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Using a freelance copywriter isn't just about flexibility and convenience. It's often the best way to get a quality result. 

A few weeks ago, Sharon Flaherty wrote a guest post here entitled Want quality content? Produce it in-house. As her title suggests, Sharon argues that the best way to get high-quality content is to employ an in-house copywriter. 

Although I commented on the post, I feel it deserves a more considered response, so here it is. 

Disclosure: I am a freelance copywriter, so it’s obvious which side of the debate I am on. Even so, I hope my argument can stand on its merits. 

Flexibility and scalability

My first two points will be obvious to anyone from an SME who buys content. If you’re not in a position to commit to an in-house writer, or if you can’t afford one, then a freelance copywriter is your only option. 

Even if you are large or rich enough to employ a copywriter, you still might prefer to be able to scale your writing resource up and down, match different copywriters to different projects or get fresh eyes on your own text. And you might also not want the obligation to find a steady stream of work for your in-house writer(s) that will snugly fit a nine-to-five role. 

Of course, you can get someone who already has another role to double as a copywriter and ‘just’ write your stuff. In my experience, everyday work will keep getting in the way, and the content will never be produced.

Even marketing managers find it hard to give copywriting the time and space it needs. And as with anything else, compromised commitment brings compromised results. 

Retention of learning

On the face of it, employing an in-house copywriter seems like a good way to keep control and ownership of writing know-how, and the business knowledge that comes with it. 

In fact, it’s the opposite, because your in-house copywriter can leave at any time. When that happens, you lose all their company-specific experience and the techniques they’ve developed (unless you’ve captured them somehow, which most firms don’t). And they might well take their knowledge straight to a competitor. 

In contrast, a freelance copywriter will always be there for you – at least, until they retire or die from RSI. Many will agree not to serve direct competitors (and some prefer not to anyway). By allowing a little distance between you and your copywriter, you actually keep them closer. 

The copywriter’s perspective

One of the most valuable things a freelance copywriter offers in an outsider’s view. Whereas in-house staff ‘go native’ and adopt your company’s way of thinking, a copywriter (like any external consultant) brings a new and different perspective that can be refreshing and revealing. 

Product launches are a good example. Firms will very often approach the market with something that is pretty much ready to be sold, but has no fully developed value proposition. Before marketing can begin, the features of the product need to be ‘turned outwards’ – that is, re-expressed as benefits to which prospective customers will respond. 

A diligent copywriter can’t do their work until they understand how people value a product, so they have no choice but to question their client until they get to the heart of it. But if you’ve been around for the product development phase, it’s easy to settle for features rather than searching out the benefits. The copywriter breaks up the party by asking ‘so what?’ 

For some clients and projects, the rigour of this briefing and discussion phase is just as important as the actual writing; perhaps even more so. 

This close relationship between writer and business is the reason I recommend working with a freelance rather than an agency that offers writing: extra management layers can hamper the transmission of ideas.

The same problem can arise if the copywriter deals with, for example, a marketing manager in the client organisation who isn’t that close to the features of specific technical products. 


This word, which I’ve just made up, means ‘diversity of ideas’. 

A copywriter who works for many different clients is exposed to a lot of ideas and approaches in the course of their work, many of which are ripe for repurposing or adapting in another industry. 

As writers age, they gain experience of more and more sectors, which is one reason why choosing an older copywriter can be worthwhile. What you lose in dynamism, you gain in wisdom. 

Even if these new ideas aren’t suitable for re-use, just throwing them into the pot may stimulate some productive thinking. A good freelance copywriter can come in and mix things up a bit intellectually, opening up some previously unseen avenues of thought. 


On the face of it, you might expect someone outside your organisation to care less about it than someone who’s part of it. But if you look deeper, it’s easy to argue the exact opposite. 

A freelance copywriter cares a lot about what you think, because they depend on positive reviews and referrals to keep their business alive. A freelancer is only as good as their last job, which is why copywriters try to make every assignment count. 

Freelancers also know the deep value that’s unlocked by long-term collaboration, so they work hard to keep their client relationships strong and stable. 

By contrast, I’m sure you have met plenty of employees who cared little for the organisation where they worked, or actively disliked it. The security of employment reduces the incentive to perform. (Sorry, salary slaves…)


I hope I’ve shown that, at the very least, there’s no reason why freelance copywriters can’t match the quality of their in-house counterparts. But I also hope I’ve argued convincingly that working with a freelance is very often the best way to get the best result, not just a contractual convenience or a fire-fighting stopgap. And that’s particularly true when it comes to quality content. 

