recording will hugely benefit from the skills of a highly experienced sound designer like Tim Lofts. No matter how the radio ad sounds at first, by the time Tim has spent half an hour on it he’ll have smoothed out the breaths, fixed any little gulps without changing the timing and have polished the ad without radically changing it. The effect that Tim can make to help create a good radio ad as a result of these changes can be jaw-dropping.

Expert advice from a sound designer: Tim Lofts

  1. Preparation is always key – it amazes me just how many people turn up at the studio without a fully written script or even the correct version. This happens several times a week! Even a simple session booking can end up taking several hours so think about the execution in detail before coming to the studio – it’s helpful if you can have references to your sound effects in mind.
  2. Prioritise what matters – it can be tempting to think ‘We’ve got the voiceover here for an hour so let’s get our money’s worth out of them’, but then you put yourself under time pressure because 30% of what you’re recording is superfluous to the session. It’s best to concentrate on the task in hand and consider getting the VO back for a second hour rather than trying to do too much all in one go.
  3. Lots of sounds can sound the same – such as rain and frying bacon, which it’s why it’s important to set the context. One radio ad I worked on involved guys walking around a cave with water dripping in the background. It could have sounded like a leaky bathroom but the opening line was ‘It’s a bit dank in this cave, isn’t it?’ So, straightaway, the scene was set and the sound effects just added to that.
  4. Choose your voiceover wisely – don’t book a Royal Shakespeare Company actor for a really hard-sell script which is essentially just products and prices: book a regular voiceover who can roll off your fifteen taglines for you. And if you have got the wrong VO for the job, then be brave enough to decide not to carry on with them rather than waste two hours pushing them. Obviously there’s money at stake but, ultimately, you’ll have a better end result. We used to do lots of casting sessions with a day’s worth of casting for big campaigns but the money doesn’t really allow for that now. Having said that, I had a casting session recently between two people for a massive campaign with a lot at stake so it was money well spent. Most VO agents today will be quite happy to get their artists to record a script over the phone to give you a rough idea.
  5. Don;t be shy about asking your voiceover for help – don’t be afraid to ask: actors can give often really invaluable input on the way in which a script is written.

And a few tips from a copywriter: me

  1. Check the script length and check again – it may sound obvious but always read your script out aloud rather than rely on how long it looks. And take care not to gallop through it; a good script needs air.
  2. Afternoon sessions are often better – the VO’s voice then has time to warm up.
  3. Let the actors act – is your script set in a storm / involving an argument / denoting physical exertion? Ask the studio to set up the mics on stands and get the voiceover(s) to record the script while standing up rather than being passively seated.
  4. Be accountable – it’s rare to get a recording right in one take, let alone the first take. Take note of every version and make a note of which bits worked well. Never rely on your producer instead!
  5. Ask the VO to do their own thing – I’m a great believer in getting the VO to do a version of the script at the end the way they want to do it.

Do check out my recent interview with Pam Myers for other helpful insights and advice on how to create a good radio at What Does Creativity Mean To You: The Audio Producer

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter (and hugely proud owner of several radio ad awards, including D&AD).

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766