I read this and thought ‘Wow, I bet these people are fun to work with’.
“The Hired Pens — Dan O’Sullivan and Anna Goldsmith — are Boston-based copywriters specializing in websites (including SEO copywriting), brochures, catalogs, newsletters and fundraising letters. Our mission: to stomp out boring, soulless “corporate speak” and inject new life into our clients’ marketing collateral.”
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking with Anna Goldsmith one of the principals of The Hired Pens. We spoke of freelancing, copywriting and juggling motherhood with entrepreneurship.
I asked Anna, other than education and a laptop, what does she think writers need to be successful? Her answer is one that would make many writers groan. She feels to be successful as a freelance writer, you have to love to write, but also you have to like the business aspect as well. Writers need to network, to meet people and market their skills. Many writers she encounters are not able or willing to do that. Anna and Dan have contracted with a number of writers who are happy to accept a lower hourly rate in exchange for not having to go out and find the work. It is a win/win, the writers experience less stress and The Hired Pens are able to provide their clients with the specialists they need.
In Anna’s experience, freelance copywriting is one industry that seems to thrive in both boom and bust economies. In a good economy freelancers are able to pick up the overflow that full-time staffers can’t handle. When the hard times hit and the full time staffers have been laid off, freelancers are there to fill in the gaps. Anna says,”Copywriting is one of the few jobs that you can’t outsource to India”.
For freelancers looking to fill their schedule, Anna recommends analyzing the businesses within a two hour radius of you home base. Combine that knowledge with your personal strengths and you will find your niche. The Hired Pens have worked with clients around the country, but the bulk of their work comes from Boston area where many educational institutions and healthcare related firms are based. That said, their client list is rather broad, so while it is good to have a niche, don’t be afraid to reach sometimes.
Short and sweet
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
“A designer, I have a background in art.“
Favorite book, web site or blog on writing?
Bird by Bird Anne Lamott
Hey Whipple Squeeze This J. Walter Thompson.
Copyblogger.com especially Copywriting 101
Favorite work of fiction?
Jonathon Franzen’s Freedom and The Corrections
To grad school or not to grad school?
During the course of our conversation, Anna mentioned having pursued an Master’s degree in non-fiction writing. In this economy, I know many writers who are or have debated about attending grad school so I was curious about her thoughts in hindsight. “You don’t need to go to grad school, you need to write.” With a Master’s degree, people take you more seriously and you can charge a little more, but in her opinion, experience can teach you more. While Anna appreciated the time she had to write in graduate school, she doesn’t necessarily recommend going into debt for an advanced degree.
There was one particular class during her grad school education, that has greatly influenced her copywriting. Was it a marketing class? Nope. Journalism?, Nope. Advertising? Nope. It was a class in poetry writing. “[In poetry], you have to choose exactly the right word and you need to learn to paint a picture with words. The same is true of copywriting.”
Since the birth of her son last year Anna’s role a The Hired Pens has evolved to one of management and business development. It is a role she enjoys and fits well with her schedule. This role also allows her to pick fun, challenging projects to keep her writing skills fresh.
What’s in it for you?
The Hired Pens has a stable of about thirty writers with different specialties. They keep five of those thirty busy on a regular basis and call on the others as needed. Anna is always interested in speaking with senior writers who specialize and have strong samples. She is also looking to talk with writers skilled in SEO and social media people who are well versed in drafting Facebook updates and tweets for clients. Experienced professionals interested in working with The Hired Pens can send samples and links to Anna (at) thehiredpens (dot) com.
To see an example of a well targeted, informative B2B web site you really should spend a few minutes perusing thehiredpens.com, Anyone who has worked as a freelancer will truly appreciate How We Do It page. The conversation is all to familiar. Also be sure and visit their blog Lightening and The Lightening Bug.
Thanks to Anna for taking time out of her crazy schedule to speak with me.
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com and Thisnhlife.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.