Image credit: kewi via Flickr


Published 8 September, 2011 by Tom Albrighton

Tom Albrighton is a copywriter and contributor to Econsultancy. He blogs here and tweets here. You can also add Tom to your Google+ circles. 

16 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Kes Phelps

Being able to match different copywriters to different projects is a definate advantage to using freelance copywriters. Like everyone else, copywriters usually excel in one area and having one for techy stuff, another for creative, another for controversial etc is extremely handy.

Some will better than others (and therefore have different price points) which can also be helpful. you can use the cheaper ones for less high profile projects and save the expensive guys for the more higher profile stuff.

about 5 years ago



Well done Tom

I must admit that I have always been in favor of internal resources, especially when we consider digital channels. Marketing has moved away from advertising propaganda towards true collaboration with consumers. Therefore, companies need to be ready to create content on every day basis to keep the conversations going. Even more so, brands must respond on daily basis to people. Relevant communications require also product expertise and understanding of company values, therefore in-house copy writers are needed.

Now, let me reverse to the point I did enjoy on your post. Scalability is a true factor and having a solid network of freelancer helps companies. Copywriter's perspective is also true benefit, assuming that freelancer also understand the target audience. This way the company's jargon can be replaced by understandable language. Ideaversity (nice innovation) is also true. Rich and wide experience will result like renewal of ideas keeping the content fresh. Finally, I agree with commitment (being a small company worker myself) and quality. When you cannot enjoy the fat cat syndroma and you need to fight for your survival, you are likely to work harder and better than a person with never-ending contract.

To avoid contradicting myself too much, I would like companies to take more charge on their daily communication. When it comes to campaigns, special projects and advertising, the freelancers are likely a good choice.

about 5 years ago


Megan Toogood

Just on ideaversity. In the medieval period most professions operated through guilds, and the guilds had specific people called journeymen who went from place to place and could help out with last minute cathedral building jobs - that sort of thing.

One of their roles was to spread word of new techniques and technologies throughout the profession, and I've always though (or did I read it in a blog, difficult to know) that freelancers and consultants act in a very similar way, taking ideas from business to business.

(As well as being able to step in when the last bit of a round tower gets too much.)

about 5 years ago


Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Having used freelancers on various projects my experience is that they offer different angles and get you thinking more about the message you're trying to get out.

That said I've also quickly learnt that you get what you pay for. True of almost anything in life but worth bearing in mind for those hoping to save money through freelancing.

about 5 years ago


Matthew Read

A bit one sided but an interesting post. I have actually been on both sides of this, working as a freelance copywriter and then in house as part of a content team.

There are definitely advantages to both but one point in your post I would disagree with is the idea that a freelance writer will always be there for you when an in house can leave at any time.

I have worked with freelances who have just stopped producing stuff for a client one day and that puts the client in a really bad position really quickly, whereas at least with in house people you are likely to get at least a months’ notice to find someone new.

about 5 years ago

Luke Richards

Luke Richards, Writer at FreelanceEnterprise

Great post. But I'm a freelance writer too, so, yeh... lets take this viral!

Seriously though. The most valuable online content is that which is unique, but with broad appeal. It is my belief that writers can only really produce good original work efficiently if they have an amount of solitude and their own space in which to let their ideas grow. In-house writing, in my experience, restricts this because office environments are more akin to a factory floor than a 'writer's study' and office hours are not the time to sit and think quietly.

about 5 years ago



I think in any piece of major marketing work, a freelancer is a wise idea as fresh blood will mean and bring in place fresh ideas.

Also a copywriter will have their own idea on how to go about the marketing aspect of the work in place. They will also be able to think more in the shoes of the prospects you are working to target.

about 5 years ago


Matthew Oxley

As an agency we use a mix of both freelance and in-house writers, depending on the job.

One of the reasons why I value an in-house team is the ability to easily discuss ideas as a team around a table or desk ; this type of group discussion can lead to some excellent content ideas. While it's theoretically possible to arrange the same thing (via a conference call perhaps) with a team of freelancers, it's always more tricky in reality.

You also mention the problem of a disinterested employee without acknowledging that this can apply to freelancers just as often. Both types of writers can become slack over time, but it's often a lot easier to spot and correct with an employee you can physically see.

Where I do agree with you is in regards to flexibility and scalability - it's rare that you can schedule the amount of content you'll need to write into chunks of 40 hours, and Freelancers are an excellent addition to the team in this respect.

about 5 years ago


Liz Broomfield

Excellent post and a real boost for freelancers - thank you. I would add that if we work for a particular company over a few campaigns, we soon build up a good knowledge of a company's products and services, just like an insider will.

