What does an ‘item writer’ or a ‘senior UX copywriter’ do all day anyway?

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash

If you’ve looked at any recruitment pages recently, you may have noticed a lot of jargon creeping into job titles. Here we strip the acronyms and buzzwords away to reveal the — often quite straightforward — roles that lie underneath…

UX writer

UX stands for user experience, and what a UX writer does is to craft the little bits of copy that steer users through key journeys on an app or website — opening a bank account, for example, completing an insurance quote form or upgrading your access to a product. You’ll be writing the little bits of ‘microcopy’, such as button names, navigation labels and calls to action. This is a growing specialism, and often involves working alongside specialists who are testing customer behaviour, but a lot of it is common sense for the right kind of writer. …

How to work out if you’re being paid right

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

The issue of freelance pay is a sensitive one, but there are good reasons to benchmark your rates. Knowing what your work is worth gives you ammo to negotiate better rates and helps dive up industry rates overall. Here’s how to work out what you should be paid…

Ask around among your peers

Talking to fellow freelancers about how much they charge and how much they get paid is the first step to benchmarking your own pay. The more transparency freelancers have with each other, the more power they have to drive up rates for all. …

10 practical steps for finishing your short story — with examples

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by N. on Unsplash

For about 30 years, I slogged away trying to write a novel. But I just never had the plotting smarts or the emotional stamina, and I became like a madman running again and again at a brick wall, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Then, one day, and only a couple of decades overdue, I had a rather marvellous thought. You’re used to writing short things — articles, web pages and the like. You’re a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Why don’t you have a go at short fiction?

As a journalist and content writer in my day job, I like a deadline. Deadlines concentrate the mind, deadlines force you to finish things. So I googled ‘short story competitions’ and found that, surprise surprise, there were actually quite a few out there, and all with a deadline. …

Get inspiration from these approaches used by some of the great exponents of short fiction

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

In a short story, where a whole world or emotional journey can be summoned up and dramatised in the space of a few pages, every line and word has to count — and that’s especially true of the way you begin. Here, for inspiration, are a range of starting strategies from some great exponents of the form…

1. The telling detail

ONE DOLLAR AND EIGHTY-SEVEN CENTS. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheek burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

Breaking into copywriting work? Then you might find this guide to some of the essential terminology useful

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

A/B testing / split testing

This is where marketers test on a sample audience two versions of a piece of copy — eg a landing page or subject line — to see which one performs best. They then send out the best-performing version to the whole group. For this reason, copywriters sometimes write different versions of the same message.


A classic approach for writing copy, especially in direct marketing: first you attract Attention, then build Interest, stimulate Desire, which in turn prompts Action.

Banner ad

A clickable ad on a web page, usually in the form of a landscape-shaped panel comprising images and a few words.


Business-to-business ie a business that sells to other businesses — as opposed to a B2C business, which sells direct to consumers. …

Along with your blogs, social posts, author website and newsletter, an ebook can be a powerful part of your promotional mix

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

An ebook is a subtle selling tool that lets you showcase in an editorial way some of your experience and expertise, so readers start to associate you with a particular area. And despite the name, it’s nothing like writing a book!

Why write an ebook?

They have several benefits:

  • They have more gravitas than an individual post, so can add depth and authority to your author brand.
  • They are not hard to do.
  • With a bit of careful planning, you make your ebook content work extra hard for you.
  • You can use it in exchange for email addresses or other useful info

What does an ebook look like?

An ebook is often just an extended article, broken into sections. Format-wise, it’s a sort of glorified pdf, designed in a readable and often very visual book-like style. …

In the end it pays to be the bigger person — even when you have every right to hit the nuclear option

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Some months ago, I finally, finally received a modest payment for a couple of articles I’d written for a well-known outlet. It took me almost a year from submitting the first piece to get paid, and the whole process involved endless emails, chasing different people, lots of silence and false dawns — a great deal of frustration and wasted time.

The ironic thing is that the venue in question prides itself on being a resource for writers! Many a time I would stew on the situation, planning sarcastic emails in which I deplored the publisher’s hypocrisy, bemoaned the complacency and the inaction of the editors involved, threatened to demand that my articles be taken down, and imagined myself broadcasting the whole sorry saga all over social media. …

It’s fun for writers and good for your profile too — here are a few pointers

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

Writers love competitions. There’s the creative stimulus of an interesting prompt, the promise of kudos and validation, and of course publication and prizes.

Running your own competition is fun too. It can help you grow your network and author brand, boost book sales, and also lead to other offers of work such as reviewing or webinars. Best of all, anyone can start one, and it’s pretty easy to do. Here are a few pointers…


At the outset, be clear about why you are launching your comp. Comps are great for building your profile, supporting other writers and networking. …

Top tips for standing out from the crowd when contacting content agencies

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Justice Amoh on Unsplash

As the co-founder of one of the UK’s oldest content agencies, I have over the years received hundreds of emails from freelance writers looking for content work.

I always look hard at the covering note people send with their CV — or their LinkedIn summary — because it says a great deal about whether they’re likely to be able to write to sell.

Those few paras are your opportunity to sell yourself, explaining why we should give you work, what you have to offer that we need, and how you stand out from the crowd. …

Crafting content for businesses and marketing agencies can be a decent earner — so long as you get the lingo right

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

So, you’ve got your first content commission — a series of blog posts perhaps, or a request for some new web copy. What usually comes next is a briefing form.

The brief may be a detailed document of several pages, or it may be a couple of pages in an email. It may have been written just for you, or — more likely — for lots of other people working on the project as well, from marketers to web developers.
Your first job is to go through the brief, understand what’s required, and come back with any questions. …


dan brotzel

Funny-sad author | Hotel du Jack, @SandstonePress; Kitten on a Fatberg, @unbounders | Pushcart, Slackjaw, Pithead Chapel, X-Ray, Tiny Molecules, Ellipsis, Spelk

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store