Us humans love putting things in neat little boxes. I’m talking about mental shortcuts, like categorising, analogising, generalising and labelling. They help us make sense of a complex, noisy world around us, and simplify our decisions.

You see this behaviour when sales and marketing tries to persuade someone to buy something.

People seem to more readily understand a service if it’s described as a outcome or result; a neatly commoditised and parcelled-up ‘thing’ with features and benefits. It’s why products are so much easier to write about and sell – they’re physical, real things – people get that much quicker than they do nebulous services like ‘management consultancy’.

It’s also why savvy marketing departments know to give their service a snappy name and brand it like a product, with options and pricing tiers (especially if it’s just money for old rope).

I’ve been pondering this for a while, now that my own services have evolved over the best part of a decade in freelancing. Event photography has always been a steady success because people get what it is – there are clear inputs and outputs and a going market rate. In fact it may as well be a product. When someone hosts an event in Leeds, they know that a key component of it involves hiring a photographer to capture what happens.

Not so with copywriting though

Not only is copywriting a service (or more accurately an art form), the term itself sounds vague enough, but its output, words about anything, can go practically anywhere. So promoting my copywriting service is more nuanced than event photography. So far I’ve unwittingly relied on people making the connection between what I do and what it is they have in mind, that they want to produce – be it a brochure, web copy or case study (notice: these are all outputs).

In essence it isn’t always clear what the copywriting produces – words, obviously, but for what, where? A website, a blog, an email? It suits all of these places of course, but coming back to my introduction; it’s not neat enough. The reader has to know where they want to put those words in the first place. Then they have to find a copywriter, see if they’re up to the job, then ask if that’s what they do.

So what I’m getting at is a form of specialising. I need to commoditise my service, copywriting, into a product – an outcome or result that’s easier to understand and makes clear what I specialise in.

The plan is to specialise in two, eventually three strands

One is event photography in Leeds, another will be speechwriting (in time). But the second, copywriting case studies, is the strand in question.

I’ve been writing case studies for five years solid now – so I’ve got plenty of experience. But I’ve never really pushed case studies solely as my core offering, and marketed myself as ‘the case study guy’. Until now I was just another copywriter – words for hire, anywhere.

I accept this sounds obvious, and it’s clearly something I should have done years ago (looking back I should’ve been a journalist). But I’m happy with the way this has developed organically.

Someone told me years ago, when I first went freelance, that I should specialise as soon as possible – get good at something and do only that. That’s the route to fiery growth. Thing is – I’m not all about growth, at least financial. I’m into creative growth – that can’t be rushed. Freelancing should be a steady, evolution of art and character, a journey through trial and error.

What next?

So this is a natural juncture to focus on doing more of what I enjoy most – learning new things, meeting new people, and helping them tell their story. Event photography presses that button and so will case studies, ones that impart valuable insight and advice, and tales of triumph over adversity.

Next step is to get my offering straight, refresh this website, then approach the sort of companies in line with my ethics. I plan to write cases studies that help promote causes I believe in, like renewable energy and sustainable business. And 10 years’ natural progression in freelancing has given me the experience and confidence to realise how to put my talents to responsible use.