Thanks for this - I'm going to share it with a few people!

about 5 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

"a freelance copywriter offers in an outsider’s view."

That is a definite bonus to hiring a freelance copywriter. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our brands/company/products that we forget to look at it like a consumer who doesn't have our intricate knowledge. Bringing in someone from the outside means a new point of view objective opinion.

about 5 years ago


Hope Varnes

As a freelance copywriter, I agree with all points. We bring fresh perspectives and most importantly, we can see the business from the points of view of the customers. But I'm also with Matthew that there are freelancers who can easily disappear without notice leaving the clients in muddy waters. I had two clients I had to rescue.

about 5 years ago


Anne Macindoe + Cluey freelance copywriters

I couldn't agree more. As a freelance copywriter I'm often called on to revise the work of in house resources and business owners. Almost universally, this client authored material suffers from 'let's talk about me' syndrome, rarely engages its target market and more often than not adopts poor web content principles.

about 5 years ago

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston, Director at Challenging Concepts

People are seeing a new field through old eyes here. Content is not "copy". The world has changed.

Content is creating your digital footprint through which you are found. Content is building your relationship with your prospect. Content is facilitating their buying process - helping them share ideas round their company, work out the human decisions they need to make and gaining buy-in. Content turns interest into revenue.

It is the backbone of everything you now do in marketing and sales. Do you really want to just leave it to a junior - or a copywriter? Your funeral (or your company's)!

about 5 years ago


Beverley Brown

I have just completed a project working with a large freelance team of international copywriters to produce the content for a new website (not yet launched). They each brought their own perspective and expertise to the project.

The team was able to produce a large volume of copy in a short space of time. In-house copywriters could have done the same job but, necessarily, there would have been fewer people involved and it would have taken longer to produce the same volume of content.

The superb results, within budgetary and time constraints, couldn't have been achieved without the input of freelancers plus their differing views and experience added to the dynamics of the team.

about 5 years ago


Partha Bhattacharya

It ultimately depends on who your target readers are. In large companies where often the contents are meant for internal consumption and for already-customers, it is perhaps necessary that content writers are based in-house.

On the contrary, in blogs like this one, hiring freelance copywriter is the best bet in order to bring out diverse but complementary and useful views on different topics.

about 5 years ago

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston, Director at Challenging Concepts

This is being censored to remove critical comments.

about 5 years ago


Rob Burns

I think an outside perspective (and the fresh thinking that comes with it) is one of the most valuable things we offer.

We can afford not to be in love with the products we write about because we're independent.

We can look at the product in the same dispassionate way a customer will look at it.

It's only from that unique perspective that we can begin to discover how to truly engage and motivate the customers to buy whatever we are selling - be it services, or products, or new ideas.

about 5 years ago


Jane Lee, Dexterity PR

This is great for when I need to justify hiring a writer to a client. Thanks Tom.
I'd also say that it's cheaper to use a freelancer than an in-house person. And certainly more flexible.

about 5 years ago


Simon Wilkinson

I can see where copywriters are vital for larger organisations and a mix of internal and external copywriters would seem to provide the best of both worlds.

But as a small organisation (less than 10 employees) we're at a size where it's very difficult to afford copywriters and hard to see the benefit they'll bring (without significant investment) - plus we've tried it before and had our fingers burned.

So at the moment, from the perspective of a small business, I'm erring towards Peter Johnston's views.

As a general point though Tom, something I definitely have to be critical about but hopefully you'll take it as constructive criticism - as a copywriter yourself the articles you write should always be free from grammatical errors and therefore in this article you've let yourself down.

I wasn't planning to tell you what the issue is, but what the heck:

"One of the most valuable things a freelance copywriter offers in an outsider’s view"

about 5 years ago



Absolutely agree. If all an in-house copywriter does is the same thing then the default position is almost inevitably the familiar.

Effective copywriting is about catching the reader's interest and an outsider has the best chance of doing that. Not only because he or she will be bringing a fresh outlook to the project but also because an outsider is in the same position as the customer - only with a marketing mind.

That's the ideal starting place from which to generate powerful copy, because the most effective copywriter is writing with the target audience in mind, not the company to which they've been chained for years.

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Peter We have a spam filter which sometimes catches genuine comments, which will explain any missing comments.

We never censor comments that are criticial - we appreciate people leaving their feedback on the blog, whether they agree with the author or not.

about 5 years ago

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